Covenant Friendships

November 10, 2006

It has been great having a close friend of mine around recently.  Having someone with whom i can really be myself is so freeing.  Knowing i have a friend who won’t stop loving me if i become a bore, or am down, or am suddenly not exciting to be with, is such a reflection of God’s relationship with us – He doesn’t give up.

As a child i never had a best friend.  In fact most of the friendships i had were only surface deep.  Throughout childhood many of us experience fickle friendships – the ones where someone is thinking, ‘you’re my friend because you wear baseball caps’, or ‘you’re my friend because you make me feel good’ or ‘you’re my friend because you’re popular and it will make me liked by others’.  Fickle friendships are conditional friendships, based on conditions which are therefore affected by circumstances.

With friendships there is no covenant or contractual agreement.   This results in people being able to come and go from a friendship as and when it is convenient for them i.e. not to stick around when things are a challenge or the circumstances not to one’s liking! 

During my childhood i dreamt of having a friend with whom i could share and have fun.  The fruit of my desire was to pray – to pray for some friends! 

The idea of praying for some Godly friends might seem a little odd to you! 🙂  There followed a time of God teaching me what friendship is about.   After that season of learning i became more confident and my fear that no one wanted to be my friend was overcome.  Many people ‘appeared’ in my life, or people i’d never noticed before became visible – God had heard my prayer and sent many people into my life. 

My most powerful friendships have been those where i haven’t been judged, and where my friend and i have stuck by one another even when it would be easier not to.  Friendship can be a mirror of God’s relationship with us – it can be challenging to love another who sins as you do, so requires effort, especially when you don’t have the sort of binding contract as you do in say a marriage.  A ‘sort of imaginary covenant’ can be beneficial though, an agreeing to support one another in the faith journey.

Commit to your friends today because God is waiting to love you through them!

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23 Responses to “Covenant Friendships”

  1. Dana said

    this is a wonderful post. I have some wonderful Christian friends who I can be myself with and who love me unconditionally. I am so thankful for thim

  2. timglass said

    Nice.
    His blessings this day.

  3. Tom said

    A very true and timely post. God Bless!

  4. Jonathan said

    Yes friends are wonderful, and there are some Biblical descriptions of really good ones:
    They rebuke you when you need it.
    They love you at all times.

  5. Lisa said

    Thank you for your comment on my blog. How’d you come across it? I have enjoyed reading some of your past few posts. I will definitely add this to my favorites list. Thanks for your encouraging thoughts! I am just now in my late 20s finding some really meaningful Christian friendships that are changing my life. What a joy!

  6. christiekk said

    God has blessed me with amazing godly women with whom I can share every joy and struggle.They are wonderful….

    God bless

  7. Maria Toth said

    Glad to hear of those good close friendships, but for anyone who longs for them then please pray because God will answer!

    I find peoples blogs from random wanderings on the internet!

    God bless
    Maria in the UK
    http://www.inhishands.co.uk

  8. Terri said

    Thanks for stopping by… it’s very nice to meet you.

  9. Matt Redman, also from the UK, is one of my favorite artists. I am continually inspired by his recent release in which he sings repetitiously, “Oh Lord, you never let go.”

    I thought of it while reading your post.

    Thanks

  10. Thanks for stopping by my blog. I appreciate the encouragement.

  11. TCS said

    The idea of praying for Godly friends is not odd at all to me. There have been times that we have had them and moved away and desperately needed them.

  12. dulcediana said

    Maria, how did you know? This seems like a post of MY friendships.
    I moved a few months ago to another city. Here God has answered my prayers about true Godly friends. God has and is using these friends to encourage me and aid in the healing process.

    It’s wonderful to build and invest in these relationships. Thanks for your post!
    Love,
    Diana

  13. RobK said

    Very nice site. I enjoy your posts. Thanks.

  14. Brian Alexander said

    well your name is more rare than mine..have a great day!

    -Brian

  15. Celeste said

    So similar to these past few years in my life!
    My friend this summer told me to “pray for friends”, when we talked about this subject and even though I wanted friends and was pretty lonely at the time, I thought it was a it funny to “pray for a social life”…but God cares about even these little things, and as you said, friends have “mysteriously” started appearing!! 🙂

  16. becky said

    Someone once told me I needed to BE a friend in order to have friends…took me a long time to really hear that and of course in the hearing it was so true…..loved this and shared it widely today I hope that is OK…thanks for the words

  17. Steve said

    Good to be reminded about friends.

    Pax.

    Steve

  18. donna said

    Maria,

    thanks for visiting my blog….I truly enjoy yours….

    blessings
    donna

  19. Amen Maria! I also prayed for christian friends growing up — and God has answered my prayers in wonderful ways. I am now praying the same for my little daughter.

    Thanks for reminding us of the blessings of friendship!

  20. tommyjoe said

    Maria:

    You’ve got some nice things on your blog.

    May I ask, are you a Christian counselor?

    I’ll have to revisit some of your entries. At the moment, I have limited computer time and have not been able to browse and blog as I might like, but I’ll have to make more comments in the future. I’m still trying to figure some things out. Until then, God Bless. Hope things are well with you there in the U.K.

    Take Care,
    Tom

  21. Alex said

    This is a great post. I’ve often felt the same way you have about Godly friends, and have myself been praying for some! At 21, in college, life is sort of in a constant transitional period, and true, Godly friends can be difficult to come by.

    In high school, I had those surface deep friendships, but I think I’m in the process of learning what true friendship means right now.

  22. Scandal, sex and sanctimony Paul Crouch and TBN
    Los Angeles Times/September 18, 2004

    The time was the autumn of 1996, the scene a cabin in the San Bernardino mountains near Los Angeles. The cabin was owned by the Trinity Broadcasting Network, the world’s largest televangelist organisation with outlets on satellite, cable and terrestrial channels around the world. That much we know.

    According to Lonnie Ford, an admittedly troubled, sometime drug addict who worked for the station, it was also the site of an inappropriate, and potentially scandalous, sexual encounter between himself and TBN’s president and founder, Paul Crouch.

    For eight years, Ford has been threatening to go public with the story and has written a lengthy manuscript detailing his allegations. The two sides have been in and out of court, money has changed hands and each has accused the other of acting in bad faith.

    Crouch has denied everything, as well he might, since homosexuality is a big no-no in the Christian fundamentalist world which he inhabits, and which has provided him with a lifestyle of striking lavishness over 31 years.

    The star evangelist on TBN, Benny Hinn, once announced that “God will destroy the homosexual community of America … with fire”.

    For eight years, TBN managed to keep the story under wraps, persuading courts to keep the relevant documents sealed and threatening Ford with legal action if he tried to break the terms of a 1998 settlement and seek a publisher for his manuscript.

    That changed this month, though, when the Los Angeles Times got wind of the affair and went public with at least the gist of it. Through interviews with some of those involved, including a friend of Ford’s who helped him to write the manuscript, the Times pieced together a tawdry legal history in which Ford has demanded large sums in exchange for his silence, and TBN reacted first by paying up and then by branding him a liar and extortionist.

    America may be about to witness its first juicy televangelist scandal in 15 years.

    In a hastily issued statement last weekend, TBN described the allegations as “deplorable”, “salacious” and “false”, but avoided going into any details of what may or may not have transpired during that weekend in the mountains.

    Ford’s friend and co-author Sandi Mahlow, meanwhile, told the Times how Ford had broken down in tears after returning from the cabin near Lake Arrowhead and told her that he and Crouch had engaged in sexual acts.

    “Lonnie has a lot of bad traits. One thing he isn’t, and that’s a liar,” Mahlow said.

    The Times also quoted a letter written by TBN lawyer Dennis Brewer, in which he recalled Crouch’s youngest son, Matt, telling his then law partner, David Middlebrook: “I am devastated. I am confronted with having to face the fact that my father is a homosexual.”

    Middlebrook and the younger Crouch deny there was such a conversation.

    In its statement, TBN painted Ford as a disturbed man with a history of relapses into drug addiction, something the Times piece discussed as well.

    “It is a reprehensible fact of modern life that public persons like Dr Crouch are targets of such dishonest, false and scandalous claims,” the statement lamented. “The lifelong ministry of Dr Crouch has been to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to all the world.”

    But TBN also acknowledged it had agreed to a financial settlement with Ford – the Times put the figure at US$425,000 ($641,000) – rather than go to court to fight his twin allegations of sexual harassment and wrongful termination.

    “This course of action was deemed less expensive and would avoid the bad publicity, time and effort that it would take to fight the false claims,” the statement said. “Dr Crouch reluctantly agreed to this advice with the understanding that the accuser would go away and leave both he and TBN alone forever.”

    It is understandable that TBN has fought so hard to keep even the allegations out of the public eye. The affair’s oddly compelling pairing of sex and sanctimony – whether substantiated or not – are a direct reminder of the scandals of the late 1980s that brought down preacher Jimmy Swaggart and Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, the husband-and-wife team behind the Praise the Lord network.

    Swaggart was forced to admit he was addicted to pornography and prostitutes. Jim Bakker not only admitted having an affair with an employee, a former Playboy playmate, Jessica Hahn, but was also caught trying to pay her off with US$265,000 ($400,000) from church funds – one of a string of financial improprieties that landed him in prison.

    TBN shares many of the traits of those earlier televangelist outfits. Crouch and his wife, Jan – who started out as business partners of the Bakkers – like to portray themselves as humble folks doing the Lord’s work and giving of themselves as they hope their viewers will give, by sending in financial contributions.

    Their costumes and studio sets are as gaudy and kitsch as anything the notoriously campy Tammy Faye Bakker came up with. The motif of the station is distinctly regal, with a crest based on the British lion and unicorn (plus a religious dove). Questions have been asked about the money the Crouches have generated and how it has been spent. The Bakkers had tens of thousands of dollars of gold plating in their bathrooms, and air-conditioning in their dog kennel.

    The Crouches bought a US$5 million ($7.5 million) oceanfront home in the California yachting resort of Newport Beach. They gave various explanations, suggesting the property belonged to the church and they would not be living in it, then saying the purchase was proof of the lavish rewards bestowed on them by the Almighty for their good works.

    Similar lavishness appears to be in order at the couple’s private offices, which occupy half of the top floor of TBN’s headquarters just off a freeway in Costa Mesa, 20 minutes’ drive from Newport Beach in Orange County.

    The 2438 sq m personal office space is off limits to the public and press, but construction workers who helped to build it have told reporters it includes a bar and sauna, a gym, handcrafted black walnut woodwork and ornate velvet furniture.

    The money issue has been exacerbated by the Crouch’s singular fundraising techniques. They have some stiff competition when it comes to spinning lines to true believers and inducing them to open their wallets. Back in the 1980s, Oral Roberts once told his viewers that God would strike him down if his supporters did not send him US$8 million ($12 million) within a year. The money arrived, and Roberts’ life, miraculously, was spared.

    Crouch’s favoured rhetoric appears to be equating his network with the Lord God himself. “If you have been healed or saved or blessed through TBN and have not contributed to [the] station, you are robbing God and will lose your reward in heaven,” he said on air in 1997.

    The Crouches also have a singular line in defensiveness when it comes to criticism of the station – criticism that has spanned many lawsuits and included accusations from rival Christian organisations that TBN is spreading blasphemy.

    “God, we proclaim death to anything or anyone that will lift a hand against this network and this ministry that belongs to you, God,” Crouch said in 1997.

    A few years earlier, he reacted even more vehemently to critics he characterised as “heresy hunters.” “To hell with you!” he ranted during a praise-a-thon in 1991. “Quit blocking God’s bridges or God’s going to shoot you – if I don’t.”

    The Crouches are positively tame compared with Benny Hinn, the network’s star performer, who has preached that Adam was a superman who flew to the moon and expressed his belief that one day the dead will be raised by watching TBN from inside their coffins.

    Describing his frustrations with his enemies, Hinn once expressed regret that the Bible didn’t sanction murder. “Sometimes I wish God would give me a Holy Ghost machine gun. I’d blow your head off!”

    Hinn was embroiled in a legal controversy a few years ago when Mario Licciardello, a private investigator he hired to look into his ministry’s finances, turned against him and threatened to publicise the dirt he had dug up. The investigator died shortly afterwards, and Hinn moved his ministry from Florida to Texas.

    Licciardello has now shown up in the homosexual/ sex allegations. The Los Angeles Times found a deposition in which Licciardello quoted Hinn talking about “a sexual relationship that Paul Crouch had with his chauffeur”. Hinn also said: “Paul’s defence was that he was drunk.” Hinn has denied saying these things, but at least one other witness has corroborated them.

    In the mid-1990s, the Crouches tussled with the Federal Communications Commission over the legality of some of their station licences and only narrowly escaped being yanked off the air. In 1999, they were slapped with a lawsuit after a terminally ill woman from Virginia accused them of ripping off a novel of hers for their commercially successful end-of-the-world movie The Omega Code. The Crouches denied impropriety, but they ended up paying the woman an undisclosed amount of money.

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