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Hello Dear Friends! 
 
These are challenging times.  With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, shelter in place orders have swept the nation.  Universities across the nation have closed their doors and gone online.  Rice is no exception. Students left Rice during the second week of March as the University decided to transition all classes and labs to an online learning curriculum.  In my own heart, I feel an upwelling of emotions like uncertainty, anxiety, restlessness, boredom, and frustration.  Yet, while ministry looks different now it is more necessary than ever.  During the last month, I have been clinging to two facts that have been incredibly stabilizing to me as I seek to continue to do ministry.
 
First, Our God is in control.  We see this in Romans 8.  Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  This passage does not say all things are good.  But Romans 8 does promise that God is in control and will certainly work through all circumstances for the good of His people.  It is often true that wherever God seems to be most absent, there is He most assuredly present.  If you want an example of this, look no further than the cross.  The cross was the darkest moment in human history.  Yet it was at this very moment, that the kingdom of darkness was defeated once and for all by the kingdom of light.  On the cross our Savior took what seemed to be Satan’s greatest victory and turned it into the most brilliant blazing light of redemption for His people.  This means that we can now say with John, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it!”
 
This leads me to the second fact. God loves us!  Saints, can there be any greater hope than this?  The strongest one knows your name.  The strongest one loves you.  The One, who is in control, will surely keep His promise and will work even the Corona virus for our good. For evidence of His love we need look no further than the cross which is proof eternal of a love stronger than any other love.  God is in control and God loves us.  If you know this is true than you can say along with Paul, “For I am sure that neither death nor 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.”
The Gospel has always spread fastest during times of uncertainty, panic, and upheaval.  All throughout the Old Testament God uses trying times to draw His people back to Himself.  This same theme can be further seen in the New Testament and following years when the Christian faith spread rapidly outwards under extreme persecution from Israel to all of the known world.  So, while these are challenging times, the ministry of RUF has continued and, God willing, will continue to move forward.  Since Rice’s decision to transition all classes online, RUF has also moved online. Adapting to the times, RUF has shifted to hold our weekly small group bible studies and Large Group over Zoom.  Breanna (my co-intern) and I have continued to meet with students one on one through facetime, phone calls, and texts.  We are also experimenting with other virtual hangout technology to have game nights and other fun fellowship events while we are separated.  Even in the midst of anxiety and fear, God is providing opportunities to deepen relationships with students and to remind them of our true and eternal hope held secure by our gracious Savior Jesus.
A Ministry Moment

This week I sat in my room with a Bible in one hand and an iPhone in the other.  On my phone’s screen I could see one of the guys from Rice that I have been meeting with this semester.  We were meeting to discuss one of my favorite chapters in the entire Bible, Romans 8.  As we walked through the first half of the chapter verse by verse, I was once again gripped by the sheer immensity and grand beauty of the Gospel.  The fact is, I cannot read the first sentence of that chapter without being swept up into joy and wonder at the grace and love of Jesus for us.  Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  We sat and talked about God’s free grace.  We talked about the fact that those who put their faith in Christ will never be condemned by God for their sins but instead are adopted as Children of God and are considered by Him as co-heirs with Christ.  I am so thankful that even despite the distance between us, God has provided the technology for me to continue having these conversations with Rice students.

Prayer Requests 
  • Please pray for the Rice students who are currently trying to finish the semester online. Ask the Lord to help them so that they would continue to give their best and finish strong.
  • Please pray that gospel opportunities would continue to appear.
  • Please pray that God would sustain the RUF community despite the distance and use it as an encouragement to students.
Please know that we are praying for you all regularly as well.  If there are specific ways that I can be praying for you please do not hesitate to let me know so that I can pray for you more specifically.    

Grace and Peace,
Joshua
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