Connected

Connected

by Peter Wallace

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780819223081
Publisher: Church Publishing, Incorporated
Publication date: 04/01/2009
Pages: 193
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.70(d)

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Connected

You and God in the Psalms
By Peter M. Wallace

Morehouse Publishing

Copyright © 2009 Peter Marsden Wallace
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8192-2308-1


Chapter One

Delighted

Psalm 1

THEMES

Peer Pressure

Bible

Happiness

Fellowship

Meaning

If you're going to get anywhere you really want to end up being, you have to start moving in the right direction, on the right path.

Of course, you know how tough it is not only to choose that path—to figure out which of many that may lie before you is the best one to take—but then to stay on it. There are a lot of people in your life—at work, in your classes, at your fitness center, next door, online, wherever—who want you to join them on a path that may not go anywhere except into trouble or pain or emptiness.

They may mean well. And there's nothing wrong with having fun and exploring life, even taking a risk. But you know in your gut what's right for you, what's positive, what will make your life meaningful and happy in the long run. You know, deep down, what may be entertaining for a while but will end up only leaving you messed up. With a broken heart. Or with somebody's hurt feelings you have to make right. Or maybe with a dented fender, or at least a headache. Or worse.

The writer of the first psalm makes it plain and simple:

1 Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers;

Of course, you'd never call some of the people in your life wicked or sinners or scoffers. But you know that feeling you get when somebody suggests doing something you doubt would be good and healthy for you. It's anything but happy.

Even so, sometimes when we're struggling with boredom or sensing a lack of meaning or motivation in life, or we get tired of our routine, we let ourselves get drawn down a path that leads to trouble and hurt. Without thinking it through, we jump at any opportunity to relieve our exhausting monotony—with sometimes surprisingly tragic results.

Picking the wrong path has been the plot line of a number of motion pictures in recent years. One of the best is After Hours, directed by Martin Scorsese. Paul, our "hero," is a lonely, bored computer consultant. He wastes his evenings watching TV and simply passing time until, one night, he decides to get out and do something, anything.

At a nearby coffee shop he meets an attractive but somewhat bizarre woman. Later he calls her, she invites him over, and terrifying hilarity ensues. Moving from one misadventure to another caused by multiple calamities, mistaken identities, and some really stupid decisions, Paul manages to survive a hellish night. At one point he says, "I just wanted to leave my apartment, maybe meet a nice girl, and now I've got to die for it?"

In the end, Paul gets dumped in front of his office building at the start of the next workday. And life goes on.

Well, this scenario of choosing the wrong path may make for some interesting films, but it's not much fun in real life.

So why not be your own person, go where you want to go—where you feel called to go? Why not choose to do something positive instead of following the herd mentality or doing something stupid just for the thrill of it? You're not a lemming, you're a unique child of God.

You can choose another path, one that promises meaning and delight in life—one that God promises is not as pathetic as some may think:

2 ... their delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law they meditate day and night.

If you're involved in a church or small group, you're probably already involved in some kind of personal exploration of God's word. And, good for you, you're reading this book! The point is, get some positive input. Get connected with God. Stimulate your mind and heart with spiritual insights and ideas. And do it with other people who care about you.

And when you get advice or an invitation you find yourself wrestling with, listen to your inner self. Listen to God's Spirit within you. You can say "no," you know. You can change your mind at any point you find yourself down the wrong path. You really are that strong.

You'll find that the more you walk this way . . .

• the more you'll see all the pieces of your life making some sense, working together to form something good and meaningful;

• the more you can trust God to work out the messy things in your life—or the more you can accept them as reality and not worth getting so freaked out about;

• the more the psalmist's promise can come true for you:

3 They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper.

Sounds delightful, doesn't it? Keep on this path and you've got a truly exciting life in front of you.

God, let's be honest. I like having fun. I enjoy my friends and, yes, sometimes I make decisions that aren't as positive and wise as they could be. But I don't want to get stuck there. I want to be moving in the right direction. I want to be filling my head with the good stuff. Your stuff. I want to end up growing like that fruit tree by the water stream. I want to thrive. And I want you to be as delighted with my life as I am.

Lifted

Psalm 3

THEMES

Fear

Safety

Security

Protection

Deliverance

Trouble

Anxiety

1 O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me;

2 many are saying to me, "There is no help for you in God."

Maybe you're paranoid, but sometimes it seems there are an awful lot of people out to get you. You just try to get along, take care of yourself, do the right thing. But everywhere you turn, there's an obstacle. And if not an obstacle, an enemy. Someone or something that seems designed to sidetrack you, or worse, take you down.

A friend of mine had an experience that felt an awful lot like that to him. At his company, a better position opened at another branch office much closer to his home. He was ready for a change and more responsibility, and besides, while he got along fine with his co-workers and his supervisor, he had always felt a bit of a strain with some of them.

When word got around that he had become a finalist for the promotion, he told me it felt like the knives came out against him. At least one of his colleagues had also applied for the job, unsuccessfully, and she convinced others that my friend had cheated somehow to win consideration. Suddenly, odd things started happening at work. Some of his paperwork was lost. Computer files got scrambled. Even his supervisor seemed to be in on the act, leaning on him to get more done. He thought he was losing his mind. Was it all a coincidence, or were they really out to get him?

In times like those we have to remind ourselves, like the psalmist, about the character and actions of the God we want to be connected to:

3 But you, O Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, and the one who lifts up my head....

When you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by people who want to hurt you, here are things to remember about the God who loves you:

• God surrounds you with protection. God's shield is not just in front of you, but all around you;

• God is your glory—the source of all that is good and pure and strong and bright in your life;

• God's hands hold your downcast face and turn it up to the light, enabling you to look beyond the dark and troubling circumstances to see the light of love and security.

And this is what happens when you let God be God in your life:

5 I lie down and sleep; I wake again, for the LORD sustains me.

6 I am not afraid of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.

Life is filled with little skirmishes of the heart, mind, and soul. And some of them are not so little. Maybe you are a little paranoid. But the reality is that if you're going to move forward through the temptations and the pains and the messy parts of life, you need to let God lift your head. So you can see where God is taking you.

God, I don't want to live life scared, suspicious, anxious. I don't want to keep my head down, weighed by fear, afraid of what I'll see. I want to wrap you around me, knowing that you are protecting me, asking you to open my eyes and lift my gaze so I can take a realistic view of the situation, unhindered by anxiety or misunderstanding. I want to lie down and sleep in the assurance that you are with me no matter what people, or life, or the world throw at me. And thank you, with all my heart, for the lift.

Disturbed

Psalm 4

THEMES

Accusations

Anger

Shame

Lies

Hurts

Forgiveness

Justice

1 Answer me when I call, O God of my right! You gave me room when I was in distress. Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer.

2 How long, you people, shall my honor suffer shame? How long will you love vain words, and seek after lies? ...

Right smack in the middle of a hectic day my cell phone rang. The caller ID informed me an old friend was on the line, one I hadn't talked with for some time because we'd both been so busy. I answered gladly. But instead of hearing a pleasant greeting, a harsh accusation assaulted my ear: "Hey," my friend challenged me, "what gives you the right to tell people about my DUI last summer?"

It took me a few seconds to figure out what he was charging me with, but I could feel my face burning red from shock and embarrassment, as well as anger, because the accusation was false. And I got right back into his face about it.

After a very uncomfortable conversation, we both calmed down a bit and talked it through. Ultimately he understood what must have happened: Somebody took what I'd said about a DUI arrest I'd read about in the news and spread it around, until it came back around to my friend. Because the circumstances were similar, he'd assumed it was his story that had been spread around. And I must have been the one who started it because I was the only friend who knew about it. Of course, as a result of his angry misunderstanding, he had let people know about the situation he had been trying so hard to keep secret.

The psalmist had a similar problem with people's unfounded accusations, but the stakes were far higher. He was the victim of humiliating lies spread around by people who wanted to hurt him, who wanted to knock him down a peg or two. It was infuriating. And he was angry.

So he demanded that God help him, as God had in the past: "You gave me room when I was in distress" (v. 1). He had felt hemmed in and overwhelmed before, and God had opened the way to relieve him. Now in the midst of his fury over this new injustice, he asked for God's help again.

But then the psalmist gave himself some very wise advice, which my friend and I would have done well to follow:

4 When you are disturbed [or angry], do not sin; ponder it on your beds, and be silent.

5 Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord....

You may have every right and reason to be disturbed, angry, and upset. But take a deep breath. Don't react out of that anger, as I did at first with my friend. Don't make it your aim to strike back at those who are hurting you, because you'll only get yourself into a deeper mess.

Instead, be quiet. Stay in silence. Think it through. Get a clear picture of what's happening. Make sure you know what the truth of the situation is, rather than jumping to conclusions or overreacting to your hurt.

Let the fury dissolve in the presence of God's Spirit. Let loose. Let go. Breathe deeply. Give it some space. And then do what's right. Trust God to work it out.

If you do that, you will avoid hurting yourself and anybody else. The situation will resolve itself whether through your calm words or actions, or some other way. And as a result the psalmist promises:

8 I will both lie down and sleep in peace; for you alone, O LORD, make me lie down in safety.

God, listen to me. It's not fair and it hurts. It's embarrassing. And it's a lie. There may be some truth to it, all right, but what will people think? Please hear me. Help me get clear. Give me room to breathe. Let me learn what I need to learn from all this, and make it right. Help me to live right, so that there's no chance that people will misunderstand me or jump to wild conclusions. I want to let go in your peace and hope. I want to live so that I know your joy.

Awed

Psalm 8

THEMES

Majesty

Creation

Responsibility

Dominion

I've been startled by stars on a number of occasions.

Late at night on a tropical island in the blue-green South China Sea off Thailand's mainland.

On a jungle-edged Costa Rican beach covered by dozens of two-foot-long Olive Ridley sea turtles laying their eggs in total darkness, driven only by instinct.

Even in an undeveloped forested area of North Georgia on a camping trip with my son.

I look up and see an astonishing array of glittering diamonds on black velvet—a breathtaking panorama far more spectacular than the meager night display typically seen in the city whose sky is drained by an overabundance of artificial light.

Where were you when the stars surprised you? How small did they make you feel? How overcome were you by the scale of reality?

And did you think of God? The psalmist did. And that quickly put things into perspective.

1 O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens....

3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established;

4 what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?

You can't help but feel small under the weight of the starry night sky. And consider that the psalmist had no idea that the little pinpricks of light in the firmament were actually mammoth burning suns surrounded by countless planets and asteroids. Galaxies. Universes.

And here we are on our minuscule planet. Does God care? Does God even see us?

Once I watched countless people moving along the Ipanema Beach sidewalk outside my hotel window, and from my vantage point they looked like tiny ants. Walking, jogging, riding bikes, talking. Cars going every which way. I tried to look at some of these people individually, wondering who they were. Why were they right here right now? What were they thinking about, worrying over, frightened of, pleased about, hopeful for, tired of?

I hadn't a clue, of course. I could hardly see them. And I was only a few stories above them.

How does God do it? Why does God care?

I don't know, and I don't think the psalmist did either, but the psalmist was certain that God does care. And what's more, God expects us to care too.

5 Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.

6 You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet, ...

We're responsible for this very creation, the world in which we live. But that word "dominion" has gotten humanity into a great deal of trouble for millennia. We think it gives us license to use the animal, vegetable, and mineral resources around us arrogantly, selfishly. Because we're in charge.

That's why we need to keep in mind the majestic perspective of the first part of this psalm. We're not in charge, God is. And God wants us to care for the works of God's hands. To conserve and protect and improve the natural resources. To do our part against drought and global warming and waste. It's the only reasonable response we can make.

9 O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Sometimes, God, you blow me away. When I take the time and make the effort to extend my focus beyond my own nose and see what's up in the sky and all around me, my brain explodes. The weight of your majesty and creativity overwhelms me. I feel so small. And then I realize that, even so, you know me totally. And you expect a lot from me. Open my eyes more often, God, so I can see not only the beauty of your creation, but also what I need to do to fulfill my responsibility toward it.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Connected by Peter M. Wallace Copyright © 2009 by Peter Marsden Wallace. Excerpted by permission of Morehouse Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

Foreword....................xi
Introduction....................1
Delighted (Psalm 1)....................6
Lifted (Psalm 3)....................8
Disturbed (Psalm 4)....................10
Awed (Psalm 8)....................12
Obligated (Psalm 10)....................14
Watched (Psalm 11)....................16
Fooled (Psalm 14)....................18
Included (Psalm 15)....................20
Directed (Psalm 16)....................22
Distressed (Psalm 18)....................24
Messaged (Psalm 19)....................26
Devastated (Psalm 22)....................28
Protected (Psalm 23)....................30
Soaked (Psalm 24)....................32
Shamed (Psalm 25)....................34
Vindicated (Psalm 26)....................36
Afraid (Psalm 27)....................38
Carried (Psalm 28)....................40
Overwhelmed (Psalm 29)....................42
Abandoned (Psalm 31)....................44
Forgiven (Psalm 32)....................46
Answered (Psalm 34)....................48
Loved (Psalm 36)....................50
Committed (Psalm 37)....................52
Measured (Psalm 39)....................54
Conflicted (Psalm 41)....................56
Parched (Psalm 42)....................58
Changed (Psalm 46)....................60
Overjoyed (Psalm 47)....................62
Possessed (Psalm 49)....................64
Summoned (Psalm 50)....................66
Cleansed (Psalm 51)....................68
Rooted (Psalm 52)....................70
Betrayed (Psalm 55)....................72
Delivered (Psalm 56)....................74
Awakened (Psalm 57)....................76
Angered (Psalm 58)....................78
Staggered (Psalm 60)....................80
Sheltered (Psalm 61)....................82
Silenced (Psalm 62)....................84
Watered (Psalm 65)....................86
Tested (Psalm 66)....................88
Blessed (Psalm 67)....................90
Strengthened (Psalm 68)....................92
Mired (Psalm 69)....................94
Surrounded (Psalm 70)....................96
Nurtured (Psalm 71)....................98
Reminded (Psalm 74)....................100
Troubled (Psalm 77)....................102
Guided (Psalm 78)....................104
Restored (Psalm 80)....................106
Satisfied (Psalm 81)....................108
Nested (Psalm 84)....................110
Turned (Psalm 85)....................112
Wholehearted (Psalm 86)....................114
Refreshed (Psalm 87)....................116
Shunned (Psalm 88)....................118
Counted (Psalm 90)....................120
Covered (Psalm 91)....................122
Launched (Psalm 92)....................124
Celebrated (Psalm 95)....................126
Judged (Psalm 98)....................128
Refocused (Psalm 100)....................130
Integrated (Psalm 101)....................132
Wasted (Psalm 102)....................134
Freed (Psalm 103)....................136
Welcomed (Psalm 104)....................138
Encouraged (Psalm 105)....................140
Stressed (Psalm 107)....................142
Infuriated (Psalm 109)....................144
Wised Up (Psalm 111)....................146
Raised (Psalm 113)....................148
Shakened (Psalm 114)....................150
Distracted (Psalm 115)....................152
Cherished (Psalm 116)....................154
Determined (Psalm 119)....................156
Kept (Psalm 121)....................158
Surrounded (Psalm 125)....................160
Rewarded (Psalm 126)....................162
Doubtful (Psalm 128)....................164
Pardoned (Psalm 130)....................166
Quieted (Psalm 131)....................168
United (Psalm 133)....................170
Remembered (Psalm 136)....................172
Wonderfully Made (Psalm 139)....................174
Championed (Psalm 140)....................176
Guarded (Psalm 141)....................178
Happy (Psalm 146)....................180
Brokenhearted (Psalm 147)....................182
Enthused (Psalm 150)....................184
Endnotes....................187
Index....................191

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