The Associate Pastor at Living Hope Evangelical Church in Grosse Pointe recently answered some questions about her background, religion and faith.
Many interesting people blog on Patch and we want to introduce you to some of them. Each Wednesday we will highlight a new Patch blogger.
Today, Arakelian answers our questions.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in the Central Valley of California.
What are your hobbies?
Spending time with my family and 2-year-old daughter, reading, walking, cross-stitch and listening to music.
After the Bible it would be anything by Phillippa Gregory.
Contact with Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey or Guys and Dolls with Frank Sinatra.
How did you become involved in theology?
In a formal sense, I became involved in theology while working on my minor in Religious Studies in college. In an informal sense, if you look at theology in terms of the study of God, that began when I was a child. I was blessed to grow up with lots of wonderful Christian role models around me who showed me that faith was not just something to study, but something to live out every day. Then when I was in Middle School my mother was in a serious car accident. After a few weeks most of our friends and family went back to their regular lives and schedules, but there was one group of people who continued to help us, send cards, pray for us, and drive over an hour to deliver meals to us. Even then, I was able to see that this group of people, these Christians, were different. Every summer I went to camp at Calvin Crest Christian Conferences outside of Yosemite in CA, and even as a camper I could tell that the staff had something about them – a peace and a joy – and I wanted that in my own life. It was there that I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.
After graduating from high school I was told by the Sr. Pastor of the church I grew up in that I was going to be an intern for the 2 new Associate Pastors they had hired! Even while serving there I intended to continue studying psychology and find a career in that field, until God gave me a strong push in a different direction - I felt Him calling me to pursue full time ministry. I tried to ignore this prodding for a while as I continued to work at the church and pursue a degree. Finally after much nudging and prodding by God, I mentioned this potential call to people around me expecting them to completely disagree. To my surprise, they said they agreed that God may be calling me to ministry. It has been an amazing, challenging and wonderful journey, and I am incredibly thankful that God stepped in and disrupted my plan so I could follow His plan, which is immensely better! “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21
What is the most biggest misconception when it comes to religion?
One thing I want to address right away is that there is a difference between “religion” and “faith.” Religion is defined as a set or system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices. Faith is knowing the information (i.e., Jesus Christ died for my sins), agreeing that it is true, and then having a personal trust and reliance in it as you live your life. My goal is not to be ”religious” but to be faithful to Christ as my Lord and Savior.
Unfortunately, people have lots of misconceptions when it comes to religion. Some of these are thinking that all religions are the same; believing that good people go to heaven regardless of what they believed; or that churches only want your money. One misconception I have heard repeatedly about Christianity is that it is all about rules, and if you look at a strict definition of religion, it can be. Thankfully, faith is different. Living faithfully is not about how well or how badly you follow the rules, but about freedom because the punishment has already been paid for us. One of the most freeing things for me is knowing that I can’t follow all the rules no matter how hard I try. Thankfully God did not leave that as the end of the story. Instead, God provided Jesus Christ as the only one who was able to live a sinless and perfect life, and ultimately give Himself for us (John 3:16). The only thing I have to do is follow Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, and it is through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ that I am freed from having to try to follow the rules to earn my own salvation. Instead, Christ paid the penalty of my sin and rule breaking for me. Praise God that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ! Through the work of Christ I am able to spend my life glorifying God and enjoying Him forever.
What is the best advice you would give people who are struggling in life?
Trust God and become a part of a community of Christian faith were you can be encouraged, strengthened, helped, and held up in prayer. I often wish there was something I could say that would make it all go away. I wish there was a prayer I could pray that would automatically make everything right again. Having walked down this road with many others, and having walked it myself, I know that there is no easy fix. Sometimes we have to walk through the tough times, the dark days, for a whole variety of reasons we don’t understand while we are going through it. We don’t always understand why things happen to us, and we probably never will, but regardless of what we are going through, God is with us. Through the difficult times, we need to trust in God and God’s plan for us. It is trusting that the God of the Universe, the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer loves us unconditionally, and is always working for our good (Romans 8:28). Many times we think that it is completely up to us to fix everything in our lives, and that we have no one else to lean on but ourselves. The reality is that we have a God who loves us, sent His Son to die for us, and cares about even the number of hairs we have on our head. We need to trust that God can handle any situation we may face, and that God wants what is best for us. As we are told in Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding, but in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.” See my blog post on 10/10 for a deeper look at this topic.
We also need to remember that God placed us in a community of faith, and did not intend for us to live our lives and faith alone. We are called to be a part of a church because it is in that community that we are able to be the hands and feet of Christ to each other, and to the world around us. We are able to walk tough roads together and to help each other as we have need. I know my own church, Living Hope Evangelical Church, Grosse Pointe, has walked with me and my family during difficult times of grief and loss. They were able to bring the peace and love of Christ into those dark days, and I don’t know what I would do without them. There is no reason for anyone to walk through tough times alone.
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