This morning I was pondering a string of posts friends had put on Facebook about Bible school. Their thinking at this stage of the game and such. Value and such. I was more the Dr. Seuss kind of guy when it came to school. “Why fit in if you were made to stand out.” (I did try. Only yesterday I was asked why I never went to business school. The answer is simply, I am a terrible student. I can ace a test, get my home work done and race through the books but the physical “school” is virtually impossible for me.) But this is not about school or Bible school or any thing of the sort. Just the seed that was sown in my vivid imagination following some words I had heard earlier. (“Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope.” Dr. Seuss. I love Dr. Seuss. I have 3 series of childrens’ books I would love to write if I had the time!)
I awoke this morning and what I heard was “looking for God in all the wrong places”. I know that folks will look for love in all the wrong places. Now why the thinking was triggered was because I came out of witchcraft. And my first experience with God was to be delivered. My next experience was through some school related teaching where I was to “stay away” from folks like that. I was young, naive and wanting to please. So, I did, leaving behind friends and family on many levels.
But one day I uncovered the scripture Romans 5:20 The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, I realized God could be found in a lot of the wrong places perhaps even all the wrong places!
I began to seek Him out. To uncover treasure in the midst of darkness, to discover “gold” in the “dirt” of life and release people from their prisons. A young man who had been a “body guard” of sorts to me in a former life met me one night in a small store front. I laid out the gospel and as he backed away to leave that kind of thinking behind, a mist filled the room as if steam was coming in. He fell to the floor and repented, confessing the Lord. A homosexual came to visit me one day to “call me out” and the presence of God appeared, delivering him and as he lay on the floor, he repented, confessing God. There is “gold in them thar hills”.
Had I adhered to the “party line” I would not have reached out to either of them. To the prostitute or the witch, to the prisoner or the imprisoner.
I began to look for God in all the wrong places. I entered establishments of “ill repute”, places of harshness and bitterness, delivering the word of God as I knew it. Let me be clear. I never went some place to live vicariously through the sins of another. To experience their depravity or to enjoy their pain. I went because I was finding God was to be found in all the “wrong places”. My looking also revealed the “heart of the Pharisee” in “Church circles” because no longer did I fit or looked like I “belonged”. (I rode a motorcycle, wore a leather coat and had long hair. Those are sins…)
My pursuit opened up lines of thinking that made me uncomfortable about scripture and conversations with others proved to be challenging as we worked through the dialogs. (Keep in mind there was no internet as we understand, or cell phone for a “life line” and no real books on “how to do it”. It was for the most part, “you and God”. (Clearly a quorum!)
Questions arose. “How do you get a stripper to leave her line of work if you are a man?” A question I posed to a friend who ministered with his wife in that realm. (”I stand outside and wait for the girls to bring her to the door. She has a coat on!”) Or my conversations with madams, prostitutes and strippers. Drug addicts and drunks. Witches and warlocks. Homosexuals and transsexuals. Bikers and brawlers. I had ex-cons appear who had killed, maimed and raped. (Some came to live with my wife and our children.)
God is to be found in His omniscience…EVERYWHERE! I have learned to “sniff” out His presence in the most difficult of situations. People ask, “how do you do that?” Unfortunately you have to experience that. Meaning you may find the witch in the Walmart.
And then you have to “figure” out what to do when they arrive. Jesus knew the disciples would not “do well” with the woman of five husbands or lovers. That they did not or would not understand the actions of a woman of the night breaking open an alabaster box. (Friends and I had dialogs about what do you do when the scantily clad stripper appears. Who will cover her sin and clothe her to avoid the embarrassment to her and to all?) And often they are not bathed, smell funny and may even be high or intoxicated.
The coming days will test us I am sure. Reveal our hearts. “Clarify” our theologies. Move our understandings left and right. Oh, yes they will.
When I was saved, I think I understood how Paul might have felt. “The man who killed Stephen. How can we trust him?” For such a long time pastors and believers had ringed my stores, physically showing up and praying, confronting me on my sin and my witchcraft. On my failure and misdeeds. I was confused. Who were these people? And then I got saved, soon showing up in one of the churches that had confronted me. Now many did not know what to do or how to deal with me. But some began to uncover the “God within” and walk me out of darkness. (But more questioned my salvation. Was I a witch in their midst?)
I get it. I am a dad, a grandfather, a minister and a husband. I want to protect my family.
Yet, I know I can find God anywhere and everywhere. A sniff, a glimmer, a rustle. I know His presence. I can see the wind of His presence in a shop of witchcraft. A vision in a den of darkness. I have sought for God in all the wrong places. Even many years ago when I went through a terrible time and was in a “wrong place”, I found Him (Or He found me.)and held on. He is there. Waiting.
Many years ago in cities and beaches of California, the word of God, the presence of the Father and the love of Jesus began to break out. Mightily. From the streets of darkness, lives flooded in. And lives were changed. Out of the ashes of the Vietnam War and from the drug dealers of Haight-Ashbury rose men and women. Lonnie Frisbee, Hal Lindsey and Chuck Smith. Explo ‘72 came forth. Baptizing thousands in the Pacific. God appeared. In the midst of communes, while taking drugs, God appeared in all the “wrong places”. The world was shifted. His heart revealed.
Lives changed, music changed, church changed, the world changed.
I am here to tell you we are over the edge of the revival so many have spoken of. Will you be able to accept God can appear anywhere, any time?
God is appearing in all the wrong places. Imams and dictators have seen His face. Perhaps no theology study prepares us for the changes. My thinking is simple. Follow Jesus.
Wrong places are becoming right places. Jesus is bring His life to the broken, the desolate and the depraved. How much more could we ask?