A few years ago, I found myself in a time of profound spiritual emptiness. I’d been working in the church world for many years and my time of service was a period of sweet struggle. Crafting sermons, trying to make much of Jesus. Calling people to faith, and reminding those who found it to keep doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God.

But somewhere along the way ministry had become a job. Another waypoint in my efforts to save the world. I spent more time talking about God than talking to Him. More time describing God’s presence than bathing in it. I had become a travel agent pointing to God like a far-off tourist attraction when I should have been traveling there myself.

I tried to balance my increasing workload with budding writing opportunities, a juggling act that often left both efforts unfinished. I was moving bricks from one stack to another. Worse still, I was moving farther away from the God I wanted so badly to draw near to.

So I decided to take a journey to meet the God of the Bible. What I discovered is that Jesus often shows up in unexpected spaces. Here are four places I learned to encounter Jesus that may surprise you as much as they did me:

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Written by Jonathan