Monday, September 18, 2006

FAQ: Advice for Christian freshers

This time last year I wrote a list of 10 top tips for Christian Freshers, this is my list this year... basically similar but with a few changes and a dose of sunscreen style advice.

1. Sleep at night, and eat fruit and veg in the daytime. These will help you to study and live more effectively. Your body belongs to God, treat it well. Get a smoothie maker. Put fruit in it, and then consume. Budget well. If you spend everything in the first week you will have no money later. If you have no money you can't eat. You need to eat. A credit card is not free money, neither is an interest free overdraft. It all has to be paid back. Use it if you need to, not because you want to.

2. When you don't know, ask. This is called humility. A lot of time, particularly on my course, I didn't ask. This was pride. Because of that pride things quickly went over my head. In freshers week everyone looks self-confident. Most of these people wear it as a mask. They really are and feel as clueless as you. Be a dolphin. Dolphins swim against the current. Notice that student life has its struggles but there are many harder times of life. Even with your debt you have it fairly easy. Whatever else you wear, wear humility. Admit your mistakes quickly.

3. Preach Jesus, and get accused of preaching lawlessness. Christians need to be living for Jesus, but they also need to be speaking for Jesus. No one is going to guess their way into the kingdom of God from the way you live. When God speaks Universes get created, so don't be ashamed to open the Bible with people. They might get re-created by God! Preach the gospel to yourself every morning. Be thankful for the little things. Start a 365 blog.

4. Find your Christian Union. Christian Unions are Mission Teams designed to equip you to live and speak for Jesus. Christian Unions are led by students - you can do that. Christian Unions are cross-denominational, take the opportunity to learn from people who are different to you. Be teachable. Pray with other Christians.

5. Local Church Matters. Most University towns have at least four good churches. Visit a couple and then settle in one before the end of October. Don't date the church, love it. What matters most is that everything is conditioned on what God's word says. If its just human ideas, leave. Find a place where people love the gospel and live it out. But, be gracious and generous. Perfect churches don't yet exist. When you're there mix with older and younger people. Break out of the bubble, don't just hang around with the students. Old people are great. Some of them used to be students. Tell your home church about the joys and struggles of University life.

6. Grace is sufficient. Many implications and applications. Grace means God doesn't want you try and impress him, and it means you can't be too bad. So don't be a dirty miserable legalist. And don't play with the low-grade pleasures of sin. Learn to repent quickly. See that the Cross of Christ is the centre of the Christian faith because God looks at Jesus blood instead of you. Enjoy that reality... and think ahead of time how to explain it to your sinful heart, and to other people. Find someone in the Christian Union who will study the Bible with you each week - you can't get enough of God's word. Get your mind renewed!

7. Dying is gain. John Piper preached this excellent message: Doing Missions When Dying is Gain. Make sometime to listen to that. University networks are fast - you can download good teaching like this very easily. Discover that Jesus really is better than the fleeting pleasures of sin. Sin is rubbish, don't mess. You can't do better. You can have Jesus.

8. Join a club and get to know people on your course. Don't just make Christian friends - there are lots of great people to get to know. We all need friends, and not just to witness to. Enjoy the time you have to pick up a new hobby or interest. If you can do sports, join a sports team - and then tell the Christian Union so they can support you in it. Start a Christians in Sport group. Also, befriend international students - meet the world on your doorstep.

9. Plan your time. Lots of students say they don't have time to spend with non-Christian friends, study or do other things. Simply not true if you plan your time. There are 168 hours in a week and you'd be amazed at what can be done in that time. See point 1, get good amounts of sleep and then study when you're most alert and you'll get it done better and more quickly. Block out whole mornings, afternoons and evenings for certain activities. Work hard. Play Hard. Sleep well. Be flexible. Be ready to change todays plans if God has something different for you to be doing.

10. Live all of life for the glory of God Get careers advice. Think about how you'll live and speak for Jesus in the workplace when you graduate. Think about where God might be calling you as a Christian. Invest in eternity by thinking about how to keep living for your whole life. Get into good habits with money and relationships. Money belongs to God and is to be used for him, enjoy the good things of life but don't turn all your money into beer. Sex belongs in marriage, don't play with it before that. God is interested in your degree, but your lecturers may not agree with what he says. When anyone disagrees with God, they're wrong. That includes me, and you. Use to help you live and think for Jesus. Whatever you do, do for the Lord Jesus. Keep your eyes on him, and enjoy the ride.

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