Dear United States,

I love you. (I love us.)

I thank God for our nation and our liberties and our diversity and our exceptional approach.  Jon Stewart is right: “This ain’t easy … America is not natural. Natural is tribal. We are fighting against thousands of years of human behavior and history to create something that no one’s ever done. That’s what’s exceptional …”

Which is why I plead with us to consider these four words: Fear not. Forget not.

Fear not.

Do not live in fear.

Do not lead from fear.

Do not look at people through the lens of fear.

Let’s be a land of the free and a home of the brave. Especially to any American who follows Jesus, I remind us that our way is not the way of fear. Our path is not the path of paranoia. I do not suggest that we abandon wisdom, but we are commanded to be anxious for nothing.

My heart was grieved this week as the news broke regarding executive actions toward refugees and the “extreme vetting” of immigrants. Having travelled to countries where antagonism against our country is the norm, I affirm the need for caution and discernment. Of course. But I absolutely reject the cloak of dread that I sense in people’s souls.

“Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28) I wish we realized that Scripture is just as clear and counter-cultural about fear as it is about sexual ethics. Fear is a moral issue.

And when our fears outweigh our compassion we have reached a troubling tipping point.

Forget not.

The same Scripture that calls us to a righteous private life has called us to a compassionate public life. The same Bible that caused me to become pro-life for a baby in the womb leads me to become pro-life for the displaced Muslim on the run. Pro-life means from the womb to the tomb. If ever Christians needed to lift a consistent pro-life voice it’s now. Jesus Himself was a refugee, on the run from a murderous ruler. It is this Jesus who commands us to live out of love, not fear, out of faith, not anxiety.

Here’s a small snapshot of God’s will in times like these.

  • Proverbs 24:11. Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to slaughter.
  • Deuteronomy 10:17-18. The LORD your God is the God of all gods and Lord of all lords, the great, mighty, and awesome God who doesn’t play favorites and doesn’t take bribes. He enacts justice for orphans and widows, and he loves immigrants, giving them food and clothing.
  • Deuteronomy 10:19. So you, too, must show love to foreigners, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.
  • Leviticus 19:34 – The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.
  • Psalm 146:9. The Lord watches over the sojourner; he upholds the widow…
  • Malachi 3:5. I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against … adulterers, liars, those who oppress, the widow, the fatherless … and those who deny justice to the foreigner.
  • Matthew 25:35. For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me…
  • Hebrews 13:2. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers…

When our fear overrides our obedience we are walking on sinking sand.

To my Muslim friends and neighbors, you are welcome and loved and valued as one who has been made in the image of God. If you are ever in danger or threatened or afraid, you have friends among the followers of Jesus.

To my Christian friends and neighbors, this ain’t easy. We are fighting against thousands of years of human behavior to create something that no one’s ever done: become a people free from the soul-enslaving shackles of fear and self-interest. So let us urge our leaders to use their voice to rescue the endangered, not to arouse the fears of the masses. Let us give ourselves for those who could never pay us back. Let us speak for those who have no voice.  Let us show this world a people who know that death itself has lost its sting because of the death and resurrection of our King.

Quite concerned, yet utterly hopeful in Jesus,

Mike Patz

My Prayer on Inauguration Day

I pray that Christian Democrats will give Trump the same mercy they gave Obama in the areas where his politics violate God’s righteous standard. And I pray that Christian Republicans will give Trump the same prophetic scrutiny they gave Obama.

I pray for another spiritual awakening in our day. God, You oppose the proud, but give grace to the humble. Help us to humble ourselves, seek Your face, repent of our sins, and turn from our wicked ways.

I pray that Christians will unite under the banner of Jesus and be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Reunite hearts that were divided during the election.

I pray that Christians will hold fast to truth, while speaking it with love and meekness.

I pray that those with power will use it to do justice. May all branches of government seek justice and correct oppression.

I pray for the criminal justice system to be fair, just, and redemptive.

Use our President’s influence to help our nation to defend the foreigner, the refugee, and all of those in danger.

Specifically, I intercede on behalf of women on the streets, unarmed black men, and unwanted children in the womb. Preserve their lives.

I pray that our leaders will not call what is evil good and good evil. May we not put darkness for light and light for darkness. May we not be wise in our own eyes.

I ask God to deliver us from our greed. Surround the President with godly counselors who are not ruled by materialism and lust and pride, but by humility and a desire to serve.

I pray that our President and Congress will not feel the need to lead from fear.

Give our leaders wisdom and understanding, especially in appointing key positions.

Grant our leaders self-control with their words.

I pray for the salvation of our leaders. Provide conversations, divine appointments, dreams, and influencers that will capture their attention and turn their hearts in repentant faith toward Jesus. Amaze our culture with key people bearing fruits worthy of repentance.

…..

Justice and power must be brought together, so that whatever is just may be powerful, and whatever is powerful may be just. (Blaise Pascal)

 

Jesus, justice, & the multicultural church

As I look at the church, I’m quite concerned about the white-washing of Jesus, the toxic absence of justice, and the potential dangers of the multicultural movement. Which is why I am so thrilled to spend the next few days with the great civil rights activist Dr. John Perkins. He lives for the biblical Jesus, true justice, and a truly multicultural church. Here are some random thoughts to prime the pump for anybody joining us this weekend.

The earliest church was multicultural from the jump. Acts 2 describes an incredible variety of backgrounds from Rome to Asia to Egypt and everywhere in between – ethnic Jews and Gentiles alike. Racially and nationally, the first church was all over the map. When the power of the church was the greatest, the membership was the most diverse. We read about the same reality in the Azusa Street awakening at the turn of the 20th-century. Led by the African American preacher William Seymour, the revival united people of all racial and demographic backgrounds. “One of the most remarkable things was that preachers of the Southern states were willing and eager to go over to the black people in Los Angeles and have fellowship with them,” Frank Bartleman wrote. “The color line was washed away in the blood.” As potent and far-reaching as that movement would become, as soon as racism set in, the power was diminished as everybody ran back to their homogeneous sides of the racially divided church.

The very diversity that reveals God’s glory challenges man’s sensibilities. Racism is not a 21st-century phenomena; it’s not a white or black thing; it’s a human thing. Wherever there has been power, and whenever there has been a majority who possessed the privilege associated with that power, there has been human struggle.

When I hear Christians express their desire for diversity, I wonder what they mean. If what we mean is to be in a room with a variety of colors on people’s faces, this is not only insufficient, it can actually be dangerous. If we want someone’s face on a stage but do not want their voice where it counts, then this is a deceptive diversity that insults the very image of God. It is a diversity of color, but not culture. And whoever sits in the seat of majority will always have a privilege that is as natural to a human as water is to a fish.

This is why, when a black man and white man engage in multicultural relationships (or church), it usually comes with a very different cost. In the mind of a white man, unity means he needs to flex a bit. Maybe 10%. That 10% feels like a significant concession, since he’s not used to giving much up. For the black man, that same unity usually means he’s moving 90%. The “unity of the Spirit” has a higher price tag for the minority than the majority. When diversity means minority adaptation to the majority culture, we’ve performed spiritual malpractice. What does this mean? For starters, it means Jesus is not just asking the minority to move toward the majority, He’s asking the majority to move just as graciously toward the minority. This is the “one new man” Paul described as who we are becoming.

It’s helpful to remember that the early church – which was turning the world upside down – had these same struggles. But they confessed it, they addressed it, and the they invited God to be God. You cannot change what you will not address.

Because many churches have majored on a righteousness-message that functionally starts with Pauline epistles while neglecting the totality of Scripture (like the Prophets) which never divorces righteousness and justice, much of our message rings hollow to our hearers. When we present the words of Jesus without doing the justice of Jesus, we lose our credibility.

If only this world could hear the whole Gospel.

Jesus. I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus because it really is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes. Jews, gentiles, black and white. They are precious in His sight. No more white-washed, justice-neglecting, majority-leaning Jesus. Let’s have courage to embrace the real Jesus with His whole gospel and become the church that turns the world upside down once again.

Somebody pray!

Questions I’m asking while fasting

There are so many things you could do with your life. What are the few things that you should do? Filter through the many and choose the few that make sense in the light of eternity.

Setting apart time at the beginning of the year to pray, fast, and reflect are powerful ways to give you space to prioritize. When you would have been eating, spend time reflecting. Here are some questions I’m asking this week (straight out of my journal):

………….

What am I wired to do?

What is my mission? Is it written?

What can I do that will bring the greatest contribution?

Is there anything God has clearly told me to do that I have left undone?

Have I clarified what I desire to see happen this year? Is it written?

What new habit do I need to establish to line up my life with my mission?

What habit do I need to break?

What smaller, doable goal can I accomplish this month to give me momentum?

What’s important now? (W-I-N)

What books do I need to read this year?

Who are the people who make me better? Who causes my heart to burn for Jesus and eternity? What’s the plan to make more time for these people?

How can I make disciples who make disciples this year?

Am I harboring any bitterness or hardness of heart?

Am I fueled by grace or striving in self-effort?

 

Why do we fast?

Not my will, but yours be done.

What a stunning thought that Jesus, the King of kings would feel the need to pray these words. That he could will something that was contrary to Father’s will – and yet remain sinless. Possessing a will contrary to God’s is not a sign that you should give up, it’s a sign that your human body is still living on planet earth.

This is where fasting comes in.

Fasting is not about twisting God’s arm to get him to do my will. It’s about untwisting my soul to desire his will. I strongly encourage you to pray through Isaiah 58 over the next few days to develop this idea.

Fasting is not about giving up desire. It’s about foregoing lower desires for higher desires, lesser joys for greater joys, weaker glory for stronger glory, temporary satisfaction for eternal satisfaction.

Fasting reminds me that I can be ruled by God. That I really don’t need to live by bread alone. That I really can wrap my life around the will of God. And that’s the thing about God’s will: there is always a deeper joy on the other side of that choice. It may be delayed gratification, but rest assured, joy comes in the morning.

Your will is an awfully big deal. Submit it to God and you’ll start to see things go on earth as it is in heaven. Fasting helps your will bow to God’s in ways that nothing else seems to do.

And so we move into a 10-day period of prayer and fasting. I invite you to join in. Eyes on Jesus. Feast on his words. Purge the urge to twist your fasting into dead religion. And stay the course. You won’t be sorry.