Faithful Friend – Worship @ Home Sunday, 09 May 2021

Unknown artist

The Salvation Army, Prestonpans Corps
Major Elizabeth Turner

Song: Guide me, O thou great Jehovah

Guide me, O thou great Jehovah,
Pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but thou art mighty;
Hold me with thy powerful hand.
Bread of Heaven,
Feed me now and evermore.

Open thou the crystal fountain
Whence the healing stream shall flow;
Let the fiery. cloudy pillar
Lead me all my journey through.
Strong Deliverer,
Be thou still my strength and shield.

When I tread the verge of Jordan,
Bid my anxious fears subside;
Death of death and Hell’s destruction,
Land me safe on Canaan’s side.
Songs of praises
I will ever give to thee.

William Williams (1717-91)

Song: As the deer pants for the water

As the deer pants for the water,
So my soul longs after You.
You alone are my heart’s desire
And I long to worship You.

You alone are my strength, my shield,
To You alone may my spirit yield.
You alone are my heart’s desire
And I long to worship You.

I want You more than gold or silver,
Only You can satisfy.
You alone are the real joy-giver
And the apple of my eye.

You’re my Friend and You are my Brother,
Even though You are a King.
I love You more than any other,
So much more than anything.

Martin J. Nystrom.
© 1983 Restoration Music Ltd./Adm. by Sovereign Music UK.

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.

Amen.

Bible Reading: Psalm 143

A psalm of David.

Hear my prayer, O Lord;
    listen to my plea!
    Answer me because you are faithful and righteous.
Don’t put your servant on trial,
    for no one is innocent before you.
My enemy has chased me.
    He has knocked me to the ground
    and forces me to live in darkness like those in the grave.
I am losing all hope;
    I am paralyzed with fear.
I remember the days of old.
    I ponder all your great works
    and think about what you have done.

I lift my hands to you in prayer.
    I thirst for you as parched land thirsts for rain. Interlude

Come quickly, Lord, and answer me,
    for my depression deepens.
Don’t turn away from me,
    or I will die.

Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning,
    for I am trusting you.
Show me where to walk,
    for I give myself to you.

Rescue me from my enemies, Lord;
    I run to you to hide me.

10 Teach me to do your will,
    for you are my God.
May your gracious Spirit lead me forward
    on a firm footing.

11 For the glory of your name, O Lord, preserve my life.
    Because of your faithfulness, bring me out of this distress.

12 In your unfailing love, silence all my enemies
    and destroy all my foes,
    for I am your servant.

A Faithful Friend

Dog lovers praise the faithful nature of this animal species. Extolled as ‘Man’s (or woman’s!) best friend’, a dog’s faithful watchfulness of his or her owner’s movements lead them to become attuned to whatever is needed in the moment.

Their owner is under threat? Just let that intruder or assailant mess with him or her and the dog will fly to their owner’s defence. If their bark is not deterrent enough, their teeth in a tender place will be!

Their owner needs a ball or stick to be retrieved? They will reclaim it at the double! What – their owner has pretended to throw an object? Ha! Nice try, they’re not that easily fooled! Patiently the dog remains watching, waiting and ready to go at the appropriate time.

Their owner voices their troubles, woes, anger, frustration, whatever and the dog simply listens, neither sitting in judgement or reproach, and nuzzles solidarity and presence with their owner.

Their owner is unwell? A dog senses something is wrong and stays close by their beloved owner, offering them companionship in their hour of need.

Their owner is upset? The soulful look in the eyes of a dog shows sympathy, understanding, and unwavering support.

Their owner is happy? Then nothing makes them happier!

All that is prized about a dog in a good relationship with their owner should also be evident in our relationships with people. That same careful attentiveness to others, willingness to serve, patience, listening concern, support, and festal spirit should show up in our attitudes and actions toward others whether they are family, friends, fellow human beings, even foes!

As children of God, he wants that level of connection and engagement to be in our relationship with him.  God is faithful to us; he is attentive to our heart’s cry, knowing our every movement. He goes with us, willing that we would notice him in our midst and choose to align ourselves to his good ways. In being guided by him, we would experience personal as well as social fulfilment, as only God knows us and the community in which we dwell so fully, that he can tailor his blessings for the fit of all concerned.

But getting to live in such a positive, happy state of being can only come as we orient ourselves to wanting to know and do the will of God. Doing God’s will is also the best way to improve our connection with people. As it is, relating well to our families can be challenge enough; as for foes – that likely tops the list of improbabilities, that’s if we even had a mind to try!

In Psalm 143, its author David is in a desperate state. Hounded by his enemy, he admits to feeling depleted in every sense. He feels physically and spiritually faint; out of reserves (v.4). However, David does one thing right: he interrupts his litany of woe with the statement:

“And yet I can’t forget the days of old,
the days I’ve heard so much about”

Psalm 143:5

David is remembering lessons from the Bible as a boy, when he was exposed to the stories of God in the history of his people. Remembering the interventional power of God to awesome effect is the reviver that he needs to help him move forward (v.5 &6). It is at this point that David puts what he has just said into action and meditates on God.

How long he dwells in that state we do not know, but long enough to enable him to see that without God there is no hope. It is God’s voice that ignites hope, ‘I trust in You’, his face that restores life ‘otherwise, I’ll die and be like all those who have gone to the grave’, and his spirit which imparts energy and purpose:

‘Teach me how I should walk,
for I offer my soul up to You.’ (v.7 & 8).

It would be the same for us, if we took the time to remember and to reflect on all that we have heard, learned and experienced of God in times past from Sunday school, Bible Studies and Sermons we clearly recall.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 we read:

‘Celebrate always, pray constantly, and give thanks to God no matter what circumstances you find yourself in. (This is God’s will for all of you in Jesus the Anointed)’.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-1

Circumstances of all varieties, and challenging ones especially, are best navigated with reference to God; drawing closer to him keeps our spirits from capsizing. Notice that this verse tells us it is God’s will that we ‘celebrate’ (remember what God has done in times past), ‘pray constantly and give thanks to God.’

I don’t know if, in watching a film on DVD, you’ve ever looked at the additional features that are often available. It’s possible to watch the film with a narrator explaining all the visual things that happen throughout the film. This is especially helpful to someone who is blind. Some important clues to the story of the film are only enacted and not voiced, and without the narration, a blind person would miss out on those details.

It is also possible to watch the film with the director explaining why he chose to portray a particular scene in a certain way, and what he hoped to communicate by doing so. Or he might discuss the nuances in his various actors’ characters, how they played off one another to highlight the pathos or tension of the story. It’s all very interesting; not that I have ever watched a whole film in this way as it’s a lot of extra listening for me which I find quite exhausting.

The point I want to make here is that, if you think about the act of praying constantly as you go about your daily life, God the Holy Spirit would help you to see the circumstances through the director’s eyes. But more than that, he would give you the wisdom, the courage, the strength to go on. He would help you to discern God’s will for your life as it unfolds.

There are times in our lives when the way ahead is dark and frightening, and though we’re sure that is the way of God’s leading, we don’t like what is in front of us and we’d really rather not go on. Why is God doing this to us? we ask ourselves. That is why we need to keep on praying, keep on remembering and meditating on God’s word, so that we pave the route ahead with one brick of trust after another.

Psalm 23 reminds us that when we go through dark times, not only is God with us, but he has weapons to fend off the marauding attacks of wild animals along the way. Psalm 139 reminds us that darkness is not too dark for God, for to him it is as light. And together, hand in hand, step by step with him we will get through, and have cause to rejoice in the goodness of God throughout those times and in all times.

God’s Holy Spirit is a faithful friend who loyally guides us for the ‘sake of [God’s] name and the good of [God’s] reputation’ (Psalm143 v.11) . He won’t leave us in the dark but will walk with us and provide the narrative that we need that will keep us putting one foot in front of the other, because of his great love for us. Having such a friend as he is the very best companion we could ever have, especially as in relationship with him we have a friend not just for life but for eternity. Is that a friendship you have claimed for yourself? If not, why not take that step of faith today, you won’t regret it.

Chorus: If on my soul…

If on my soul a trace of sin remaineth,
If on my hands a stain may yet be seen;
If one dark thought a wearied mind retaineth,
O wash me, Lord, till every part be clean.
For I would live that men may see thyself in me,
I would in faith ascend thy holy hill,
And with my thoughts in tune with thy divinity,
Would learn how best to do thy holy will.

Prayer

Father God, we thank you for loving, faithful friends, who have walked alongside us in joyful times and trying situations – offering us comfort, strength, companionship and love.

We recognise that Jesus lived this way during his time on earth, demonstrating faithful love to his disciples, and teaching them to love the same way.

Thank you for giving us your Spirit, to be your presence with us in our daily lives. May we learn to sense his presence and lean on him whatever comes our way.

And as we experience his comforting presence, may we offer that same sense of comfort and strength to our own friends and family.

In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Song: I want to serve the purpose of God

I want to serve the purpose of God
In my generation.
I want to serve the purpose of God
While I am alive.
I want to give my life
For something that will last forever.
Oh, l delight, I delight to do Your will.

I want to build with silver and gold
In my generation.
I want to build with silver and gold
While I am alive.
I want to give my life
For something that will last forever.
Oh, l delight, I delight to do Your will.

What is on Your heart?
Tell me what to do;
Let me know Your will
And I will follow You.
(Repeat)

I want to see the kingdom of God
In my generation.
I want to see the kingdom of God
While I am alive.
I want to live my life
For something that will last forever.
Oh, I delight, I delight to do Your will.

I want to see the Lord come again
In my generation.
I want to see the Lord come again
While I am alive.
I want to give my life
For something that will last forever.
Oh l delight, I delight to do Your will.

Mark Altrogge.
© 1982 People of Destiny International/Word Music
Adm. by CopyCare.

Benediction

May God’s blessing surround you each day,
As you trust Him and walk in His way.
May His presence within guard and keep you from sin.
Go in peace, go in joy, go in love.

About prophetable

My wife Elizabeth and I were commissioned as Officers (ministers) in The Salvation Army in 1997, and have served in appointments in England and Scotland. Since July 2016 I have been working in The Salvation Army's Scotland Office as combined parliamentary and ecumenical representative.
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