God Is After You
(Please listen to Joseph’s story by clicking the white play button at the top of this post. You can read the transcript of the story below.)
My name is Joseph and I used to be a Buddhist, actually. A practicing Buddhist for about 19-20 years, very devout. But when I was 15 years old, I came home from school one day and my dad’s closet was emptied out and he kind of left the house. I didn’t know where he was, or if he would even come back. Later on, I found out that he had cheated on my mom and ran off because of shame. So when I was 15, I started going to 21 and above clubs; getting in with fake IDs, and just binge drinking. Then when I was 17, I went backpacking around Europe and I came back a huge pothead. Marijuana just led to other drugs. But it wasn’t till I was 19 years old, and got in a relationship with a girl. I fell in love with her. She fell in love with me. It was our first love. And we were even talking about marriage. One day, she came to me and said, “Hey, I feel like God told me to break up with you.” I was like, “What?” She said, “God told me to break up with you.” First of all, God wasn’t even in the picture. That wasn’t even a thing beforehand. But the day she broke up with me, God started coming after me. God started coming after me. It was wild.
I didn’t really have a place to stay at the time. And a friend of a friend’s boyfriend invited me at three in the morning, and I was on his couch. He was the first person that shared the gospel with me. It was the first person that shared why Jesus died for me. It was the first person that shared why God loved me. He was the first person that shared a clear presentation of the Good News in a way that I was able to respond to it. He told me that the creator of the world can be my best friend and that it was about a relationship. I was like, Wow, okay. That’s intense. Really? And as I was listening for the first time, never really heard this stuff before, I remember making a conscious decision… Nah, I don’t want that.
I left this house the next morning. I went to Houston actually, to spend some time with my friends, longboarding. So we’re smoking a joint in a parking garage. I passed to one of my best friends who was the biggest pothead out of all of us. He was just–it was his state of mind. He wouldn’t go take a test in class without being high. So we get to my friend, pass it to him, and he goes, “Nah, man. I don’t smoke anymore.” Like what? Come on, dude. He goes, “Nah, Nah, man. I don’t smoke anymore.” I was like, “What are you talking about?” So all my friends are dogging him like, blah, blah, blah, blah, bah. “What do you mean you don’t smoke anymore?” He’s like, “I’m a Christian now.” What??? You’re a Christian? Everyone’s making fun of him like, Oh, you’re a goody two shoes now…whatever.
For me, I had remembered the conversation I just had with the guy the night before. He looked me straight in the eye, before I left this house saying, “God is after you. God is after you. And you know how I know that? It’s because before you came to my house I was praying, “God, would You show me someone You want to get to know today?” And you’re the only one that showed up. You’re the only one I met!” And I’m like, “Yeah, sure enough.” You know, I–I showed up at his front steps. He told me God was after me. And I was freaking out. I didn’t know what that meant. I kept looking behind my shoulder like, What? What? God is after me? And here I am in this parking garage, thinking, Oh, no. God’s got my best friend. Oh crap, I’m next.
A week later from this experience. I was watching a TV screen and beautiful mountains and valleys and rivers–just bird’s eye view and I loved it. I didn’t know what it was. I was high, but then all of the sudden a blue screen comes on and in white letters it says something like, “God loves you.” It stays there for a few seconds and flashes off like nothing happened. It goes back to this beautiful rivers and mountains and valleys. I’m like man, What? Looking around….”Anybody see that?” I actually took it offensively like, “What do you mean God? How dare You tell me You love me?” And then I realized I was arguing with this fake god of mine that is after me, that I didn’t believe in. Then all of the sudden fear struck my heart. Oh my gosh, what if there is a God that’s after me and He loves me? And I start freaking out–How did You find me?
It wasn’t until four months later, after my encounter with this man who shared Jesus with me…I had fallen into a deep depression and ended up contemplating suicide. I remember being in my dorm room at three in the afternoon, ready to end things. I had nothing else to lose. But then I remembered this person telling me about Jesus, four months prior. And he would ask, “Have you ever prayed about it? Have you ever prayed? Have you ever prayed?” And I’m like, “Prayer? I don’t know what prayer is. What are you talking about?” And he’s like, “Yeah, prayer. It’s just talking to God. Sharing from what’s in your heart. Not only will He listen, but He will speak back to you.” And I said, “Here, here goes nothing!” I threw the covers above my head. I didn’t know how to pray. I closed my eyes, clenched my fist real tight and just said, “Hi God, my name is Joseph. How are you doing today?”
I didn’t hear anything immediately. I didn’t. But then all sudden, I remember he said, “Keep pressing in. Share the things in your heart. He already knows, but just tell Him.” So I just started talking and pressing in and all the sudden, I felt a voice…My own thoughts are going one way. Then I heard another voice going another way, that wasn’t my own. I ended up having an hour long conversation with God. He spoke so closely and personal to me about my mom and my dad. Spoke personally about the girl I was in a relationship with who I was so heartbroken over and still loved. All I knew was that I reached out to Jesus and He spoke back to me. I wasn’t looking for a way to get out of hell or into heaven. I was just looking for the truth, looking for what’s real.
I’ve talked to Buddha many times and other gods many times. I’ve never heard them speak back to me. But the first time I ever talked to Jesus, I heard a voice that wasn’t my own. And Jesus spoke back to me. I said, “Okay, well, Jesus, You must be real.” No one prayed a prayer for me. I just believed in my heart in that moment and said, “Okay, God, my life’s not my own. I’m gonna follow You. I want to learn what that even looks like.” And from that day, I’ve decided to follow Jesus. There’s no turning back.
There’s no turning back.
When I heard a voice that wasn’t my own, and I felt the presence of God–I didn’t have language for that, but it was a presence that was in the room with me and I heard Him speak back to me. I remember feeling so much peace and joy over my life. I threw the covers off of me and jumped out and screamed at the top of my lungs saying, “God is real!!! God, You’re real!”
It was crazy. Oh my gosh, He’s real. It’s all real. It’s all real.
Generally speaking what Buddhists believe is less of a religion but it’s more of a way of life. They believe in the ideology of reincarnation, of karma, of, ‘Hey, if I do good things I earn merit, and these good things can get me into, kind of, a better state of mind. I’ll be able to have more blessings in my life. But if I do bad things, these things will come around and get me.’ But we’re in a world of suffering and they’re trying to escape this world of suffering.
So, the Buddha means the enlightened one. And Buddha was a man who taught other people on how to escape suffering and become also enlightened, so they can escape suffering. So the basis of Buddhism is ‘you can escape suffering, in your practice and meditation, and in doing these things can help you escape suffering so you could be enlightened. So we can all become Buddhists, and maybe even go to paradise.’ However, according to what I knew in Buddhism and what I practiced, it wasn’t working. And I couldn’t, no matter how much I chanted Buddha’s name or recited the sutras, or meditated for hours…I wasn’t able to find healing or closure in any of the sufferings with my mom and dad and the heartache and break that I was going through. Which is tremendous for those who’ve gone through it, regardless of if it’s divorce, if it’s just betrayal, whatever it is; heartache is so painful in so many different ways. But it is God’s love and power that He pursues us to bring us out of that and comforts us in those moments. I didn’t realize that. It had to be God to heal me and to see clearly. It had to be Him.
I reached out to Jesus and He spoke back to me. I wasn’t looking for a way to get out of hell or into heaven. I was just looking for the truth, looking for what’s real.
With the tools I was given as a Buddhist, all I knew was to do this, to do that, to do that, to do this. It was just a list of to-do’s, but they weren’t working. So I got tired of self medicating with these Buddhist things. I got tired of self medicating with the worldly things. And I just laid it all down and He pursues–chases after us. He chases us down. He’s relentless. His love is relentless. He cannot help but to have all of us because He created us and He knew us from the beginning. He’s so so so loves us as a Father and wants to be one with us that He will do anything, anything to get to us, no matter how many times we reject Him.
I mean, I think back to my Buddhist days, where I rejected Him so many times. And there’s a glimpse of His presence. There’s glimpses of His messengers loving me and sharing with me…I, it was God, but I rejected Him. But it was His kindness that He kept pursuing after me, year after year, after year, moments, after moments. In ways that only He knew that could get to my hard heart. It is His grace and His doing that He changed my life. I’m not my own.
To the listeners…For those who don’t know, Jesus, I just want to say, “God can actually speak back to you! Talk to Him today. Not only will He listen, He will speak back. It’ll sound like a voice that isn’t your own and you might even think it sounds like your own thoughts, but just try it because it’s worth it. And sometimes you’ll feel a peace that you’ve never felt before. Maybe it’s a different way that you’re gonna experience Him, in a way I’m not even describing because He’s God and we can’t put Him in a box.” And then to the believers, those who are Jesus followers that I’m speaking to right now like, Oh my gosh! Paul said, “I want to become like Him in death.” We like the first part. We want to know the power of His resurrection, to know Christ, Yes and Amen. But to get to the power, the old to new, we must learn how to participate in sufferings and to become like Him in death, because we’re not our own anymore and so that somehow attaining to the resurrection of the body. Like, that’s all it’s about. Our lives are not our own. And if like, what else will we be living for?
Paul walked around and he said God did extraordinary miracles through him in the book of Acts. Specifically, touching aprons and handkerchiefs and people were getting healed and demons were fleeing and evil spirits were leaving. So we got together, as some friends in this house, we had faith. Some girl had brain cancer for over six months. To the point where the tumor was getting so big, it was causing brain damage, and she was slurring her words she couldn’t speak, she was vomiting. Faith increased in the room. We grabbed a random article of clothing that we could find, a headband. We laid hands on the headband and prayed for her, gave her the headband; she wore it for that week.
She went into the doctor appointment the next weekend and she got a CT scan. In the CT scan, the doctor is freaking out and said, “Stop the scan! Pull her out! We can’t legally operate on her because there’s no sign of brain tumor or cancer at all in her head!!” God healed her through these extraordinary miracles! That’s the God that we serve! But get this, the brain damage that had happened was completely repaired. Her slurring had stopped in the middle of the week. This is a doctor verified miracle. We can’t make this stuff up. And this is why I serve and believe in the God that we believe in.
There’s no one like Him. He is worth everything. And because of that, I’m a dead man. My life’s not my own. Neither should yours, because He’s worthy. It’s from that place that He can start showing Himself off through us to the rest of the world.
I found purpose in life through God’s voice.