“Did you give the man the business cards I told you to?” my dad asked me, hoping I had been obedient.
Cars were zipping past the busy street, and my dad and I were standing on the pavement having this strange conversation.
“No, Dad I didn’t,” I replied, not sure how my dad was going to react.
“What! I thought I told you to give that man the business cards. Why don’t you listen to me? My son, you’re the only person I can trust. Our phones are being tapped, and people are watching us!”
“What are you talking about, Dad?”
“Peter, our phones are tapped. People are listening to our conversations, and I’m being watched by bad people that want to hurt me.”
Of course, none of the things that my dad was saying were true, but he really believed it. It was hard for me to see my dad this way.
My dad, a man whom I deeply love and respect, believed that there was a conspiracy against him.
Later on, my mom and I would find out that my dad became ill and was diagnosed with delusional schizophrenia.
What happened after that made my world spiral out of control, and it made me stop believing everything I was taught about God.
This is my testimony (or story) of how I became a Christian, then an atheist, and then a completely different person altogether.
The Biggest Christian Influence in My Life
The biggest Christian influence I had in my life when I was a boy was my grandmother.
I remember as a boy, my grandma would read me stories from the Bible. She was quite the evangelist.
She would tell me, “Peter, when you are ready, you need to ask Jesus into your heart.” She then would explain to me why I needed to do that.
It was because we are all sinners who violated God’s commands. Only through Jesus could we have the forgiveness of sins.
I thought about what my grandma said for a while, and then one day it just made sense to me.
I got on my knees and I gave my life to Jesus. At the time, I thought it was one of the best things I ever did!
After that, I prayed and read the Bible for many years until I was in high school.
In my senior year, something happened to my family that made me abandon my belief that God exists.
God, Are You Listening?
When I was in high school, my dad thought it was a good idea to go into a business partnership with his best friend from college.
It was a real estate business in which my dad and his best friend would buy land, wait for a while, and then turn it around to sell it for a profit.
I remember that my mom didn’t think it was a good idea.
Even some of my dad’s friends at the time advised him not to go into this business with his best friend, but my dad felt a real urge that this was what he was meant to do in life.
So my dad invested all of the money my family had into this real estate business deal with his best friend.
As it turns out, my dad’s best friend was dishonest about some parts of the business deal. As a result, my family was left with no money in the bank, and with property that couldn’t be sold.
We went from being financially comfortable, to having almost nothing in our bank account. All of this happened in a twenty-four-hour period.
The problem was that my parents sent me to a private boarding school that we could barely afford even when we had money. The tuition was astronomical!
To make things worse, my parents were paying for my sister to go to UCLA. Not only were they paying her tuition, they were paying her rent for an apartment, and for a large majority of her bills.
How was my family going to be able to continue to make these school payments for both my sister and I?
Was I going to have to change schools? Was I going to be able to go to college? What would happen to my sister now that we didn’t have any money?
Things Get Worse
After a while, my mom and I noticed that my dad was behaving strangely.
Sometimes my dad would think that my mom was poisoning his food, and as a result, he wouldn’t eat his dinner.
He had all these delusions that people were coming after him because of this new partnership that he made with his best friend.
This was a result of the business deal that went sour, and now my dad was under extreme stress because of our financial situation. His mind wasn’t handling it very well.
I prayed to God and asked Him to reverse our situation, but He didn’t do it.
I asked God to heal my dad, but He didn’t do that either.
I asked God to restore the money that we had lost overnight, but God seemed unresponsive.
My family was going through the biggest trial of our lives, and it seemed like God was nowhere to be found.
I began to think that everything that I learned about Christianity was wrong. I was told that God was going to help me during my trial, but God wasn’t responding to my pleas for help.
So I stopped praying, reading the Bible, and going to church.
I began to believe that the things that I learned about God’s existence were false. I thought that since God didn’t help me, then surely He didn’t exist.
I was turning into an atheist.
A Surprising Turn for My Dad
Fortunately enough, through a series of circumstances, my dad became convinced that he was ill. We checked him into a psychiatric hospital and he began to get treatment.
While there’s no cure for delusional schizophrenia, you can, however, take medication that will help you. The only thing is that you have to be on the medication for the rest of your life.
My dad began to get better, and after a few weeks, he was released from the hospital.
By the grace of God, my dad was able to go back to work.
At the time, I didn’t realize it, but God was healing my dad very slowly. That in itself was a miracle that I didn’t notice because I had become atheistic in my beliefs.
Now my parents were determined to sacrifice as much as they could financially so they could put me through college.
God’s timing was perfect because my sister found a great-paying job right after she graduated college that same year.
Things Are Confusing During the College Years
When I went to college, I decided that I was going to live life to the fullest, and to embrace everything that my college life had to offer.
Even though I had studied evolution in my science classes in high school, I had always maintained that God created the universe and that it was not caused by Darwinian Evolution.
I knew that the two weren’t compatible.
So now with my new-found atheism, I began to have different beliefs. I fully embraced evolution and all that it encompasses.
I thought that what I was taught about God as a child was wrong.
During my college years, I found myself fully embracing atheism. I believed:
- There was no God or gods for that matter.
- Religion was just something that was made by people to control society.
- There’s no life after death. When we die, our brains just shut off the way your TV shuts off at night.
- All religions are made up and are a crutch for people who are too weak to go through life on their own. People who believe in God have a need to make up a god of their own imagination.
Also, I began to party, go to nightclubs, drink alcohol, and have what I thought was “fun” at the time.
I went to the best and most exclusive nightclubs in Los Angeles, and I hung out at the famous Sunset Boulevard, where parties happened every night.
The interesting thing is that when I first began my party life, I remember hearing a voice speaking to me saying, “What are you doing here? You don’t belong here. You need to leave this place now.”
But I would ignore the voice, and after ignoring the voice long enough, I stopped hearing the voice altogether.
Living the Life of the Rich and Famous
I would live this party lifestyle for the next two years of my life.
I went to some of the most famous and prestigious nightclubs in Los Angeles. I ate at fine restaurants, hung out with friends, bought all the nice clothes that I wanted, and did pretty much anything that I wanted to do.
What I thought was going to be the fun-filled life of the rich and famous turned out to be a life filled with depression, meaninglessness, and anger.
I had everything the world told me would make me happy.
I didn’t have to work at that time because my parents were sacrificing as much of their salary as possible so that they could give it to me, so that I could go to school, pay rent, and buy food.
My parents expected me to stay at home, study, and get good grades.
However, I was doing just the opposite: going out, not going to my classes, and living the party life.
They even bought me a car. It was a used 1993 Toyota Camry that they bought for me so I wouldn’t have to take the bus to get around.
Despite living the life that I thought was going to make me happy, I still felt empty and like my life had no purpose.
My new worldview came crumbling down during a night of night-clubbing in LA when I realized that everything I was doing was pointless.
What’s the Meaning of Life?
I began to ask myself, “What’s the meaning of life? Why are we here on Earth? What’s the purpose of life? What is my destiny?”
These were all questions that I was desperate to find answers for.
So I began to search for meaning and for spirituality.
First off, I began to look into New Age philosophy.
I read a famous book called Conversations with God. This book teaches that God is within you and that we are all in a sense, God.
The book says that there’s no need to think of things as a matter of right or wrong, but that we are meant to go into a higher state of consciousness, and to become enlightened.
I tried it out for a few months but this philosophy proved quickly to be wrong.
Next, I turned to the philosophy behind the power of positive thinking.
This belief says that you can have anything that you want in life if you can just think and visualize that it has already happened.
I tried this out for a while and it did seem to bring me positive results.
However, when I tried my new-found beliefs and it backfired while at a blackjack table in Las Vegas, that’s when I realized that this positive thinking thing wasn’t all it was made out to be.
I ended up losing money, and I went $4,200 into debt.
Oh boy, my search for the right beliefs was costing me a lot of pain and money!
Will the Real God Please Stand Up?
I continued to explore philosophies and religions, searching for the right one for me but I wasn’t finding anything that would stick.
My search would continue for an additional five years.
During those five years, I went from philosophy to philosophy and religion to religion, but I always found some kind of flaw in the belief system that I was researching.
At the end of those five years, I found myself rethinking my beliefs about the world, God, and the universe.
At this point, I forgot what it was like to be a Christian.
But I began to think, “Is there really no God? Am I here just by accident? Surely there must be some kind of purpose for my life, but why is it that I can’t find out what it is?”
I began to change my mind about my position of being an atheist because I started to think that there must be a God.
The problem was that I just didn’t know which god was the real god, or if anyone had even discovered him, her, or it.
I had tried the Christian God, but I thought He had failed me. Maybe there was another god out there that was true and real, but I just didn’t know about him yet.
At the same time, I decided that I wanted to have some kind of purpose in life because I felt so empty inside.
I wanted to have an over-arching goal to achieve that was big and meaningful for my life.
After giving it some thought, I decided that I wanted to become rich.
While I knew that money wouldn’t make me happy, I also knew that it does solve a lot of problems in life.
Plus, I could give away a large amount of money to charity, which I knew would make me feel good, and that would give me a sense of purpose.
Show Me the Money
So I picked up a copy of Napoleon Hill’s book, Think and Grow Rich, and I began to read it.
In the book, Hill teaches you to write down on a piece of paper how much money you want to have, and to choose a specific date by which you will have this amount.
After that, you’re to speak out loud every single day your written statement about your financial goal, and soon enough, you’ll find yourself taking action to achieving that goal.
In short, this method is teaching you to obsess about getting money every single day to the point where it motivates you to take action.
So I thought about how much money I wanted to have. I came up with the figure, $20 million, and I was going to have this money by the time that I was forty years old.
At the time, I was twenty-six years old, so that would give me plenty of time to achieve my new financial goal.
So I went ahead and I wrote down my statement, and I began to read it out loud every single day.
I started to become obsessed with achieving my goal. Sure enough, after a short while, I found myself writing a business plan, and working towards my new financial goal.
But Wait, Something Doesn’t Feel Right
While I was working on making my money dreams come true, I went to Mexico for a family vacation.
One day when I was in the villa that we were staying in, I was reading through the Napoleon Hill book.
As I sat there in the living room, something felt strange and I felt like the purpose that I had chosen for myself of being financially well-off was not the right thing to do with my life.
All of a sudden, I decided to pray out loud to a deity which I wasn’t sure existed.
I hadn’t prayed in years, and this time, I wasn’t even sure to whom I was going to pray.
I was going to pray, and I would test to see if I would get an answer from a god that I wasn’t even sure existed.
I prayed with a loud voice, “God, if you’re out there and if you are real, I want to ask you if I should make having these millions of dollars be the single purpose of my life. I don’t know if you’re listening, I don’t know if you exist, but if you’re real, please speak to me. I want to know.”
All of a sudden, I heard a voice speak back to me.
It wasn’t the kind of voice that you hear audibly, but it’s the kind of voice that you hear in your mind or in your heart.
The voice said to me, “Peter, make Me the number-one priority in your life, and everything else in your life will fall into place.”
All of a sudden I became ecstatic! I thought to myself, “Wow, God really does exist and He’s communicating with me!”
I just finished thinking that thought when all of a sudden, I heard another internal voice speak to me.
This voice said to me something different than the voice that I first heard.
The voice said, “That’s not true, Peter. You can have both God and money. Think about Joseph in the Bible. He was the ruler of Egypt, and at the same time, he believed in God.
“Think about King David in the Bible. He was rich and yet he was a follower of God. You can have the best of both worlds. You can have both God and money.”
What was this second voice? Where did it come from? Why was it contradicting the first voice that I heard?
I didn’t understand what was going on, so I decided to pray one more time out loud.
I prayed, “God, a few seconds ago, I asked you if I should make having the $20 million be the purpose of my life, and I could have sworn that you answered me and told me to make You the number-one priority in my life.
“But now I’m hearing another voice and it’s telling me that I should have both money and God at the same time. What should I do? Was that really You who was speaking to me a few seconds ago or is this all in my head? Am I hallucinating and just making this stuff up?”
So I stopped and waited to see if the voice that I had heard would come back to me, and speak to me again. But it didn’t.
There was just complete silence.
What was going on?
I went to sleep that night confused, wondering about what had just happened.
When I heard the first voice speak to me, it seemed so real. But when the voice didn’t come back after I heard the second voice, it made me doubt and just think that everything was a delusion.
I ended up going to sleep confused, and dismissing everything that happened that night.
The Night My Life Changed Forever
I finished my vacation with my family, and I came back to my home in Los Angeles.
A few days later, I was at a place called Third Street Promenade watching a movie with my best friend.
After the movie, we were going back to our cars when a woman I never met before came up to me and asked, “Have you received your million dollars today?”
So I said, “Excuse me?”
She said, “Here, take this.” She handed me what appeared to be a million dollar bill.
“Thanks,” I said back to her, and I put the paper that she gave me in my pocket.
I was planning on throwing the paper she gave me away, but I wanted to wait until I was out of the woman’s sight because I didn’t want to be rude.
Instead, I forgot to throw the million dollar bill away, and I took it back home.
When I went back home and into my bedroom, I emptied my pockets, and I pulled out the million dollar bill.
￼As I turned it over, it read, “Here’s the million dollar question: Are you going to heaven?”
The million dollar bill then began to ask me a series of questions on whether I had kept the Ten Commandments.
“Have you ever lied, stolen anything, or taken God’s name in vain? Jesus said, ‘Whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.’ Have you looked with lust? Will you be guilty on Judgment Day?
“If you have done those things, God sees you as a lying, thieving, blasphemous, adulterer at heart. The Bible warns that if you are guilty you will end up in hell. That’s not God’s will. He sent His Son to suffer and die on the cross for you.
“You broke God’s law, but Jesus paid your fine. That means He can legally dismiss your case. He can commute your death sentence.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. Then Jesus rose from the dead and defeated death.
“Please, repent (turn from sin) today and trust in Jesus alone and God will grant you the gift of everlasting life. Then read your Bible daily and obey it.”
As I was reading this million dollar bill, my heart began to beat fast, and I got goosebumps on my arms.
When I finished reading it, the first voice that I heard the other night came back to me. It was a small, still voice, and again, it was inaudible to the ear, but I heard it in my heart very clearly.
The voice said, “Peter, the other day that was Me that was speaking to you. I told you to make Me the number-one priority in your life and that everything was going to fall into place.
“But you didn’t listen and you couldn’t understand My voice. Now I’m speaking to you in a way that you can understand.
“I sent you this million-dollar bill. Do you now understand the million-dollar question?
“The million-dollar question isn’t about how much money you have in the bank. The million-dollar question is whether you’re going to heaven.”
I began to cry.
I couldn’t believe it!
It was God and He was speaking to me in a very personal way that I could understand. He was communicating with me at my level, and through my personal circumstances.
I responded, “God, I have sinned against you. I have done so many wrong things against You! I don’t deserve for You to call me your child anymore.”
But God responded to me by saying, “My son, I love you and I will forgive you. I want you back. Just give your life over to Me and everything will fall into place.”
But I said, “I can’t Lord, I have done too many wrong things against You!”
But God said, “It’s okay son, I forgive you. I love you, and I want you back.”
So I got on my knees in my bedroom. I asked God to forgive me of all the wrong things I had done, and I asked Him to help me become a good Christian.
That was the night that my life changed forever.
I went from not going to church to going to church six days a week.
I went from not praying to praying and reading my Bible every day.
My life was so radically transformed that my roommates and my friends kept on asking me about why I was changing so much.
I began to grow in my Christian walk, and God started to change my character.
My relationship with God was restored on July 24, 2006, and I’ve been a changed man ever since.
How About You?
Do you have any spiritual beliefs? Do you believe in God? Do you doubt God’s existence?
Feel free to drop a comment, or if you’d prefer, you can message me privately.
I’d love to have a conversation with you about your beliefs or answer any questions you might have.