Josh Anderson

Josh Anderson   What does it mean to truly walk with the Lord, even when one grows up in the church? This episode's guest is Josh Anderson. Josh had a rocky start as a teen and discovered God’s transforming power when he was delivered completely from heavy drug use. He continued to break the rules of convention by dating a girl who was an atheist. In his case the “missionary dating” worked.  In this episode Josh shares about an almost failed missionary assignment to Japan, why he declined the opportunity to be famous and what he has learned in the process about truly pursuing God.

Josh Anderson: Of all the people, the Jesus stops, and points and looks at me. He calls me out of the entire crowd. This is a funny hilarious joke because of my hair. He's like, "Hey, you look like me!" And right at that moment, somebody happened to snap a picture of it and they gave it to me. I have this beautiful picture. Maybe I was here. In this picture, He sat right there. Jesus is looking down directly at me. And I know that God was trying to say something at that time.

Helen Todd: Hello. Thank you for listening to the Limitless Spirit Podcast. I'm your host, Helen Todd. You just heard from Josh Anderson, who will be our guest today. Josh has come a long way from being a teenager with a big drug use problem and currently working on his Ph.D. and raising three young kids with his wife, Natalie, all the while, also starting a new business. His idea of serving God was challenged while he spent two years on a missionary assignment in Japan. But more recently, Josh had an experience with Christ on the set of the very popular TV show, "The Chosen", that he's going to share with us today. Let's get right into the interview and hear from Josh himself.

Hi Josh! Thank you for coming on the Limitless Spirit Podcast. How are you doing today?

Josh: I'm doing great, Helen. Thank you for inviting me. I really appreciate it, and excited for our time here.

Helen: Well, I actually can't wait to catch up on some news here. So let's start with this. So you were cast as an extra in this hugely popular series, "Chosen" which by the way, has that episode come out already?

Josh: Yeah, It just aired. The one that I was in was the last episode of season two. So it's the Big Sermon on the Mountain scene there. It wasn't a big deal because there were three thousand other people, but I was cast there. It will be recorded there and there'll be another scene in season three.

Helen: Are you kidding? That is a huge deal. I can't wait to watch this episode. Now, I will be looking for you in the crowd. But tell me, how did this come about? How did you end up in this episode?

Josh: Well, it's a little crazy. So, to really appreciate the full story, maybe I'll back up because this time of my life, I was super busy, and crazy. So I'm in a Ph. D program. I'm trying to start this new business. I'm doing a big website re-launch from my other business. I'm in this online class coordinating and doing all these things, and I am basically too busy and doing too much. I cite a verse from Paul, and it was like if you give your body even though it will be burned, without love, it doesn't profit you anything.

   I know I'm supposed to be responsible for my family and my children first and that's my first primary ministry. But here I am handing out all these different flyers. And then I get chosen to have a part in "The Chosen." I don't know if they will ask me questions by email. They interviewed me and said, "Yes, we want to send TV cameras to your house. We want to follow you around for a week and record your story and record you traveling to this set. And we're going to interview you on stage. And by the way, are you okay with the fact that you know fifty to sixty million people will see this?"

Helen: Wait, did they do this to all three thousand people?

Josh: No. I just got selected as one of the three thousand to hear my story.

Helen: Wow.

Josh: Yeah. And so I'm sitting here, reading this email and they interviewed me and Natalie. My wife comes up and sort of prophetically rebukes me and says, “Josh, look at you. You're concerned about this and thinking about this. You're interested in making a big impact on stage. But, look at us here, your children, your wife, and your family. You know are you responsible for loving God first and us second. She was absolutely one hundred percent correct. It caught me by surprise. I broke down, and we had this beautiful moment. And so we prayed, we sat on it; we decided not to do it. So do you know what happened? I actually went to "The Chosen" film day.

   There's this one guy in the middle of the crowd with the other three thousand people just the regular old saying. They're in the big crowd and I remember it was crazy when it was time to do the big shot with everybody there. I even purposely like to walk to the back of the crowd. I just told the Lord, "I'm going back here. I know that the place you have for me is faithful to you first." And that's what I did. But then afterward and this is the interesting part. They said, "Hey, we need more people to come up here for another shot. And this will be in season three." So they picked us to come up to work from the front. They told us earlier in the day that there would be no photographs with the actors. So here I am with all the people and the actor playing Jesus stops and points at me. He called me out of the entire crowd. This was a funny hilarious joke, because of my hair. He was like, "Hey, you look like me!" Right at that moment somebody happened to snap a picture of it. They gave it to me. I have this beautiful picture of Jesus looking down directly at me.

   And I know that God was trying to say something at that time. He was trying to say, "Look, I see you. Of all these people, I see and love you.” You don't have to be on some giant stage telling the story. Millions of people are being interviewed in order to get some sort of sense of worth, get some sort of identity, or to be great in the Kingdom. Instead, I feel Jesus has been redefining greatness, for me. Radically, redefining greatness, saying, "You know, Josh, wouldn't it be great if you love the least of them and the people right around you here? Wouldn't it be great if you brought my Kingdom into your sphere of influence, right there where you are? And that's how God has been radically changing me. I knew at that moment the photograph that was taken that God sees me and loves me.

Helen: That's a crazy story, Josh. Actually, we could wrap up the episode right here. That was a mini-sermon. That was incredible. You know this is really very powerful. So help me out-- if I am to watch this episode, am I going to see you on the screen? Have you seen yourself on the screen?

Josh: Well, I looked and we paused and it was like we zoomed in. I know where I was. The centurion soldier and his little horse were back there. So it is hard to make it up there. But in season three, there's a scene where actors should be sharing. Jesus will be preaching the sermon, right? And they had this giant crane about eighty feet tall. It felt like the camera went right by the side and at the back of my head. So at least they're going to see this big long hairy on the back of my head in season three.

Helen: What a great take away from this experience of Jesus saying, "I see you, Josh." You know this is something that every single one of us at one point in life just needs to hear. Even though we know this in the back of our mind and the depths of our soul. Isn't that wonderful to hear, sometimes, I see you, even if no one else knows. I see you and I know your heart. So that's not always been through the intimacy of your relationship with Jesus. So you had a bit of a rocky start. Early on, let's talk about that. You grew up in a very devout Christian home. I know your parents very well, and they're awesome.

   But you know, we all have to meet, we can't live on our parents' relationship with Jesus. We all have to find our own Jesus, our own relationship, our own intimacy. So how did that process happen in your life?

Josh: Yeah. You're right. We did grow up in a great Christian home. My entire family, my parents and I included have been on a journey. For Jesus has sanctified and saved us. Because when we were little, we were part of a Christian family. We were considered fundamentalist, I suppose in this sense; we took our doctrine and our beliefs on Jesus very seriously. However, we didn't have big emphasis on holiness. So I think theologians would say this as renovating holiness. That's a big word. I think theologians would basically say this; they call it cheap grace or easy believism. (Those that believe in the easy part of Christianity, but not the entire gospel)

   Basically, we thought what was really important was believing the right things about Jesus rather than actually loving and knowing Jesus. So we got our worth and sense from this, having the right ideas. We have all the answers to call an effect in the religion. We just didn't take seriously the idea that God actually wants to save us from our sins. We thought believing in prayer that God is going to save us from the consequences of our sin.

   But God loves us way more than that. In fact, He actually wants to save us from our sins. And at the time of this, I didn't have that conception at all. I did believe in Jesus. But I did not focus on Him as actually being my Master and my Lord. This amazed me. So my life was delivered from illicit illegal drug use. So I was crazy. You know, I was doing crazy amounts of drugs. You name it, whatever is there.

   But during this entire time, there was this still a small and nagging voice in the back of my spirit. I was constantly drawing closer to God. I already knew deep down God's voice was saying to me, "Josh, this is not the way for you. This is not the path for your life." And I would think forward and imagine where my life will be if I continue on. I knew He was calling me off of drugs. And so it wasn't until I went to some Bible camp and got exposed to a wider range of Christianity. The whole body of Christ was giving me different gifts and different things that I finally and truly got convicted that this is not right. This is wrong and Jesus wants to be my master. He's telling me to quit.

   So then I came to this decision that this was my moment of full conversion. My heart was converted from "I am your Master to Jesus is my Master and my Lord and that means you're my boss, and I will listen, and believe and trust in You.” By God's grace, I've been completely drug-free for eighteen years.

Helen: So was it hard? I mean, considering you were deeply involved in drugs. And for many people it takes a rehabilitation process and how did that happen for you?

Josh: I found out when I tried to quit, I couldn't. I kept confessing my sin and declaring Jesus as master and pilot of my ship. I was a slave.

   And now I realized I am not the boss and I can’t take these drugs anymore. I prayed daily for Him to remove my addiction.  I didn't go to any rehabilitation programs. I didn't go to any AHA meetings. But this was the same sort of process of giving over yourself to Him. I just told him, "Lord, I can't do this. I need you to heal me miraculously and help me."And that's what happened. He did help me and He also used my wife-to-be, Natalie, to deliver me.

   And she helped rescued me and we had to come out from the group of people that were living with. There was no other way. We had to come out from there because I was not strong enough to continue to live on. Instead, God wanted to set me apart, and He did. He rescued me. And I'm very s thankful.

Helen: Well, speaking of your lovely wife, Natalie from whom I also know and love dearly. You guys have an interesting story. So I have two sons, and I always tell them missionary dating doesn't work. Don't even start dating a person who is not a believer because this really muddies the waters so to speak. But that was not the case with you. Your story is the success story of missionary dating. So, share a little bit about that.

Josh: Well, what happened, it's sort of a partial exchange of success. What happened was we did start dating.

Helen: She was an atheist, right?

Josh: She was at this time. She could tell her own story, but she was raised in a Christian home. But had a time of rebellion and falling away. She would call herself agnostic or Buddhist or any of these things. But she thought organized religion was a bunch of hypocrites. And so, she was not a believer at that time. I came on hard. I pushed her to be apologetic because I just repented of all sin in my life. I was really on fire for Jesus hundred percent and going in this direction. And I was like-- just basically if I had a Bible like physically bashing her. That's what it was like, but I love her so much. But it didn't work. It was like, she had these spiritual earmuffs.

   As soon as I started talking about God, I could see her eyes glaze over. She cannot hear anything. It was terribly frustrating and the hardest thing that I've ever had to do was decide to break up. I actually dumped her because I knew at this time; I knew what the Bible says that you should not be unequally yoked in marriage situations. I knew that I'm not going to spend the rest of my life being married to someone who doesn't share the deepest held value of my entire being. The only thing that matters the most is my love for my Savior. If you can't share that deepest thing with me, it doesn't make sense.

   So, I know the Bible teaches us, so I did. And then, I was hugely depressed and I prayed for her every day. After that, starting from the entire summer vacation, I just prayed for her. So I adopted a new strategy. Instead of the like push harder strategy, I said, "Lord, she's in your hands and draw her to You.”

   At the end of the summer something shifted and she finally agreed, "Okay, I'll come to this Bible study with you." And she came and she started asking all these questions.

Helen: So, did she reach out to you or did you reach out to her?

Josh: You know, I honestly don't remember who gave the invitation again. I think I had invited her again to the Bible study. It was in our house and she agreed to come. Yeah. And that became a sweet honeymoon period where she began asking all these questions. What about this? What about that? How does it make sense? And at that time, I got to use apologetics more as a helping ministry. Say we'll think of these answers. Think of these, here it is. If you love them, you can see for yourself. You want to look, you want to study, you can learn, here they are. She did and she was hungry. I got to lead her through the Bible, and disciple her and we're still together today. It wouldn't have happened if I would have kept going with the old approach. What shifted was me. Have you ever heard of the great classic movie, "It was all Quiet on the Western Front.?"

Hellen: No, I don't.

Josh: If you read into the book, there's a horrible scene. There's a scene is during World War 1 and the soldier jumps into this trench. And just very quickly, instinctively stabs him. And then, he's in this terrible situation now, where this person is bleeding out. It takes several hours to die there. And he realizes what have I done? You know, and he has this moment with a French soldier who's dying and he tells him, "I'm sorry that I killed you." And he says, "You know, it wasn't you that I stabbed. It was the abstraction, the enemy abstraction in you. But now I see you're a person in here with your photo of your family." That's a gut-wrenching story.

   But in our culture today, we have been trained to view other non-Christian or atheists, unbelievers, or these sorts of things. It's all been politically polarized now that we have abstracted the person and the ideas that they hold. We view them as the enemy, we attack. But Christ does not work this way. Christ went out on the lost crowd. He looked out over them and saw them as lost sheep. And He had pity and compassion. The apostle Paul talks about his family that were not believers and he says," I was in great anguish and pain. I have compassion for them." When I switched my strategy from attack the enemy and their ideas, they were converted by the Holy Spirit and I prayed with compassion and love.

   That was the key shift that I believe was able to enable that transformation and God used that in her life. There we are and there was a time for discipleship. But it came from my heart and I had to keep right because my internal motivation was to harm and attack and debate rather than letting the gospel help in a way that she needed.

Helen: I think that this is an extremely important point, especially the way our culture and our society are right now. This is something that needs to be brought to life and reminded to people. And what a great gift you receive through that, you got a wonderful spouse and a beautiful family because you were willing to just build the friendship. You put love first above your differences. And so, that's quite a lovely story. I just love your beautiful family and kids. So then, you and Natalie became missionaries, all of a sudden, with a long-term assignment to Japan. Can you tell us how that went? So I'm anxious to talk to you about that. How did you even feel called to go to Japan? Where did that start?

Josh: I don't believe you need to have some crazy, amazing experience like this to be called into this mission. Jesus Christ stated, "Go! Go!" But, in our case, we did have a very interesting experience where we were praying about going. And you know we kept being drawn like a force of gravity to Missions to the World, which is part of the PCA's, the Presbyterian Church in America's mission work. What work? We're not Presbyterian. Why would we go? We have to say that we disagree with some others' beliefs and things, you know. But it was this force of gravity; spiritual gravity's calling us there.

   I don't know and I was struggling really hard with my motivations too. Like why do I really want to go? We had just found out Natalie had a birth family in Japan. Her birth mother and family lived there. And we were thinking about maybe going to China before that. Why do I want to switch to Japan? Because I want my wife to be able to learn Japanese and speak to her birth mother. Because my motivations are not hundred percent clear here. "What is it, Lord?" I was struggling. And that time, the week we put in an application, we said, "Okay, we're going to pray and see what God wants."

   The week we put in an application, my brother finds this letter that was a time capsule in a jar. It was hidden in my parents' library behind these books. And he found it and it was dated from sixteen years before. I still have the letter, but for sixteen years, this thing was hidden in a jar. And I wrote it and it said, "Hey, whoever finds this time capsule, Hi, my name is Josh. Let me tell you all this stuff about my life." It was there are all these really terrible embarrassing things. But one part it says is, "I don't know what I want to be when I grow up. But I know I always loved Japan. When I grow up, I'm going to move to Japan and tell them about God." I had no memory writing that-- no memory, whatsoever.

   But here it is-- now I ask myself, what are the odds that this letter is sitting in a jar for sixteen years and the week we find it, is a week we're praying if we should go to Japan. That is incredible. God called us to go. And we did go. But you know what happened? It was the hardest two years of our entire life. It was the most painful suffering and we're finding fire. Where every bit of ideology within me was boiled up to the surface and everything that I relied on other than God failed at the end.

   It's just like Paul said, "This happens so that we can learn rely on God and not ourselves, but to rely on God who raised Jesus from the dead." That was our experience in Japan. We went and God called us so strongly to go. And then my mom had a stroke. Natalie's father was diagnosed with stage four cancer. We couldn't find housing for the first three months we were there. They rejected our housing once when they found out that we're foreigners. Then the first month we got there, our team leader quit, which in the PCA means you can't start a church unless you have a Pastor.

   And so it was like hard, hard, hard, hard, hard, hard, the entire time. But we knew God had called us and looking back today that was such an interesting experience. And that shifted a lot of my framework and I realized, "Wow!" God just doesn't want to just save Japanese people from their sins; He also wants to save me from my sin. And there is part of my sin that I would still love and hold on to you. And I would not have let go. I had not been taken away from my comfort zone in America. My comfort here, my family that I can rely on, my church that I can rely on, my English language abilities I can rely on.

   Basically, all these things in my life, structured in place were taken away. I had to rely on our own God. At that moment, they were like-- the producers like, "Are you going to leave too?" It was the choice again. And that's been the same choice of the ark of my entire life. It's like, scripture says in Ephesians chapter four, "Where the job of the minister is to equip us until we all grow up into full maturity in Christ. And that has been a full lifelong process. And I'm very sure there's more growing to be done. But he is working in me until I grow into the fullness of the measure of the stature of Christ. Until the image of Him, the perfect human is alive inside of me and the perfect love is growing inside of me. And sometimes you have to go through finding fire in that burning bush in order to get through it. And I think that's what happened. Because I look back at my time in Japan, and I'm like, "Wow, God did more to me than anybody else that was there.

Helen: This has been so consistent with my experience of doing missions work for over twenty years now. And that we respond to the Great Commission mostly thinking, you know, I'm just doing what God wants me to do. I'm helping God to win people for Him, which if you think about it, God doesn't need our help, really, in anything. He can bring people to the knowledge of Him without my help. So, more often than not, we're meant to go and respond to that call because there is work that needs to be done within us. It's such an intimate experience with God when you go. Well, you know, from your own experience when you are in a foreign culture, and you can't lean in your own experience or knowledge. You're sort of there on your own, it's you and God. And He puts you in just that perfect position where He can do work in you and mold you to that perfect image that He has in mind. So, that's very cool. So, you know, this interview is still part of our series, "Changed lives: change lives." So what are your thoughts in terms of that? Because, you know, I believe that our life has changed by Christ, not just for our own sake but also because that transformation is contagious. So do you have any thoughts on that subject?

Josh: Absolutely. So, God, I believe, the whole scripture. The story of humanity is God saving us from idolatry, a sin of trusting things other than God and loving those things more than God. So if you could see kind of the history of my life is this different idol. You know, drug use is an idol. I knew all the answers, rather than knowing God. That's knowledge is an idol. And then, also trying to live this great, amazing life and do something awesome for God and be great. That is an idol too rather than trusting Christ is greater. And so each one of these things has freed me to love. When your heart is now set free from those things, you are more able to love others. So, they taught us as we were missionaries, to run a couple of language groups.

   You know, when you're learning a new language, one of the best ways is to add a bunch of vocabulary. But then talk to real people and have them listen. So they would say, "Study your vocabulary." Then go out into your neighborhood and go to the baker. And say, "Hi Baker, I'm learning Japanese. These are the new words I learned today." They will help you say them. Then you say the words and then you go to a jewelry store, or you go to the gas station, or you go to the different places in your life. The grocery store, and you say, "Hi, I'm learning Japanese. And these are the words learned." You use the same words and it's a loop, like a Language Loop. Just do that every day. And people will say, "Who is this weirdo coming into our place"? But then they'll say, "Here he is again." And then you develop this relationship, and then they try to start helping you. Then you develop this relationship. It opens the door for evangelism in the future because they know you, they like you, you're part of their life. They taught us, when you do the Language Loop, the greatest thing you can do is be openly Christian. In Japan, just being a joyful Christian publicly, is spiritual work.

   And so what I'm trying to do in my life now that I'm back in America, I'm still running a Language Loop. I'm running here in my neighborhood which means I'm intentional. I don't just go get gas and go inside to pay for them for my gas. Not outside at the machine, I go inside so I could see the same teller. I see him again, I see him again. I just publicly became a Christian in the normal way around the different areas that I go. And that alone is a form of spiritual warfare, isolated, increasingly small, little individual prison cells, suburban unit for each of our own networks, in our own, you know, groceries delivered and nobody's seen anybody else in spiritual work or to go out in the world. In the sense of just intentionally, being a Christian in public around people that you know and love. That provides the context to where relationships are being informed. People know you, and then when something happens in their life and they get diagnosed with cancer. They know this guy who always comes in here every week is a spiritual person. And I'm going to talk to him and ask him to pray. God brings all these open doors and opportunities right into your lap as being intentional in that way. So that's the greatest thing I've been taking back from Japan into it now back in my life here in America.

Helen: Thank you so much, Josh. I can't wait to watch that episode of "Chosen" and the future one in season three. And look for your hair or if I can see you in the crowd. Thank you again for coming on the podcast.

Joshua's Hearing His Voice Testimony

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