‘After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne.’’ Revelation 4:1-2
So much has changed over the past few months, hasn’t it? The control we thought we had over our lives, the security we enjoyed in our home and with our family, the career progression we had mapped out in our minds, the health we had simply taken for granted, the community we enjoyed being part of, and the financial stability we had grown accustomed to – what a difference just a few months makes. The smell of fear pervades the air, the sense of helplessness and a feeling of impotence. We miss seeing people – real people – face to face. We miss shaking their hands, giving them a hug and catching up over a coffee. We miss walking around a shop without a mask, sharing a meal with some friends and singing together in church. Yes, so much has changed. One American girl summed up the feelings of many when she said, 'The world has been brought to its knees by a tiny microorganism. This pandemic has robbed me of my sense of control.’
And yet, I was reminded as I studied Revelation 4 and 5 with a student just a few weeks ago, there is no need to worry. There is no need to panic. For as we see the chaos, the confusion, the fear and the hopelessness all around us, we need to remember the glorious truth that there is a throne in heaven and it is not empty. God is on it. For God still reigns. God is still in control. God still rules. That is a huge encouragement for us in Portugal, as I´m sure it would have been for those Christians two thousand years ago who were facing severe persecution for their faith. God has not been caught off guard. He isn´t running around in heaven trying to figure out what to do next. He is the God of history, who is working out his plan of salvation for the good of those who love him. So whatever situation you are living in at the moment, however stressful your job is, however chaotic your home life is, however exhausted your body is, it is this that we need to remember, now more than ever before. God is still in control.
If we were to read on in Revelation 4 and 5, it would become clear that there is only one appropriate response to this great truth – and that is to get onto our knees in praise and adoration of ‘him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb’ (Revelation 5:13). Our prayer for you as well as for ourselves is that we would do just that.
Well, here in Portugal we have moved from a state of emergency to a state of calamity, which may sound like something out of Dad’s Army but is actually a step towards easing some of the lockdown measures that have been in place for over two months. Portugal hasn’t been anywhere near as badly affected as our neighbour Spain but, even so, the government is wary about relaxing the rules too soon. Whilst most shops and businesses will have re-opened by mid-June, schools and universities will only return in September. That has meant that Coimbra, which is very much a university city, is significantly quieter than normal. That said, our house is significantly noisier, with our kids having television lessons (yes, that’s a thing here), online lessons (often at the same time as each other), set work (which often involves us spending more time on Google Translate than it does on actually answering the questions) as well as, of course, a daily dose of Joe Wicks (not technically compulsory but a lot of fun!). Tim merrily gets on with jigsaws, Playmobil and Lego, although he struggles to understand why his older siblings don’t respond favourably to his regular pleas to forsake their arduous work and join him in playing.
In the GBU, I expected a lot of the regular activities to stop given that many students have left Coimbra, but it has been so encouraging to see nearly everything continue (barring the conferences of course). The one to ones, the small group bible studies and the weekly meetings have continued and it has been great seeing some of the students really wanting to use this strange time to spend more time in God’s word and to grow spiritually. There have also been a few folk joining us for the first time, which is very exciting to see. Please do pray that they would be struck by the faith and joy that Christians have in the face of suffering, and that they would see the reason for this certain hope that we have – namely Jesus!
Church has been a real encouragement for us. Despite the fact several brothers and sisters don’t have the internet at home, it has been humbling seeing so many of the older believers making a real effort to continue meeting each week on Zoom to hear from God’s Word, pray together and encourage each other. Those who have been unable to do so have been sent DVDs of the meetings for them to watch! That said, it has been a little discouraging that there are a few of the younger members who haven’t been regularly joining in – there are various reasons for that but it has been something that has weighed heavily on our hearts. Please do be praying for them – and for wisdom to know how best to love, serve and encourage them at this difficult time.
We doubt we will make it back to the UK over the summer, but we continue to remember you with much gratitude in our prayers. As always, we would love to know what you would like prayers for, so do drop us an email. And do let us know if you want to be added to our monthly prayer email.
Thank you once again for your gospel partnership.
With love in Christ,
Joe, Rach, Beth, Hannah, Joshua and Timothy x
Beth: Pray I would pass the (delayed) violin test to get into the conservatory school and that I would keep trusting Jesus.
Hannah: Thank God for making the flute and for the Narnia room we now have.
Joshua: Thank God that I have started piano lessons and enjoy them.
Timothy: Thank God for Lego and Paw Patrol and jigsaws!
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