Summer Update: What God Has Taught Since Graduating

 

 It’s been a while since I have written for my blog. . . 364 days to be exact. If you have read my previous posts, you know that  I created this blog primarily to share what God has been teaching me through missions, but I have also used it to share what God has been teaching me in general. Last summer I served by sharing the gospel in South Asia for two months, and the summer before I was part of discipleship training program where I learned to serve locally (Durham), nationally (NYC), and internationally (Kenya). During the school year, I often had excuses for why I didn’t write: I was busy with class, I was busy with performances, I was busy with practicing, I was busy with student teaching, etc. . . I could make excuses all day. Well, my days of college are officially behind me since I graduated in May (Woohoo!), and the excuses need to end.

Graduating from college has brought about a lot of changes in my life from where I am living, to my daily routine, to how I spent my summer. Without further ado here is an update on how God has been working in my life this summer. 

Finding Rest 

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I graduated from college on Saturday, May 12, and the following Monday was my first day of work as a music teacher. The whole weekend was a blur of ceremonies, packing, saying goodbyes, moving across the state, and finalizing lesson plans for my first day. The next three weeks were packed full teaching, meetings, catching up with family, and I felt exhausted. Busyness has been a theme throughout my whole life. I was the student who kept a color-coded calendar and volunteered for anything and everything. When I began attending the Summit Church, I learned the importance of resting in God, but I still struggled to truly rest in Him. I was always busy with classes, rehearsals, practice, homework, and even college ministry events and meetings. I was afraid letting go or leaving time to to rest was a sign of weakness, and “weak” was not how I wanted to label myself.

In Genesis 2 God rested after creating the world. If God, who breathed stars (Psalm 33:6) and spoke the universe into existence (Genesis 1), rested, then why would I not also need to rest? We are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27), so we are also designed to rest. I was believing a lie that I didn’t need rest, and I could keep pushing forward. The truth is, we all are weak. Our weakness is sin, and we all are sinners (Romans 3:23). The good news is even though we are weak, God is strong, and it is God who gives us strength.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

This summer, rest has replaced the theme of busyness. God has been showing me the joy, peace, and strength I can find in resting in Him. I have had ample time in my days to delve into scripture, reflect on the gospel, praise Him through music, and spend time with Him in prayer. In the past, these actions felt more like something I needed to check off my to-do list (especially reading the Bible and spending time in prayer). I have been praying for God to give me a worshipful heart and a joy for His Word, and He has been faithful to answer those prayers!

Seasons Change, but God is Constant

I started my summer feeling disconnected. exhausted. drained. lonely. I had just moved 356 miles from where I lived for four years, and while I moved back to my hometown, many of my friends had married and moved away. My friends, my discipleship group, and where I attended church were all changing. I was overwhelmed and did not give much effort to seeking community or spending time with Jesus. My lack of community and my lack of time spent with God left huge, gaping openings in my armor for the enemies to pelt me with flaming arrows (a.k.a “lies”; Ephesians 6:10-20). I was believing the lies my enemies were firing at me, and I wasn’t fighting back with scripture (my sword) or holding up my shield of faith (Ephesians 6:16-17).

When the time came for me to work at camp, I was feeling anxious and overwhelmed. My first Christian camp of the summer was the  2nd week of Truett Camp Girls Weeks. This overnight camp is for girls ages 6-18 to learn more about God. The theme of this year’s camp was Seasons Change with our theme verse being Ecclesiastes 3:1, ” For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” Our main point was while our circumstances change, God is constant. We talked about how to point our lives to God in good seasons and difficult seasons, and how no matter where we are in life God is constant (Hebrews 13:8, James 1:17, Isaiah 40:8). His love for us does not change!

While I may be in a season of waiting and transitioning, God will always be constant. When I came to camp I was anxious about the changes happening in my life, but I left camp reconnected to Christian community, ready to worship God in any season, and eager to share God with others. Sharing Jesus at camp was a reminder that living a missional-lifestyle is something we are all called to as believers (Matthew 28:19-20). (I also taught a missions class at camp, and it was awesome to teach the next generation practical ways to share their testimony and the gospel, and how to support missionaries around the world). 37025604_2015032585173787_7485332182437724160_n.jpg

Don’t Forget Your Identity

The last camp I worked at was Truett Camp’s Youth Music Week. This overnight camp is for middle and high school students to know God through discipleship from counselors in various classes, bible studies, and worship. The theme of this year’s camp was Identity Crisis and the main verse was Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” We talked about how we define ourselves, how the world defines us, and how God defines us. While the world (or ourselves) may define us as unwanted, unloved, unattractive, annoying, broken, a loser, etc, God defines us as holy, blameless, faithful, chosen, adopted, loved, His workmanship, free, a child of God, a new creation, etc (Ephesians 1:4-14, Ephesians 2:10, John 8:32, Romans 8:14-17, 2 Corinthians 5:17). God reminded me that my identity is not in what I say I am or what the world says I am, but my identity is who He says I am. These are truths we can use to battle the lies that the enemy throws our way.

One of my favorite songs during worship at camp was Who You Say I Am. The lyrics point us back to what Jesus says our identity is! We are “chosen not forsaken,” “free,” “children of God.” Check it out below. 

Community is Key

Outside of camp life, God gave me three wonderful women to help point me back to Jesus. These women remind me of the gospel and it’s truth. They encourage me to grow in my faith and use my gifts to serve. God designed us to be in community to grow, worship, confess sin, pray, fellowship, and encourage each other.

  • James 5:16 says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
  • Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
  • Romans 1:11-12 says, “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.”
  • Matthew 18:20 says, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

How Everything Connects

God has taught me a lot this summer:

  • Resting is not weakness. God uses rest to fill us with His strength.
  • There is so much joy in reading scripture and spending time in prayer.
  • Community nurtures your spiritual growth.
  • Even though season change, God is constant.
  • My identity is in Jesus Christ.
  • I need to suit up with the armor of God every day and be active in prayer.

Romans 6:23

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The connecting line that runs through all of these things is the gospel. The gospel is simply the good news God has given us. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” While our punishment for sin (anything disobeying God) is death, God has given us a free gift, a gift we didn’t have to do anything for. God gave us eternal life with Him through Jesus. He did this by sending Jesus, His son, to earth, where he lived a perfect and sinless life. He lived the life that we could not live because of our sin. Then he died in our place. Romans 6:23 says that we deserved death, but instead, Jesus took our punishment for us, so that we could have eternal life with God. Three days later, Jesus rose from the grave, defeating death! He did all of this because of the GREAT LOVE with which he loves us (Ephesians 2:1-10). Doing good things isn’t enough to get us to God; only Jesus can save us. When we believe this is true, and we repent (turn away) from our sins, we can have salvation in Jesus (Romans 10:9-10). This is something God has offered to everyone!

It is because of the gospel that I know my identity is in Jesus, and that God’s love for me is constant. It is because of the gospel that I know I can rest in who God is. It is because of the gospel that I know I need community. It is because of the gospel I enjoy spending time in God’s Word and praying. It is because of the gospel that I need to suit of for spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6) because the enemy will do anything and tell me any lies to distract me from my purpose, worshipping God and sharing the gospel with others.

I want to close with a prayer I read in 1 Timothy this morning. It is a beautiful reminder of the gospel and how it changes us. This letter was written by Paul to his friend Timothy who doing ministry in Ephesus. The passage below was a prayer Paul inserted in the letter to praise God for the gospel. In all of Paul’s letters He reminds himself and others of the gospel. As believers, it is so important to not let the gospel become dull or mundane. We should remind each other and ourselves of the great beauty, hope, and love that God has given us through Jesus!

1 Timothy 1:12-17

I thank Him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as a foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

This is my story! I was an enemy of God, a sinner, but through Jesus I am a new creation! While we were sinners, enemies of God, He loved so much that He came to earth, lived the life we could not live, died the death that we deserved, and rose again from the grave, so that we could have a relationship with Him! God’s love is truly overwhelming, radical, and scandalous! It reminds me of the song, Reckless Love. It’s difficult to describe God’s love for us in words. Sometimes all we can say is he is “so so good,” and “so so kind.”

 

In Christ,

Alexis Chastain

 

 

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