The Dating Manifesto. Part 5

Pursuit

Embrace your role in dating and relationships. Basically, this means that men, you need to be prepared to initiate, and women, you should be prepared to respond. Does this mean that if girls ask guys out on dates that they’re doomed? No. But I’ll certainly say it’s not ideal. Here’s why.

I know married women who like to gripe about their husbands’ lack of leadership or initiative. It can be something small like his inability to pick a movie or pizza toppings, or something big like his refusal to discipline their children or go to church. When I ask these women when these patterns started, most of them can easily trace them back to their dating days.

Because ladies, the patterns you establish in dating will carry over into marriage. If you want to marry a leader, date a leader.

So, guys, step up. Get ready to boldly ask women out. It’ll be scary. It may be awkward. You’ll need practice and perhaps a few pointers. But you’ll be doing the right thing.

When I say “be bold,” I’m also saying to take the lion’s share of the risk. That’s your role, too. You’re going to state your intentions (“I’d like to date you”) and provide a safe space for the girl to accept or reject you. In other words, you’re going to lay your cards flatly on the table while she holders hers tight to her chest. You’ll let her respond, and you’ll receive her response graciously. If she rejects you, you won’t badger her or shame her. You’ll say “thank you.”

Carolyn McCulley said something a while back that made this whole issue crystal clear to me. She said, “Men trust God by risking rejection; women trust God by waiting.”

So what does the right way actually look like? For men, it’s a correct application of Proverbs 18:22 which states, “He who finds a wife finds what is good, and obtains favor from the Lord.” Notice the word “finds”? That’s an active verb. It implies action and intention, getting out there and searching and pursuing.

Women, treat men with kindness, not to the exclusion of others, but there’s nothing wrong with showing a little special interest. I love what I heard a while back, “Ladies, let the men be the hunters, but don’t be afraid to snap some twigs.”

Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord .

Proverbs 18:22 KJV

http://bible.com/1/pro.18.22.KJV


The Dating Manifesto. Part 4

Responsibility and Leadership

Responsibility:
This is where you start mastering life skills and learning what it’s like to be in the real world. It’s everything from getting and keeping a job to managing your money, learning how to keep a household running, making responsible decisions and taking care of the things and people entrusted to you.

It’s also learning how to budget your time and talents. It’s knowing when to work and when to play. It’s knowing that work is good and should be done to the glory of God. It’s knowing that play is also good, and is to be used for refreshment and renewal, not escapism or idleness.

There’s value in accepting challenges, taking risks and doing hard things. Push yourself, and allow others to push you, too. Sometimes the easy road is the right road, but sometimes it’s just easy. Know the difference.

Leading:
You may be young. You may be on the bottom rung at work. You may not have a job at all. It doesn’t matter. You’re still a leader.

First, you’re in charge of yourself. That’s a start.

But there’s more. You are needed. Everyone (certainly every Christian) is called to serve where we are, and lead if given the opportunity. It may be in a role with a big title, it may be in a small but pivotal moment where character is needed. In both circumstances, you’re on display. What will you do?

I know for myself, it seems my number-one goal on most days is to make my life more comfortable. I have no problem looking out for me. But those who get beyond themselves reap big benefits. They have the chance to make a difference. They have the chance to be world-changers.

Don’t be afraid to be an example, regardless of your age. Remember the words of Paul to Timothy: “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” (1 Tim 4:12).

Finally, remember that active leadership now prepares you for leadership of a family in the future. You’re in training; get as much experience under your belt as you can.

Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.

1 Timothy 4:12 KJV

http://bible.com/1/1ti.4.12.KJV

And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;

Colossians 3:23 KJV

http://bible.com/1/col.3.23.KJV


The Dating Manifesto part 3

Christ and the Church

Are you marriageable? Are you growing in maturity… growing in the qualities that matter regardless of your relationship status? Here are two big ones (we’ll do 2 more tomorrow):

Get tight with Jesus:
If you’re a Christian, this should be obvious. But so many Christian young adults today have absorbed a shallow, nominal and passionless faith that this deserves special emphasis.

So what needs to happen? Well, you need to get serious about your faith. It needs to infect your life, transform your heart and be the catalyst for every one of your decisions. Your relationship with Christ is bigger and better than any of your other relationships. He’s number one.

Here’s what it’s not. It’s not knowing a bunch about the Bible. It’s not having grown up in church or youth group or gone to a Christian school. It’s not having Christian parents. It’s not being American, retweeting John Piper or Francis Chan every few days, or going to the Passion or Catalyst conferences every year.

Living reconciled to God is your Relationship 101, and it matters. Besides, knowing who you are in Christ will help you make big decisions down the road. Like marriage. Because you need to find someone to marry who’s also tight with Jesus. Why? Because living together in marriage in light of an eternity with God while living out grace now is the only way to live. And it doesn’t matter how great your marriage is if you’re going to hell, right?

So put Jesus first, and keep him there. Put your future spouse firmly in second place. You’ll be glad you did. And you’ll have the best foundation for maturity there is.

Commit to a local church:
The Bible calls us to be part of a local church. A physical church with real people. The New Testament church kept lists of its people. It cared for its people, including widows (one subset of single women; I think today’s church should include any single ladies). It broke bread together, shared things in common, and provided encouragement and correction. It also provided encouragement and correction. It also provided a space for the mandates of corporate worship and observance of the sacraments.

We need the same.

So listen to the Word preached. Join a Sunday school class or small group. Begin tithing. Start serving. Become a contributor, not a consumer. You’ll strengthen a muscle of selflessness that you never knew you had.

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Matthew 6:33 KJV

http://bible.com/1/mat.6.33.KJV


Get Lost: Love Feast. Part 3

Gain heart focus by praying Scripture out loud:
Lord, here I am, a piece of weak flesh. But I can’t afford to fight as if I’m made of flesh. I need weapons that have divine power to destroy any barrier between us. Please give me Your Word to destroy arguments in my mind against You and to take down every lofty opinion that raises itself above the knowledge of You. Take every thought in my mind captive to You. I don’t wrestle with flesh and blood, but against the devil—against cosmic powers and spiritual forces of evil. I need Your full armor. Put on me truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, and salvation. Help me to stand strong today. Above all, give me the sword of the Spirit, which is Your Word. Help me to pray in the Spirit with all kinds of prayer. I want to proclaim the mystery of a relationship with You. I want to be Your ambassador. I want to speak boldly. Help me. (Adapted from 2 Corinthians 10:3–5; Ephesians 6:12–20)
“By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.… For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.”

Psalm 33:6, 9
The Maiden in Song of Songs had serious body image issues. She grumbled, “I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys” (Song of Songs 2:1).
In their ancient culture, these two flowers were considered ordinary and mundane, even bothersome. Sharon was a plain near Israel, and both of the flowers referenced grew there like weeds. If she lived in North America today, the Maiden might say: “I’m a dandelion.”
Solomon’s answer strikes me as peculiar: “Like a lily among thorns is my darling among the maidens” (Song of Songs 2:2, NIV). In other words, “If you are a simple dandelion, then you’re a dandelion between two burrs.” What?! Is that supposed to be a compliment?
I guess we’d better look a little closer to see what he was really saying, because it has little to do with her appearance. Bible scholars believe that key to this conversation is the fact that lilies of the valley and rose of Sharon are wildflowers. They are not cared for by man and tended in a vineyard. They are tended by God. They belong to Him. Solomon was acknowledging that the Maiden was cared for by God. And that truth is our primary weapon in this battle about beauty.
You see, I don’t think our struggle with beauty has much to do with us at all. I think it’s a fistfight between your Creator and His archnemesis. God has already established your worth by creating you. He personally chose everything about you. Your hair color. Your skin tone. Your height. The curve of your nose.
The fact that God created you is your worth. Like Solomon, He will not pander to your self-consciousness and self-focused obsessions. He might acknowledge them, but then He will redirect your attention to your true value—that you were created and can be tended to by Him.
The Maiden quickly embraced Solomon’s estimation of her beauty. How do we know? By chapter’s end we see her repeating over and over again that he had called her “my beautiful one.” In repeating his words, she is dwelling on them. And the fact is, what we dwell on becomes what we believe. (Dwelling on photos of anorexic models and thinking them beautiful will make you feel inadequate. Dwelling on the truth that God created you and loves you will make you feel confident.) As the Maiden dwells on Solomon’s words of acceptance, she comes into agreement with them.
Ever heard about the power of positive thinking? Turns out it’s all in your head…literally! Researchers call it the science of neuroplasticity. In words the rest of the world can understand, it’s the ability to rewire the neural pathways in our brains! By meditating on something long enough and often enough, we carve out new passages for our thoughts to travel. So don’t get discouraged if your mind keeps defaulting to an old rut for a while. Keep at it! Think new thoughts. Better thoughts. His thoughts. The process takes time, but eventually your heart will start to feel what your mind has come to know!
Today God speaks to us through the Bible as clearly as Solomon spoke to the Maiden. We experience His healing power in quoting Scripture over our broken vision of ourselves.
He wants you to believe the words He has spoken about you and to agree with them. Read the following verses out loud, and make note of each step of obedience you can take to come into agreement with God’s truth as His words cleanse and restore you.
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Feeling average? His Word says you are made wonderfully.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

Psalm 139:14–16
You can be cleansed and restored by praising Him for how He has created you.
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Spending too much time in front of the mirror? His Word says that who you are inside deserves more attention than how you look outside.

Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.

1 Peter 3:3–4
You can be cleansed and restored by spending more time on grooming your heart than in obsessing over your hair and face!
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Have a tendency to grab the short skirt or low-cut V neck? His Word says that our beauty is to be expressed modestly.

I want women to be modest in their appearance. They should wear decent and appropriate clothing and not draw attention to themselves by the way they fix their hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes.

1 Timothy 2:9, NLT
You can be cleansed and restored by buying reasonably priced clothing that does not show off your belly, boobs, or butt! (Watch out for those plunging necklines and skin-tight skinnies!)
*

Feeling overwhelmed by comparison to magazine covers? His Word says that a woman who fears the Lord is of greater worth than a supermodel!

Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

Proverbs 31:30
You can be cleansed and restored by choosing to live up to God’s ideal of womanhood rather than the world’s. (Striving to achieve the world’s ideal reflects a fear of man.)
*

Of course, you can read those words all day long, but unless you express belief by taking action on what they say, they will never cleanse and restore you. You can’t break free from whatever beauty lies hold you captive unless you come into agreement with His words. Are you willing to do that?
In addition to lies about our beauty, the enemy wants to keep us captive to lies about the past. But here again the words of God bring healing.
Let’s back up a tad in the story of Solomon and the Maiden. (By now you’ve noticed that I like this story and we’ll be digging into it now and then.) As the love song begins, we find her basically saying in Song of Songs 1:6: “Don’t look at me!” You might think that this too is about her beauty, but it’s not. While she’s commenting on her skin darkened by the sun, what’s really going on is shame concerning her past. We don’t know why, but her brothers had assigned her the job of caring for the sheep. Such field work was normally reserved for men because it required physical strength to drive away thieves and wild boars. The job was inappropriate for a woman who was valued and treasured, because she’d become muscular and strong. Jillian Michaels strong. And back then, they liked their women tender, not tough.
Solomon wastes no time in embracing her strength as an asset. He says, “I compare you, my love, to a mare among Pharaoh’s chariots” (Song of Songs 1:9). Horses are not weak. They are strong. And wild. And beautiful. Solomon is saying that what she perceives as a blot on her worth he sees as another dimension of her beauty. He is actually attracted by her incredible strength!
God spoke a similar truth to me through 2 Corinthians 1:3–4, which says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” I read that and realized my past didn’t disable me in helping others; instead, the healing process I’d experienced filled me with an abundance of God’s comfort to pour out on others. Through His words, God changed the value of my past.
Here’s the point: our Savior can turn any deficit into a strength through the power of His words if we will only follow hard after Him by agreeing with them and obeying them.
What in your past has permanently marked you as not having been properly cared for—whether by yourself or others?

Whatever wounds you carry, you are not alone. Whether it’s sexual sin that mars your heart or a bad family situation or anything else, God’s words can heal you.

Here are some samples of what God’s Word says about your past. Read them and let His truth silence any recurring, untruthful, or ugly thoughts in relation to your past.

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Thinking your past disqualifies you from future ministry? His Word says that you should forget your past in light of the future.

I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal.

Philippians 3:13–14

You can let God’s words cleanse and restore you by deciding to stop hiding in the past and move into the future ministry He has for you.

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Stuck in misery over your sin or those sins committed against you? His Word says that we should not remember or meditate on the past because it prohibits us from being aware of the new things He is doing in our lives.

Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way.

Isaiah 43:18–19

You can let Him cleanse and restore you by shifting your thoughts away from self-pity and discouragement about the past, and instead asking God to help you be aware of what new things He is doing in you.

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Having a hard time believing you’re forgiven? His Word says that if you confess your sins, He forgives you.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9

You can let Him cleanse and restore you by confessing your sins to Him and asking for forgiveness.

*

Shamed by a secret you’ve never told anyone else? His Word says that we are healed from our past in community, by confessing to other believers.

Confess your sins one to another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.

James 5:16

You can let Him cleanse and restore you by confessing your sins to an older, wiser woman in your church.

REPLACING LIES WITH GOD’S TRUTH

Today’s action step is to continue the work of following hard after God by coming into agreement with His words about you. To be healed and cleansed by His words, you must first be familiar with them. This requires you to feast on them, especially in areas where a specific lie rises up in your heart.

I don’t know what lies have entangled your heart. But you do. And it’s time to break free by replacing them with truth. Jesus said:

And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

John 8:32

Freedom doesn’t come through head knowledge but by letting the words of God seep so deeply into your soul that you intimately know them to be true. I invite you to step into the cleansing power of His words today.

Write Your Story

Plan to spend a little extra time with your journaling assignment today. I would like you to select a verse or two that specifically confronts any lies that keep you from the love of the Father.

First, take a few moments to write down any lies you believe about your beauty or your past. They’ll probably come to mind quickly, but if not, just meditate. Ask God’s Holy Spirit to reveal to you any areas in which He wants you to seek freedom from lies.

Next, identify at least one Bible verse that speaks truth to your heart. You can use an online search engine or a Bible concordance if nothing specific comes to mind right away.

Once you’ve identified the verses you need to feast upon, scribble them on a sticky note for your bathroom mirror, post them on your Facebook wall, or make a bookmark for your Bible. Put them where you can see them, memorize them, and use them any time the enemy attacks you with lies. I’ve got two Post-it notes on my mirror right now. I’ve got work to do, and so do you. Let’s get it done!
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:  (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)  Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

2 Corinthians 10:3‭-‬5 KJV

http://bible.com/1/2co.10.3-5.KJV
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.  Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.  Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;  And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;  Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:  Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;  And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,  For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

Ephesians 6:12‭-‬20 KJV

http://bible.com/1/eph.6.12-20.KJV
By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.

Psalms 33:6 KJV

http://bible.com/1/psa.33.6.KJV
For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.

Psalms 33:9 KJV

http://bible.com/1/psa.33.9.KJV
I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.  My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.  Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.

Psalms 139:14‭-‬16 KJV

http://bible.com/1/psa.139.14-16.KJV

Dating Manifesto. Part 2

When?

So when’s the time to start thinking about marriage? It’s now. I tell parents of young children that if they haven’t started casting a vision for marriage in their homes, they’re already behind. It’s never too early to show your babies what a good marriage looks like. It’s never wrong to teach a young boy the proper way to treat a woman. Little girls should know that wives and mommies have a sacred calling that may someday be theirs. It all matters.

Likewise, if you’re 20, don’t relegate marriage to the distant future. Yes, the average age of first marriage has climbed. In 1960, it was ages 20 and 22 for women and men, respectively. Those numbers have now shot up to 26 and 29. But there’s little evidence that this is overall a good thing. Instead, it’s leading to delays in maturity, job success and childbearing. It’s also making books like this necessary, because there’s a lot of hand-wringing among singles who wonder if they missed their window and were left behind when the marriage train pulled out of the station.

I’m not trying to create a panic. I’m not saying you need to run out right now and grab the first girl you see. I’m just asking you to consider marriage. Start praying about it. Cultivate an active desire for it in your heart. Let others know that you’re open to it. And honor it, even as a single person.

Hebrews 13:4 says, “Marriage is to be honored by all…” That includes those who aren’t married yet and those who may never get married. Follow God’s example and have a high view of marriage. Our churches, our culture and our families desperately need it.

Similarly, if you’re 30 or older, don’t give up on the idea of marriage. I haven’t. You simply don’t know what God has for your future. It may not be the story you expected, but God never drops the ball. He’s never late, and he’s not capricious. Wait for your story to unfold, and do your part in crafting it.

Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.

Hebrews 13:4 KJV

http://bible.com/1/heb.13.4.KJV

Get Lost: Love Feast. Part 2

Gain heart focus by praying Scripture out loud:

O God, You are my God; today I seek after You in earnest. My soul is so thirsty for You and my flesh is weak. I feel like I’m living in a dry and weary place where there is no water. For that reason, I will look up to You. I will focus on Your power and Your glory. I know that Your love is better than my own life, so I’m going to choose to praise You today. I will speak good of Your name as long as I live. I will speak Your name and lift up my hands to praise You. I know that my soul is more satisfied with You than with fat and rich food. My mouth will praise You today with joyful lips! (Adapted from Psalm 63:1–11) O God, you are my God; early will I seek you: my soul thirsts for you, my flesh longs for you in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is…my soul follows hard after you.

Psalm 63:1, 8, AKJV

John didn’t have any trouble loving Jesus. He was different from the other eleven who walked closely with Christ. Beyond journaling the facts of walking with Christ, his pen recorded the feelings.

“For God so loved the world…”
“The Father loves the Son.”
“Jesus loved Martha.”
“Love one another.”
“Remain in my love.”
It’s not just the use of the word love that proves John had learned to love. It’s evident in the way he interacted so intimately with Jesus and how careful he was to include these gentle nuances in his writing. For example, at the Last Supper we find him leaning against Jesus. Comfortably. Intimately. John 13:23 says he was reclining at the table next to Jesus. Several versions actually say that he was leaning on Jesus’s bosom!
Think about the incredible intimacy it takes to lean on someone’s chest. You have to know how that person feels about you to take the risk and lean in. And John knew how Jesus felt.
He knew Jesus loved him.
Five times he referred to himself in the book of John as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”
Do you know that Jesus loves you?
The girls I counsel whose hearts are far from God often consider themselves unlovable. Maybe they haven’t been loved well by their parents. Maybe they have wounds from a guy who masked his abuse or neglect with the careless use of the word love. Maybe they have sinned repeatedly and can’t forgive themselves. Whatever the case may be, a reluctance to pursue God—to lean up against Him—might be rooted in the lie that you are not lovable.
That’s what happened to Kaylie. Oh, she was in a relationship with Jesus and even called Him her Savior, but couldn’t get herself to lean in to rest on His chest. That all changed at one of my retreats.
One morning, our worship leader Stephanie Peters-Martinez led us in singing “The More I Seek You.” The lyrics remind me of the intimate interaction between John and Jesus at the Last Supper: “I wanna … lay back against you and breathe, / hear your heartbeat.”
Stephanie stopped us and invited us to figuratively lie back against Jesus’s chest and listen to His heartbeat. It was a warm and wonderful experience for most of us.
Not for Kaylie.
She was immediately reluctant.
Panic set in. Tears flowed.
Lean against Him?
That didn’t sound safe to her.
While the rest of us relaxed on the ground, leaned against the wall, or sat with our heads on the table, Kaylie was assaulted by memories of abuse. As she later told me, years earlier she’d been abused by a man, and she was having a hard time separating God from her abuser. She could not fathom that Jesus—being male—would be safe to lean against. What’s more, Kaylie had begun to believe she wasn’t lovable. Somehow, her spirit mustered up the courage to ask God about it.

Do You really love me? If You do, please show me that I can trust You.
That’s all she could whisper in her brief prayer.
It was enough.
The Holy Spirit was just waiting for the invitation to rescue her heart.
That evening, we took the thirty-five participants of this retreat to my Uncle Ron’s farm, where he used his beautiful horse Willard to share a spiritual truth with us.
My uncle explained that you can’t perform elegant and powerful circles, flying lead changes, run downs, and sliding stops unless the horse is completely in tune with and in submission to the rider. Then we watched in awe while these decorated Quarter Horse reining competitors, Ron Johnson and Willard, moved as one. The crowd-pleasing spin at the end of his demonstration prompted eruptions of applause and praise as we witnessed the unity of the two and considered how this applied to our own submission to God.
My uncle jumped off the stallion. Willard stood before us breathing hard, nostrils flaring from the workout. Fifteen hundred pounds of athletic muscle and sweat glistened in the light. He stood with his feet firmly planted and still. Surrendered to his rider.
My eyes well up with tears as I think of what happened next, as I consider how the Holy Spirit orchestrated our trip that night without us even realizing. How hard He was chasing down my friend.

As if on cue, the stallion opened his mouth and flicked out his tongue. The small audience gasped in unison. His tongue was clearly torn in two.
“Willard,” my uncle explained, “is a survivor of abuse.”
It was then that Kaylie’s soul leaned toward the Spirit.
My Uncle Ron continued, “When I first got him, I didn’t think we’d ever be able to compete. He wouldn’t let me so much as touch his ear.” He reached up and ran his fingers roughly across the sorrel stallion’s ear. As if to prove how far they’d come, Willard leaned into him.
“Someone abused him so badly that his tongue is forked. Ripped in two.”
We were silent. Words fell away as we considered the visible scars left by the atrocity of abuse. Uncle Ron ran his hands across the horse’s face. His eyes filled with tears at the thought of what his friend had previously endured. He choked them back and whispered:
“He just needed to figure out that he could trust me.”
Wham!
The floodgates opened for Kaylie. He does love me! Tears of belief flooded her heart at the realization that God loved her enough to chase her heart down on a farm in Pennsylvania. She moved past the past. Past the hiding and hurting. She stopped wondering if she could trust Him and made a decision to follow hard after Him.
The next morning when we sang “The More I Seek You,” Kaylie was the first one to lean into God. She stood up out of her chair, walked to the corner of the room, and rested against the wall. In that moment when she said yes to the invitation of her Pursuer, her soul began to follow hard after Him. 
She began to give back some of the love He had sent her way. The sweet surrender on her face revealed an inner peace that my words could never adequately express to you.
Do you know that God loves you?
If you do, it’s time to rouse your soul to follow hard after Him.
John recorded these words from Jesus: “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15, NIV). Following hard after the Lover of your soul means obeying Him. It’s choosing to return His love by going beyond surrender and actively responding to His pursuit with obedience.

 If He invites you to lean against Him, you lean.

 If He invites you to excuse yourself from the dating scene, you do.

 If He invites you to rise early to pray, you rise.

 If He invites you to trust, you trust.

 If He asks you to deliver flowers to your neighbor, you select a bouquet.

 If He invites you to keep a journal of your love for Him, you write.

 If He invites you to Africa, you go.

 If He invites you to stop serving and sit at His feet, you take a seat.

In these small and large acts of obedience, we say no to the Violent Craving that focuses on self and yes to the longing that leads to service and satisfaction.
I want to encourage you to obey Him today. It’s how we follow hard after God, how we demonstrate our love for Him. Choose just one thing and follow hard today. I can’t tell you what He wants of you. I promised you no step-by-step plans. After all, we’re trying to get lost. There’s no specific destination, so I can’t tell you where your feet should take you.
But He can.

And He probably already has.
Write Your Story
If you ask the Holy Spirit to fill you, He will. The first evidence will be conviction (John 16:8). That is to say, He will compel you to take action concerning something. If you do not obey, you will grieve Him (Ephesians 4:30) and risk putting out the fire of His presence (1 Thessalonians 5:19). Take time to leave a comment below to write about one specific area where He is convicting you to obey Him. Then do it. In this way, you will be getting lost in His pursuit by following hard after Him.
O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is;  To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary.  Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee.  Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name.  My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips:

Psalms 63:1‭-‬5 KJV
My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me.

Psalms 63:8 KJV

Get Lost: Love Feast. Part 1

Gain heart focus by praying Scripture out loud:

O God, You love me. Help me to believe that today. I want to be as sure as Paul was when he wrote that no power can separate me from Your love. Not life. Not death. Not angels or rulers or things happening right now or things yet to happen. No height and no depth can put me beyond the reach of Your love! Nothing in creation can separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus my Lord. (Adapted from Romans 8:37–39)

God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Romans 5:5

Peter had a hard time loving Jesus.
And others.

He followed the Messiah as long as he wasn’t asked to do anything outside his comfort zone. But when things got risky, he was outta there. Because his love for Christ was self-focused, he forsook the Savior in His deepest hour of need (Matthew 26:56). Three times he denied Christ.
But Jesus’s love was the stuff of self-sacrifice. Agape. After He gave His very life for Peter and rose from the grave, He gave the apostle another chance. As if He were giving Peter an opportunity to erase those three denials, He asked him three times, “Do you love me?” The conversation went like this:
Jesus: Do you agape Me more than these?
Peter: Yes, Lord. You know that I phileo You.
Well, he’s gutsy! I’ll give him that. All he can muster up for the One who just died for him is a little bit of phileo, which is brotherly love, a poor substitute for the self-sacrificing, all-consuming agape Jesus is requesting.

Jesus: Feed my lambs. [Translation: “Get over yourself, Peter! Start thinking of others.”]

I imagine a long pause and a deep breath before the Savior tries again.

Jesus: Do you agape Me?
Peter: Yes, Lord, You know that I phileo You.
Really? Again? (Remember, in the original Greek language the difference here is not subtle.)
Jesus: Tend to My sheep.
Another long pause. Perhaps the Savior sighs. Then Jesus lets Peter know that He’ll take whatever kind of love the man is capable of giving. He lets the love-malnourished apostle define the conversation.
Jesus: (All right.) Peter, do you phileo Me?
Peter: [Perhaps spoken with relief.] Lord, You know everything. You know that I phileo You.
Peter is not able to offer anything more than friendship. No self-sacrifice.
Then comes the Holy Spirit.
Some days later, after Jesus has ascended into heaven, we find Peter and eleven other followers of Christ gathered together in a room on the second floor of a house. They become so full of God’s Spirit that they speak foreign languages and are accused of being drunk. A massive crowd gathers. Things are getting tense. In this dangerous and uncomfortable moment, will Peter take his brotherly love and hide as he has before?
Nope.
“Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted his voice and addressed them” (Acts 2:14).
New boldness.
Risk.
“Give ear to my words,” he says, encouraging them to listen carefully, and preaches the good news of Christ’s agape so profoundly that three thousand from the mob confess to believing Christ is the Son of the Living God (Acts 2:14–41).
Peter had fed his first flock of sheep. Just as Jesus asked.
Why?
What changed a coward into a cornerstone of the faith?
Agape.
Filled with the Spirit, Peter had gotten over himself and was consumed with the agape love of God.
That’s the kind of love that Jesus invites you to surrender to today.

Do you love Him?
If you’re not sure, maybe you need more of God’s Spirit.

Do you feel uncomfortable with what I’m suggesting? Are you possibly even afraid of exploring your relationship with the Holy Spirit? Why would you be afraid of an intimate experience with the God who loves you?
Some are afraid of what God might ask them to give up if they yield to the Spirit. A boyfriend? Their music? The popular crowd? Others, like Peter, are afraid of what God might ask them to do. Move to Africa? Start a Bible study at school? Wake up earlier to spend time with Him?
But I really think the greatest fear about the Holy Spirit is rooted in a misrepresentation of who He is and what He does in our lives. This grieves me, so let me see if I can help you erase the fear and get on with the filling.
Recently a girl described to me her lack of confidence concerning the Holy Spirit. “I just don’t feel like I hear His voice and sense His presence,” she said.
“Why?” I asked.
“Toni.” As she spoke the name of another girl in her church group, her tone revealed a sense of inferiority. “She hears Him all the time and so strongly. There seem to be so many bells and whistles in her faith!”
“Ah,” I said. “I think I can help.”
Toni (not her real name) frequently hears God’s voice and always tells everyone. She gets butterflies during worship and sometimes has to lie down because, as she says, “His presence is so heavy in the room.” She sees visions that she’s “supposed” to share with people. God tells her who to date, and even tells her who others in her class should date. Though I believe a lot of what Toni experiences is authentic, she lacks maturity in how she communicates her spiritual encounters.
Experiencing “bells and whistles” is not necessarily the proof of the presence of God. First Corinthians 13:2 reads, “If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing” (NASB). Nothing. The bells and whistles are nothing without love. The greatest proof of His presence is agape, which is seen in self-denying acts of love, not boastful displays of power.
The presence of God’s Spirit in your life will not necessarily match the experience of someone else. I just love how The Message describes how the Holy Spirit manifests in each of us in Galatians 5:25–26:
Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.
The Spirit is a creative romantic and will arouse you in ways that are to be known only by you. He may touch you with a unique spiritual gift or give you wisdom that could come only from Him. Without a doubt, spending time in the presence of the Holy Spirit will change you in unexpected ways. But I guarantee this manifestation: you will always get agape when you get the Spirit. 
Write Your Story
Leave a comment below expressing your desire to surrender to agape. Ask God to fill you with the Holy Spirit. Confess any fears you have. You may experience Him in obvious ways. You may not. Either way, starting today, make yourself available for His filling every chance you get. That’s all I ask—that you be willing.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.  Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.  For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,  Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:35‭-‬39 KJV

And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

Romans 5:5 KJV

Draw me, we will run after thee: the king hath brought me into his chambers: we will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love thee.

Song of Solomon 1:4 KJV

http://bible.com/1/sng.1.4.KJV