by Leslee Stewart

For many years I thought the more friends I had in my life, the better my life must be. I spent most of my teens and 20s collecting as many friends as possible. I treated my physical life like a Facebook life – the higher the number of friends I had, the more social invitations I received, the more gossip I was privy to, the more “fun” I seemed to be having. But despite having lots of friends in my life, there were still times I felt very alone, like I didn’t have anyone I could really be myself around. It’s a strange feeling to be surrounded by so many people, yet close to no one.

Then a job moved me away from all my friends, away from all that was familiar. It was actually a blessing in disguise because God used that time show me what His word says about being a friend, and how wrong I’d had it all along.

God’s not called you to be best friends with everyone.

The type of friendship God’s called you to is distinct from any other relationship in your life. It’s different than relationships with your family, your co-workers, a mother/daughter relationship, or even a mentor/mentee relationship.

In order to better understand what true Godly friendship is, it helps to understand the difference between friends and acquaintances. Acquaintances are usually socially satisfying. True friendships are emotionally satisfying. Think of it this way: acquaintances are head-to-head relationships, but true friendships engage the heart.

So true friends – best friends – cannot be all of your Facebook friends. It’s not possible to have the type of relationship God’s called you to have with a host of people. For me, there’s only about three or four people in my life who fit this description.

And why is that? It’s because there is a closeness involved with true friendships. The closeness is made in the day-to-day. It’s not dependant on a staged environment. I don’t have to get a coffee or go shopping with one of my best friends in order to have a good time. These are the ladies in my life who I don’t bother cleaning house for. They are welcome, no matter how much laundry is piled up.

We need to be careful about who we chose as our true friends. In this type of relationship you will be sharing your heart and hurts with one another. And you will influence each other – good or bad. Proverbs 22:24-25 says, “Don’t befriend angry people or associate with hot-tempered people, or you will learn to be like them and endanger your soul.”

Friends are either going to make you better or make you worse. You’ll be a better or worse wife because of your friends. You’ll be a better or worse mother because of your friends. You’ll be a better or worse Christian because of your friends. You’ll be better or worse at spending money because of your friends. You’ll be better or worse at taking care of your health because of your friends. Friends influence friends.

That’s why it’s so important to choose them wisely. As it says in Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” A true, Godly friend will sharpen you, and vice versa. She’s not going to make you a duller person.

A friend loves at all time.

In the Facebook world of friendship, it’s very easy to hide or even delete someone who is bugging you. Maybe she shares a little too much personal information, or maybe she’s always pushing her politics on you. Whatever the case, Facebook makes it easy to put distance between you and a friend you’re not feeling so friendly about.

But in the real world, that’s not so easy, especially when it comes to best friends. What are you supposed to do when your true friend is driving you crazy?

My best friend, Kelly, and I have been friends for over 20 years. Despite the length of our relationship, there have been times when I haven’t been the most loveable person. And there have been times when Kelly’s tested my resolve, too. But our friendship has endured because we’re both committed to doing what it says in Proverbs 17:17: “A friend loves at all times.” Kelly knows that I’m going to love her whether she’s loveable or not, whether she needs me or not, whether we have the best time or a boring time, and I know she feels the same about me.

We need our friends to stick with us – especially when we don’t act like it. And we need to tell our friends, “I need you…and even if I don’t need you…I want you!”

Are you my friend or my counselor?

In true friendships, God’s called for counsel to be a two-way street. When you look at your group of friends, are they your friends or are they your counselors? Are you their friend, or are you their counselor?

In Proverbs 27:9 it says, “The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.”  Godly friendships shift counsel back and forth.

I can’t tell you how often I see people use Facebook to answer their problems! Should I date this guy or not? Should I change jobs or not? We love getting other opinions, but we need to exercise caution on what we reveal and whom we seek counsel from.

Last year my husband and I were considering moving our oldest to a new school. This is one of those things I could have posted on Facebook and asked for lots of ideas and opinions on where to go and what to do.

But instead I sought the counsel of my best friend, Amy. Amy’s a former educator with her own specific ideas and opinions on education. She very easily could have used that to influence me and the decision we were facing. But she didn’t. Instead she prayed with me and gave me good advice that wasn’t based on her own opinions and feelings on the matter.

Heartfelt counsel means my friend is going to speak to me from the heart, to the heart. It’s soul talk. She speaks to me from a place of counsel – from her own soul – it’s not from the top of her head. I don’t want someone who just speaks about the obvious things of my circumstances. I want someone who can speak to my heart.

I don’t have a single close friend who I don’t get good counsel from. It’s one of the most important hallmarks of my relationship with them. I don’t want someone to patronize me. I want them to tell me like it is, even when it’s hard to hear. We have to have someone in our life who gives us heartfelt counsel. And when friends come to us with their problems, we want to be able to have a word from our heart to theirs.

Faithful are the wounds of a friend.

If you’re going to have a Godly friendships – “iron-sharpening-iron friendships” – and you’re going to get close, then you’re going to get stuck with that iron from time to time. Wounds are going to happen. We are going to hurt those who are closest to us. It’s inevitable, especially in friendships where we are going to give and receive heartfelt counsel.

Proverbs 27:5-6 says, “An open rebuke is better than hidden love. Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.” This verse says that a good friend is trustworthy, even with a wound.

In my relationships with my closest friends, there have been times that I’ve had to share something with them that I knew could potentially hurt them. And sometimes the truth I had to share could have ended our friendship.

Honesty isn’t easy, but God’s called you to speak the truth in love to those in your life that you care about. This isn’t about tearing down your friend or putting her in her place. This is about speaking from your heart to her heart, even if she might not like what you have to say.

And if a true friend ever has to come to us and “wound” us about something, we need to trust that it is meant to bring healing to our lives. We need to trust their good will, whether or not we agree with what they are saying.

Cover, counsel and pray.

Having these types of friendships comes with a risk – the risk of them betraying your confidence.

Proverbs 17:9 says, “Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter (gossips) separates close friends.”

Sometimes an intimate friend will share something big with you, and you just can’t quit thinking about it. You think you need to tell somebody – or maybe pray with somebody about it. But you know how that goes…you tell somebody, then they tell somebody, then they tell somebody…

When your friend tells you something big, go find someplace quiet and tell every single detail of it to God. Pour it all out to Him…”Lord, you’re never going to believe what she told me!”

You know what the strangest thing is? If you do this, you will have the same emotional satisfaction you get as when you tell a friend. Pouring it out to God will do the same thing. It’ll get it off your chest and you’ll feel more at ease.

Some of the biggest offenses and hurts some of us have been dealt have been at the hands of a friend. Instead of gossiping about a friend, we need to guard them and their heart.

I constantly have a problem with black pepper getting stuck in my teeth, so I always appreciate it when a friend will tell me about it and save me the embarrassment of blabbing away while all this stuff is in my grill!

We have the same responsibility to cover our friends when they’re showing a little too much emotionally. Instead of gossiping about her situation, we need to cover her, counsel her and most importantly pray for her. It’s what you’d want her to do for you.

Let’s commit to being better friends the way God intended for us to be.

Recommended Reading:

  • How to be a Best Friend Forever by John Townsend
  • Necessary Endings by Dr. Henry Cloud
  • Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud & John Townsend
  • “A Wise Friend” video message from “Wising Up” by Beth Moore


Leslee Stewart oversees communications for GFC Beautiful. She is a wife, stay-at-home mom of two boys and former communications executive. She openly admits she owns too many throw pillows, loves junky old furniture and can sing all the parts of “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

by Kristin Bonham and Jeanna White

When do you talk to your kids about sex? What do you say? Is it really that time already? Can’t somebody else do this for me? Is it too late if their already asking me questions? Can’t we keep them innocent for just a few more years?  Ahhh!

Getting a Vision for talking to your kids

There are two extremes when it comes to talking to your kids about S-E-X.  The first extreme is that you’re so afraid to talk to your kids, so you don’t.  This is the symptom of a sheltering parent and the focus is to keep information, good or bad, out in order to protect them.  The problem with this approach is that you are not going to be with your child 24/7, so how will you manage to keep everything out?  The second approach is that you decide to get to them first and you tell them everything!  This is the equipping parent and the focus is to be the only source of information.  Take a deep breath…it’s not a race and you do not have to be the expert on everything. The common mistake with these two extremes is that it is all about transferring information. 

Talking to your kids is not about information!  It’s not about giving them knowledge!  It’s about fostering a relationship between parents and children where they feel safe with you, they feel they can trust you to lead and guide them, and they want to come to you with whatever is going on. 

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that teenagers will tell you everything…they won’t.  No matter how great your communication and relationship is, they will hold back to some degree.  Your responsibility as a parent is to foster the relationship so that they will want to talk to you, and this begins with telling them you will always tell them the truth. 

Our focus and goal as Christian moms should be to relate with our kids, relate to our kids and help our kids relate with others.  In this context, relate means to connect with, to have an ally, to work out relationship.   If your vision is relating, there is time spent together… sometimes not talking at all, but learning your kids, learning what environment encourages them to talk.  It might be before bed, riding together in the car, taking them to eat out, doing an activity they love, etc. 

When you focus on relating with your kids, you teach them how to handle information when it comes to them through sources you would rather avoid.  You teach them to reach out to the right people to speak into their lives and add to what you are teaching them as a parent.  You help them build trust in your relationship and confidence in who they are so that they are able to navigate tough things they will be facing. 

Take a trip down memory lane

Remember what your conversations about sex were like with your parents?  Maybe they were awkward or even non-existent.  It is one of the hardest things as a parent to not react when your child asks you about something they heard at school or with a group of friends.  We have to have a game face that shows our calm openness… haha, good luck with that, right?  If you are reacting to questions with, “Where’d you hear that? You can’t hang out with them anymore,” your kids will shut down. 

You have an amazing opportunity to become your child’s most trusted guide through all the changes and relationships they will be experiencing.  We’ve talked to many parents who freak out when they get a question because as an adult, we know the depth of the answer.  Remember, your child doesn’t!  I remember my daughter asking me what a tampon was.  She heard the word and wanted to know what it meant.  Do you think she wanted all the information about women’s monthly cycles, why we have them, and all the birds and bees?  She was 8!  She had no idea what a loaded question that was.  In that moment, I paused and said, “Do you want the simple version or the yucky version?”  This told her that she was asking way more than she knew and I gave her a chance to tell me what she wanted to hear. 

I look back and see how many times this happened with each of my kids.  If you go into all the “yucky” details when they had no idea it was coming, they will shut down.  By asking my daughter which version she wanted, I let her set the pace.  She picked the simple version.  I told her, “It’s a piece of cotton.”  I told her there is more to know and she can come to me in the next few weeks when she’s ready and I’ll tell her.  She did and we had the talk that was age appropriate and neither one of us freaked out!

More than one-liners

Read some books!  There is a lot of information out there to help you get through these conversations.  You need to have more than one-liners though.  Telling your kids, “Don’t have sex,” or, “Sex is sin before marriage,” without relating to your kids, calmly explanating things, and having conversations about how they are feeling and dealing with all these emotions, is sending them a message that when their bodies are changing, it’s dirty or sin.  Prepare to talk to them about the physical, emotional and spiritual components of sex and how God created them.  Being close enough with your kids to have meaningful talks about sex is more important than the “when” do we have “the talk”.

So, When?! 

Around 4th or 5th grade is the perfect time to talk about hygiene, zits, bad hair days, periods, etc.  This will set you up for having more talks about different changes their bodies are going through.  Some kids develop earlier than others and you want to prepare them but not scare or shock them.   You have to remember, their hormones are going crazy and they need mom and dad to help them figure it out and know what to expect.  Don’t get too technical but prepare them for what they will experience.  Share your experiences that are appropriate and tell them what to expect. 

We want to encourage you to jump in!  Don’t let a lack of knowledge, the way you grew up, or embarrassment keep you from going there.  Admit it’s hard and let God give you the confidence.  You may think you are protecting your kids innocence by putting off the talks but they are curious because God made them that way!

Developing Character

When you make the focus of your parenting about relating, you are developing character that will carry them through many different scenarios with friends, siblings, teachers, and leaders.  Create routines they can trust and teach them to wait for things like cell phones, dating, or different experiences.  Take opportunities to develop time management, teaching them to keep their commitments, be on time, follow through, and respect authority.  This may be a great time to take an inventory of your own habits and make changes, too.  Your kids are going to follow what’s modeled for them.  Be the best model you can… not perfect, but growing and changing yourself.  Your kids will follow you!

Here’s a nugget to remember:  You are the closest example to how God wants to relate to your kids.  Take advantage of your opportunities.  Put your phone down, turn the TV off, shut the music off.  Silence isn’t a bad thing. They might actually start talking!

“The quiet words of the wise are more effective than the ranting of a king of fools.” Ecclesiastes 9:17 (The Message)

Recommended Reading:

  • A Chicken’s Guide to Talking Turkey with Your Kids about Sex by Kevin Leman and Kathy Flores Bell
  • Preparing for Adolescence by Dr. James Dobson
  • Growing Great Kids by Kate Battistelli

Kristin Bonham is a pastor’s wife and the Women’s Ministry Director at Grace Family Church. She’s been married to Chris for 24 years and is mom to Taylor, Abby and Casey. She loves the beach, New York City and traveling with Pastor Chris to anywhere tropical. She collects books and reads some of them. Her favorite part of the week is Sunday lunch with family and friends around the table.

Jeanna White is a pastor’s wife and the Early Childhood Director overseeing PromiseLand and The Clubhouse. You will always see a smile on her face as she and Pastor Jerry work together helping families know Jesus. They have three crazy, awesome kids, Easton, 17, Hunter, 15, and Skye, 10. Being parents is what they are most passionate about.

by Debbie Altman

In our 30 years of full-time ministry, the question we are asked most is, “How do I hear the voice of God?”  People can think that because we are pastors, we have a direct line to God that no one else has!  The truth is that we are just regular people like you… recovering sinners, saved by grace, on a journey learning what it means to walk with God and to hear from God.

I still wish God would be more obvious when I ask Him about something.  I wish he would put the answer on a billboard, send me an email or text message or just smack me upside the head!  And I hate to admit it, but I realize that sometimes the problem isn’t that I can’t hear God’s voice, I can hear him perfectly well, I just don’t like what He’s saying  and I don’t want to do it! 

But once we get over our little temper tantrums, for the most part we all DO want to know what God is telling us, we want to follow His direction, and we want the assurance that we can hear Him.

God does speak to us personally 

In John 10:27-28, Jesus says, “My sheep listen to my voice.  I know them and they follow me.”  Psalm 32:8 says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.  I will advise you and watch over you.” 

Like any good Father, He wants to communicate 3 basic things.

  • His love – how much He values us
  • His ways – the best way for us to live
  • His will – guidance and wisdom 

We are wise to hear what God has to say because when we make decisions based only on what we think is right, we often get ourselves into big trouble or we get less than God’s best for our lives.

Ways God speaks to us

I’ve found over the years that people seem to run after spectacular experiences with God, but Biblically, the dramatic is really the exception, rather than the norm.  Initial encounters with God might be more dramatic but usually that’s because we are being really ornery and He has to get our attention!  As our relationship with God grows and the longer we have been communicating with Him, the quicker we recognize His voice.

  • God speaks through His Word – the Bible.

Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the Word of God is a living book.  God’s Word clearly spells out His will for us for almost everything in our lives! When you read it, ask Him to make it alive to you and show you what He wants to speak personally to you, in that moment.  I have story after story of reading a certain verse that I’m familiar with but in that specific moment, it jumps off the page and is exactly what I needed to hear.  This is God making His Word alive to me.  He wants to do that for you, too!

  • God speaks to us when we pray.

Prayer is not an obligation, something we should do or have to do.  Prayer is a conversation between you and God.  Many times though, we tell God everything He needs to do in our lives but we neglect to sit and listen to His response.  What God has to say to us is infinitely more important than what we have to say to Him, yet we generally monopolize the conversation!

When you pray, practice being silent and still.  Just BE in His presence.  Disconnect from technology and eliminate distractions and listen.  You may take time in the morning when you wake up to start the conversation with God and then just talk to Him during your day.

I have been guilty over the years of going around seeking answers, talking to people, checking Google, trying to figure things out in my head and I never even asked God His opinion or His advice!  He is waiting for us to ask Him. 

  • God speaks to us through the Holy Spirit.

In John 14:16 Jesus said, “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you.  He is the Holy Spirit, who leads you into all truth.” 

Once we have experienced salvation, the Holy Spirit’s job is to make us like Jesus, to transform us into His image.  It’s our job to listen and surrender to what His Spirit is telling us.  The Holy Spirit will use many ways to draw us closer to Him and remind us of what God wants for our lives.  But one way is through an “inner voice” speaking to our heart and mind. 

The Holy Spirit brings comfort, reveals God’s will, gives us power, reminds us what is true, brings understanding, convicts us of sin, and many other things.  As we surrender to the Holy Spirit, He will bring the transformation we cannot achieve on our own.

  • God speaks through our circumstances.

God may use an event in your life to reveal something about Himself or His will.  It could be through a job offer, car accident, unexpected gift, surprise phone call, death, a letter of encouragement, random conversation, a failure or a success.  God will take any of these situations to draw us to Him, to show us His love or faithfulness, to mature us, to discipline us, or to give us guidance. 

Don’t go seeking the hidden meaning behind every traffic jam.  But, be sensitive to what the Holy Spirit might be trying to say to you during the circumstances in your life.  Look and listen!  Just because a circumstance looks appealing, doesn’t mean God wants you to move forward.  A job offer might present more money but the cost of losing time with your family or affecting your spiritual life might not be the direction God wants you to go.  The key is asking God when those opportunities come.  He will lead you!

  • God speaks through other believers.

When you are actively involved in a church body, you have the opportunity to know others and to be known.  When you are unsure what direction God is leading, it is wise to seek counsel from trusted Godly people, especially for big decisions like career moves, marriage, etc.  Sometimes it is hard to hear God’s voice objectively when our emotions are involved. 

Proverbs 15:22 says, “Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisors bring success.” 

Think of the important relationships you have in your life with family and friends.  Now, think about how often you talk to them and how close your relationships are as a result.  It’s the same with God.  When we seek to spend time with Him, our relationship will grow, we will learn His voice and we will turn to Him first when something wonderful happens and when we need comfort and peace. 

God’s purposes are not the same as ours.  We want Him to indulge us; He wants to transform us.  We want a formula on how to hear God’s voice but He does not limit Himself to a formula!  God’s choice to communicate in so many diverse ways forces us to put our faith in Him and not in a method.

God will guide you specifically and step-by-step.  The Christian life is not a sprint, it is a long race.  We don’t want to race ahead of God.  Watch and pray!  Wait and listen.  Be patient.  Begin well and end well. 


Debbie is the wife of Pastor Craig Altman, and together, they founded Grace Family Church 18 years ago.  She is a former RN and mother of a 27 year old married daughter and 26 year old son.  She is also known as “Nona” to her precious granddaughter. Debbie enjoys family, reading and the beach, and is inappropriately competitive at board games.