2017

My word of the year for 2017 was power. When I chose that word, I never could have imagined what God would have in store. In the past 12 months I have seen God answer prayers I never even thought to pray, defeat giants I never thought I would have to encounter, and move mountains I thought I would have to climb to get around. He has brought healing from sickness, life from death, victory from defeat – and so much more! There is so much to praise Him for, and my heart is overwhelmed even thinking about it all.

At the end of 2016, I set a goal for myself of moving out on my own in 2017. I never would have expected that on January 1st I would sign the lease on my first apartment. And I definitely never would have expected that only three months after moving out on my own, the opportunity would present itself for me to buy a house. But in April, I officially became a homeowner.

A week after closing on the house and moving in, I faced one of my biggest fears by getting on a cruise ship for the first time and spending a week on the open water.

And the day I got home from the cruise is the day my sister told me I was going to be an aunt.

In February, a vision became a reality when my roommate and I stepped out in faith and started leading a weekly Discipleship class to equip and empower people to grow deeper in their walk with Christ. Since then, we have led three different series of classes, met lots of new people, seen consistent growth, and watched God move in miraculous ways. In October, we were even invited to lead a small group for a Women’s Empowerment Conference at another local church.

In March, a close friend of mine faced an intense battle with cancer, defeated all the odds against him, and came out victorious. Six months later, he celebrated his daughter’s first birthday – a day doctor’s had previously told him he may never live to see – and even returned to active duty as a Highway Patrolman.

This year my best friend graduated nursing school, passed the NCLEX, became a registered nurse, started her dream job, bought her first car, and has seen prayers years in the making being answered.

In September, I conquered another major fear by getting on a plane for the first time – just to spend the day exploring Washington DC and marking a lot off the bucket list.

In November, I got to see one of my favorite worship bands and some of my favorite spoken word artists live – more items checked off the bucket list.

I also stopped procrastinating and finally applied to grad school.

And this past week, just five days before Christmas, I got to hold my new little niece in my arms and welcome her to the world… What a way to close out a year slam-packed with the power of God!

“How sweet to hold a newborn baby, and feel the pride and joy it gives. But greater still, the calm assurance, this child can face uncertain days, because He lives.”

After all… any and all power we can possibly possess is only made possible through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s all because of Him, and it’s only because of Him.

That’s not even all that happened this year – that’s just some of the highlights. God has revealed Himself in so many different ways, even down to the smallest details. And what I’ve learned through it all is that if you ask for the power of God to be revealed in your life – then you better buckle up and enjoy the ride. I have learned that in order to experience the power of God, you must first endure the battle of faith verses fear. This past year, I have seen my friends and family face some of their greatest fears, and celebrate some of their biggest successes. I have seen the hardest struggles transformed into the greatest stories. There have been relationships to begin, end, and be restored. There have been dreams and opportunities lost, only to be replaced by bigger dreams and better opportunities. There have been long-awaited promises fulfilled, and new promises to be revealed. This has truly been a year of breakthrough, and this is just the beginning.

I had almost forgotten why I chose “power” as my word of the year until I recently stumbled on something I wrote on January 4th. In the note, I had written, “My goal for this year is to grasp God’s power like the woman grasping for the hem of His garment.” I went on to write, “We behold His power with the eyes of our heart, but if we only ever behold Him then we will only ever watch Him pass by. To grasp His power is to take hold of it and make it ours. That requires following Him and pressing our way through the crowd.” This year, our world has been in such a chaotic state, that I’ve felt much like the woman desperately pressing her way through the crowd just to get a touch of God’s power. I’ve witnessed so many miracles and felt so much of His power this year that it’s almost as if, above all the noise, I can hear Him saying, “Who has touched me?”

A few weeks ago I began praying and seeking God’s guidance for what my word will be going into 2018, and the word He laid on my heart was peace. So when I was reflecting on this past year and decided to go back and re-read this passage of Scripture that had been so heavy on my heart this time last year, I was amazed by what I found. What stood out to me this time was not what the woman did, or what happened to her, but what Jesus told her afterwards.

What did He tell her after He healed her? After she received His power?

Go in peace.

 

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Faith Begins with Fear

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Have you ever had a dream that scared you? That felt bigger than you? A dream that made you feel inadequate, like it required  more than you had to offer?

Ever felt called in a direction beyond the border of your comfort zone? Called to a place where you felt like your weaknesses would be exposed and your strengths would come up short of being enough?

If so, you’re probably right where God wants you to be.

If you’ve ever stood on the edge of a mountain and looked out over the expanse of earth beneath you and before you, then you know what it feels like to stand on the edge of God’s calling for your life. It is breathtakingly beautiful and simulaneously terrifying.

Imagine Abraham – looking up at the stars of the sky and hearing God tell him that his descendants would be just as  many, but knowing the barrenness of his wife and their continually increasing age (Genesis 15:1-6).

Imagine Moses – a murderer with a speech impediment, standing before a burning bush, hearing God tell him that He is sending him back to the place from which he fled to lead the people of Israel out of slavery and into the promised land (Exodus 3:3-6).

Imagine Mary – a young virgin, engaged to be married, hearing an angel of the Lord tell her she will become pregnant and give birth to the Son of God (Luke 1:26-33).

In each instance, these giant heroes and heroines of our faith had to be commanded not to fear. We revere and honor these names now, but in their own day and age their lives seemed so small and insignificant. Can you imagine?!

We serve a big God with big plans, and He desires to use the lowliest of servants to accomplish the grandest of goals. It’s only natural to be afraid when God calls us to something big. Faith begins with fear. But what I find so amazing, and hard to believe, is that God-sized dreams do not require God-sized faith.

In Matthew 17, the disciples saw Jesus transfigured on a mountaintop. The fullness and brightness of His glory was too much for them to behold. They were terrified, and in their fear they fell down before Him. As they got to the bottom of the mountain, a large crowd was waiting for them, and a man approached Jesus and knelt before Him seeking healing for his son. The son suffered from seizures, and although the father had brought Him to the disciples, they had been unsuccessful in their attempts to heal Him. Jesus became obviously frustrated upon learning of their failed attempts, saying, “You faithless and corrupt people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me” (Matthew‬ ‭17:17‬ ‭NLT‬‬). After Jesus heals the boy, the disciples question Jesus about why they had been unable to usher the same healing. He responded by saying, “You don’t have enough faith… I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible” ‭‭(Matthew‬ ‭17:20‬ ‭NLT‬‬).

A little faith begins with a lot of fear.

But there are two different types of fear – There is fear that paralyzes you, and there is fear that propels you. Fear that paralyzes you holds you captive and keeps you from experiencing what God has to offer. It is a fear of the future, a fear of what people will think, a fear that you won’t be enough. This type of fear will keep you always looking for God’s promises, but never taking active progress towards them. On the other hand, fear that propels you towards God’s calling gives you drive and ambition. This is a reverential fear – It is a fear that believes in the power of God, and trusts that He is able to do what He says He will do.

The disciples feared God on the top of the mountain.  They bowed down before Him in their fear after seeing the brightness and fullness of His Glory displayed. But the father, desperately seeking Jesus, waited patiently and bowed down before Him at the foot of the mountain. His eyes had not beheld what the disciples had beheld, yet He wholeheartedly believed in what Jesus was able to do. That is the definition of faith – believing without seeing. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” This father believed in what he could not see – and his little bit of faith led to the moving of a mountain in his son’s life.

We aren’t all so faith-filled. Some of us are paralyzed with fear. We don’t believe because we don’t see, and we don’t trust because we don’t understand.

After Jesus was crucified and risen from the dead, He appeared to His disciples again. Infamously, Thomas did not believe Jesus was who He said He was until he was able to touch the wounds and feel the holes. Jesus responded to Thomas’ doubt by saying, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me” (John‬ ‭20:29‬ ‭NLT‬‬).

We are blessed when we believe, but Jesus is faithful even when we are faithless. He doesn’t give up on us when our faith measures up to less than the size of a tiny mustard seed. He doesn’t deny our requests for evidence of His Power. He continually reveals Himself to us and makes Himself known to us. We are simply holding on to the wrong kind of fear. We have no need to fear not being capable or powerful enough to complete God’s calling. This kind of fear will flee in the presence and truth of who God is. He is all-powerful, completely capable, and in control of all things. He dwells within us, and lives and moves among us.  We have no need to be paralyzed with fear.

We need to let our fear propel us towards our calling – the place where our fears and our faith collide.

When we focus on our inabilities rather than God’s ability, we are putting our faith in ourselves. And when we put our faith in ourselves, we will always end up disappointed. It is not the size of our faith that matters, it is the size of the God we are putting our faith in. A little bit of faith in the hands of a big God can accomplish unexplainable tasks – That’s what makes it miraculous. Our weaknesses display God’s strength, and our inabilities point to His abilities. Faith beigns with fear – Not fear of what we are unable to accomplish, but fear of what He is able to accomplish. The power of His presence should evoke a fear in us that brings us to our knees in complete surrender to His plan and purpose. Once we place our mustard seed faith in His faithful hands, anything is possible.

Any dream given by God is within your reach – Don’t let the wrong kind of fear hold you captive. There is no dream so great that God is not greater still. Where He leads, He provides. And where He guides, He strides. He won’t abandon you in the place of your overwhelming fear, but will walk along beside you every step of the way. He won’t plant a dream inside your heart that He is not prepared to bring to fruition. He will nurture and stregthen you to become all He wills you to be. He will make a way. Your vision will become a reality – You simply have to trust Him. You simply have to believe that God is who He says He is and that He is able to do what He says He will do.

His promise is true, His presence is with you, and His Power is within you. Trust and believe. Take hold of it. Step out in faith and watch as your fears fall. Christ is within you – You are capable, powerful, and destined for greatness. You are fearfully and wonderfully made – set apart for a high calling and divine purpose.

You. Are. Enough.

So don’t be afraid to dream big.