Dr. Guillen: As Christians, we’re called to have a relationship with Jesus. Ask Him questions; He has answers. Don’t worry about it. He’s not going to be mad at you because you’re asking questions. That’s how you develop a deep, meaningful relationship with Jesus.
Where Do You Find God? Dr. Michael Guillen and Larry Fleet – Episode #268
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. When talking about the concept of faith, the Bible tells us that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” [Hebrews 11]. Even though we can’t literally see God, the Bible also tells us that when we seek God, we will find Him [1 Chronicles 28:9]. The ways we seek and find God in the midst of our lives can look different from one person to another. One may study everything they can about how the world came into being, just to get a glimpse of the mind of God. Others may look for the moments in their lives where they felt God was in their corner, through a circumstance that worked out better than they could have imagined, or a seeming answer to a long whispered prayer. The truth remains that even though we can’t see our Creator, we can know Him, believe in Him, and build a relationship with Him wherever we find ourselves in life.
Our two guests this week have cemented their faith in God through different avenues—one, a scientist whose devotion to figuring out the secrets of the universe led him to believe in a divine Creator, and another who shares with others through music all the places and situations where we might find God. We’ll talk to EMMY Award-winning journalist and former physics instructor Dr. Michael Guillen, and country music singer and songwriter of the song “Where I Find God,” Larry Fleet.
Dr. Michael Guillen: I’m Dr. Michael Guillen, also known as Dr. G. I’m a Christian, a follower of Jesus. I’m a scientist by training. I taught physics at Harvard for about nine years. I was the science editor for ABC News for fourteen years, I did Good Morning America, Nightline, 20/20, and so forth. I speak on college campuses all over the world about science and the Bible.
I was born in East Los Angeles. I’m five-eighths Mexican and two-eighths Spanish-Cuban and one-eighth Austrian, go figure. But my father and my two grandfathers were Spanish-speaking Pentecostal ministers. So we went to church, you know, seven days a week. And everyone expected that I’d follow in my dad’s and my grandfather’s footsteps and become a Pentecostal minister. My dad and my grandfathers used to preach for a couple of hours and we were expected to sit in the pew and behave, you know, otherwise, my mom would pinch us or give us a little—in Spanish, we call it chatatón, just a little kind of a little slap on the head. And so I guess growing up, I don’t want to use the word forced to go to church because it just sounds—that has negative connotations. But I didn’t go to church because I wanted to. It was just what my family did. So I never really owned it. I never really owned that religion. I did what I was supposed to do.
But at the age of seven, I remember so clearly I was in the second grade, I fell in love with science, which made me a real oddball in my family because no one in my family had ever become a scientist or anything close to it. As a kid, I had a little chemistry lab in the garage. My dad let me build it in the corner, in the back corner, and I marveled that my dad actually allowed me to do that. And I credit him to this day. God bless him.
So as I said, I was quite the oddball, you know, and quite the little nerd from a very, very young age. But you know what? My interest in science, as unlikely as it was, got me out of the barrio. And I went from East Los Angeles to UCLA, where I was an undergraduate, majored in physics and math, and then on to Cornell for my graduate studies, and then on to Harvard, where, as I said, I taught physics for the better part of nine years and beyond that. So it’s been quite a life, far, far away from East Los Angeles.
Is Seeing Really Believing?
Looking back on my life, science was what defined me. It was at the very core of what I did and what I thought and what I studied and also what I believed. And, you know, I say that I was an atheist by the time I got to grad school, despite my very strict religious upbringing, by which I mean I was studying the universe, studying things that I could lay my hands on or my eyes on.
So atheism comes in lots of different denominations. When I say atheism, it’s basically the belief that “I see the universe without God.” God is not a necessary part of that worldview. And so that was kind of the way I was. I was just so preoccupied with studying the universe. That’s what fascinated me. God wasn’t on my radar. He wasn’t in the picture. My worldview was based on the notion that seeing was believing. What I believed in was what I could see with my own eyes, you know what I’m saying?
“God wasn’t on my radar. He wasn’t in the picture. My worldview was based on the notion that seeing was believing. What I believed in was what I could see with my own eyes.” – Dr. Michael Guillen
Even though science was in a sense the core of my atheism, it’s what led me towards my atheism by the time I got to grad school. Two things happened, and that is, number one, I learned really, really in-depth how amazing the universe really is. I mean, through and through you can appreciate a beautiful sunset and marvel at how beautiful the world is. But I see past even that beauty to even more layers of beauty. I know what makes the sunset multicolored. I know what makes the rainbow. So in grad school, I really started diving deeply into my study of the universe. It was really the first time I understood how thoroughly beautiful the universe was. That’s number one.
Number two, I discovered something that really shocked me, and that is that the universe we live in is actually mostly invisible. Most of it, ninety-five percent of it, we now believe it consists of dark matter and dark energy. And I won’t get into the technical details except to say that both dark matter and dark energy are things we have never laid eyes on. That’s why we call them dark. They’re invisible. We don’t even really know what they are. We’ve just given them a name. But those names are placeholders for things we don’t understand. We can’t even prove to you that they’re there.
Well, that was huge because I lived by the motto “seeing is believing,” that the only thing I believed in was what I could see, that I could experiment with, that I could lay my eyes or my hands on. As a scientist, that’s fundamental, right? Well, now, all of a sudden, ninety-five percent of the universe is invisible to me. I can’t see it. So am I still to believe in it?
I realized that that for me was if you will, a crisis moment in my life. So I started asking myself a really simple question. How did this thoroughly beautiful universe—I mean, beautiful from the microscopic to the astronomical levels—how did it come to be? How did this amazing, mostly invisible universe come to be? And, you know, science offered me an answer, you know, the Big Bang model, the variations of the Big Bang model. And I bought into it.
An Encounter with the Bible Changes Everything
After a while, I just realized, you know, I was being a fraud. I saw myself as an intellectual, as someone pursuing truth. And that just didn’t smack like the truth. That just sounded like a copout. An elegant copout, you know, really beautiful, but a copout anyway.
And so through a series of circumstances, I started exploring other worldviews, you know, worldviews that were bigger than the scientific worldview. I started studying Hinduism. I got into that. I started getting into Buddhism, Confucianism. I got into Islam, Judaism.
Then one day something happened that in retrospect, truly changed my life. And that is I went home to my dorm. You know, typically I slept about three hours a day, and the rest of the time I was in my lab. So on this particular day, just like any other day, I was going back to my dorm at about 3:00 in the morning. It was dark and quiet. Everybody else was asleep. And as I opened the door to my dorm room, I heard a scraping sound, and I looked down and I saw a white envelope with my name on it underneath the door. I picked it up and I opened it up. And it was a Valentine’s Day card and it was signed by somebody named Laurel. And it took me a moment with that. Oh, yeah, there was a Laurel who was a student of mine in a physics class I had taught two years earlier.
I was confused because I didn’t even know it was Valentine’s Day. I mean, when I say I was a nerd, I mean, I was a scientific monk. I lived, breathed, ate, drank science. So I didn’t know if it was a weekday or weekend. It didn’t matter to me. I had no social life. I had no girlfriend. But I tracked her down just to say ‘thanks’, and we got to talking, and I was very impressed with her.
We just started talking. I was spending a little less time in the lab and a little more time with Laurel. And this was a whole new experience for me. And I kind of told her about my journey, my search for answers to why this universe was so amazing and so invisible. And she recounted that she was raised Catholic and that her mom had left the Catholic faith. And so we found that we had a lot in common.
One day she asked me, “Have you ever read the Bible? You know, you’ve done Hinduism, Buddhism, all this stuff. Have you ever read the Bible?”
I said “No, actually, no. The Bible just seems very familiar to me because I was brought up with the Bible as a child, and I just don’t feel like it has anything to teach me.”
She didn’t argue with me. But some short while later, she said something to me like, “Well, you know, I haven’t read the Bible either. But if you read it, I’ll read it with you.”
I really believed at that moment, at that very moment, God was reaching out to me through Laurel to kind of reel me in. It took us two years to read the Bible. It’s really quite an amazing story because by the end of it—and it was a long process—I chose to become a Christian and it wasn’t a “road to Damascus” moment for me. I was a thick-headed, stubborn intellectual and in some ways I still am. So it took me actually many, many years, decades actually, to finally surrender my life.
But that encounter with that Bible, that was my first authentic—even though I was brought up as a child with a Bible—encounter with the Bible, as a thinking adult, as a scientist, as a skeptic, as a cynic, as an atheist. And boy, it turned my life upside down.
“I was a thick-headed, stubborn intellectual and in some ways I still am. So it took me actually many, many years, decades actually, to finally surrender my life. But that encounter with that Bible, that was my first authentic—even though I was brought up as a child with a Bible—encounter with the Bible, as a thinking adult, as a scientist, as a skeptic, as a cynic, as an atheist. And boy, it turned my life upside down.” – Dr. Michael Guillen
God Is In The Details of the Universe
In a nutshell, the Bible teaches who created the universe and why. Science teaches me the wonderful details about the universe God created. And because of the Bible and science, I have the blessing of having a very deep understanding of both the Creator and the creation. The fact is science and the Bible are like Laurel and me. You know, we’ve been married going on thirty years. Do we have disagreements? Yeah, you bet we do. And some of them are real doozies. But when it comes to the fundamentals, Laurel and I see eye to eye. That’s the way science and the Bible are. They have their disagreements, but they’re superficial. If you do your homework, you’ll discover that when it comes to the fundamentals, they see eye to eye.
“In a nutshell, the Bible teaches who created the universe and why. Science teaches me the wonderful details about the universe God created. And because of the Bible and science, I have the blessing of having a very deep understanding of both the Creator and the creation.” – Dr. Michael Guillen
I also believe that both the Bible and science are gifts, they’re gifts from God to help us understand not just Him, but His creation. You know, 1 Peter 3:15 says this: “Worship Christ as Lord of your life.” But there’s more, it says, “And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.” Okay? Now when I’m confronted by a skeptic or worse, a cynic, I can explain my worldview by citing the Bible and my personal testimony. Right? But I can also explain my worldview by citing the scientific evidence for my Christian worldview. And that’s powerful, especially in today’s day and age.
So the way I look at it, I’m this little kid from East L.A., this little Mexican kid from East L.A., and that God had placed that love of science in my heart so many years ago for a time such as this. That’s why I speak and write books and host a podcast and appear on TV to help my fellow Christians and atheists alike understand this one thing, that God is real, not just because the Bible says so, and not just because He radically changed my life, but also because the scientific evidence says so.
“God is real, not just because the Bible says so, and not just because He radically changed my life, but also because the scientific evidence says so.” – Michael Guillen
Know What You Believe
My ministry is all about equipping believers with answers to questions maybe they don’t think about asking or don’t dare to ask or feel that it’s inappropriate to ask. I’ve asked those questions. Guess what? I’m going to equip you with powerful answers that you can use to explain your faith to even the hardest-nosed cynic. And to atheists out there, I’m challenging them. Why do you believe what you believe? Why do you believe God is not part of your worldview? Why do you believe that the universe is an accident? I’m challenging them with my questions and my answers.
My ministry is all about providing the questions and answers that I have bothered to ask throughout my life that you may not want to ask to reassure you that there is a God, God is real, He’s not a figment of the human imagination, and there is powerful, powerful, powerful scientific evidence for that fact.
I can’t tell you how excited I am and how grateful I am to have this opportunity to speak to your listeners. I have a lot of respect for Jesus Calling. My wife has been reading the devotions for a long time, and now I am too. I feel like Sarah Young is a kindred spirit. You know, she was an intellectual like I am, and she was a daughter of a college professor, you know, studied philosophy, psychology, and so forth. And it was her kind of intellectualism that led her into the faith. But then finally, she surrendered her entire self, you know, mind, body, and spirit. And that’s my story. I think of Romans 12:2 where it says, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” And I love that Sarah Young, this intellectual, used her mind, and God used her mind to draw her to Him. And God did the very same thing to me in my life. And so I just really value Jesus Calling, that ministry, and that devotion.
You know, Jesus calls us to be one people because we are all each of us, no matter what the color of your skin is, no matter who you are, what you are, you are a child of God. You were made in the image of God, and God loves us and God calls us to Himself. We need to love this divided world. And that is my prayer right now, that each of us Christians who call ourselves Christians will really step up and behave like true, authentic Christians. Love God with everything you’ve got, including your mind, and then love one another.
“Love God with everything you’ve got, including your mind, and then love one another.” – Dr. Michael Guillen
Narrator: You can find Dr. Guillen’s new book, Believing Is Seeing, wherever books are sold.
We’ll be right back after this brief message.
Available for Pre-Order: New 365-Day Prayer Devotional from Sarah Young!
Many of us want to develop a deeper prayer life. In this new 365-day prayer devotional, Jesus Listens, Sarah Young offers daily prayers based on Scripture that will help you experience how intentional prayer can connect you to God and change your heart. Learn more about Jesus Listens and download a free sample at jesuscalling.com/jesuslistens.
Narrator: Larry Fleet grew up loving music, which started when he played hymns and gospel music in church. Eventually, Larry found his way to Nashville to pursue a career in music where he had some ups and downs and wondered if he would ever “make it” as a full-time country musician. But after forming a friendship with Jake Owen and penning a deeply personal song about all the places you can find God, Larry found meaning in sharing this important message through song—one that he had waited a lifetime to express.
Larry: My name is Larry Fleet. I’m a country music singer/songwriter. I live in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and have been at it for a long time and finally just getting some success out of it. I’m just a good old country boy from Tennessee.
I grew up in a little town called White Bluff, Tennessee, which was right on the Cheatham County and Dickson County line outside of Nashville. And whenever I was growing up, I got a lot of inspiration from family members who would play music, gospel music, stuff like that after church, and that’s what I wanted to do at a very young age, I wanted to learn how to play, too. And I caught on pretty quick.
My Uncle Jim taught me how to play music. And that’s what I remember, getting off the school bus and running home and getting in the house and grabbing my guitar. And we had this old stump out in front of the house, I guess they cut a tree down. I’d sit on that stump out by the road and pick my guitar. And I only really knew a few chords, you know, but I remember loving it so much. That’s what I looked forward to, was getting off the bus and playing music. It was bluegrass and gospel. So, you know, as a kid, I don’t think I really realized that it was gospel music, that’s just all I knew and that’s what I knew how to play. So I’d always play just old hymns and stuff like that.
“As a kid, I don’t think I really realized that it was gospel music. That’s just all I knew and that’s what I knew how to play. So I’d always play just old hymns and stuff like that.” – Larry Fleet
Construction has kind of always been in my life because my dad worked in the concrete business and still does to this day. And so when I was growing up, that’s kind of what we knew. Dad worked a lot of crazy hours and worked in the concrete business. So he had always kind of taught me and my brother that if you know some skills in a trade, that you’ll never go hungry, you can always find work, you know, no matter what’s going on, and that’s true. And one of the coolest things is for me building something from nothing and then when you’re done, you can look at something that you’ve done, which is kind of like writing songs, too, you start with an idea or nothing, you know, and you end up with a cool song. Or maybe it’s not a good song, but you end up with something you can look back on.
I’ve always liked that about whatever I’m doing, I want to be able to see what I’ve done. And so my song, “Where I Find God,” it’s got a cool little background. So we would go to church and when I would get home from church, I would listen to the songs or maybe I was playing at church or something. But whatever song we were doing at church that day, I started coming home after church and I would play the song and video it or whatever and put it on Instagram and Facebook. And I started calling it Gospel Song Sunday, and it was just a thing that, you know, it’s cool for me to do.
So I did it and the first week was pretty cool, well the next week it got a little bigger, and it got a little bigger each and every week. And so I said, “This is turning into something,” you know, so I really kind of dove in it.
Well, one of my favorite writers of all time, her name is Connie Harrington, and she wrote, “I Drive Your Truck” for Lee Brice and some stuff for Blake Shelton. She’s a great songwriter. She always writes just really meaningful type songs. And she actually reached out to me, and she said, “Hey, I really like this Gospel Song Sunday thing you’re doing, and I really like your voice and I just want to meet you, I wanna write a song with you.” And so we talked for a few minutes, we had some coffee, and she said, “I’ve got this idea. You know, I was watching your Gospel Song Sunday, and I’ve got this idea, and it’s called ‘Where I Find God,’ and it’s just about all the different places that you talk to God or you find God.”
I said, “I love it. I can tell you right now where I do most of my praying and talking to God, that’s in a deer stand or a hayfield or on a boat, you know, like whenever I’m outside. I do a lot of driving from Chattanooga to Nashville a lot, and that’s kind of where I talk to God.”
So we started compiling all the different places that for her and for me that we talked to God, or we found God. And we put it all together and we wrote that song in about two or three hours or something like that.
“I can tell you right now where I do most of my praying and talking to God, that’s in a deer stand or a hayfield or on a boat—whenever I’m outside. I do a lot of driving from Chattanooga to Nashville a lot, and that’s kind of where I talk to God.” – Larry Fleet
So I went in there and I just really laid it down because I didn’t have a record deal. I didn’t have anything. And so I just sang my heart out on this little demo. And it got pushed around town and they put it on hold for Luke Bryan instantly. My first real big thing, you know, with a big artist. And so he had it for a long time. And a lot of people are talking about it. And I thought, Man, there’s something special about this song. And I started playing it every time I would go out on any kind of big stage, a few thousand people. I’d play it and [got] the same reaction every single night, a standing ovation. People come up to me afterward saying, “Hey, man, you know, what is this song? Where can I find it?”
I’m like, “It’s not out,” you know? And so I knew I was onto something then.
There were so many comments coming in, and the thing is, it’s just thousands of them and people are leaving their testimony. If somebody came and said, “Hey, your song changed my life,” that is about the best compliment you can get as a songwriter. One of the things that I hope and pray for too is that I do a good job of delivering the songs in a positive way. Honestly, a lot of times I pray before I go on stage just to calm my nerves. I get really nervous. One thing that I really pray about is that I’m delivering the message and doing what God wants me to do, the way He wants me to do it.
“One of the things that I hope and pray for too is that I do a good job of delivering the songs in a positive way. Honestly, a lot of times I pray before I go on stage just to calm my nerves.” – Larry Fleet
Get in the Word
Every morning when I get up, I can always tell when I get in the Word my day is better. So I try to make it a point to get up every morning, and I don’t always do it, but I try to get up before the kids get up and stuff and kind of dive in. And I’m familiar with Jesus Calling. We have a couple of books and I’ve listened to the podcast. Any time you can read the Word and you can get into something positive like that it starts your day off right, it gets your mind where it needs to be. You get around a lot of negative stuff going on every day, and that’s kind of the way that I bring myself out of it and try to be positive is to get in the Word.
Narrator: Larry wraps his time with us by reading a passage from Jesus Calling dated May 23rd.
APPROACH EACH NEW DAY with desire to find Me. Before you get out of bed, I have already been working to prepare the path that will get you through this day. There are hidden treasures strategically placed along the way. Some of the treasures are trials, designed to shake you free from earth shackles. Others are blessings that reveal My Presence: sunshine, flowers, birds, friendships, answered prayer. I have not abandoned this sin-wracked world; I am still richly present in it. Search for deep treasure as you go through this day. You will find Me all along the way.
If you’d like to hear more stories about people finding God no matter their circumstances, check out our interview with Luke Pell.
Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, we speak with editor-in-chief of Guideposts Magazine, Edward Grinnan, who shares how God led him out of an addiction to alcohol and living in the streets to starting a career at Guideposts as an assistant editor.
Edward Grinnan: I realized that the bargain that God was offering me was, “I brought you to Guideposts and I want you here. In exchange, I will help you with your sobriety and you will help Me with Guideposts.” And that was the bargain I struck in 1986 or so, and it’s the bargain I’m keeping to even today.