Tune My Heart

Living and speaking for Jesus

Tag: whole life for Jesus

Settling in

You’ve got to the end of freshers’ week – but now what? Here’s some advice for Christian students I’ve gleaned from various people over the years (with particular thanks to Dave Bish and Jim Walford).

Join a church

No one can make it alone as a Christian, and living as a student is no exception. You’ll probably be challenged about what you believe, whether in lectures or down the pub. There will be pressure to conform to a sinful culture; many Christians flirt with temptation rather than fleeing, and regret it later. You need people to support you and challenge you because they love and care for you. As a Christian you’re already part of God’s worldwide church, so make it a priority to join a local church community. Church will help you grow as a Christian, so find somewhere where as God’s Word is taught people grow to love Jesus more, love each other more and love the lost more.

Join the CU

Christian Unions are mission teams made up of students from different local churches, united around the gospel in order to better reach students with the good news of Jesus. In short, they exist to make Christ known on campus. Join your CU to get involved in student mission; to be better equipped to reach your friends with the gospel; and to be encouraged as you work as a team to bring others to know Jesus. Find out more on the UCCF website.

Join other societies/do other things!

God’s made a good world, with so many great things in it. Don’t do what I did in my first year and do so many Christian things you don’t have time to play football/sing in a choir/join the wine circle/get involved in student politics/act in a play/go to the pub with coursemates. Not only is it wrong to think such things are “less spiritual” (all of life is for God’s glory!), if you throw yourself into loads of Christian meetings to the exclusion of all else, you’ll find opportunities for mission few and far between. This is my biggest regret about my first year at university. Do something to get outside of the Christian bubble, even if it’s simply spending time with your flatmates!

Work hard, rest well

It may not feel like it sometimes, but you’re at university to study for a degree. This is a good thing to do! Your attitude to your work is a great witness to others, but more importantly God asks us to work as if working for him. My experience is that you actually enjoy your work more the more effort you put in; this is possibly my second biggest regret of my first year, as I didn’t get much out of it academically.

You also need rest, which may seem impossible during freshers’ week, but getting into good habits early on really does help. The temptation is to stay up late like everyone else, because you feel like you’ll miss out on making friendships, especially early on. God knows what you need though, and one of those things is sleep; you will not lose all your friends if you go to bed before them! (You may well find they’re waiting for someone else to suggest going to bed…) Naps are also useful, if you have been up late; caffeine less so.

Learn to love

Your flatmates might “borrow” your food, or not do the washing up, or wake you up after a late night out. Your lecturers might not be very good, or overly harsh, and can sometimes be ridiculed or hated by others. You might meet people in the CU with whom you disagree: on theology, on style of meeting, on whether Jesus would have joined the Conservative or Labour Party, on all sorts of things you hold dear. God hasn’t put you with these people and in these situations to annoy you: he’s given you an opportunity to learn to love people. This is important with non-Christians, but possibly even more so with Christians. If members of the CU don’t love each other, that’s not a good witness. If they do love each other, learning to put aside secondary issues because they agree on the core truths of the gospel, it’s a far better witness. Francis Schaeffer said:

Love – and the unity it attests to – is the mark Christ gave Christians to wear before the world. Only with this mark may the world know that Christians are Christians and that Jesus was sent by the Father. (Francis Shaeffer, in Graham Beynon, God’s New Community (IVP), p92.)

Remember grace

You may have great intentions, but as a sinful human being you’re going to mess up. Don’t forget the gospel. Jesus died for you, and his perfect righteousness is enough to cover even the most spectacular failings. I was far from perfect at university, and needed daily reminders of God’s grace to me. (Also related: joining a church!) Living in close proximity with others, it’s reasonably sure they’ll get to see your sins and struggles – so take the opportunity to tell them of Jesus, who accepts sinners like you and them.

Summary

University is a great opportunity for so many things, but above all to grow to know and love Jesus more, and so love other people more, through living and speaking for him in your academic work, your time with friends, your CU involvement and in your church family. My prayer is that you’ll do just that!

Making the Most of Freshers’ Week

I was all prepared to write a post on “Making the most of freshers’ week”, when I came across this on the UCCF website:

With a new place to explore and plenty of new people to meet, Freshers’ Week is really exciting, but as a Christian it’s even better. University is an amazing time to make great friendships and share Jesus with people who have maybe never even thought of Him, and since Freshers’ Week is where it all begins make sure you make the most of it!

If you’re a fresher, it’s definitely worth a read; if not, why not show it to any freshers you meet?

Surviving exams (part two)

Last time we looked at three amazing truths to encourage us in the midst of exams. We saw that we are children of God, and so have a new identity that doesn’t rely on exam success. We saw that our Father is in control, so we can have confidence that he is using all of the pressure and stress for our good. Finally we were reminded that we don’t have to earn his love – that any achievement (or lack of it) doesn’t affect God’s love for us, so we don’t have to prove ourselves to him.

That’s all very well, you might say, but how is this going to help me, really? What does it look like to live this out? Let’s take them one by one:

You are a child of God. What do children do with their parents? They talk about every little thing: their worries, their interests, their feelings. Does a little kid think his problems aren’t worth bothering his parents with? No – he asks them for help, because they’re his mum and dad. Jesus encourages us to talk to our Father in the same way: “how much more [than earthly parents] will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11). So don’t let the pressure of exams stop you spending time with him. Instead, talk to him about everything. He’s your Father. He loves to listen.

Your Father is in control. God knew your exam timetable and the questions in the paper before the creation of the world. There may not be enough time to do the revision you feel you need; the questions might be terribly unfair. God is not surprised. Knowing this, it’s possible to relax (yes, really!). There’s nothing you can do about it, but that’s okay. Do what you can, then rest easy – whatever the result, your loving Father is still in control.

You don’t have to earn his love. Maybe you’ve been lazy throughout the year, and now it’s come back to bite you. You feel your difficulties are payback for your lack of studying, and so you kill yourself with work to make up for it. But God’s love is not earned. Yes, sin has its consequences (not studying sooner generally makes exams harder!), but your status before God is just as secure as before. Rest in his love – and then get to work, confident that God will keep loving you whatever the results.

Knowing God doesn’t lift you out of the stress. God being in control doesn’t mean he’ll give us an easy ride. But God is the God who sent his Son to join us in the mess and struggles of this world. He’s not a far removed kind of God, but a God who has come close to us in Jesus. Knowing this God in the midst of the stress can transform the whole experience, and speak volumes to those around us about where our confidence ultimately lies.

Catch up on part one here, then have a read of part three.

Surviving exams (part one)

revision (n): the act of watching TV or messing around on Facebook with an open textbook nearby.

Your body feels tense, and your palms start to sweat. Your craving for ice cream reaches a new peak. Your hands start to shake from too many Red Bulls and a lack of sleep. Lecture notes from last term suddenly seem incomprehensible, and you develop an unhealthy fascination for daytime TV. There’s not a seat to be found at the library. The exam season has definitely arrived.

Some people seem to take exams in their stride. For the rest of us, they can be a nerve-wracking and horrible experience. A whole year’s worth of work condensed into three hours of frantic scribbling. How do we cope?

Perhaps you’ve always been a high achiever, and you’re suddenly faced with the prospect of failure. Your identity, your self-image, seems ready to crumble. Or perhaps you’ve barely scraped through, feeling out of place with all these clever people around you. You feel like a fraud about to be exposed.

Exams are about proving you have certain skills or know certain things, but we take things much further. We try to prove ourselves to our parents, to ourselves, to others – and to God. What if we can’t prove ourselves? What if the “expected” 2:1 isn’t going to happen? What if we have to retake an exam, or repeat the year?

With all these pressures and worries swimming around our heads, it can feel impossible to know where to begin. We procrastinate when we should be working, and feel guilty about not working when we should be resting. Things seem out of control, and we struggle just to keep our head above water. Everything else takes a back seat – exercise, healthy eating, spending time with God and his people.

What is the Christian response to all this? Here’s three truths to to encourage ourselves with:

You are a child of God. Christians are much loved children of a heavenly Father. The Father loves you even as he loves Jesus (John 17:23). You don’t have to be a high achiever. Your identity is not in your degree. Your place in the family is secure. You are a child of God.

Your Father is in control. Not only is God loving, but he is also powerful. Not only does he care for you in the midst of exams, but he is using them for your good. Things may seem chaotic, even hopeless – but God is using all of it to shape you to be more like Jesus (Romans 8:28-29). You don’t need to worry – your Father is in control.

You don’t have to earn his love. You don’t have to prove yourself. Pass or fail in these exams, the one verdict on you that ultimately matters has already been given (Romans 8:1). Your achievements never made God love you, and your failures won’t stop him either. His love for you is all of grace. You don’t have to earn his love.

Next time we’ll look at how we can apply these truths in the midst of the stress, as well as some practical tips for the exam period.

Work and creation (part 2)

God made us to work too

There are two main verses where God gives people his instructions for what to do in the world he has made:

“Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Genesis 1:28)

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. (Genesis 2:15)

I’ve taken four phrases from these verses that give an overview of what humanity are called to do. All of these overlap to some extent, and they share the same theme: as those made in God’s image, we are called to work too.

Work

The Hebrew word used here is used later on in the Bible to describe what the priests did in the tabernacle, and later the temple (e.g. Numbers 3:7-8). The priests worked on behalf of the people of God – and in a similar way, humanity is to work on behalf of God. We are his stewards; or to put it another way, we “mediate” his rule to creation. God created the world, and we are to continue to work at it, develop it, find its full potential. We are to be creative, just as he is. This means everything from agriculture to architecture, from manufacturing to music. (Conveniently alliterative, but also all found in Genesis 4!)

Take care

We’re to preserve and protect creation – not destroying what is good, but making something better. We’re to pass things on to the next generation. Here we get hints of teaching, history, parenting. All good forms of work for God’s people to be involved with.

Fill the earth

The Garden of Eden was only the start. Genesis tells us that four rivers flowed out of Eden, watering the earth (Genesis 2:10-14), and God’s people are to do the same – spreading out from the garden to bless the rest of creation. This means having children (“Be fruitful and increase in number”), building cities, developing communities. It means exploration and discovery. It involves geographers, and sociologists, and people to build boats and bridges.

Subdue

The last word sounds more negative than it should, like its neighbour “rule over”. The original word seems to have the idea of ruling over and taming the earth so that it benefits people. It started out with farming, but more generally it’s seen in bringing order out of chaos – taking the world and transforming it into Eden.

So if work is God’s good gift to us, why is it so frustrating? Next time we’ll look at the effects of the Fall on God’s call for us to work, and our experience of it.

(For further reading, try Maximum Life by Julian Hardyman, whose book contains a far more in depth look at this very topic.)

Work and creation (part 1)

Last week we ran a seminar on work for our fourth year students. As there was too much to cover in the time we had, and as the content might be useful for others, I hope to post a series of entries on the topic over the coming weeks. We thought about what the doctrines of Creation, Fall and Redemption have to say about work, so we’ll begin with Creation.

God worked to create a good, physical world

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning – the sixth day.

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. (Genesis 1:31-2:2)

Work is something that God does. The Bible describes his creating the universe as “work”. And he doesn’t just set the world spinning, then sit back and relax. He continually upholds everything. Colossians 1:17 tells us that “all things hold together” in Jesus. Jesus says in John 5:17, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too am working.”

God is a worker. And he works to create a world that is both physical and good. Too often Christians forget the innate goodness of the physicality of this world. We can start to think that it’s only the spiritual that matters. But the Bible reminds us that when God made this world, he said it was good. Life isn’t meant to be like one long prayer meeting; God made a good, physical world for us to enjoy and live in.

Continued on Wednesday…

What to do as a Christian fresher

Across the country, new students are settling into life in halls and houses. Based on the advice of many people over the years, here’s my advice for Christian students.

Join a church

No one can make it alone as a Christian, and living as a student is no exception. You’ll probably be challenged about what you believe, whether in lectures or down the pub. There will be pressure to conform to a sinful culture; many Christians flirt with temptation rather than fleeing, and regret it later. You need people to support you and challenge you because they love and care for you. As a Christian you’re already part of God’s worldwide church, so make it a priority to join a local church community. Church will help you grow as a Christian, so find somewhere where as God’s Word is taught people grow to love Jesus more, love each other more and love the lost more.

Join the CU

Christian Unions are mission teams made up of students from different local churches, united around the gospel in order to better reach students with the good news of Jesus. In short, they exist to make Christ known on campus. Join your CU to get involved in student mission; to be better equipped to reach your friends with the gospel; and to be encouraged as you work as a team to bring others to know Jesus. Find out more on the UCCF website.

Join other societies/do other things!

God’s made a good world, with so many great things in it. Don’t do what I did in my first year and do so many Christian things you don’t have time to play football/sing in a choir/join the wine circle/get involved in student politics/act in a play/go to the pub with coursemates. Not only is it wrong to think such things are “less spiritual” (all of life is for God’s glory!), if you throw yourself into loads of Christian meetings to the exclusion of all else, you’ll find opportunities for mission few and far between. This is my biggest regret about my first year at university. Do something to get outside of the Christian bubble, even if it’s simply spending time with your flatmates!

Work hard, rest well

It may not feel like it sometimes, but you’re at university to study for a degree. This is a good thing to do! Your attitude to your work is a great witness to others, but more importantly God asks us to work as if working for him. My experience is that you actually enjoy your work more the more effort you put in; this is possibly my second biggest regret of my first year, as I didn’t get much out of it academically.

You also need rest, which may seem impossible during freshers’ week, but getting into good habits early on really does help. The temptation is to stay up late like everyone else, because you feel like you’ll miss out on making friendships, especially early on. God knows what you need though, and one of those things is sleep; you will not lose all your friends if you go to bed before them! (You may well find they’re waiting for someone else to suggest going to bed…) Naps are also useful, if you have been up late; caffeine less so.

Learn to love

Your flatmates might “borrow” your food, or not do the washing up, or wake you up after a late night out. Your lecturers might not be very good, or overly harsh, and can sometimes be ridiculed or hated by others. You might meet people in the CU with whom you disagree: on theology, on style of meeting, on whether Jesus would have joined the Conservative or Labour Party, on all sorts of things you hold dear. God hasn’t put you with these people and in these situations to annoy you: he’s given you an opportunity to learn to love people. This is important with non-Christians, but possibly even more so with Christians. If members of the CU don’t love each other, that’s not a good witness. If they do love each other, learning to put aside secondary issues because they agree on the core truths of the gospel, it’s a far better witness. Francis Schaeffer said:

Love – and the unity it attests to – is the mark Christ gave Christians to wear before the world. Only with this mark may the world know that Christians are Christians and that Jesus was sent by the Father. (Francis Shaeffer, in Graham Beynon, God’s New Community (IVP), p92.)

Remember grace

You may have great intentions, but as a sinful human being you’re going to mess up. Don’t forget the gospel. Jesus died for you, and his perfect righteousness is enough to cover even the most spectacular failings. I was far from perfect at university, and needed daily reminders of God’s grace to me. (Also related: joining a church!) Living in close proximity with others, it’s reasonably sure they’ll get to see your sins and struggles – so take the opportunity to tell them of Jesus, who accepts sinners like you and them.

Summary

University is a great opportunity for so many things, but above all to grow to know and love Jesus more, and so love other people more, through living and speaking for him in your academic work, your time with friends, your CU involvement and in your church family. My prayer is that you’ll do just that!

A new beginning

Welcome to the all new Audience of One! Do take a seat.

For those new to the blog, a warm welcome. I’ve been doing this blogging thing on/off since about 2001, and on this website since 2005. However the time has come for a fresh start. I’ve written a lot of stuff here over the years – some worth preserving, some best forgotten. The idea behind the relaunch is that I can repost some of the good stuff alongside new entries.

I write as a follower of Jesus, whose aim is to live my whole life – at work, at home, with family, friends or colleagues – for him, the audience of one from whom this website takes its name. My hope is that this blog will be read by those who know and love the Lord Jesus and want to know and love him more. I want to share the best of what I’m hearing from others, as well as contributing myself. A common focus will be issues relating to university students, but my aim is not to be exclusive in my audience.

I hope you find it encouraging!

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