Forsake Following Your Heart

Shortly after college graduation, I became a born-again believer in Jesus Christ; I repented of my sin and surrendered my life to Christ, committing to take up my cross and follow Him no matter the cost. Yet, I still wanted to pursue my original plan of becoming an actress in Los Angeles. As a Christian, I believed I was called to be a light in a dark place so that meant that I was supposed to use my talents for Christ in Hollywood. I was receiving mixed messages from trusted believers because they kept telling me to trust God with the plans to pursue my dreams. This just led to more confusion.

Trust God with my plan and my heart’s desires?

Again and again, the phrase “follow your heart” was echoing through my mind. This phrase seems to be very popular in American culture, even among Christian circles. You can find these three words boldly displayed on T-shirts, on Instagram graphics, and even heralded by some influential professing Christian leaders.

“Follow your heart…”- just a harmless motto, right?

It sounds really encouraging, doesn’t it?

Yes, very encouraging, almost Disney-like, but definitely not Biblical!

The Lord spoke these words about the heart through the prophet Jeremiah:

“The heart is deceitful above all things,

And desperately wicked;

Who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9 NKJV)

As Christians, sometimes we fall into the trap of giving man’s words more weight than the Word of God. I wanted to encourage us to look to the direction found in scripture for those who are God’s children. A very familiar, but powerful passage found in Proverbs gives the believer wisdom:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

And lean not on your own understanding;

In all your ways acknowledge Him,

And He shall direct[a] your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV).

If we are putting our trust in everything or anyone but the Lord, we will constantly be disappointed and led astray from God’s perfect will for our lives. We must trust in the Lord with all of our heart, which should never be filled with more of this world than God’s Word. I’m so thankful that during that time in my life while I was faced with a major decision, I kept my heart full of God’s Word, which helped me renew my mind so that I was filled with faith to trust God when He began changing my desires to follow and obey Him most of all. One month after I made the decision not move to Los Angeles, realizing that it was pride that was actually driving the desire to pursue an acting career, I was introduced to my now-husband and the rest is His Story.

My advice to you, beloved one, is do not follow your heart- follow God instead. He knows what you need more than you do. Trust Him with your entire heart and let him mold it to look more like His. He will never lead You down the wrong path!

Father,

The culture around me is often very loudly proclaiming how important it is for me to pursue my dreams and destiny by listening to my heart and following it. But Your Word is very clear that my heart can often bring confusion and that the only One who can be trusted to follow is You. You have given me a new heart is Christ, yes, but my flesh is always at war with Your desires and longs to lead me away from Your will. I find Your will in Your Word, so I ask You to please help me have a hunger to hide it in my heart so that I will not sin against You. Your Word is what renews my mind so that I am able to walk in obedience and look more like Christ to the world so that they may know that Your ways and thoughts are higher and better than man’s. Help me to not lean upon my own understanding and trust You, not my heart’s desires. I long for my heart to be molded to look more like Jesus, but I cannot do that without Your help. Thank You, Lord, for leading me by Your Spirit and Your Word that is a light unto my path. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

Tagged : / / / / / / / /

Shameless and Blameless

“Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1, HSCB).

For many years I was driven by perfectionism and the feeling that I had to work successfully or perform well in life to be loved by other people…and to be loved by God. On the outside, I looked like I had it all together- high honors throughout school, hyper-involvement in extracurricular activities, serving in any ministry I was asked to be involved in, star of the high school plays and musicals, head cheerleader, first chair clarinet player in the band, and the list goes on and on. But on the inside, I was so empty and constantly searching for true fulfillment. I knew God was there for me, but somehow I thought I could be perfect in my own strength on my walk with Him. 

Because we are human, we fail time and time again. We make a mess of things more often than not. Guilt and shame can often push us further away from God, instead of closer. For so long as a Christian, I was allowing self-condemnation to take root in my heart, and it weighed me down as I walked around carrying all of the baggage of my past sins and failures, thinking that I had to continue to strive to keep God’s forgiveness. Thankfully, today, I no longer live burdened by a works-based mentality. I find my identity in the finished work of Christ, and I want to encourage you, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, you should too. Grace is a gift that cannot be earned and you do not have to strive to keep it either.

In Romans 8:1, the Bible tells us that we do not have to carry condemnation in our lives when we’re truly in Christ. If you are a born-again believer, condemnation does not exist because the punishment for our failures and sins does not exist. 

“Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1, HSCB).

This means that when we embrace and believe what Jesus did for us on the cross, as He took the punishment for our sin that we deserved, are lives are now hidden in Christ. When we come to God with a heart full of repentance, resting in this glorious finished work of the cross, we can stand before the throne of God without any shame because Jesus bore all of it for us. The debt we owed has been paid in full- we are free from all bondage.

Jesus took all of your sin and your shame upon Himself and cast it as far as the east is from the west, friend. You no longer have to live with the weight of your failures. You can come boldly to the throne of grace, beloved, because it is grace that did the work for you. You can rest assured that God sees you as blameless and perfect because you are in Christ. I pray you see that you no longer walk around carrying the weight of your past and stop striving for perfection.

Remember, Jesus is blameless and perfect for you. If you struggle with condemnation, in your prayer time, take some time writing down the failures and mistakes that you have been holding onto and release them one by one to God. He wants you to walk in total freedom with Him.  

Tagged : / / / / / /

The Crucial Point Most Affairs Begin (And How to Avoid It)

Most little girls dream of growing up to be a mother, a wife, a teacher, a doctor, a marine biologist, a chef, an actress, a singer…

… but not an adulteress.

That’s not a title I thought I would ever carry, but at 19 years old, I found myself entangled in an affair with a married man.

He was nine years older than me and was cast to play my boyfriend in a musical at a local community theatre company. After rehearsal one night, he asked for my phone number because he was going costume hunting over the weekend and said he would call me to give me details if I wanted to tag along. We didn’t end up going together, but he did call me when I got back to my dorm room that Sunday night. He started to talk to me about his costume ideas for a few minutes, and then quickly said he didn’t actually call me to talk about costumes, but to just talk to me because he was lonely. There was an uncomfortable silence, and then I changed the subject quickly.

He ended the conversation by telling me that he couldn’t wait to see me at rehearsal the next day. The interaction during our scenes together started to become more believable as rehearsals went on, and he decided to add more physical affection during our time on-stage than what the script described.

The way he gazed into my eyes during our duets was so intense and passionate. He would sing his love songs to me and my heart would just melt. It was becoming very difficult for me to separate my acting abilities from my true feelings for him.

Choosing to Follow My Heart:

The show opened and closed, but our love affair continued on. During the day, I would skip class, so we could go on lunch dates. At night, he would drop his wife at choir practice at the symphony hall down the street from my dorm and then swing by and pick me up for our weekly date-night in the city. At restaurants, he would hold my hand from across the table and gaze into my eyes, telling me how much he loved me, how unhappy he was in his marriage and how his wife treated him so badly, but being with me made him forget about all of that. He promised we would be together in the end. I believed every single word, and at the same time felt ravaged inside. I had set it in my heart that I was going to rescue him from his mean and hateful wife.

Oh, what a fool I was!

Affairs Begin in the Heart

In the sermon on the mount, Jesus boldly addresses adultery:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Matthew 5: 27-28, NIV

The sin of adultery – like most other sins– isn’t just an outward act but begins in the heart.

There are many verses in the Bible regarding the significance of the heart of man, butI wanted to highlight these three because I believe they give us clarity on how the sin of adultery (and others) can creep into our lives and what we can do to prevent temptation from becoming sin:

1. We should never trust our heart

“The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9 NKJV)

2. We are to protect our heart

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23, NIV).

3. We are to trust the Lord with our whole heart

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6, NASB).

Learning to Follow God:

I was “the other woman” for about a year, and when he was through with me, he moved onto someone else who played his girlfriend in another musical. It was all a blur of empty kisses and empty promises. I allowed the sin of adultery to drag me even further into the pit of self-destruction with other men while I was in college, creating more wounds from my sinful actions, but the story didn’t end there, praise God!

Shortly after I graduated college, the Lord regenerated me. My dead, sinful heart was made alive in Christ and the beautiful journey of sanctification began. It has been a long process of learning how to walk the narrow road, but the power of the Holy Spirit and God’s grace continues to give me the strength to keep putting one foot in front of the other as I’ve taken up my cross to follow, love, and obey Him.

God Can Redeem Your Mess

I look back over this time in my life, now a very happily married woman of 10 years and a mother of two precious little boys (and one little prince or princess on the way!), and I can’t help but thank God for His mercy and grace. Instead of feeling shame and guilt from my past sins, I can now glean from these wrong choices to help strengthen my marriage and ensure that it doesn’t become susceptible to the sin of adultery.

I believe the Lord can take my mess and turn it into a message for others, both married couples and single people. I never want to give glory to my past sins, but only give glory to the One who can redeem us from our sins and give us the strength to escape every temptation. Most of all, I long to lead you to truth and obedience to Christ one step at a time in the right direction.

Tagged : / / / / / / / /