Don’t Dream Alone

I’m just amazed how God has taught me to dream bigger. As He showed to me how much He can accomplish through me, I got more inspired to dream for greater things. But those greater things always start with small steps and that’s where I am at right now.

Having a big God is enough to dream big. But, God never wants us to do it on our own. He wants us to share those aspirations, vision, goals with people. And that’s what make pursuing dreams exciting.

I’m grateful that my family supports me and believes in me all the way. It’s just nice to be able to share my dreams with them and make them part of it. Aside from family, it’s encouraging to be surrounded by friends who cheer for you as you take those small steps. Having that kind of affirmation confirms that what I’m pursuing is a possibility, knowing that with God nothing is impossible.

How about you? Are you living your dream? Are you pursuing it? Always remember that you don’t have to do it alone. Share it to the world! You’ll be surprised there are people who share the same dreams with you.

Big GOD!Big Dream!

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On Deeper Faith

Two Sundays ago, I had the privilege to share one of my faith journeys during the worship service. I know I’ve blogged already about this 3 years ago, but I just thought it would be good to share again. I hope that this will encourage you to entrust your life to Jesus Christ so that you can walk in deeper faith. Blessed reading!

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Before I came to know Jesus I was a very independent person.  I am logical and thorough in my decision-making that I barely asked for counsel or advice from others. I would always want things done my way and was the type of person who would never make a decision until I was sure it would work out.  I was even awarded Most Self-Reliant in grade school.  Before I became a Christian, I did not know that God is not just an idea but a real person whom I can depend on and lead me. It took me a long time in my Christian walk to be in a place of surrender and dependence on God.  This is one the stories of the how the Lord shook my faith and brought me to that place of surrender and dependence.

It happened in the late part of 2013. My theme verse for that year was Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” — As I wrote in my journal, Jan. 20, 2013, “At this time of my life, I can sense God testing my faith. I can feel His hands pushing my faith beyond what I am used to.” End of writing– This was a time in my life when I had been praying if I should quit my corporate job and work fulltime in ministry.  By faith, I was ready to say yes to God and was ready to give up my career, my opportunities, my dreams – including my dream of immigrating to Canada.

In October 2013, there was an open position for Online Evangelism which I was very interested in. I submitted my application and went through the process. I said to myself that the result of my application will be my confirmation if I should stay or leave my corporate work. Of course I had to make sure, right? However, God had a different plan.  I sensed He wanted me to walk in faith and not by sight. So despite not being sure if my ministry application would be approved, and even with a chance of a promotion at work, I decided to resign. It was not an easy decision to make but God gave me a peace that “transcends understanding”.  November 23, 2013 –I wrote in my journal, “Many would say that I should not quit unless I have a new work to move to. However, that wasn’t what God is telling me. Every decision I made has been a step of faith and I’ve been grateful that God has been enabling me. I never thought I could make such decisions on my own. Without God, there would only be fear and doubts and lots of anxieties. And as I decided, it is with great faith and trust that God holds my future and it is for the best, it is for His glory. Whatever it will be, I know that He has prepared it and He will be with me as I journey towards it. End of writing —

Dec 27, 2013 was my last day in the company that I’ve worked for almost 9 years.  That was a day I will never forget. Do you believe in God’s perfect timing? That same day, I checked my personal email and saw a message from CCF HR. My application for the ministry was not accepted. Great timing, right? Of all the days I could’ve received that message, it was on my last day when there was no backing out of resigning.  I thought that when God asked me to walk in faith, it was about my willingness to give up my career and work full time. But His thoughts were different. He wanted me to walk in faith by bringing me to a place of uncertainty, to a great unknown.

In 2014 while everyone was looking forward to new beginnings, I was facing a new year of uncertainty. I got confused and lost. Walking in faith was getting harder. God asked me to quit my corporate job but it seemed He did not want me to do a ministry either.  Also, I prayed that when I quit my job I hoped there wouldn’t be any unplanned expenses for my family because I would no longer have health coverage but just 2 weeks after my last day my dad got into an accident. Talk about timing! God was really testing my faith. But despite the circumstances, He also enabled me to keep trusting Him. His peace did not allow fear and worries to overpower me. He showed to me in a very personal way that He had my back. All I needed to do was to depend on Him because I was reminded that He is the one who provided for my family and not me. He had the power to bless them without my help.

My journey into the great unknown continued. I kept seeking God on what He wanted me to do but the waiting was getting more difficult.  A GLC position in CCF became available and I thought, maybe this was what God wanted me to do and not the Online Evangelism job. I went to CCF to meet the GLC director and I was told that they really wanted me however there was no definite timeframe on when they would hire. It was very clear that God was once again saying, “No.”  That was another day I will never forget.  I was discouraged and everything just overwhelmed me. I felt like I gave up my career for nothing!  On my way home that day, I cried and got a bit annoyed with God. I asked Him, “Why don’t you want me to work fulltime for you when I already gave up my career and my dreams so that I can fully serve you? It just doesn’t make sense.” At the end of that day, I just gave up and surrendered to God. I stopped rationalizing. I decided to stop asking what, how, why, when. He wanted me to stay still and wait. And the only thing I can really do was to obey. And, so I did.

After four days, God gave me an answer. Feb. 22, 2014 – I got an email from Canada Immigration requesting my passport. My PR application for Canada was approved! I honestly thought it would not happen anymore because I already gave up on that dream.

That day, God once again showed to me how sovereign and gracious He is. Everything started making sense beginning that day.  For example leaving my job allowed me spend quality time with my family and friends before I left for Canada. Because I had a lot of free days, I was able to volunteer and be part of the Ravi Zacharias Conference in CCF.  And while I had financial challenges for my move to Canada, God was faithful and He provided for all my needs. He even prepared the way for me when I learned that just 1 month before arriving in Canada, CCF Vancouver launched and I had a home church to go to! I realized God did not really say, “No” to my desire to serve Him fulltime. It’s just that what He had in mind was different with what I had in mind. He allowed me to serve and be a part of this church-planting movement and meet such a loving family of God.  He also gave back to me what I surrendered to Him – my dreams, my career. Obedience is truly hard and it is only through the help of the Holy Spirit that we can take that step to keep trusting God amidst uncertainties. There were so many blessings that came with walking in faith and obedience. Indeed, He is an awesome and faithful God!

And while I am grateful for all those blessings, I honestly consider them as bonuses. The greatest reward I received was experiencing God in a very personal and intimate way as He led me on a journey that resulted in deeper faith and dependence on Him. Those moments will always remind me of the amazing love of God and how real Jesus is. Because of Jesus, who is my Lord, my Savior, my Source of peace and the Author of my faith, I was able to walk in faith and get out of the boat of comfort, self-reliance, fears and worries. Apart from Jesus, I will never be able to walk in faith towards the unknowns in my life.

My name is Stifany Araneta, I was self-reliant and I feared uncertainties in life but now by the grace of God through Jesus Christ and with the help of the Holy Spirit, I continue to learn to depend on God and not on myself. I continue to learn to walk in faith and not by sight.  On times of waiting and uncertainty, Hebrews 12:2 says, let us fix our eyes on Jesus always, the author and perfecter of our faith.

Praise and Glory be to God!Sunset chaser

Do you want to be sure?

Waking up on a Monday morning, feeling yucky with colds and cough was nothing when I read the news that my brother shared to me very early in the morning. Another shooting happened in US (Las Vegas) which killed 50 people. It is always heartbreaking to hear this kind of news. More heartbreaking for those families who lost their loved ones.

Just very recent also, the father of one of my best friends passed away. Such event in someone’s life reminds us that death is indeed inevitable. I, myself, experienced also a lost when my sister passed away 11 years ago. And, there are still days I would cry because of longing. But, after those tears is a comfort when I remember God’s promise of eternal life in heaven someday.

I’m not sure how you take the reality of heaven. As for me, I can never take it lightly. The reality of heaven also means there is a reality of hell. When someone passed away, the automatic thinking of people is the person who passed away will go to heaven. Who doesn’t want to go to heaven, right? But if we think heaven is “always” the destination of those who died, what is the purpose of hell, then?

I desire that all my loved ones will go to heaven. God desires the same thing for all of us. 2 Peter 3:9 says, that the Lord is patient with us, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. However, it is very important to base our statement from Biblical truth and not just declaring it because that’s what we want to believe.

God gave us the assurance of our salvation and eternal life through His Word. It is a life that we can look forward to and a promise that gives us hope that indeed, our life here on earth is temporary and the best is yet to come.

How can we have that assurance? How can our loved ones have that assurance?

From the words of Jesus, Himself…

John 14: 2-3 –  “ My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” 

John 14:6 – “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” 

Some of us might have known Jesus since childhood, through our parents, going to church or even at school. Some of us might have not known Jesus at all. Whatever we know or not know, the truth remains the same that it is only through Jesus that we can go to the Father and to the place that He has prepared. The question is what to do with that truth? Do we explore or do we take it lightly?

The word “believe” that is used in the Bible is more than just accepting truth.  BELIEVE – PISTUEO – to trust in and rely upon, commit to the charge of, confide in, have a mental persuasion. God wants us to have a relationship with His Son, Jesus. He wants us to believe that Jesus died for our sins and rose after 3 days, and anyone who believes will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). And by having Jesus in our life means we will have the Holy Spirit who will help us live a transformed life – turning away from our old sinful ways. There is so much to know about what it means to live a life for God when we read the Bible.  But we have to take that first step – believe in Jesus. Allow Him to transform you. Let Him take charge. Have a relationship with Him.  That is how we get to heaven! Through Jesus alone.

And, what about hell? The Bible also speaks a lot about hell –  a place that will keep someone eternally separated from God.

Revelations 21: 8 – But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

Matthew 25: 46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Physical death is not the end. Second death or the spiritual death is. It is the death that we don’t want to experience. (Luke 16: 19-31)

I wish I can fit in one blog everything the Bible talks about heaven and hell. But, it is a truth worth exploring. At the end of the day, all of us want to be assured of one thing. Our life after this lifetime. And God is so loving and gracious that He gives us promises and warnings that we may know, hope and believe based on the truth of His Word.

As I think about those 50 people who died, it made me ask the question, did they believe in Jesus? Are they saved? Will they go to heaven? For that person who shot them, it made me ask a question – what if he had a relationship with Jesus?

Death is only scary when you are not sure where you go after. Heaven or Hell?

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And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:11-12)

 

 

 

Pizza & Passion

I’m currently reading one of John Maxwell’s books entitled, “The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader – Becoming the Person Others Will Want to Follow” (thanks to a good friend for giving this book).  Past days, I was reading the chapter about the importance of Passion. Maxwell shared the story of how Papa John’s Pizza started and grew.  Maxwell describes the owner as, “John Schnatter not only eats Papa John’s Pizza; he breathes, sleeps and lives it.” The success of Papa John’s Pizza is because of passion.

As I continued to read, it made me ask myself what is the one thing that I am really passionate about? What is the one thing that I am willing to spend hours and hours to do it? What is it that I specifically accomplish that gives me a sense of fulfillment? Sounds cliche, right? But it’s a question that most of us are really finding it hard to answer.

As I thought about it, I realized there is one consistent thing that I always enjoy doing and is always present in all phases of my life – teaching/coaching/mentoring.

I remember when I was in grade school, I would play pretend as a teacher of an imaginary class. When I was in high school, I remember I did tutorials to some of my classmates. When I was in college, I volunteered teaching kids on a Saturday as well as did tutorials for Korean students. I also tutored my younger brother on his Math. When I started working and grew in my career, I learned and enjoyed coaching/mentoring people in my team. Currently, I volunteer on some Sundays to teach kids during Sunday school. As part of my ministry, I’ve been doing discipleship with group of single women that allows me to encourage and mentor them as we all grow together in our walk with God.

I believe God has cultivated in my life to have a heart for people’s growth. If there’s one thing I can see myself really being patient – it is on people who are willing to learn and grow.  However, this so-called passion that I think I have is something I still haven’t really thought about deeply. I just know that I enjoyed coaching people at work or teaching kids but the pattern since I was young never occurred to me until recently.

This is something I really have to think through in the coming days, weeks, months. I must stop ignoring and really start not just thinking but also praying and seeking wisdom on how I can pursue it with an end goal in mind.

As Schnatter’s philosophy goes, “Concentrate on what you do well and do it better than anybody else.”

Also, just like Jesus when He was here on earth. He is the perfect example of what it means to pursue your passion. He never got off tracked of what He needed to do. He did the one thing that was expected of Him. And because of that, His passion (suffering) and resurrection made way for us to have the hope of a new life and be reconciled with God.

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:17

How about you? What are you willing to suffer and spend long hours at night? What is the one thing that excites you and you will never get tired of doing?

A conceptual image representing a focus on passion

Behind the Scene

One of the blessings I will forever be grateful to God is to have the gift of administration (1 Corinthians 12:28).  Having this gift has allowed me to take responsibilities that I didn’t know I am capable of doing, not just for the church but even at my work place or in my own personal day to day life. The credit all goes to God for entrusting me to do all types of work that He has been preparing me to do.

And do you know what’s great about this gift? It allows you to see what’s happening behind the scene. You get the privilege to see how God works and makes things happen.

Last weekend (June 9-11), our church (CCF Vancouver) went for our first ever church retreat focused on intentional discipleship. Our church leaders asked me to help in organizing the retreat, and as always, it is a privilege for me. No better way to use my time than doing things for the Lord.

When you plan for an event, your enemy is perfection. Of course, you want everything to go as you expect it to be, that includes the things that you can’t even control like weather. But just like any event I have helped organized, not everything we planned went smoothly. That’s why it is very important for me to always let the Holy Spirit lead me. It is not easy when you want to be in control of the flow. But God was not just at work for the event, He was also at work with my heart.

By God’s grace, I learned to submit and recognize the authority of the leaders of the church. As we did planning, there were disagreements but I always reminded myself that God gives wisdom to our leaders to make the right decisions as the Spirit led them. So, if I have to adjust schedules of the event, I must submit. I tell you, it’s never easy.

By God’s grace, I learned to say no to activities that will take my time to focus on planning. Weeks before the camp, I had to free up my weekdays after work so that I can work on preparations for the camp. I had to turn down invitations. It was not easy but I am no superwoman. I can only do much for a day.

By God’s grace, I learned to be more patient. During the last days before the camp, there were so many last minute changes and concerns which some required coordination back and forth. These things were inevitable. And all I can do was to ask God to just sustain me and give me the right heart. It wasn’t easy.

God showed to me that despite my lack of and my weaknesses, He can accomplish great things because it is His work. All His doing.

When the sunny forecast months before turned to a heavy rain forecast weeks before the event, we kept praying. God heard our prayer! We never experienced rain all throughout the weekend. Even if the forecast for the day showed potential rain, rain did not come. We were able to enjoy our outdoor activities, our baptism  and our camp fire fellowship. Only God can do that.

Weeks before the camp, as I was finalizing room assignments, I had some challenges. All I did was really pray that everyone will find their accommodation comfortable. Then, last minute changes happened which surprisingly helped resolve the challenges I had. A family has to cancel because of a sad news that they had to leave the country on the day of the retreat. God reminded me that indeed He is the one who could only appoint people to be in a certain place, event and time.  With that incident, God showed me how He can use something unfortunate into something good for His work. He cares about the details.

God also provided us a beautiful venue for the retreat – Camp Charis.  It’s not just the place but also the people who worked at Camp Charis. They were very accommodating with our last minute requests. I saw God working through them. Everything we needed, they were able to provide. Only God can do that. Indeed, no one can hamper His plans.

When we had our second round of baptism, we thought we will not be able to use the pool when we changed our time. Nothing can stop the work of God. The group who reserved to use the pool decided not to use it as they had to leave immediately at that time. Just amazing! To add, there were 7 people who planned to be baptized but it turned into 17 people including our NxtGen Kids! Amazing!

One of my favorite to witness behind the scene was the work of the volunteers. On the day of the event, all I did was coordination. The volunteers were the ones who were doing things in action. They used their gifts, talents and skills for God’s work.  There is no big or small gift, talent or skill.  All are needed to do the work of God. And it’s just amazing to see and discover potentials of people.

God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another… Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.” (1 Peter 4:10-11)

I can not put into this blog everything I experienced with God behind the scene. In every little detail, He was there.  It was a Spirit-filled retreat. And my prayer, that retreat would leave marks in the lives of all who were there to cause them to act to the purpose of why they were in that retreat in the first place. And that is to pursue INTENTIONAL DISCIPLESHIP. Same prayer goes to myself.

To God be the glory!!!

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 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

When you pray…

It’s hard not to get anxious when it involves financial matters.

An incident happened that involved a cheque I sent as a payment. It usually takes a week for that cheque to arrive but for some reason, it took longer this time. I went to the bank to request for a cancellation since I want to secure the money before it gets cashed out. These days, that’s not impossible to happen. However, the bank advised me to wait for another week as it might just be taking longer. The kind of cheque I sent was not that easy to cancel and takes a lot of process according to them. So, I waited another week.

During the second week, I was already starting to feel uneasy thinking what happened to my cheque. I was hoping it would arrive but it didn’t. And then, I have to wait for another week. During these times of waiting, anxiety always tried to crawl in. Indeed, prayer is the only weapon to anxiety. It’s during these times also that I prayed harder. I told God that He owns my finances. I told Him that I need that money either to be returned to me safely or to arrive safely. I told Him that if that will not happen, I will still continue trusting that He will provide. I just claimed who He is, how powerful He is. That if He can create the whole world, He can definitely secure that amount for me. Nothing is too big for Him. It’s not a very big amount but it is an amount that I needed.

Just this week Monday, I was suppose to go to the bank after work to finally cancel the cheque since third week passed and it still did not arrive. However, the whole day was so busy at work that I was so exhausted and decided to just go home and do it the next day. Almost end of the day Tuesday, I got confirmation that the cheque finally arrived! It was a big relief and I was just really in awe how God led me not to go to the bank the previous day. I was exhausted for a purpose! Just imagine the hassle if I cancelled it and then it arrived the next day. Whew! God’s timing is just perfect!

Once again, God showed to me how much He cares not just on the big things but also on the little things like a “lost cheque”. For God, what matters to Him was me. Not my finances. What matters to Him was my heart and my faith on Him. As much as I don’t want this incident to happen again, I am grateful for the rocky roads of my life because these circumstances allow me to experience God in a very personal way. I am reminded that He is for Real and He truly hears our prayers.

” Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6

beach-1868772_1920Photo Source: Pixabay

 

 

It doesn’t matter

One thing I am grateful for social media is it allows me to see the world. I see vacation posts, heartbreaking stories, inspiring stories, government updates, economic news,  parenting tips, etc. You name it.

Though, whatever I read or see triggers different thoughts and emotions in me. I would wish I can go for a vacation also. Or, I wish I could help. Or, I get disapppointed. Or, I want to encourage too. 

But when all of those thoughts and emotions pass, I would ALWAYS be reminded of God’s Word. “Set your mind on things above and not on earthly things.” I always ask the question, “Does it really matter to God?”

…if I go or not go for a vacation?

…if the whole world does not know my own little acts of kindness?

…if I live in a country with economic problems?

…if I can only inspire one or two compared to others who can inspire the world?

…if I don’t ever become a parent?

God’s answer to me, “The Lord DELIGHTS in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.”‭‭ Psalm‬ ‭147:11‬

That’s what matters to God. How I honor Him, fear Him, love Him. The condition of my heart is really what matters to God. I should never measure the worth of my life by earthly things. And I can only do this if I have Jesus in my life, His Son whom He is well pleased.

#thoughtsbeforeisleep