Late Night Worship: Joy Edition

We designed a service at 1208GREENWOOD that has very little planning involved. It starts at 9 at night and ends 2 hours later. The band shows up last minute, plugs in their instruments and plays through whatever 10 songs or so were chosen beforehand without any practice. For some churches this is every worship leader’s nightmare, but for us it’s a thing of spontaneity, freedom and beauty.

This past Wednesday I had to sit in on drums, which meant I had to find someone willing to lead the music. I called up my good friend Dan Prout, who leads worship at another church down the road. He agreed and took us into the holy of holies.

About half an hour into the set, holy laughter hit a few of the worshippers. Every time we ended a song, you could hear people cracking up loudly over our guitarist’s foot-pedal-ambience.

Now I’m not one who screams or cheers loudly at any event. I usually clap my hands while giving a quiet, high-pitched “woooooo.” But one point during this session of late night worship, I could not help but feel this desire bubble up inside of me to yell, “YEAAAAAHHHH!!!”

While I do have some Pentecostal blood in me, I am not typically one who makes a lot of noise like that. In fact, I’m sometimes confused as to why other people in the room do such things. I’m not put-off by it or anything, I just never really understood it.

Until now.

There it was—this noise deep within me—and I just wanted to let it out, right then and there in that quiet moment we were having. I ended up waiting until I was smashing some cymbals to finally let it out, but it felt good. On top of this, this screaming desire came on a night where I wasn’t even feeling particularly focused in worship, perhaps making it all the more genuine.

This service presented many people with a great experience of God’s joy—something that I sometimes lose behind the seriousness of slow, meditative music (not that such music is bad or anything). I now have a better understanding of how the Holy Spirit manifests joy in our lives at times.

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Free Book: Random Musings on Worship

I recently released a new free book for download. You can download it for yourself on your iPad or on iBooks for those of you running Mavericks on your Mac. Click here to check it out.

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God, oh God, Who Are You?

“God, oh God, who are You?”
The ages have cried in fear
Trembling below mountains and storms
That cover the atmosphere

This being in the sky
That sees us day and night
Who, just, oh Who, are You?

For we’ve cowered in corners
And slipped through the broken walls
To find a shady place of solitude
Where Your eyes may strain to see us

But we know we can’t hide

For you see all things
The complexity of what makes us, us
And the minuscule details that
No lover would ever pick up on
Even after the summation
Of a life spent together

You know us in an instant
And in fullness
Our secrets
Our pains
Our brokenness
Our cares
Our desires
Our loves

Yet we know so little about You

Millenniums of life
Have brought us progressive revelation
New glimpses into the richness of who You are
But we in all of our knowledge can only create
So much of a systematic theology
Before we’re left speculating
Upon Your wonders

“God, oh God, who are You?”

You know us well
But we know You in comparison
Like a grain of sand on the beach
A trickle of water in the ocean
Stardust in the galaxy

And it’s here in our smallness and humility
That we tremble and shake
Expecting words like daggers
To echo through the skies

If You would speak
What would You say?
If you were wrapped in skin
What would you do?

Surely something awful…
Would You not?

But crimson letters on pages
Spell out a different story
Blood-soaked words of love
Crying out with the pangs of death
And the beauty of life

They write out a description
Of a God wrapped in skin
Of how flesh would look
If God was found within

And these words in their beauty
Paint a portrait for the question

“God, oh God, who are You?”

And it’s there I find that my God is a God
Who cares about celebration
A God who changes His plan
At the simple request of His mortal virgin mother

“Jesus, they have no wine.”

My God is a God who enjoys a good story
A God who writes classic literature about
Enemies caring for one another
Of women and lost coins
Of kings and unforgiving servants
Of virgins and bridegrooms and lamps
And of people burying money

He is a God who speaks in riddles
Beckoning His listeners to chase after Him
A God who speaks truths in ways
That will attract the hungry 

“Would You like living water?
You will never thirst again”

My God is a God who cares about the brokenness
A God who cares about repair so much
That His judgment is in regards to our ability
To serve such broken people

He is a God found in the desperateness of the beggar
A God who feels the cold sting of the naked
A God who knows the loneliness of the sick
And recognizes the prison walls of the encapsulated

He is a God who is served
When we serve people such as these

And He is a God who chooses to serve us
Both good and bad
For it rains on all people
The just and the unjust

He is not beyond washing our feet
And He displays His wonders to those in need

My God is a God who takes time for His people
Even when overwhelmed by the death of a friend
He stops for the groups that chase after Him
Saying “Welcome, have a seat
There is enough for all 9,000 of you”

He shows unbiased love to the prostitutes
He invites to dinner those who steal
He touches the untouchables
Loves the unlovables
And reaches out for a woman threatened with stones

This is God in skin
Despite His aversion to sin
This is God in flesh
Despite the purity and perfection
That clothes Him in white

My God is a God who heals
A God who watches sores fall off
And legs to walk
After decades of inactivity
A God who reveals the beauty of His creation
To a man blind from birth
And a God who brings cold, dead bodies
Back to life with tears in His eyes

For my God is a God who cries
A God who is full of strength
But knows emotion well

A God who can beat every trial
Yet is still familiar with temptation

My God is a God who imagined a different world
Full of unrelenting, never-ending, unadulterated love
A world so backwards from this one
That we knew He must have been from there

It is a world that called Him to obedience
Even if it meant a heavy wooden cross
A world that said there was more to life than life itself

For in His imagination, He pictured a place
Where nails and thorns
And slivers and blood
And spears and scars
And death…

All made sense

For the torn skin of the holy one
Taught us that death is not the end in this kingdom
For he holds its keys in His hand

We take a step back to ask once again
“My God, oh my God, who are You?”

And as a haze is removed
We see you in the beauty of the light of Jesus

You Are Love

Passage: John 5:19-20

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel.

Dear Hit-and-Runner

Dear Hit-and-Runner,

Yesterday morning you managed to run a stop sign and crash into my wife’s vehicle, leaving both her and our four-month old stranded on the side of the road. We have witnesses, we have statements, a description of your car, and a piece of your headlight that you left behind at the scene.

Obviously you did us wrong—once by hitting my family, and twice by fleeing the scene. Justice has not been carried out.

But I am here to tell you something bold. Something so bold, even some of my Christian brothers and sisters will be upset with me.

I forgive you.

I forgive you for leaving my family behind at the scene without checking on them and I have chosen to not consider the “what-ifs.” “What if my wife had been injured?” “What if my son had been thrashed around?” The good news is (and I thank God for this) that my family is fine. Sure, my wife felt the after-effects of the event later that night, but altogether she’s doing well. I am not going to hold the what-ifs against you because that’s all they are: “what-ifs.” In this case, contemplating them would only make me  pointlessly angry.

I forgive you for the damage you did to our car. It’s not covered by our insurance and will cost a bit of money to fix—more money than we’re willing to invest in it actually. It is fortunate we have acknowledged the fact that we may need a new car over the next few years and that the idea of buying one was not a complete and total surprise. Though you have forced our hand to do this while we are not in the greatest financial state, I still choose to forgive you.

I’ve been told that if we could find you, we would be able to sue you up to a thousand dollars—but neither my wife or I want to do that. As I try to put myself in your shoes, it seems to me that you must be in a difficult financial state of your own. Since you fled the scene, my guess is you do not have the proper insurance to cover the accident (or that you’re covering yourself for some other reason). Therefore, my family does not wish to make your financial state any more difficult than it currently is, even if we do have the full authority to do so. As I put myself in your shoes, I realize I too have ran stop signs and driven recklessly at times. As I put myself in your shoes, I see myself as having the capacity to be like you. As Henri Nouwen says:

“Compassion grows with the inner recognition that your neighbor shares your humanity with you. This partnership cuts through all walls that might have kept you separate. Across all barriers of land and language, wealth and poverty, knowledge and ignorance, we are one. Created from the same dust, subject to the same to the same laws, and destined for the same end. With this compassion you can say, “In the face of the oppressed, I recognize my own face. And in the hands of the oppressor, I recognize my own hand. Their flesh is my flesh. Their blood is my blood. Their pain is my pain. Their smile is my smile. Their ability to torture is in me too. Their capacity to forgive I find also in myself. There is nothing in me that does not belong to them too. Nothing in them that does not belong to me. In my heart I know they’re yearning for love and down to my entrails, I can feel their cruelty. In another’s eyes I see my plea for forgiveness and in a hardened frown I see my refusal. When someone murders, I know that I too could have done that. And when someone gives birth I know that I am capable of that as well. In the depths of my being I meet my fellow humans with whom I share love and have life and death.”

Obviously, what you did was not right, and I hope that you will not do it again should you find yourself in a similar situation. But regardless of what you did, my Savior Jesus calls me to appeal to the backwards politics of the Kingdom of Heaven and extend to you the grace, mercy, and forgiveness that you don’t deserve. He points to the cross and reminds me of the bloodshed on my behalf even though I didn’t deserve it—even though I put the nails through those hands. He asks me to turn the other cheek, to offer you my cloak, and to go the extra mile. He draws in the dust that makes up my life and asks me if I am without sin.

I drop my stone.

I forgive you.

And I ask my Savior to do the same.

May you be blessed and come to know (or rediscover) the great love of the cross,

-Jamin Bradley

SERVE: A Mini Documentary

I spent many, many hours this past week making a documentary on the Biblical importance of serving. I know you come to blogs to find short little tidbits of info, but I hope you might be inspired to give it a quick look :)

Ministry Amidst the Crack Addicts

It was tonight in Athens, Greece that I saw God’s grace be about as blatant as it could be. After worshipping with the Greeks in Greek for about an hour, we packed up bags of blankets and a giant container of soup and headed out to a rundown part of the city.

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The curbs were lined with litter as people sat along the sides of buildings. We plugged in a speaker, set up a table and got ready to go to work. Some of us handed out food while others of us got to know the people who were there—and if we got a chance, we prayed for them.

These were the drug addicts of the town. I’m not just guessing on this. I watched a good amount of them light up right in front of me. Cops don’t really go down to this area and it seemed that people didn’t really care much for these people in general. But here was this group of Christians that we were working with that makes it a point to go to this place every Thursday to show them God’s love.

There are no homeless shelters here. Just Christians loving the homeless—despite the fact that they will take their food and then go smoke crack right next to them. These Christians weren’t there to judge, just to care for those God loves. Many of these people took Bibles. Others grabbed pamphlets that gave a quick look at who Jesus was. And everyone was busy trying to engage them and love on them unconditionally.

We heard some difficult stories and prayed some good prayers. I think we even saw some physical healing happen. It was a powerful chance to see the grace and love of God stare right into the souls of addicts.

It reminded me of a story Robbie Dawkins shared in the documentary “Furious Love.” He spoke of a dream God gave him one night—a dream in which there were people in his church having sex in the pews and doing drugs and doing just about everything wrong you could think of. He finally told them to leave and God asked him why he would send away the people he sent them.

It’s a powerful reminder of the love and grace God has extended to us and the mercy we must extend to others.

See more pics and keep up with what we’re doing on our Facebook page.

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