#rejoice always #pray constantly #give thanks in everything

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Paul, the master communicator, could have written 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 just for our hashtag-crazy culture. These bite-sized reminders perfectly encapsulate the response to the challenges of 2020 for followers of Jesus. For many, the charge to “give thanks in everything” is particularly hard this Thanksgiving season. The losses of 2020 keep mounting.

Joel 1:4 describes a similar moment in history for the Israelites: “What the devouring locust has left, the swarming locust has eaten; what the swarming locust has left, the young locust has eaten; and what the young locus has left, the destroying locust has eaten.”

Wave after wave of devastation. The priests were so poor and hungry that they had nothing to put on the altar for sacrifices. The altar stood empty of the grain and drink offering (a foreshadowing of the bread and wine that followers of Jesus use all around the world to celebrate the gift of our salvation).

Perhaps some of us can relate, exhausted by the compounding challenges, empty-handed as we try to enter into prayer and thanksgiving. But here’s where the story takes a turn: the priests wept in repentance before the empty altar. God blessed His people and said, “Look, I am about to send you grain, new wine, and fresh oil.”

The Lord is moving right now in remarkable ways. Jesus Film Project® is experiencing this new wine and fresh oil as we seek to take Jesus to everyone, everywhere. As the limitations of COVID-19 have accelerated digital efforts, people are encountering Jesus in unprecedented numbers. Just this month, over 4.4 million people have used a Jesus Film® product online.

Every number has a name, and every name has a story. One of the stories unfolded on my front porch. My neighbor moved to the U.S. two years ago and that’s when we began waving “hello.” One day she tentatively asked me in her hesitant English, “Would you practice English with me?” When “stay-at-home” orders limited my whole world to the five blocks of our neighborhood, it seemed like the perfect time to take a walk with my neighbor, practice English and hear her story. Her story is a tough one: waves and waves of locusts have destroyed her world. COVID-19 completely shut down the business she moved to America to build.

After sharing her story, she turned to me and asked, “What do you do?”

“I help make movies; in fact, we have one in your language. I’ll send it to you.”

That night I emailed her “Falling Plates,” a short film depicting Jesus’s message of hope for people whose lives are falling apart. She loved it! She shared it with friends back home. Our friendship continues, and I am hopeful I can help introduce her to the One who died for her, the One who became grain and drink on the altar so we would never be empty. The One who gave everything so we can say with Paul #rejoice always! #pray constantly! #give thanks in everything!

How are you experiencing new wine and fresh oil in these challenging days?