Yesterday I was in Walmart getting cat food and litter and I went for a stroll to see how they had remodeled the store. As I came around a corner of this isle there was this little boy of about 4 or 5 years old admiring this large bin of basketballs. A moment later his mother came to him and said, “ I’m sorry honey, but we just don’t have enough money to afford a basketball. “
Not to be deterred he said, “Momma, Jesus can afford it can we pray and ask.” And so the mother stooped down with her son and prayed, and the little boy’s prayer was,”Mr. Jesus sir could you please buy me a basketball. My old one went flat. Thank you. Amen.” and the Mom whispered with a tear streaking down her cheek “Amen.” Brushing away the tear she arose and taking her son’s hand started walking away when the little boy look back and said “Good bye basketball, see you soon.”
Now there is and adage that says “God works in mysterious ways” and so as I was approaching the checkout stand there was the young mom and her son and as she was collecting her bags and walking towards the exit and she was stopped by the store security and one of the managers came up and gave the little boy his basketball.
The manager looked at the mom and said “I heard the prayer and your son saying good bye to the basketball and that he would see him soon and well,…… this is soon.”
In the book of Ephesians in the 6th chapter the Apostle Paul talks about the Armor of God. The last piece is the sword which is the Word of God. It is wielded through speech. Used correctly it can set people free and set the enemy fleeing in abject terror.
Words, in and of themselves are weapons of mass destruction or they can usher in great healings.
This afternoon I was at Walmart picking up Yvan’s prescriptions. As I walk out there is this guy at the top of his lungs railing on these two young ladies. His words were a blend of Spanish and English but the theme of his rant was that they were ugly and stupid.
So, me being me, said in a loud enough to be heard by both the women and the guy, “That’s not true.” Before he could respond, I continued and said, “Now Ladies have you ever wondered why he wears dark glasses on a cloudy day? He wears them because his eyes cannot handle the radiance of your beauty. “ Well that brought a smile to both their faces.
I then turned to him seeing a rather Crucifix dangling around his neck and said,”I see you believe in God, haven’t you ever read the book of Proverbs where God refers to Wisdom as a women and encourages us men to seek her council. You should be careful for God the Father gets rather testy when you attack her daughters. I suggest you stop yelling and start listening.”
His response was to be expected with a “Who the f- are you, some kind of priest?”
I smiled handed him a card and said, “Something like that.” This was followed by a bunch of religious apologies and promises of changing his language and going to mass tonight and tomorrow. But when I asked if he would like to pray right then and there he wanted no part of that and left.
But the two young ladies were a different story. I asked if they knew Jesus and they had heard about him a little and so I shared the gospel with them and we prayed and they received Jesus as Lord.
Now I know of a Hispanic Church in Southeast Portland and as it turns out they live close by it so I directed them to attend there. I have also contacted the Pastor and he will be looking for them.
So the Kingdom has grown by two souls and the angels are in party mode again.
In all things we must begin with God, because without God there is nothing.
That which is without God is the weakest of all creatures, for they do not exist.
All was made by the hands of God, or by the mechanism that God had put into place. In the beginning of all things, God created, and there was something. Before that was nothing but God, and of God’s origin we know nothing. For oh so very long, God and nothing were very close until there was something, and that was of God’s own doing. The only thing not created by God is nothing, and that is nothing to speak of.
God is the greatest inventor, for his is not only the first invention, but from his invention all creations were made.
God is not always the mover. One of the greatest mysteries is the way of the man with the maid, but should the man and maid not initially be planned in the mind of God, such ways would not be. We move, we breathe, we have our being, only because God willed it and wills it still.
This is not to say that we cannot move without God. God initiated us, but He does not take credit for our everyday actions. We may eat a plum, but God does not take credit for the eating, although the pattern of mouths and the ripeness of the plum were both his design. We may hit our brother with a stick, and though the growth of the branch and clasping of the hand were both God’s plan, He does not proudly display his handiwork of the bloodied face. We do what we do, by the power and possessions that God granted us.
Nevertheless, any move we make toward God is His to claim.
“No man comes to me but that the Father draw him.”
Not because we are so frail and faithless that we do not seek God, or desire Him in any way. It’s simply that He’s too fast for us.
Whenever we seek God’s assistance, He has already planned it, patterned it, and probably produced it.
Politely, He may wait for our prayers and petitions, but our deliverance is already there at our fingertips, and God is anticipating our face like a parent seeing their little child open her birthday gift.
“Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father of lights.”
The best gifts in all the world we have received came from the hand of God, before we had ever thought of it. Life, love, trust, power. All had been placed in our hands, and we discover each one as if they were our idea, but we soon find that not a single one was. They were all God’s idea, granted to us by his generous nature.
We only know how to empathize because God first empathized with us. We first learned compassion, because He gave it to us initially. We have mercy on another because it was His idea, and He loaned it to us.
But he gave us empathy, because He could feel how lonely it would be without it.
He gave us compassion, because He knew how pitiless we would be if we had no heart.
He gave us mercy, because He wanted us not only to give mercy but to receive it.
He granted us love because without love we would be worthless. Less than nothing. And the last thing God wanted was a creation that was less than nothing. Because before creation, nothing was already there. He was building up, not down.
Throughout history, there have been people who have decided that the best way to deal with the world is to escape it. In the Christian tradition, this begins with Antony of Egypt, who would live in a cemetery and then later in the desert to escape the temptations of the world. Of course, Antony then found temptations in the wilderness, and he bravely overcame them. His solution to the temptations and struggles with other people was to get away from people, become a hermit, and to isolate himself as much as possible.
In later years, the hermit became one of the primary examples of a saint, of living as a holy man. However, this is not the way of God.
Jesus declares that to be right before God our primary way is to love. We cannot obtain any kind of righteousness without loving. And this means that we have to be with other people, not to isolate. Running away from people isn’t living the life that God calls us all to. To love is to deal with others’ pain and to weep with them. To love is to face the temptations others give us and to overcome them. To love is to be made angry by others and to do what is peaceful in return. To love is to be rejected by others, but to respond in kindness. To love is to be available with others need you, with whatever you have. God calls us to be with others, for without others we cannot achieve His will for our lives.
God has made us in such a way that we can only be happy if we are with others. Mind you, people are often the cause of our unhappiness, as well. People frustrate us and mock us and wound us and hate us and yell at us and irritate us. So we often have temporary unhappiness by being with others. But God has made us so that our long term happiness is by being with others. If you want to be self-centered and depressed, spend most of your time alone. Our soul is made to work better with other people, no matter how frustrating they are.
There is only one path of God. It is the path of compassion, the path of gentleness, the path of mercy, the path of patience, the path of self control, the path of sacrifice. We do not stay among others just to survive their presence, but to benefit them. In that pattern of benefiting others, even in small ways, that is the way of life, eternal life. The only way God has presented is the path of love.
This doesn’t mean that occasional bouts of isolation aren’t good for us. There are times we need to be alone to focus on God, to recharge our ability to act right toward others, to bask in the joy of God’s creation, apart from the tension that others bring. Jesus took a break from people for forty days. But we, like Jesus, must not remain in isolation. We must always, regularly return to be with others.
Because without those irritating, frustrating, horrifying, idiotic people, we do not have God. The way of God is found in others, as much as we might wish that were not so.
As we were talking I noticed a man about my age maybe a little younger, who was Vietnamese, glancing towards us and looking very uncomfortable. A short time later my friend went on his way and I stayed to finish my Mocha. I glanced again over at the Vietnamese fellow and he was now staring at me. I turned to him and in all humbleness, asked if he had fought in the war?
At that question his fear swept over him. I continued and said, “Hey the war was over and we were both just kids. I hold no ought against you.”
We began to talk in earnest and I discovered he was with a North Vietnamese Regiment. A regiment that our company had many encounters with. He had lost friends and family members and I had held many young men gasping with dying breaths for their mothers. We both acknowledged that we both carry the burdens of nightmares. But what we also found was that we had found worlds apart; was the Salvation and forgiveness through Christ Jesus.
After he had found Christ and deliverance he was forced to flee for his life and eventually ended up here in Portland, Oregon to start over.
So here we are: two Vietnam Veterans who fought against each other in the Dance of Death, both not having known Jesus the Christ and both having found Him and now facing each other and united in the blood shed for both of them.
Is this not the power of God being manifested? That two enemies become brothers and find forgiveness not only through their mutual faith, but face to face, in a coffee shop in southeast Portland.
Post Script: His name is Tran Van Ho.