by David Phelps
“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa
One Sunday last fall, our nine-year-old daughter, Monica, and I spent most of a day together at Camp Fiddlecreek, a Girl Scout camp outside Gray Summit, Missouri. It was a father-daughter event that revolved around planting daffodil bulbs together at the end of the day. On the way home, I noticed a sign in front of a store: “Bless God, America.” At first, it took me a moment to realize this wasn’t another “God Bless America” sign. Then I wondered if it were a mistake or if the person who had arranged the letters had done it that way on purpose.
We’ve heard the words “God bless America” a great many times since September 11, 2001 and there’s nothing wrong with asking God’s blessings for our country, whichever one it might be. However, to paraphrase Tommy Tenney, author of The God Chasers, “It is better to bless than to be blessed.” Instead of continually asking for God’s blessings, says Tenney, we should concentrate on blessing God.
The Psalmist has this to say about blessing God:
“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits—
who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,” (Psa. 103:2-4 NRSV).
Some translations, like the New International Version (NIV), render the word “bless” as “praise:” This is how we can bless God—by praising God for all that God has done for us. We should bless God because God has already blessed us: with forgiveness, healing, redemption, love and mercy. Even if God hadn’t blessed us, God would deserve our blessings and praise as creator. And God has also blessed us with salvation through Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:6-14).
If we wish to be blessed, we need only look to the beatitudes (Matt. 5:2-11): We will be blessed if we are poor in spirit, if we mourn, if we are meek, if we desire righteousness, if we show mercy, if we are pure in heart, if we work for peace, and if we endure persecution in the name of righteousness because we stand for God. We will not be blessed if we are self-righteous, proud, boastful, vengeful, have impure motives, seek conflict rather than peace, or refuse to stand up for God. If we want God to bless America, we know what we need to do. We need to praise and bless God. We need to live the things Jesus described in the beatitudes. Others will see the qualities the Holy Spirit produces in us, and they will know we are the persons of God we say we are and that our faith is genuine. “‘In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.’” (Matt. 5:16 NRSV).
God has said, “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place.” (2 Chr. 7:14-15 NRSV). If we will humbly seek God’s will, we will be blessed. Jesus also had this to say about seeking blessings: “‘But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.’” (Matt. 6:33 NRSV). If we will seek the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness, and lead others to them, then we will be blessed and so will our country.
“The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.
Bless the Lord, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, obedient to his spoken word.
Bless the Lord, all his hosts, his ministers that do his will.
Bless the Lord, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the Lord, O my soul.” (Psa. 103:19-22 NRSV.)