It's so sweet to be in the company of a precious friend. This past weekend, Chris and I were able to spend the fourth of July with a very dear friend of mine and her godly husband (a fast new friend to Chris), a friend I don't often get to see because of the distance between us. Following our time together, I want to reflect on some of the very sweet lessons that I've taken away from our time and conversations. Although each lesson is unconnected to the other, I find them all valuable for Christian living and hope they're of some encouragement to you as well! 

1. Friendship with believers who regularly challenge you to live more like Jesus

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 - Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!

We're surrounded by many people every day, but it's essential for each of us to carve out time for friends who point us to Jesus. These friends resemble Jesus by their intense love for others and consistent adherence to the Scriptures. They are kind and gracious - and not just to those they perceive to be believers but to all they meet. There is a genuine interest and love for others - one that draws those outside of Christ to want to know more about Him. 

These friendships with Jesus-followers should not, however, take precedence over all other investments. We should regularly be looking for ways to reach into the lives of those who don't know Christ and be a light to them - even if for only a moment. The light of Christ that we possess should penetrate through the darkness, and we should be evangelical in our communication both through how we live and what we say. This doesn't mean that we'll always do that perfectly for everyone, but by God's grace and through prayer, we can hope to make a positive impact wherever we go - even if that's only a trip to the post office or grocery store. 

2. There is no fear in love. 

1 John 4:18 - There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

With all of the hubbub surrounding the Supreme Court decision recently, I've been saddened to see so many self-proclaimed Christ-followers either supporting this ruling or posting hateful and vindictive comments for all to see on social media. I believe it's correct for us to take a stand for truth. But people truthfully won't don't care about the truth apart from love. I know it's difficult for us to extend grace and kindness to others when we feel we've been wronged. And I feel it too. My immediate fearful response is to say hurtful things. However, we are wrong to allow our fears to lead us to unloving responses - which it will do every time. God is in control.

Our love for unbelievers everywhere, not just those engaged in this central issue within our culture, should be authentic. It should be one that isn't worried that a lost person must figure out that major sin issue before they can come to the Lord; we recognize that major sin issues are always rooted in a misplaced identity, and we have compassion on those around us who have yet to see that need to identify as a child of God.

This love is also one that doesn't judge a human based on his/her appearance or even the things they say. When I walk into a store or a restaurant, etc, it's embarrassing how easy it is for me to find my brain automatically judging the people around me. But I have to learn that lesson over and over again - we must not jump to conclusions about others. 

3. Pray often!

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 - Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Our relationship with the Lord is such an untapped resource when
we choose to abandon spending time in prayer. Some of those people who have most encouraged and challenged me have been people who have viewed their relationship with God as just that - a relationship! All too often, we feel our prayers must be out loud or at least 5 minutes or in the correct order of the Lord's Prayer or laced with those Christianese phrases in order to be most effective. But the Lord wants us to be authentic with Him as well - authentic and yet abiding in the reverence and awe that we have for him!

It's a beautiful gift and can be utilized at any time of day or night. It doesn't have to be a 5 minute prayer or even a 2 minute prayer. But that relationship will only grow greater and greater in authenticity as we communicate more and more with Him!

I'm always thankful for the blessing of friendship - and I've been blessed deeply with them. Relationships are beautiful in teaching us about the Lord and making Scripture come alive to us. I am praying over this post that these short lessons I've been pondering will impact your heart as well while you strive forward in seeking the joy-filled Christian life and being a light to those around you!