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

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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)

 

 

 

Gratitude Attitude

I just finished watching the CCF Sunday Message through Livestream and the message hit me big time.

I don’t know when it started but I had again a phase of grumbling and complaining at work. Things at work are mostly really busy for me. If I can eat lunch with my colleagues on time and consistent in a week, that is already a huge break for me.  And, I really think that God allows it to happen to reveal what is in my heart and to test my character.  You see, being busy at work is not really the problem. It’s not even like I bring work at home. However, because I am overwhelmed with work that I expect other people to work in same pace and provide results as I do. That’s when the grumbling and complaining happens.

The message I just listened talked about “Entitlement”. And how to avoid it is to always have a gratitude attitude. And this really hit me. I feel like I complained too much that I already lose sight of the true important things. Things that I should learn to count and be grateful for. I also forgot that I myself is a recipient of grace. In God’s standard, I will never be good. But because of His grace through Jesus, He is able to forgive me of my misses and failures. I am reminded that I should be the same to other people. I have to stop easily judging people and see them  as how God sees them.

I used to have reminder at my desk at work, “Increase Appreciation, Lower Expectation”. I should really put that back to remind me to always learn to see the good on people. It is very hard especially when you expect people to perform based on their status and position. By God’s grace, I’m praying that I will really learn to lower my expectation and even more surrender those to God as He is the one who is really in control.

The cause of my busyness was a big project I was part of that just got implemented recently. It’s a good accomplishment and it was successful. But, in all honesty, I feel that I failed the test God gave me. I ended up grumbling so much instead of rejoicing more. I became loud inside instead of allowing peace to work in my heart. I forgot to be grateful of the blessing of work and blessing of relationship. I lose sight of what truly matters for eternity.

I know that God will always bring me to circumstances that  will prune and mold me as God’s purpose for us has always been Christ-likeness. With the help of the Holy Spirit, I pray that I will be better next time.

I want to end this by thanking God for a lifetime of grace that is overflowing for me and for you that we may always be reminded of what truly matters and to always be grateful.

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3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Philippians 2:3-8

be grateful!

Hold Your Tongue

In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire.” James 3:5

I have been grumbling and complaining too much at work which I feel have also caused others to stumble. It’s been hard. And every day, when I wake up and do my quiet time, I would always pray the same prayer – to be patient, to be humble and to be Spirit-filled. And, I kept failing.

Taming the tongue is really hard to do. Gossips, grumbles, bad humor, etc. These are the things we tend to nurture more. I got reminded how powerful spoken words are. When I start venting out my frustrations to someone instead of venting out to God, I realize I am not doing any good to that person. I might just start a spark that would lead to a big fire.  I have to learn to bring all my cases to God first all the time, then to people who will not tolerate me but instead rebuke me in love and provide godly wisdom.

I pray that I will really let the Holy Spirit control how I respond and react in words to circumstances.  I pray that my words will be words to build and encourage someone. By God’s grace.

Will you pray for me?

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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

Struggle of a Discipler

My heart was troubled for the past days. This got triggered when I learned something about someone so dear to me. It somehow broke my heart for the fact that she did not tell me about it immediately when she has been open to me about a lot of things. And also, the fact that she pursues something that somehow I thought she would be wiser and spiritually mature enough to make such choice.

Three important things that God is teaching me these past days.

One – this circumstance made me reflect on how I should be as a discipler. I went back to the One who started it all. How was Jesus as a discipler? How was Jesus when He knew that Judas would betray Him? When Peter would deny Him? When the disciples hid and ran away? All of these did not stop Jesus to love them and all the more He prayed for them. I got reminded (not the first time) of how I have to let go the people that God has entrusted me to disciple. Let go, meaning not to stop discipling them but to let God take care of them when they choose certain things which we might think would not be good for them.

Second – this also reminded me of God’s heart. I realize that if my heart aches for my disciples when they choose to do things that are not in obedience to God, God’s heart who has the perfect standard must be aching more for all of us when we do things that are not pleasing to Him.

Lastly – it also made me reflect being a disciple. I realize that I, myself also do not tell everything to my discipler. It could be that I feel like I am not doing anything wrong or I could be scared that I might get judged or I just don’t feel the need of telling. And probably, the girls I disciple are also feeling the same thing that’s why they don’t tell me the things that I thought they would tell me. For whatever reason, I must learn to respect and just continue trusting God who knows the deepest of their hearts.

Overall, I am humbled. God reminded me that the most important that I can do for the girls I disciple are to love them and pray for them. I am also truly grateful for the disciplers that God has used to help me in my walk with Him. I am thankful that they allowed me to depend not on them but on God alone.

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.  As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. (Jesus’ prayer for the disciples – John 17)

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