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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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?

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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)

For the love of Fatburger…

I just have to write about this before I sleep tonight or else this will just be another item in my blog list.

It’s been a while since I had the biggest laugh in my life. The kind of laugh that gives you stomachache and headache after. If you know what I mean. 🙂

This was a non-typical night for our discipleship group. We usually do our fellowship at Marj’s place in Surrey. However, there was a reason for a “burger” celebration that we had a long week of discussion of where to eat burger. Options were: Fatburger Lougheed, Fatburger Whiterock, Fatburger Langley. Yes, anywhere as long as it’s Fatburger. 😀

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Tonight was more of an accountability night, just sharing and listening to each other’s life stories. No filter, raw and honest. It’s such a blessing that some of us singles get to learn from the married women in the group.

The most important thing I have learned tonight is about being “intentional”. For all of us to meet and really commit to go to Fatburger no matter where that is, that is being intentional. It’s never about the burger. 🙂 It’s being intentional in our relationships – to our families, to our friends, to our church, to our small group. If we want our relationships to improve, we need to make an effort for it. We have to be intentional if we expect change and results.I know this is not something new, however, it’s just good to be reminded about it. And humbling. 

Tonight, I thank God for these amazing women whom I get to share stories, eat burger and laugh out loud (literally) with.

And thank you to Fatburger Lougheed for being so nice of not kicking us out even if we stayed a little bit past their closing time (we didn’t know, sorry…)

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Accountability over Fatburger

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22

Past, Present, Future

I just finished cooking one of my favorite dishes, “escabeche” that my mom is really good in making and I can’t really nail the taste I was looking for. It’s not like this was my first time making it. So, I’m just hoping there will be a miracle when I eat it for lunch tomorrow that the taste would turn out the way it should be. Lol.

Just trying to write something (while FRIENDS playing in the background)  for my first blog entry for 2016. I haven’t really done a lot of writing last year and I’m hoping I can do more this year. My 2015 really passed by so fast (yeah, cliche) and all I can think every time I look back is work was just crazy busy. Well, it was good crazy busy. I’ve learned so much at work and there were a lot of character-molding that happened. It was good. 🙂 (Now, I remember I need to do my self-performance assessment! Later on that…)

Anyway, so how was your 2015? I hope it was awesome for you too. I remembered I also did some hiking during summer. I believe that was one of the highlights of my 2015. I was able to push myself for more physical activities, the most memorable one was the 20km (up&down) hike to Garibaldi Lake. It was so tiring but the view on the top was just so worth it! It was breathtaking! But it might take awhile for me to go back. Going down just killed our knees! I can’t wait for our hiking adventures this year! My church friends and I have been starting to plan for it already.

Speaking of church, it’s been an amazing journey as well for the church planting movement of CCF Vancouver that I am so privileged to be a part of. A lot of relationship building, ministries slowly growing and the most exciting is we are moving finally to a new venue!!! Just thinking about how this started last 2014 and now things are slowly happening, it’s such a privilege to see how God is just working. Indeed, God wants a partnership with us, the followers of Jesus to do this amazing work of transforming lives.

Life is great, right?! It’s never a smooth one. But we still choose to continue living and hoping that it will get better each day. Not sure if you can speak the same, but for me, as long as I have Jesus in my life, no matter how big or small the giants I am facing, I just know that He will carry me through. And He always does. Because that’s who Jesus is. He keeps His promises. He never fails.

I have so many things that I look forward to this 2016. But I don’t know if those things will happen this year. I’m just letting God work it out for me if He allows it. If not, then, I’ll just have to trust that He has better plans than mine. After all, God sees the future. I don’t. So, He knows best.

How about you? What are you looking forward this 2016? I hope that you will also be able to entrust God of whatever plans you have for this year. We can only do much by our own strength, but God can make the impossible things for us if He wants to. I have big plans this year and I don’t even know if I’ll be able to sustain it. But, I’m taking a leap of faith that if God allows this, He will be there every step of the way. I hope you will also be able to take a leap of faith when God asks you to and obey when God doesn’t want you to. After all, as I say, He knows best.

I hope you will have a life changing 2016!! And, I hope that you will make God not just be part of it, but the Author of your 2016.

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

God bless friends! God loves you!

With love ❤ ❤ ❤ ,

Princess Pepay

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A PORTION of my 2015

Don’t trust what you see. Behind those nice, happy memories are also the painful, sad ones that we just don’t share through photos. 🙂

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Growing Together

I’m so blessed to be a part of other people’s lives by seeing them grow in their walk with God. As we say we are Christian, we must then believe that we are also commanded to make disciples just like what Jesus did with the chosen twelve. And to be a disciple and to make disciple is a privilege in our Christian walk. It must not be a burden for us but a joy as we experience God’s transforming power in our lives.

And being part of a discipleship group is never boring. It’s a great time of knowing the Lord deeper, knowing one another deeper, encouraging and praying for each other. It’s a venue where you can be yourself without fear of being judged. You get to travel together, do fun things together. And the other best part – there is always food! Haha!

I’m glad to be a part of a discipleship group. If you are not part of any, I hope you would start stepping out of your comfort zone and start reaching out. As our senior pastor said, (reason for not joining a discipleship group) if you think you don’t need help, then, be the one to give help. And I totally agree! Today, someone might need your encouragement, your blessing, your prayer. Don’t miss out on such a privilege!

FOCUS on 2015

Before 2014 ended, God impressed in my heart what should my focus be for 2015. And it’s really amazing how He confirmed it during the prayer and fasting week of CCF at the start of this year. It really assured me that it’s what God wants me to press on more this year.

What am I talking about? If I tell you, you might say that as believers we should be doing that all the time. It’s not just something you focus on for a specific year but on your day to day. And I would totally agree with you. It’s just that for the past years, I haven’t really been consistently preparing and even very intentional about it. And that’s why I believe God put it in my heart for me to really work on it as He enables me.

So, what am I talking about? I’m talking about “Evangelism”. As I’ve been reading the book of Bill Hybels entitled, “Just Walk Across the Room”, I realized I haven’t really been doing my part in the aspect of evangelism. I always pray to God to give me opportunities to share the gospel to people who haven’t heard about Him but I haven’t really been intentional in preparing for that opportunity. Even more, I don’t even depend on the leading of the Holy Spirit.

My biggest question to God was HOW? How do I share His Word in a country that has so much freedom and respect for each other’s belief? A country that values diversity of religion, culture and standards. HOW?

As I was going through the different stories in the Bible of how God used the apostles to share the gospel, I was reminded that the HOW should not be my concern. God will make it happen just like when God brought Philip to the Ethiopian eunuch for him to share the gospel (Acts 8:26-40). The only thing that God would require is “Obedience”. How far will I go? How willing will I obey? How immediate will I respond?

And to be honest, it’s easier said than done. With a lot of things going on, I can so easily be distracted that my focus on what God wants me to do will become blur until it will become a least priority. And that’s why my very reminder for this year are these verses in Colossians 3:1-2, Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

There is a lot of harvest in this country that would really need the body of Christ to be very intentional not just in sharing the Word of God but importantly in living out His teachings. Evangelism will never be effective if even your own life was never changed by the power of the gospel.

Pray with me that we will never lose sight of the thing that really matters to the very heart of God. May we have the boldness to make Jesus known, that people may experience Jesus to the fullest, so that when our Heavenly Father looks unto us He will say, “Kamukha niya ang ANAK ko (Christ-likeness).”

What is God telling you to focus this year?

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