The National League was formed in 1876, the American League in 1901. In 1981, the players went on strike from June 11 until August 10. As best I can tell, that’s the only time in 144 years that the game was not played on Independence Day.
Until last Saturday, that is.
But all was not lost: for the thirteenth time in the last fourteen years, Joey Chestnut won the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. He consumed about seventy-five hot dogs and buns in approximately ten minutes to win the coveted Mustard Yellow Belt.
However, as a sign of the times, Saturday’s event was held at a private location rather than in front of large crowds as in the past. The judges wore masks; assistants handed buns and wieners to the contestants while using latex gloves.
Can God bless America?
This was a Fourth of July unlike any in living memory. But even with the pandemic and recession, I am grateful to be an American. Every time I travel overseas, when I return, I’m glad to be home.
And I pray for my country to be a nation God can bless.
The psalmist declared, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 33:12). His statement assumes that every nation has a god of some kind. Theologian Paul Tillich was right: we all have an “ultimate concern”—something or someone that we trust above all others.
Some trust the god of Islam, others the path to nirvana taught by Buddhism, the way of moksha (salvation) in Hinduism, or the laws of Judaism. Still others trust the gods of materialism, hedonism, or self-reliance.
To be “blessed,” however, a nation must make their God the “Lord.” This rendering of God’s name, with a capital L and “ord” in small caps, translates the Hebrew YHWH, often transliterated as Yahweh. This is the name God disclosed to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:14); it describes him as the “God who was, is, and ever shall be.”
To be blessed, our nation must make this God our God. We must use the freedom we celebrated over the weekend to trust in him unconditionally and unreservedly as our Lord, Master, and King. Such a commitment does not earn his favor, but it positions us to receive his best.
Wherever he is our Lord, we can be blessed as people and as a nation. Wherever he is not, we cannot.
Here’s the question: Is America a people God can bless today? Are you? Am I?
“In your presence there is fullness of joy”
This week, we will focus on ways to be a nation God can bless. For today, let’s ask: How do we trust God more than ourselves or our circumstances?
At least thirteen people were killed in Chicago over the weekend, including a seven-year-old girl. At least fifty-nine others were shot and wounded. Soaring COVID-19 cases overshadowed July 4 celebrations. Broadway star Nick Cordero’s wife announced yesterday that he had died from coronavirus complications at the age of forty-one.
The challenges we face show us the urgency of making the Lord our God. How can we do this today?
If you were to compile a list of the greatest kings, leaders, warriors, theologians, writers, and musicians the world has ever seen, David would be on it. If your list required that a candidate be all six, he might be its only entry.
And yet he wrote: “I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you” (Psalm 16:2). What follows is a masterful exposition of the joy of trusting in YHWH and the foolishness of trusting in anyone else.
David knew what happens to those who trust someone other than the one true God: “The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply” (v. 4a). Thus, he said, “Their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips” (v. 4b).
Rather, he testified, “The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup” (v. 5). He added, “I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken” (v. 8, my emphasis). With this result: “Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure” (v. 9).
He concludes: “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (v. 11).
“My temple and my tower”
Would you like to know the “path of life,” true “fullness of joy,” and God’s “pleasures forevermore”? In other words, would you like to live a life God can bless?
If so, I invite you to pause right now and make three decisions.
First, ask God if there is any area of your life over which he is not Lord. Surrender to him anything or anyone that comes to your mind.
Second, name the circumstances and challenges you expect to face today, then submit them to his lordship as well.
Third, make a commitment to make such a surrendered life your lifestyle.
The hymn, “All My Hope on God is Founded,” contains this declaration:
Pride of man and earthly glory,
Sword and crown betray his trust;
All that human toil can fashion,
Tower and temple, fall to dust.
But God’s power, hour by hour,
Is my temple and my tower.
What is yours?