Never! None! Zero!

That’s what my three-year-old Avery said to my wife one day. Usually this would result in a time-out or at least a temporary ban from her favorite treat, kale chips (how my wife accomplished this feat deserves its own post). But in this circumstance my daughter was absolutely right to respond the way she did.

During the last couple weeks of Lent, Avery was read several children’s books containing versions of the Easter story. All the hope of the resurrection only makes sense if there is first a death and that’s where reading the Easter story to kids gets complicated. How do we explain death? When Kati explained to Avery that Jesus had to die on the cross for our sins and that eventually everybody has to die. Avery didn’t like this and blurted out, “I never want to die! Never! None! Zero!” Avery knows already at three what every human being deep inside knows: death and decay seem unnatural. We should be able to live forever without ageing or loss of any kind…In fact the Bible supports Avery’s theological opinion. Ecclesiastes says that God has put eternity in our hearts. We as human beings weren’t intended to decay but the sin of distancing ourselves from God brought upon the curse of death….We try to make ourselves feel alive…

Yes, Scripture says that God has put eternity in our hearts, which means that we all know that we were never meant to die. When God made Adam and Eve, death was not part of the plan. But humanity rebelled against God’s leadership and said to Him, “We can live life better on our own!” God said in return, “Go right ahead.” Ever since the sin of rebellion entered the human race like a cancer, God has been on a rescue mission to get us back. But we keep trying to make our lives feel important by making money, impressing our peers, trying to be a good person and achieving things so people will say nice things about us. Deep inside we know we were meant for something good and beautiful and great. But often life seems like a constant drive to prove our worth and to do something that will make us feel valued, wanted and unforgettable. We are slaves to self-rejection. We live fearfully in everyday life and ultimately of death. My daughter Avery knows we were never meant to die: Never. None Zero. My wife Kati shared the good news of Easter with Avery: “Jesus was so kind that He took the cross so we could live forever…He’s working on a room for you right now…and we’ll live with Him forever.” How did Avery respond to this good news! “Yeah!!!!” Now that is the kind of response I’d like to hear from my congregation as we celebrate the truth of the resurrection each Sunday. Avery will be getting an extra serving of kale chips for such a great response!

A man pushed to the limits

It appears that viral stories don’t only belong to the sports world (remember Jeremy Lin?) or world criminals (Kony 2012 can be seen Sunday night March 18).

Now the business world has its own Twitter frenzy over the very public resignation of a key executive at Goldman Sachs, a man named Greg Smith. It’s already been parodied by The Daily Mash, likening the resignation of this multi-millionaire in the 1% Club to Darth Vader resigning from the Empire. But let’s listen for a moment and assume that Mr. Smith has something to speak into any organization, whether a business, a church, a not-for-profit or even a family. How do you know when the culture of the organization has gone awry? What would it take for you to confront your bosses, take a stand and even quit your position for moral reasons? What are the toxic areas in your workplace or organization? Are there any unhealthy patterns in your family or circle of friends that if they were public, you and others would be greatly embarrassed?

To make it more personal, ask yourself: What would it take to push me to take such a public stand against a wrong that I perceive? What are the consequences of me taking this stand? What are the consequences of me being silent? Do I have a right to speak even knowing that my own life is full of contradictions and imperfections?

Jesus calls His followers in Matthew 5:14 the “light of the world”. Where is God calling you to shine a light in your workplace, organization, church and family? That’s why knowing and living the 7-11 Principle is so important because without this clear call to live a life to bless the city, it’s easy to lose focus and think your job, art or circle of friends are all of your own doing and meant to bless your own life when we have a responsibility to help cities, organizations and relationships flourish the way God intended.

I hope you’ll take time to read Greg Smith’s letter and even the Darth Vader spoof and ask yourself some of these questions. Take a stab at writing your own secret letter that only you will see about some wrongs you know need to be righted and pray that you’ll have the courage to do something about it.

Meet one of the world’s most evil persons

Joseph Kony. Murder. Kidnapping. Rape. Enslavement. War atrocities. This is one of the worst human beings on the planet. But he continues to avoid capture and face prosecution for the damage he has caused to thousands of lives in Uganda and neighboring nations in Africa.

The Bridge will be showing a film by Invisible Children at Union Church on Sunday night, March 18, at 7pm. It’s free to come and we’re the only downtown church showing the film. Not only will you watch this film, but you’ll get to meet a Ugandan named Gabriel who is a survivor of the conflict and has had family members killed by the LRA. He has seen the horrific effects of Kony’s brutal rule. The goal of the of the night is to help bring attention to this terrible man who, like many other tyrants in the world, has avoided capture.

We will gather the downtown community to help the 45,000 people who live there know that churches care about justice because our God is a God of justice. In this Christian season of Lent, let’s not only fast from coffee, chocolate, carbs and all the other things that we should be giving up anyway. Let’s fast like Isaiah 58:

6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” (NIV)

We hope you will come and watch the film with us, hear from a Ugandan who is asking for our help, and learn about practical steps you can take to help bring Joseph Kony to justice for the atrocities he has committed. The event is free but you’ll have the opportunity to support Invisible Children through donations and buying merchandise that finances their good efforts to continue to get the word out.

If you’re not in L.A., then why don’t you host a screening of the film at your church, school or community event? Or get a group of friends together and watch the video online. Let’s help Invisible Children get the word out and bring a little glimpse of the ultimate justice that God will bring one day. I hope this film helps people understand the great injustices that are occurring throughout the world right now. If you have questions about Invisible Children and this campaign, please check out their FAQ page, the CNN interview and watch this video.

We’ll see you March 18 at 7pm.


The Princess of San Pedro Street

I just made that name up right now and my friend might kill me for it. You see, we’re just building a friendship recently because we both have a concern for our neighborhood. The Princess is a local resident who moved into a downtown loft that is adjacent to Skid Row and I am a pastor whose church in Little Tokyo is also adjacent to Skid Row. We’ve only met once but our budding friendship is not because we necessarily share the same faith (which I’m unsure of) or have all the same values (also unsure of). But we do share one thing in common: we want to see our neighborhood flourish.

The main thing I know about The Princess is that she REALLY cares about people and the neighborhood and is willing to take action to make the streets a healthier and more beautiful place for everybody. I used to call her the Tree Lady because she is a guerrilla gardener. That means she goes around and finds ugly areas around the neighborhood and plants gardens and trees there instead, with or without permission from the owners or the city. She got the city to put in dozens of more trash cans so that the local residents–loft dwellers and homeless alike–have more receptacles so trash doesn’t end up on the streets (yes, people who are homeless use trash cans as well!). She makes friends with those in her building and on the streets as well as various organizations with differing views. She enlists everybody’s help to beautify the neighborhood. The Tree Lady just didn’t seem to fit her essence. But “The Princess” has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

LApastor and The Princess are joining forces to help the neighborhood flourish anyway we can.

Visit her page and let her know LApastor gave her a shout-out.