6 Ways To Be A True Covenant Friend

God wants us to have people in our lives that we can experience deep connections with.  God wants us to have people in our lives who can we have intimate communicants.  God wants us to have people in our lives where we can experience selfless sharing.

God wants us to have friends.

Proverbs 18:24 says: “A person who has friends must themselves be friendly”. Therefore, to be truly friendly a friend often has to take the lead going the extra mile to establish the friendship.

While God wants us to have friends, and God wants us to put in the extra effort to make friends. God also puts into our lives special people with whom we are to have a covenant relationship.

A covenant relationship can best be described as a promise.  However, it is not a casual promise or a promise of convenience.  The type of promise of a convenient relationship is “I’m going to do whatever it takes to make this happen”-type of promise.

What’s more a convenient promise is a one-way promise.  It’s a promise that you make for the benefit of someone else. It is not a mutual agreement for mutual benefit promise. It’s a choice that you make to benefit someone else or a group of “someone-else’s” without concern about whether it may benefit you.

The relationship between David and Jonathan demonstrates many of the hallmarks of what a convenient relationship and convenient promise should look like.

It is clear from the biblical record that God put Jonathan in David’s life at a crucial time in his journey to the throne.  For if it were not for Jonathan’s covenant relationship with his friend, David would never have been able to overcome the obstacles he faced during the reign of King Saul.

God is a God of covenant relationships. A covenant is God’s promise of His grace to unite Himself with His chosen people. Examples of God initiating covenant relationship can be found with Noah (Genesis 9:9-17), Abraham (Genesis 15:18; 17:2), Moses, and the nation of Israel (Exodus 19). God’s very nature ensures and testifies of His faithfulness to always fulfill His covenant with us despite our weakness and failure to adhere to our faithfulness with God (Exodus 32).

Lee Grady is the former editor the Christian website called Charisma. He writes about six qualities that Jonathan brings to his covenant relationship with David. I share these qualities with the hopes that all of us should consider emulation

  1. Jonathan nurtured a spiritual bond. 

After David killed Goliath and moved to Saul’s palace, the Bible says “the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David” (1 Samuel 18:1). This is the work of the Holy Spirit. All Christians should experience a sense of family connection, but there are certain friends you will feel deeply connected to because God is putting you in each other’s lives for a reason. Don’t resist this process. Let God knit you to people.

  1. Jonathan showed sacrificial love. 

Jonathan loved David so much that he risked his life to help him fulfill his mission. Jonathan even dodged Saul’s spear in his effort to help his friend. He lived in the spirit of Jesus’ words about friendship: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). The world says we should only care about our own success. But the best way to become more like Jesus is to help someone else succeed!

  1. Jonathan always offered encouragement. 

When David was fleeing from Saul in the wilderness, Jonathan traveled to Horesh to cheer up his friend (1 Samuel 23:16). There were times in David’s life when he had to encourage himself, but in this case Jonathan was God’s instrument. We need each other! If you allow the Holy Spirit to speak life and hope through you, your words can propel your friends into their destiny.

  1. Jonathan offered his friend protection. 

When Jonathan realized his father was plotting to kill David, he not only warned him of danger but he concocted a plan to deliver his friend (1 Samuel 19:1-4). Friends don’t let friends get massacred in spiritual warfare. If you see a friend making a foolish mistake, or if you sense the enemy is targeting him, God can use you to avert a disaster. Speak the truth in love.

  1. Jonathan kept his friend’s pain confidential. 

David confided in his friend Jonathan, and in some cases he poured out his heart in frustration. At one point he said to Jonathan, “What have I done? What is my iniquity?” (1 Samuel 20:1). When I’m going through a difficult trial, I sometimes just need to vent. And I have loyal friends who let me process my pain … and they don’t run and tell others else about my weakness. This is true friendship.

  1. Jonathan harbored no jealousy. 

At one point in David’s journey, Jonathan realized his friend would one day be king of Israel. This was actually Jonathan’s inheritance, since he was Saul’s son, but he acknowledged that God had chosen David instead. So he gave David his royal robe, his armor and his weapons (see 1 Samuel. 18:3-4).

Final Thoughts

This is a beautiful picture of how we are to prefer and honor each other. Jealousy destroys friendship. If we have God’s love in our hearts, we will want our friends to surpass us.

If you’ve been hurt in previous relationships, break out of your isolation and ask God to heal your heart. Then choose to be a Jonathan to someone else.

 

My Friday Night Dates With Gwen

On most Friday nights regardless of what I was doing or who I happened to be dating I had a date with Gwen.

My date was with Gwen Ifill, who covered politics for some of the country’s premier newspapers before transitioning to broadcast journalism and making her greatest mark as the host of Washington Week.

Ms. Ifill who also served as the co-anchor the PBS News Hour died on November 14th after a yearlong battle with endometrial cancer, she was 61.

Lead by Ms. Ifill, Washington Week features intelligent reporting of the events of the day by the print and the electronic journalist who are coving them.

I loved my Friday night dates with Gwen on Washington Week because there was no shouting, or grandstanding.  My dates with Gwen were simply the best half hour of news and information to be found.

The only problem I had with the program was it was only a half hour.

–  The half hour was not enough for the difficult subjects the program tackled.

– The half hour was not enough for the depth of reporting that the show included.

– The half hour was not enough for the brilliance of Gwen Ifill.

And now my half hour dates with Gwen are over.   However, like the great reporters of my life, Water Cronkite, Helen Thomas, and James Baldwin her influence with me will live on.

All thanks to my Friday night dates with Gwen.

I Am Thankful for Forgiveness

Jesus said in Luke 6:37, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

Across our nation this Thanksgiving, families will gather; there will be discussions, disagreements and debates stemming from the judgements we all made about the Presidential Election. Since the election, I have been doing a lot of judging. I judged the Democratic Nominee, I judged the now President-Elect, and I judged all their supporters.   

With the passage of time and the conviction of Jesus and his Word, I am thankful this Thanksgiving for forgiveness. I ask for forgiveness for judging all Trump supporters as racist. I ask for forgiveness for judging all Clinton supporters as incompetent losers. I ask for forgiveness for all the foul, cruel, repulsive things that I thought in judgment during this campaign. I ask for forgiveness from everyone I have judged. For in judging, I have often misunderstood, misinterpreted and misconstrued from where people were coming.

Therefore, should I vow to stop judging? No, but I will try! Nevertheless, like all sin, judging is in our human nature. However, I am praying for divine power to help me. I plan to stay close to Jesus this Thanksgiving, as I gather in discussion, disagreement and debate:

  • To consider and respect the point of view of the person with whom I disagree 
  • To work to find common ground          
  • To love my neighbor as myself, and to forgive.   

I am thankful for forgiveness this Thanksgiving. I am confident that if we exercise forgiveness, then our discussions, disagreements and debates over the election will carry less judgements.

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times,’” (Matthew 18: 21-22 NIV).

I am thankful for forgiveness!

A Thanksgiving Feast of Love

In just a few days Americans will gather for the feast of feeding, called Thanksgiving.  Before us, will be plates filled with turkey, dressing, vegetables and other good things to feed ourselves.   

I am a student at Columbia Theological Seminary.  Recently our President, Leanne Van Dyk, relayed this story about a Cherokee father and his daughter.

The father was teaching his daughter about life, and he tells her, “A fight is going on inside me.”

“It is a terrible fight between two wolves. One is evil – he has anger, envy, greed, arrogance, self-pity, resentment, and lies inside of him.  The other wolf has goodness – joy, peace, love, kindness, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith inside of him.  This same fight is going on inside you and inside every other person, too.”

The young child thought about it for a minute and then asked her father, “Which wolf will win inside of you?”

The Cherokee Father replied, “The one I feed.”

If you spend any time watching our political discord, have seen what is going on in our streets, or dialog on social media, it seems as if we are not feeding each other much love.  This Thanksgiving, along with the cranberry sauce and the pumpkin pie, let’s feed ourselves some love.

Jesus tells us the second commandment is to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).  As a Thanksgiving gift, I would like to give you a serving of love for your feast.

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. Love does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” (Mark 12:31), NLT)

Have a happy Thanksgiving, and let’s feed ourselves and those around us with love.

What Do You Do with The Mad That You Feel?

Brothers and Sisters,

Regardless of your political opinion, this week has been epic with the election of Donald Trump as our next president.

Many who supported Secretary Clinton are mad about the outcome.

Many who supported Mr. Trump were mad about the direction of the country, and voted for a different outcome.

Irrespective of why we are mad, the question today is, “What do you do with the mad that you feel?”

In 1968, America was mad!

Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy were assassinated.

The war in Vietnam was raging, with young Americans being killed by the hundreds weekly.

American Cities were aflame – there were riots in Detroit, New York City, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Kansas City, and Wilmington.

Fred Rogers, the beloved host of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, wrote a song that attempted to put the madness of 1968 into context for children of the day.

I present this song in hopes that all of us, regardless of our side of the divide in this election, we will learn what to do with the mad that we may feel.

Peace, Grace and Love

Your Brother In Christ

Marben  

What do you do with the mad that you feel?

Written by Fred Rogers | © 1968 Fred M. Rogers

What do you do with the mad that you feel
When you feel so mad you could bite?
When the whole wide world seems oh, so wrong…
And nothing you do seems very right?

What do you do? Do you punch a bag?
Do you pound some clay or some dough?
Do you round up friends for a game of tag?
Or see how fast you go?

It’s great to be able to stop
When you’ve planned a thing that’s wrong,
And be able to do something else instead
And think this song:

I can stop when I want to
Can stop when I wish
I can stop, stop, stop any time.
And what a good feeling to feel like this
And know that the feeling is really mine.
Know that there’s something deep inside
That helps us become what we can.
For a girl can be someday a woman
And a boy can be someday a man.

You Have So Little Faith

Jesus spent several days preaching, teaching and performing miracles; healing the sick and rising the dead.

In Matthew 8:23-27, Jesus and his disciples got into a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee to a town called Gadarene.  Then Jesus, the human flesh and blood man was tired, so he went to sleep.

Biblical scholars note that most likely there were other boats in the water that day.  This might have been because Jesus and his disciples were taking the most popular route to Gadarene, or because large numbers of people chose to cross the Sea of Galilee to follow Jesus in hopes of seeing, or being the recipient of a miracle.   

Suddenly, a fierce storm struck with waves breaking into all the boats at sea.  The disciples were scared; they thought they were going to die at sea.  The disciples went to Jesus, woke him up shouting, “Lord, save us!  We’re going to drown!”  Jesus responded, “Why are you afraid?  You have so little faith!” Then he got up, rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm.

The boat that you and I live in, called the United States of America, is in a fierce storm – the Presidential Election!

Some of the fierce winds, called Donald, Hillary, Republicans, Democrats, Emails, Access Hollywood, Billy Bush, Anthony Winner, the FBI and other things, have rocked our boat.

The story of Jesus calming the storm is here to remind us that whether we are asleep or awake, Jesus is in the boat with us.

Therefore, the question for us today on the eve of this election is, “Where is your faith?”

Are you like the disciples – who even though they had firsthand evidence of Jesus’ miracle working power, feared drowning?  Wouldn’t you prefer the courage that only faith can provide?  Faith gives you the confidence that the winds and rains caused by the storm of this election is not what matters, nor does it matter who wins the election.      

Why?  Because Jesus is in the boat with us.

After Jesus calmed the sea, the disciples remarked, “Who is this man?  Even the winds and waves obey him!”

Therefore, I am not going to worry if Donald Trump, a man with clear personality flaws gets elected.  I am not going to worry if Hillary Clinton, a woman with issues of honesty gets elected.

So, what will I do?  I will vote – but my hope, trust and faith is in Jesus.

 

The Courage and The Timing to Stand Up

Leonard Ravenhill, the late twenty century English Christian evangelist and author  said, “The opportunity of a lifetime must be seized within the lifetime of the opportunity.”  Last week I took part in a “write in” at the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta where I saw lifetimes and opportunities collide.   

The trip was sponsored by the Center for Academic Literacy at Columbia Theological Seminary where I go to school.  The purpose of our time there was to write reflections on the achievements of the civil rights movement in the United States, and the broader, worldwide human rights movement.

While the exhibits, artifacts, and papers were a moving tribute to the heroes of the civil rights movement, somehow I was drawn to a display featuring the villains the despots and the oppressors. These despicable dictators led me to ask three questions:  First: “Why do people persecute others?  Secondly: How does one summon the courage to stand against wrong? And lastly: How do we know when is the right time to stand up for what is right?”

In looking at the portraits of these vile and evil men (and yes, all of them are men!) Hitler, Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, and Augusto Pinochet, I could not help but reflect on the courage it took to stand up to these twentieth century villains. 

Courage is a kind of confidence that can strengthen and sustain us.  Being courageous has been described as “persevering in the face of adversity,” “standing up for what is right,” and “facing suffering with dignity or faith.”

Jesus courageously stood up for what was right.  Even as a 12-year-old boy, Jesus showed courage.  In Luke 2:41-47, Jesus’ parents “found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers.”  Those teachers were well-versed not only in the Mosaic Law, but also in the man-made traditions that undermined it. 

Nevertheless, Jesus was not intimidated into keeping quiet; he was “asking them questions.”  Surely, he was not asking the typical questions of a curious boy.  We can imagine Jesus asking thought-provoking questions that made those learned teachers sit up and take notice.  If the teachers tried to trip Jesus up by asking him controversial questions, they failed.  Everyone listening, including the teachers, were in “amazement at his understanding and his answers.”  There is no doubt that these answers upheld the truth of God’s Word!

As disciples of Jesus, we are called to stand up to the villains of our time.  However, the timing of our courage to stand up, and the critical questions and issues that we raise must be considered. 

Today’s dictators in Uzbekistan, Equatorial Guinea, North Korea, Zimbabwe, and Syria are like the dictators of old – they are bullies!  We know from the playground that bullies are cowards; they operate out their own fears by placing fear in others.  When we stand up to them, especially early on, they will back down because they lack courage. We can get the courage to stand up, and know the right time to stand up by following Jesus.

Therefore, in our own lives we must pray for:

  • the wisdom to recognize injustice,
  • the discernment and timing to call out injustice early on and      
  • the courage to live with the consequences of our actions

The villains that you and I face every day in our lives – those who persecute others – are not the leaders of nations, instead they are: the boss at work who subtly demeans her employees, the teacher at school who dashes the hopes of his students, or the preacher at church whose “off the wall theology” obscures God’s message of love and forgiveness.

“The opportunity of a lifetime must be seized within the lifetime of the opportunity,” Leonard Ravenhill.

Think of the opportunities lost, the pain endured, and the countless injustices taking place in our own back yard simply because you and I lacked the courage and the timing to stand up against the wrong.

The inspiring instruction I learned from my day at the Center for Civil and Human Rights was this: “As disciples of Jesus we cannot choose if we should stand up in the face of human persecution – clearly, we must stand up!”  However, it is our trust and faithfulness in Jesus that will give us the courage, and the right moment to stand up for what is right.