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

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

Risk, Risk and More Risks

It’s my first official blog for 2017!! Woohoo! I feel like each year, I’ve been writing less and less and less. But it’s okay. It’s not like I have tons of readers. Lol!

This was suppose to be my “a year that was” blog, reminiscing and recalling the great things that happened in my 2016. But, nah… Really, nothing big happened last year for me. No big events, no big travels, well I got a raise, so that’s good, but really, in the definition of this world’s success – it was a plain and boring year. Yes, not even a love life. Nothing. Yes, still single. Don’t ask again. Zip it!

But……. *drum roll* Yes, but. Even if nothing big happened externally in my life. I was changed big time internally – opposite of externally. Internally. Get that? Not my organs, they’re healthy, nothing enlarged. You know what I mean…

Most of you might not know, I am not a risk taker. I never liked uncertainties. But, when you start aging (in a good way), you just really have to do it. Past years, God took me to a lot of uncertainties which really pushed me to just step out in faith. A risk for God’s sake, I must say. But last year, I took a different kind of risk. A risk I never thought I could really do. And by God’s grace, I was able to.

I learned the RISK of LIVING LESS. Since I started working, I always had this conviction that it’s okay once in a while to pamper yourself with “GOOD” things. I realize, I can pamper myself just fine with a good movie or a meaningful time with friends. I also had this must-have to always have travels every year. And I only consider travel a travel if it is outside the country where live. I know… my definition is wrong. Not only that, I also decided to spend less time in social media. Instagram out last year. And hopefully this year, I will start using FB more as a tool for encouragement and less about myself.

I started living less not because I thought those things were wrong but because I have finally grown up (I think *wink* & still growing). It is because I cannot have everything in this world. I always have to give up something to be able to gain the more important things in life. Like, no out of the country travels which let me saved my vacation days and I was able to go home to Philippines and spent time with my family which I had not seen for more than 2 years. Like, controlling my spending (fact: I was shopping-free last year!) for long term goals for me and my family. No social media to get more sleep at night and wake up early for consistent quiet time – very important!! Trust me, there were days when it’s just so tempting to book a flight and go on my bucket list trip. It was not an easy change of lifestyle, but I must say now, it was so worth it.

It’s been a very humbling 2016 for me. It’s pretty hard to live with less. And really, I will say it again that it is truly God’s sustaining grace and joy that has brought me this far. The journey has just started, more risks to take as I continue to desire to pursue the things that would truly bring lasting value in this lifetime and beyond.

The big change in me? Learning, still learning and will continue to learn to live less that Jesus may always be greater in my life. All for His glory.

A Christ-filled 2017 to you!

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It is FINISHED.

This weekend, I got reminded of one important thing. You see, every year, I always have a list of goals that I want to accomplish. It’s already half of the year and I only have one thing crossed out from my list. I felt like I haven’t done enough for the past six months. I was starting to be hard on myself.

Yesterday, in my quiet time, I read the story about the woman with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume who used it all  up for Jesus (Matthew 26:7-11). Of course, she got an indignant remark from some of the people who were there. They thought she just wasted it when she could have sold it for a high price. However, Jesus was pleased with her. And that’s what only matters to her.

 Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me.” (Matthew 26:10)

As I was reflecting on it, it made me ask the questions – “What is important for me?”,        “Why am I getting anxious of not being able to accomplish the things in my list of goals?”, “What does that make me if I won’t get them done?”.

I got too caught up with a checklist that I forgot the one main important thing. I forgot that no matter how long my list would get and no matter how much I have or have not accomplished from that list, neither can increase nor diminish God’s love and view of me. God does not really care what I have today and what I don’t have tomorrow.

When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “IT IS FINISHED.”  With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30)

I forgot that Jesus already finished the one thing I can never do for myself. To save myself from trying to accomplish a lot of things when He already promised that He will give me an abundant life as long as I have Him in my life (John 10:10). The events in my life do not define the kind of person I am. Who I am becoming is what matters to God and because that’s what only matters to Him, I only want to be defined through His Son, Jesus.

The three words – IT IS FINISHED are such comforting words knowing that what I need to do in my life is just really to please God on the kind of person I am becoming. I want to become that same woman from the story who does not live a life defined by her accomplishments  but a life that Jesus would say, “She has done a beautiful thing to me.”

I’m Princess Pepay. A Work In Progress!

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