Saturday, April 28, 2018
Though the entrance into the wide-open fields of God’s love is narrow, once you have opened that gate and walked through, it leads to the broadest place to live—in the realm of unconditional love. Yet many today have sought to enter through a different door which Christ warns us about. "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction and many enter through it” (Matthew 7:14). One of the mass appeals of the wide path is it’s seeming tolerance of all faiths, but there in lies the deception of half-truths.
This back door of spirituality, which incorporates many gods, philosophies and “New Age” thinking appears to lead to the most inclusive arena, but it is very deceptive. In attempting to validate all manner of “positive energy” and belief systems, in it’s very essence it negates itself. Either Mohammad, Buddha, Krishna or Jesus is “the way the truth and the life.” They cannot be all right because they hold to very different ideologies. Jesus declares, “I Am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father, but by me (John 14:6). That is not an inclusive statement, but one that is issued to the whole earth, for all people-white, black, red, yellow and all shades of brown. One cannot, with intellectual integrity ignore this and believe that all paths lead to God and ultimately eternal life. It is obvious from what Jesus tells us that the path of destruction is wide and many are led down it’s winding convoluted thinking. Scores of people think whatever they want and never examine the holes in their theories.
On the flip side, God’s plan has no holes. It is very clear that God sent His son Jesus to overcome death and lead the way to eternal life. “For my Father’s will is that everyone looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40). Yet Jesus knew it would be hard to find the door to Him and walk through it because it requires death to our own selfish ways, not a popular notion. Though many mysteries and seemingly incongruous statements sprinkle the Word of God, when examined carefully in study and tested by leading the life that Christ beckons us to enter, the elusive inconsistencies come into sharp focus, such as a narrow gate leading to a broad arena.
Though the gate is narrow (Jesus is the only, true gatekeeper), it leads to both abundant living in Christ and eternal life. He warns us not to be misled by the plea of the broad path with its cunning deceptions that appeal to our own selfish motives cloaked in humanity. It takes effort to believe in something we cannot see, taste or touch, or fully intellectualize, but can certainly experience. Since knowing Jesus as My Savior, I have climbed with Him on many rocky roads. Mountains have loomed before me, as well as valleys and ravines, which I’m fairly certain you have encountered also. At times the path nearly disappeared and lead to a bramble infested thicket where doubts and fears strained to rob me of my sight. But as I continued to walk and follow the path of Christ, it led to the most glorious field of lilies, jonquils, fragrant roses, myrrh and aloe—the pathways to God.
Healing flows from these flowers and herbs, filling you with a joy that defies circumstances. It glows from the life of the saints in Christ, anyone who is a true believer. Ripe apples, pears, berries and nuts become one’s food to delight in as Christ uses us to feed a hungry world. And then we come into an even more amazing place on earth: a golden field filled with all the fragrances of love—peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control, forgiveness, perseverance, and unspeakable joy. It is a glorious field ripe with every good thing imaginable. It is the broadest plain of agape love spanning the horizon. It is a land of unconditional love and forgiveness, humility and servanthood, which eventually leads to heaven. The way may be narrow, the climb steep, the road rocky and the ravines deep, but it is worth it for the panoramic view at the end—heaven!
Posted by Anita Estes at 4/28/2018
Wednesday, March 28, 2018
I have always really liked the song “I Can Only Imagine.” Having a vivid imagination, I related to the singer’s quest of trying to imagine what heaven will be like when we meet Jesus. I’ve also been following MercyMe for over fifteen years and seen them live two or three times. So when I heard they were making a movie about the song, I though that was pretty cool. Let me tell you, it went way beyond just cool.
The movie, “I Can Only Imagine” surpassed the neat and tidy viewpoint of a Christian movie. It smashed expectations and was a huge hit opening weekend. Why did it resonate with us? Because it reached deep into the soul, addressing many current issues, though focused primarily on abandonment, child abuse and forgiveness. The movie portrayed the struggles so many of us have with our past life, the hurts we incur from family, and the pent-up anger many of us carry around because of these wounds. It also deals with the incorrect image we have of God, religion and ourselves.
Forgiveness is a powerful antidote for all the hurt, but when the wounds are deep as in the case of lead singer, Bart Millard, forgiveness doesn’t come easy, especially when we run away from the one who wounded us. For Bart, he found healing in music, which many do today, especially with a lot of high quality Christian music available. But the song, “I Can Only Imagine,” transcended the Christian music charts and reached into the psyche of Americans, with its spiritual ponderings and musical adeptness.
As the movie demonstrated, the song was a career maker for Bart because he reached into the depth of his love for music and God and wrote a powerful song inspired by the very father, Bart called a “monster.” However, his father didn’t remain this way and the movie demonstrates what the amazing love of God can do. Since I don’t want to spoil it for you, I recommend you see it for yourself. You can also read a review at http://mbcpathway.com/2018/03/26/review-i-can-only-imagine-shatters-expectations/
The movie surprised Hollywood, being the third most attended movie and money maker on its debut weekend. It came out above “A Wrinkle in Time” which received a lot of press since it’s a Disney flick. Yet I believe the theme of forgiveness coupled with the popularity of the song resonated with the audience more than super heroes and other such movie faire. The dynamite acting from both Dennis Quaid and J.Michael Finley along with the story line also made “I Can Only Imagine” a huge success. Yet it went beyond just an entertaining movie and possessed the ring of truth to it, which is exactly what Americans need and obviously a good portion long for.
Why not check it out yourself and tell me you think.
Posted by Anita Estes at 3/28/2018
Saturday, March 10, 2018
I’m reading a book that I’m really enjoying, The Art Forger. I rescued it from the floor of my friend’s car as it was on its way to be given to a stranger. I’m glad I eyed it! It’s really fascinating—learning the process of copying a master like Rembrandt or Degas. It takes a lot of layering paint and chemicals to make it look old and have craquelure, the cracks when a painting ages. Of course, the artist needs to be a master in their own right with a critical eye and artistic talent.
The book got me thinking about imposters, I heard a sermon on the Bridge radio by Lloyd Pulley on this topic, which coupled with the book, started this train of thought. He warned his listeners that a number of good, Christian like imposters are out there, people on the outside who appear to be Christian but inside are not. It can be very difficult to know who is or isn’t one. Though it’s not our job to root them out and be suspicious of everyone, it is important to be aware. Christ warns us to be “as wise as serpents, but innocent as doves.”
So, who are the imposters in our lives? Herein lies the problem because like the art forger, there are some who are very good at faking their Christianity, some who are even in ministry. I think that as we stay close to Jesus, pray and read the Word daily, we will begin to see how forgers just don’t fit in exactly with what the scripture reveals as a whole, not just one verse. Of course, there’s plenty of examples of those who blatantly defy the Word of God, but it’s the ones that are really good fakes that we need to watch out for; those who promise us just a little too much prosperity, success in everything we do and miracles every day. All of these issues in balance are not bad, but when the focus is on this and not Jesus, we should be wise and shy away. Sometimes it’s just a gut feeling or a “cringe” as I call it when I hear something not quite on par with the truth of God’s Word. If we seek to be imitators of Christ and not someone else, the Holy Spirit will show us the imposters. Sometimes, we fit into that category as well. I personally don’t look too much like a Christian when a company rips me off. I tend not to be very godly in my reactions, but we’re working on that, especially at this time of year.
Lent is an opportune season to seek God's presence,reflect on being an imitator of Christ and allow His transforming power to change us. My new favorite verse, one I use to shy away from is “Search me O God and know my heart. Try me and know my anxieties and see if there be any hurtful way in me” (Psalm 139:23). The New King James version interprets hurtful as offensive. It takes on a deeper meaning with that word, offensive. I know I have my own sins that don’t affect others that much, such as jealousy. I’m not jealous of people with money, houses, dream jobs, horses, which I love, or boats, but when I hear of a new Christian author becoming successful, I get jealous. I know it’s weird, but I guess I’m a little like the Pharisees who were jealous when they saw how the crowds loved Jesus. I really need the Lord to change that! Yet that’s not all I need God to change. I need to take a good look at my offensive ways, like perhaps talking too much in a group. I’ve been trying to catch myself on that one and let others take the lead, but once again I can’t do that alone. I also don’t beat myself up. I know I need to totally rely on Jesus!
So what finetuning might be in order? What area might need the touch of the Master’s Hand, so that your life speaks truth and love like a real Christian. Though I’m not talking about perfection, but of a holiness that stems from our relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Bibles encourage us "You shall be holy, for the Lord your God is holy," (Leviticus 19:2) a holiness found when we allow the Master creator to paint on the canvas of our lives!
Posted by Anita Estes at 3/10/2018
Sunday, March 4, 2018
Why is it so difficult sometimes for us to recognize and believe the amazing work that Christ did for us on the cross? Let me tell you a story first that relates to the question. A Christian friend of mine lived most of her life in fear and insecurity for many years. She had been abused emotionally and physically by her father, which left inner scars. The enemy of her soul, the devil, used this situation as a strategy to keep her trapped in a pit of despair. Every once in a while, she would surface and find joy, but her arch enemy lied to her about her unworthiness and pitched her back down into that pit. This happened over and over for many years because her fear gave the enemy a foothold in her life. Then one day she broke lose!
She attended a special retreat. The love she experienced there was so intense and real that it broke the chains of bondage! Her face radiated peace and joy, so different from her usual countenance. Unfortunately, this is true for many Christians today. We don’t realize that God is on our side, loving us immensely while we often lay trapped in prison. We have listened to the lies of the enemy who delights in robbing our peace, stealing our love and killing our joy. Like many others, she had fallen prey to Satan’s schemes because she was unaware of his devices. The Bible warns us, “Lest Satan should take advantage of us, for we are not ignorant of his devices (2 Corinthian’s 2:11).
So why does it appear Satan has been allowed to roam free in our life? In the case of my friend, it was because she unwittingly allowed him access to her life. Her fear kept her a prisoner until love set her free. It took the love of God, often demonstrated through others, for her to realize and fully believe what Christ did for her on the cross. The word believe is derived from the Greek word pisteuo, which describes an active belief that changes a person’s heart and actions. Many of us have not been fully persuaded that God loves us, so we live in bondage.
We don’t grasp the reality of Christ’s love for us and the work that was accomplished on the cross. Through Calvary and the blood of Jesus, we have been set free from the bondage of sin… all sin: fear, hatred, bitterness, loneliness, jealousy, envy, strife and lust, which leads to various other sins—murder, slander, maliciousness, anger etc. We may believe God is out to get us and we’re angry at Him. This is one of Satan’s favorite deceptions. This can keep a Christian under the devil’s thumb for their entire life! Another favorite tactic he uses is to make you feel guilty for all your shortcomings and sins, and believe you are just a lowly worm. If so, then you are at least a caterpillar, waiting for the day to be released from your cocoon.
Yet some Christians use this belief to wear a false humility based on a poor self-concept. This is also bondage, another clever device and strategy of the devil to keep us bound. So how do we break out of the confines of the cocoon Satan has woven around us? First, a solid belief (pisteuo) in the fact that God, through His Son Jesus Christ, loved you so much He stretched His arms out on a wooden cross and died for you while you were still a sinner!! That is the starting point. He already bore all your iniquities, all your sins, all your down fallings and uprisings. He took it all and nailed it to the cross!
Next, we must be aware of the devices of the enemy. We should not attribute him more power than he has, but neither should we bee unaware of his tactics. When he attacks our identity as children of the King, a ready verse to counter his assault is essential. One such as, “For we did not receive the spirit of bondage, leading to fear again but you have received the spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15).
Finally, whatever situation we find ourselves in, our sword, The Word of God, needs to be readily available and sharpened. When we start feeling the chords of depression or anxiety, we can speak to the devil. “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1"7). Our sound mind stems from our belief that what God did for us on the cross is complete and His word supplies all of our needs. To make it through all the entanglements and traps Satan has laid for us, we must believe His promises are true. “God will supply all our needs according to His riches and glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). This is our greatest weapon against Satan, our heart felt belief in the Word of God. Start with this deep seeded belief and use it in times of need. Though we face tribulations in the world, Jesus overcame the world for us. It is finished!
Posted by Anita Estes at 3/04/2018
Wednesday, February 28, 2018
Here is a powerful except from When God Speaks: 40 Days and Nights of God's Promise.
GOD’S WORD PROMISES US...
But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His spirit who dwells in you.
Here in the Northeast where I live, spring is awaited like a bridegroom for the bride. After a long hard winter of battling freezing cold, snow and ice, the warmth of sunshine defrosts body and soul. Buds form on trees, flowers burst into life, and children are seen playing outside once again. The icy grip of winter is replaced with glorious life.
For the believer, this new life is available every day. The resurrection power that raised Christ from the dead is the same Spirit given to us. Think about that. Jesus suffered terrible physical and emotional pain that led to a torturous death. Yet, evil’s kiss of death could not stop God’s astonishing resurrection power. And we who are children of God have that same life in us!
Christian, lay down your burdens of sorrow and despair and do not look for the Holy One in the tomb. He is no longer there. Christ has conquered death so that you may “have it (life) more abundantly.”John 10:10.
Are there trials and sorrow in life? Surely so, but we do not need to be destroyed by them for Christ has given us the victory. “Yet in all these things (tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril and sword), we are more than conquerors though Him who loved us” Romans 8:37.
As a young Christian I liked to think of myself as a conqueror, though I was riddled with envy, self-pity and pride. I didn’t even know I felt this way until I started facing difficulties, which brought all of these feelings to the surface. As I began to endure some fiery trials of loneliness, rejection and near poverty, I learned how to walk, step by step, in victory. During this time I buried myself in the Word of God and prayer. I learned about the true nature of God, not what others said about Him, and what He wants for me.
It is God’s love that brought me through. Like Paul, I became convinced that nothing “shall separate us (me) from the love of God” Romans 8:15. We cannot only endure our furnaces of affliction, but come out on the other side with pure gold. For these challenges are not intended to kill us, but to burn off the waste products or dross in our lives.
If we can have this view of trials, then bitterness, envy, malice, hatred and strife can be put to death, for these are the enemies of resurrection life. It is these among others, our sin nature, which nailed Christ to the cross. Yet God did not allow sin to keep His Son buried, neither does He want that for His other children. The power of God’s love is strong enough to reach down into our tomb where all our secret sins lay hidden and expose them. Sons and daughters put your sins on the cross where they belong, and allow God’s life to quicken your mortal bodies.
Arise and throw off the grave clothes of depression and despair. Spring has dawned upon the land, and new life will burst through the ground. Behold the first signs are already there. The seed has taken root, and it’s pushing through the earth. The first rays of sunshine can be felt.
Gather your strength Christian, aided by the Son of God, and pick up your head, seedling. A new world full of His Son-shine awaits you!
Help me to live life as You would want. Sometimes I get distracted by the things of the world or discouraged by the battles. Teach me how to live in Your presence and draw from Your Son’s life. I want to live an abundant life. Show me what that truly means. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
When God Speaks is a transformational book based on God's promises. If you commit to reading one devotional each day for 40 days and nights, you will come face to face with the faithfulness of God at the end of the journey. Anita takes you through her personal guide, you will not only be strengthened and encouraged in your faith, you will be challenged in the process. Joanne Ellison Teacher and Author Drawing Near to God Bible Study Series
When God Speaks is available on Amazon kindle
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Posted by Anita Estes at 2/28/2018
Monday, February 5, 2018
I'd like to introduce you to a new writer, Tina Wanamaker, with her recently published book, Characteristics of a Christian Women.What inspired you to write your book?
I actually never set out to write a book. The book came out of a Bible study I wrote and taught at the church we were attending. I felt led by the Lord to compile the studies and my notes into one and ended up with something of a manuscript. From there I asked God what He would have me do with it. He led me step by step down the path of publishing in a truly amazing way. The inspiration for the study that I wrote was Titus 2:2-4, that the older women teach the younger women. As a young believer I had difficulty in finding discipleship and so saw a need in that regards. The book is the result of what God has taught me and the desire to pass that on to other women.
Please find me on my Facebook page under Tina Wanamaker, Author. My book is available on Amazon, Christian Book Distributors, Walmart, and other online book sellers. On Amazon
Summary of the Book- Characteristics of a Christian Woman is a small discipleship guide dealing with topics near to the heart of the Christian woman. It delves into experiencing the love of God on a heart level, demonstrating that love to others, how to love our husbands, how to love our children, speaking words of life in the home, being a good friend, and how to graciously deal with offenses. Each chapter is accompanied with questions for thought or discussion. The book may be used by an individual or in a group setting.
Excerpts- “As Christian women we are to love one another. The hallmark of a Christian woman should be love. John tells us in 1 John 4:7, ABeloved, let us love one another...@ We should be loving in word, action, and attitude. But, before this love can be shed abroad in the world around us, it must be made manifest in our homes. This means that we love those in our home first. We cannot minister or love effectively outside the home if this love is not first practiced by us within the home. We cannot demonstrate what we have not experienced or act out what we don=t know on a personal level. We must know this love on a heart level, and not just an intellectual level. An outward demonstration of Christ=s love begins with an inward realization of this love towards ourselves.”
Background- My husband and I married in 2000. We were radically saved by the grace of God and through Jesus Christ in 2001. Jesus became our all in all. I attended college and obtained a degree in radiologic sciences in 2004 but only worked a short time before staying home with our son. We now have 4 children whom I homeschool. Owen pastors a home church which meets in our living room, as a family we minister at the local homeless shelter, and I teach the Bible to women in the local jail. Our hearts go out to the lost and broken as we see the potential they have in Christ. Oh yes, I also write books and articles in the early morning before my family arises. My second book is finished and waiting the Lord’s direction while the third is underway.
Posted by Anita Estes at 2/05/2018
Saturday, January 20, 2018
So what exactly is the lesson and spiritual principle I learned from the previous post, “Magic Dent Repair Adventure”? It’s partially wrapped up in the adage that God works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform. It certainly was an unconventional way to go about getting a dent repaired! Yet perhaps there is a weightier message on both faith and trust.
Handing over the car keys was the supreme test of whether I would have faith in Mr. Magic Dent repair and trust him with my rental car. So too, once you surrender to Jesus and give Him “the keys to your car” you’re no longer in the driver’s seat! If you’re going to conquer the fear of giving Him your all, you’ll need to trust Him when things don’t seem as they appear. When I first saw Mr. Magic Dent man’s NASA badge, I didn’t trust it was real with his outdated picture ID. Though Jesus’s credentials are far more trustworthy than Mr. Magic Dent repair man’s badge, you first need to have faith to believe they are real.
You can read the work of historians, scholars, lawyers and writers who chronicled the life of Jesus and “proved” His resurrection, but it still takes an element of faith to believe. To know Jesus, we can understand Him in part through logical and empirical evidence in reading the Bible and visiting Israel and the places where he lived and walked. But to attain to a deeper belief, experiencing Jesus takes faith to conquer your fears. I had to believe that Mr. Magic was who he said he was despite my wariness. It seems that here in the Western world we look askance at experiential faith. I had an interesting conversation with my daughter today about this very topic—faith and spirituality (personal relationship with God).
In many circles today, Christians have leaned heavily on the rule keeping part of religion and less on the experiencing God’s presence, which has brought us to a rather shallow view of Christianity. Coming out of a charismatic background with a Baptist love for the scriptures, I’ve viewed God a bit differently than most Westerners. I see both reading the Bible and having a deep personal relationship with God as two sides of the same coin, melded together. It becomes easier to trust God when difficult circumstances head our way, but sometimes I forget. I think the Magic Dent Repair adventure reminded me that God still works in highly personal and very unconventional ways—in parking lots, airplanes, and sitting on benches. (More about that later). Yet it all starts with faith, which can be the most exciting adventure of your life when you do finally hand over those keys to your life.
However, believing in Jesus can be quite different than truly trusting Him when He takes a turn to a destination not even on your map! Not only was it an unconventional way to get a car dent repaired, it took us out of our way, time away from Disney’s Epcot (my favorite), and required me to trust my rental car to someone I didn’t know. Probably some of you think that was crazy, but I think it was the Lord’s provision. Anyway, though I took the proverbial “leap of faith,” I didn’t initially trust the dent repair guy. I hassled him for a full hour.
Sitting on the shuttle, I was a nervous wreck as I explained in the previous post. I demanded that Mr. Magic prove that he was who he claimed to be and doing what he said he would doing. I wanted him to text me a photo of his progress on the dent repair, which he indeed sent. It wasn’t until I got that picture that I fully trusted Mr. Magic, well about 85% trust and 15% fear. It struck me, how much I’m like that in my relationship to God. I want Him to prove to me that what He’s doing is best. I get nervous when things don’t work out the way I want them to, when–He doesn’t answer prayers in my time frame, when relationships are trying, when nasty comments are flung my way, when adult children don’t do what I want, when books don’t sell…and so on. I want life to stay on the road I’ve designed for it, and when I get an occasional dent I want nice, fully equipped repair shops, with clean waiting rooms, not shady parking lots.
Suffice is to say, I didn’t get that! Yet I did get the car repaired for the exact price he quoted, and it passed the rental car’s inspection. Much of Christianity is like that. God never promised a rose garden without prickly thorns. Jesus tells us, “In this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33)!
Therefore, I need to trust Him even when on the surface the situation seems crazy! That’s how I learn my lessons well. How about you?
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Posted by Anita Estes at 1/20/2018