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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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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Throwing Off What Hinders (Giving Up TV)

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I am currently doing a year-long fast on TV series and movies.

It took a long time for me to acknowledge that I’m addicted. I need to take back control.

I actually do not watch TV at all. But sometimes, if I find a series that I really like, I get hooked. I would watch a whole season in one seating. I would do this until I finish all other seasons. After finishing the series, I would return to my normal life. Be responsible again, be faithful in my quiet time, and be a “good Christian.” Some time would pass before another good series will come out so I did not think much of it early on.

Eventually, God showed me the cycle. I identified that at the beginning of every period of discouragement or time of coldness towards God was a movie marathon. Watching TV series was Satan’s “beachhead” in my life. On one hand I thank God that it was something “small” like entertainment, yet this seemingly subtle form kept me from calling it sin.

“Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, takes off your relish for spiritual things, whatever increases the authority of the body over the mind, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may seem in itself.” (Susanna Wesley)

I knew it was harming my relationship with the Lord. That was clear enough. I also felt that God wanted me to give it up. But I could not imagine doing that. I felt that it was too extreme. To do so is to stop being a normal person. Maybe I did not want to seem “too radical.”

Maybe I just need to limit my media exposure, I thought. So I limit myself to 1 movie per week. It worked for a while. However, as I have discovered, it is not a good idea to expose a recovering addict to the things they’re addicted to. I had the right intention, but my partial obedience did not help me.

God used a recent event to tell me loud and clear that if I do not shape up, I risk missing out on His plans for me. My “God’s best”- the life God wants for each of His children. When I finally surrendered my “favorite sin,” I felt His presence more, heard His voice clearer. I had not realized that I had been grieving the Holy Spirit that whole time.

Today is the 20th day since I made my commitment. It already feels like it’s the best decision I have made. Haha! It does not even feel like I gave up anything. I have become more productive and I perform better at work. I have time to help my cousin with his school work. Most of all, I know I am at the triangle of God’s blessing. I know I am obeying Him.

Come to think of it, TV shows, movies (& other forms of entertainment) are made to distract. And they are a welcome distraction from the stress of work or the boredom of life.

However, if I know my purpose, if I’m in a crucial mission (for which I’ll be greatly rewarded), and if I know Him who asked me to do it, DO I REALLY WANT TO BE DISTRACTED?

 

“No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.” -2 Timothy 2:4

Thanks Ann San Pedro for sharing this story. A struggle that most of us are also going through. Such an encouragement!

Waiting Over

 

Yes, I’m back! I’m an employee again. 🙂

It’s been an amazing journey with the Lord as I entrusted to Him the work that He has prepared for me. I really prayed that I would be able to find a job within the first month that I arrived here in Vancouver. However, I never wanted to settle for just any job. I just had to trust that God would honor my desire to work for a role that I really wanted.

It had been in the third week of June and I still didn’t have possible job offers. All I got were initial interviews and emails. Then, no more follow ups. Until the right time came. I re-connected with a former colleague here in Canada and just mentioned that I was looking for a job. After that conversation, everything happened so fast. He spoke to his manager that I was looking for a BA role which they needed in their team because someone just left. I submitted my resume and went for an interview the next day. Then the week after, I got the job offer. The best part, they gave me a senior role and a pay which was more than I asked for.

However, these things were not really a surprise to me. I always knew that God would always do something amazing. He always does. Even if some people would tell me that a month is too short to find a job, I just trusted that God would provide within the month. As I reflected on this journey, I realized that my faith was much deeper during this time as I waited on God’s provision.  At some point in my life, I became very disobedient and I know that I have missed out a lot of blessings because of that. I’m just grateful that God is so gracious and loving that He gave me so many chances to become better. God showed to me the result of my obedience and that is His best plan for me.  I became more expectant in faith than I was before.  This journey was more of seeing how much I’ve grown in faith as I continue to experience God’s best.

Such faith excites me each day as to what could God possibly do. Experiencing God through obedience may always not be an easy path to take. However, taking a path that is outside of God’s plan for us will be more difficult in the long run. God’s way is always, always, always worth to take.

I’m looking forward to another journey of something that I’ve really been praying for. Waiting is over, another waiting starts.

To God be all the glory!

 

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Sweeter

In my quiet time this morning, God made me fall in love with Jesus much more.

My reading was on the latter part of Luke 5 and beginning of Luke 6 which talked about the Pharisees trying to question all the ways of Jesus – like eating with tax collectors and sinners, His disciples picking wheat on Sabbath and Jesus healing during Sabbath.

How Jesus responded to the Pharisees made me thank God more for who He is. I’m just grateful and very glad that Jesus did not come into this world bringing set of rigid rules and traditions but love, hope and forgiveness which allowed us to live a pleasing life for Him.

Just imagine a life full of strict rules and traditions to be followed so that we could attain perfection and be with God. One – it is very impossible, Second – it would be very exhausting, and Third -it is pointless and useless. We will never be with God for eternity.

God’s love is so powerful and compelling that once we accept it through Jesus Christ, there’s no other way but to respond to it, not out of force but of free will. Not that we don’t do the right things and follow His commandments, but we do it not out of striving for perfection but out of our love for God. It’s an act of obedience resulted from love and not from a scary thought of hell.

Indeed, life is sweeter and better each day when I walk with Jesus even if it gets tougher sometimes. True enough, it is only with Jesus that I am able to experience a full, complete and abundant life – full of hope, peace, joy and love.

Thank You Jesus for a sweeter life. 🙂

This is my song for today! 🙂