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A Continual Feast

A joyful heart brightens one's face, but a troubled heart breaks the spirit. An understanding heart seeks knowledge; but fools feed on folly. All the days of the needy are hard, but a happy heart has a continual feast. -Proverbs 15:13-15

Rejoice always. Pray continually. Give thanks in every situation because this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. -1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

So what are we going to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He didn't spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. Won't he also freely give us all things with him? Who will bring a charge against God's elect people? It is God who acquits them. Who is going to convict them? It is Christ Jesus who died, even more, who was raised, and who also is at God's right side. It is Christ Jesus who also pleads our case for us. Who will separate us from Christ's love? Will we be separated by trouble, or distress, or harassment, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, 'We are being put to death all day long for your sake. We are treated like sheep for slaughter.' But in all these things we win a sweeping victory through the one who loved us. I'm convinced that nothing can separate us from God's love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created. -Romans 8:31-39

I wanna thank you for your faith and your faithfulness, your faith in Christ and your faithfulness is a congregation serving as a witness in this community for years and years, and especially on a day like today that... It makes you think about what effort am I making to living out my faith and my faithfulness? Join me for a moment of prayer, Lord, we come to you hungry, thirsty for grace for goodness, and I pray that the word you've given me inspired by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God would feed your people this day. Challenge, encourage them, bless them, so that their journey today and this week would be a journey of light and love, being salt in a world that needs healing and hope. Lord, may you be glorified. In your name, I pray. Amen.

I want you to use your imagination this morning. I have a little container here, and my imagination, I want you to use your imagination, I want you to put something in this little container, this bowl... What I want you to do is I want you to think of what's your favorite food, and if you have several of them, just pick one.

What's your favorite food? Are you kind of steak and potatoes or you... lasagna, pizza, or breakfast, or are you like me? I'm a sweet tooth. And so put something sweet in here, whatever it is, and I was thinking this morning, one of my favorites is blueberry cheesecake, so I'm gonna put in my imagination blueberry cheesecake, so you put something with your imagination in this little container... Right. Now, imagine that you can eat that favorite food of yours for breakfast, lunch and dinner, continually, and the best part, no calories get added on, it's a continual feast of your favorite food. Interesting. What would that be like? So I want you to think about that word, continual feast of something that's a favorite... As 2020 began, I usually around the first of the year, pick a different spiritual practice along with other things that I do. So in 2020, I chose to do the proverb reading. I don't know if you've ever heard of this, you pick one proverb and you read it every day, so depending on the day... So today is the 23rd, so I would have picked a 23rd proper. And you forget a day or whatever, you just pick the day... There are 31 Proverbs. Most months have 31 days. So I started January 2020 it, for the whole year, I was gonna read the Book of Proverbs.

And so whatever day that was. So it was about April of 2020, reading this 15th chapter of proper. And as I was reading, Here's what caught my attention, Proverbs 15:15 says this, The cheerful of heart has a continual feast. A continual feast. And I was thinking, Okay, what is that writer talking about a continual feast, the cheerful of heart as a continual feast, and I thought, Now is the author talking about eating continuously, and I'm assuming we have probably gone to an all you can eat buffet at some point in your life... In fact, there was one in Fort Wayne. And I can't remember the name of it. And maybe you do, where you would get your food and then there was like this carousel that would spin in front of you, and there would be a dessert or there'd be something, and you waited in your little turn and somebody may have gotten that dish that you wanted... And so you had to keep waiting for this carousel would halfway go into the kitchen and then get loaded up and it was interesting. All you can eat buffet.

Is that what the writer of Proverbs is talking about in this continual feast? Well, I did a little more reading in that 15th chapter of proverb, but then I read these words, Proverbs 15:13, a glad heart makes a cheerful face, so the cheerful of heart has a continual feast, and a glad heart makes a cheerful face. So I just began pondering in Proverbs, a continual feast, not physically, but a continual feast, emotionally and spiritually is linked to a cheerful heart, and a cheerful face comes from a glad heart, so what's the key to having this continual feast... Emotionally, spiritually, in my life. And then I thought about His Scripture from First Thessalonians, that Paul was speaking to the church about, rejoice always, pray without ceasing. Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Giving thanks. Paul says, that's the key. When we have a thankful heart, then it causes us to rejoice, it gives us a glad heart, and it says If we are continually feasting when we give thanks. And so I was just kinda reflecting on that, and as I bring that message to you this day, to have a continual feast, not of a physical bounty, but a continual feast of spiritual bounty for your faith.

It involves giving thanks, giving thanks in all circumstances. That can be a challenge, for sure. And I also discovered something else along the way as I was thinking about giving thanks and that is, did you know that science has proven that when you are a thankful person, you are physically healthier. I came across this article and this research done by the Robert A. Emmons. PHD University of California. And I'm gonna read from an article he printed in 2013, Robert A. Emmons wrote a book called Gratitude Works, a 21-day program for creating emotional prosperity. Emmons is one of the pioneers of research into the ways that gratitude affects our lives to assess peoples of thankfulness, Emmons and his colleague, Michael McCulloch, created a questionnaire that allowed them to compare grateful people to those who are less so, they also found ways to cultivate gratitude and test subjects, keeping a gratitude journal, counting one's blessings, writing letters of thanks, then studied the changes that occurred as a result, the results of his studies and others, both psychological and physiological are fascinating. Here are five reasons why giving thanks is actually good for you.

Number one, counting blessings boost your health. This research showed that grateful people had less depression and stress, lower blood pressure, more energy and greater optimism, giving thanks.

Secondly, slows down the aging clock in older adults, Emmons and McCulloch found a daily practice of gratitude, even slowed down some of the effects of neurodegeneration that often occurs as we age, giving things... Put the break on stress,

Cortisol is often called the stress hormone, and when our body is produced too much, it can deplete the immune system and raise blood sugar levels. A study conducted at the University of Heart Math research center in California found that positive emotions like appreciation significantly lowered levels of cortisol.

Fourth, being thankful helps you bond. Research by us psychologists, Sara Aljo and Baldwin may indicate that gratitude can also lead to better relationships, the explanation may be connected to increased production of oxytocin, sometimes called the bonding hormone, because it fosters calm and security in relationships.

Being thankful and gratefulness is good for your heart and waste line according to research Emmons sites in his book, Gratitude Works, people with high blood pressure who actively express thankfulness can achieve up to a 10% reduction in systolic blood pressure and decrease their dietary fat intake by up to 20%. Who would have known that giving thanks and having that as a regular intentional part of your faith diet could help you physically.

The writer and proverb says that when your heart is glad, your face has cheerfulness, that when there's a sense of thankfulness, it indeed is a continual feast, it's a feast that blesses you and helps you and strengthens you in your faith. And so I invite you to pause for a moment and think about what are you thankful for this morning, and I wanna lift up three areas, what's one thing you're thankful for, what's one person you're thankful for, or what's one verse of Scripture you're thankful for? So here again, I wanna give you just a moment or two, I want you to use your imagination and not think about your favorite food, but I want you to think about one of those three areas, just in your own mind. What's one thing you're thankful for this morning.

Put it in, put it in that bowl, and just think about that one thing you're thankful for... Now take a moment and think of who's one person you are thankful for today, put that name in the bowl, and now think of one scripture verse. What's a verse that comes to your mind, comes to your heart, comes to your soul, and maybe as I was thinking about the beauty of the choir singing, maybe it's a lyric of a song, maybe there's just a phrase. What are you thankful for in terms of a scripture, a song. Something has helped you along the way. You see, when we give God thanks and those three ways and perhaps other ways, it indeed is a continual feast that we can enjoy throughout our day, and it helps us physically, but you know that that verse from Thessalonians talked about giving thanks in all circumstances, and we all understand that we live in challenging times and we go through personal challenge in our lives, and so there are things that we go through that are not positive, that they're not good, they're very challenging, they're hard, they're just... It causes us to feel broken.

And yet that scripture says, give thanks in all circumstances. How many of you have ever heard the name Corrie Ten Boom? Perhaps you've heard her story in The Hiding Place, she was a wonderful woman of faith, she and her sister survived the harsh concentration camps, she was challenged in her faith to be someone who was thankful in all circumstances, but found it to be at times almost impossible.

I wanna read just a portion of her story about giving thanks

At ravens Brooke after Corey got past the guards with her Bible, she and Betsy, her sister were placed in an overcrowded women's barracks Corrie hated the miserable conditions, but could thank God for His grace in most of them, however, she could not thank God for the fleas in the bed, that is until later when she learned that it was the fleas in their beds that kept the guards out of their room. Corrie and Betsy took turns at night reading aloud from their Bible, it comforted them, and the hundreds of other women in their barracks, tempers were soothed, a glint of hope and God shown into their lives, they endured standing in the cold on frigid days for early morning roll call, they survive long work days. The conclusion of Romans Chapter 8 became one of the scriptures that sustained them. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.

I cannot imagine being in those situations and giving God thanks and yet holding on to that scripture verse, that nothing...Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ. Wow. And as we pause for a moment, especially when we go through tough times, especially when it's hard for us to be thankful, we need something to hold on to, and perhaps... These are the words that you need to hear. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? I'm sure, Paul says that neither death in our life nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. And so I wanna say to each of you, you are loved, you are loved. And as we think about our heart and what it is that God is inviting us to be thankful for, May we feast upon that truth, may we feast upon that nourishment in our hearts

In times that are wonderful and in tough times...There was one particular verse, Romans 8:28, That was a verse that I held on to with rigorous and strong hope when times were hard in my life, a number of years ago, our youngest daughter was going through a time when she was making a lot of bad decisions and had a lot of bad consequences that affected her and affected us, and as simply a dad who loves his kids. I was broken, I was hurting, there was nothing that felt good about our life, about her life, about my life, because of all of those bad decisions and bad consequences that were coming her way... It was a very low time, I felt broken inside. Very little did I feel I could be thankful for, but I held on to Romans 8:28 with all of my faith in life, Romans 8:28 says This, we know in all things God is working for good. To those who love him and are called according to his purpose, and in the midst of my journey and my journey with my daughter when nothing really was good, I said, God, I know you're working things out for good.

It's not gonna change overnight, but I'm holding on with faith, I'm... I'm thankful that I have that Scripture verse to hold on to. It took time, it literally took years for healing and wholeness and for my young daughter to have God turn things around and she turned things around and for healing to come in my own heart where there was brokenness. But I learned something that even in the midst of brokenness if you... You don't have a whole lot to be thankful for... Find a verse.

Yes, God, I'm thankful that you're working things after good. I believe that, I hope that. And so this morning, as I think about this invitation to you to continually feast on what's one thing you're thankful for, what one person... What's a verse? Where has your journey taken you... Maybe you find it hard to give thanks, but when we do so, we have this continual feast of blessing. As I was thinking about the celebration of communion that we'll share together in a few moments, the prayer that is prayed, we share together right before communion is called the Great Thanksgiving. It's a time to pause and kinda let go of our life, let go of our journey, and we come to the table and we think about the body and blood of Christ, and God's wonderful gift of love given to us.

And whether we feel close to God in this moment or we feel distant, it doesn't matter, God is with us, and so we say, Thank you, Lord. I invite you to a moment of prayer,

Thank you, Lord, for your wonderful love and for your Holy Spirit and your presence in this place. I pray for each one of us, that we might be a people who deepen our thankfulness. God remind us today, something we're thankful for a person we're thankful for, and perhaps he even lead us to tell that person or text them or email or I'm on, write him a letter to let them know how thankful we are for them, or to bring a verse to us, or maybe God, this message is a message we need to share with someone physically is in tears going through a tough time to invite and challenge them to be thankful. Continue to nourish us, Lord, through your Holy Spirit.


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