The Gospel According To Peter
I was a Buddhist. My father and mother were both staunch, miracle-working Buddhists. Then I met Peter.
By Dennis T. Yoshioka
Great-grandfather was a Buddhist priest, blessed with the power to heal through prayer. For 36 years I had heard of his remarkable magical gifts and the miraculous healings he performed. From removing snake curses to the exorcising of dead centipedes from a man’s ear, Great-grandfather could do it all.
Such was my upbringing, steeped in ancestral pride and worship. I was proud of my heritage and comforted in knowing I had powerful ancestors to watch over me. Comfortable, that is, until I met Peter. Great-grandmother was “samurai” (warrior class) and versed in the healing arts of moxa, acupuncture, and massage. She had healed people of cancer with acupuncture treatments long before the Western world knew what cancer was. She was a healer in her own right.
Peter was Hawaiian, and he was a Christian. At 5 foot 11 and 235 pounds, he was a big man with a big Christian heart. Peter was the kind of guy who would buy you lunch even though he needed the money for groceries. Peter was always ready with a hug and with encouraging words of gracious aloha. Peter was kind and gentle, never harsh or crass. He was always at peace.
But Peter had one fault. He agitated my mind!
Peter said that when we die our spirit returns to God and there is no more consciousness. But I knew differently. I had lived with spiritualism. I had seen spirits. I had been attacked by spirits. How could he say there was no life after death? I needed to set him straight. But every time I tried, he would quote something from his Bible to explain his Christian belief. Peter told me story after story after story out of the Bible. I knew it must be a mistake, but how could I make him see that?
One day as we were discussing his religion, it hit me. The way to prove Peter wrong was to prove the Bible wrong. If his authority was no longer valid, then all of his arguments were also invalid. Maybe then I could interest him in meditation methods and spirit worship.
“I’ll prove to you that you’re wrong,” I said.
“Please,” he replied, “if you can lead me into further truth, I’ll gladly change.”
To Prove the Black Book Wrong
The challenge was on.
I didn’t know much about Christianity or the Bible, but I was a trained investigator. I had been a police officer for four years and a prosecutor’s investigator for five years. Surely with my training and experience I could find at least one flaw in Peter’s Bible. But where to begin? I decided to start from the beginning and work my way backwards, confident it wouldn’t take long.
Using a Bible Peter had given me a few years before, I began the task of proving the Bible wrong. Little did I know at that time the profound impact this innocent undertaking would have on my life.
Now where is that place about Saturday? Peter said it would be in Genesis 2. H’mmm, it sure doesn’t say anything about not going to work on Saturday, only that God rested and blessed the day. Peter must have misinterpreted this verse! That was easy! I can’t wait until tomorrow.
But Peter had an answer for that one: Exodus 20.Guess I’ll have to do a better job of investigation next time. This Bible thing might not be as easy as I thought!
And so it went, day after day, for three months. Questions, questions, questions, but always Peter had the right answer to satisfy me that that was the truth. The gospel according to Peter came fast and furious, but it was always mixed with a Christ-like spirit.
Turmoil and Change
My heart and mind were really going through turmoil now as I began questioning everything I read and everything around and about me. What’s wrong and what’s right? Where does this all lead? How is this going to end? Can it be true that my great-grandparents are asleep and not watching over me? Can it be true that the miracles they performed were Satan’s deceptions? Nothing made sense anymore. But I needed to find the truth!
For two more months I struggled with myself as the messages from Peter worked on my heart. Conversion came slowly, almost imperceptively, but a definite change was taking place. Fellow workers commented on how I wasn’t as obnoxious as before, and when I used a swear word, I would quickly apologize. I also noticed a change in myself. The name Jesus took on a new meaning for me, and hearing people use it callously to express anger or frustration made me feel curiously uneasy. My beer drinking gradually slowed and eventually stopped. I couldn’t explain what was happening to me, but it felt good. I could see a commitment coming soon but how could I be sure I was making the right decision?
A Strange Prayer and God’s Strange Answer
The answer came a few weeks later in, of all places, Las Vegas. In “Sin City” for four nights and five days of “training,” the glitter and glamour sure looked inviting. I arrived on a Sunday afternoon with $350 burning a hole in my pocket. I was eager to get out onto the craps table. By Tuesday afternoon I was broke, except for $40 and my airline ticket that I had prudently tucked away in a safe deposit box for the return trip home. But what would I do now? We didn’t leave until Thursday. I hated to borrow money, especially when it was to be used for gambling, but the thought of just sitting around for the next two days was too much for the gambler in me. Within minutes, I was back at the tables with $100 borrowed from my roommate David. By evening I had lost another $60 and decided to retire for the night. Since it was still relatively early, I decided to read the hotel’s Gideon Bible.
A nagging thought kept intruding into my already mixed-up mind. “Gambling is a sin,” the voice said. “But why?” I protested. I’ve always participated in gambling of one form or another ever since childhood. Everyone I knew gambled, either with cards, on ball games, bowling, bingo, the outcome of political races—it was in my blood! I tried to rationalize, but the nagging feeling could not be denied.
As the weight of this new burden forced me to my knees, I cried out: “Lord, I feel as though I’m doing something wrong, and it’s bothering me. I guess my family could have used the $400 I just blew, but You know how much pleasure I get from gambling. You also know how much I hate to owe people money, yet I actually borrowed money to gamble with. I must need help. Lord, if You are really up there and listening to my prayer, You’ll have to show me. I need to know You truly exist! This is what I propose. Tomorrow morning I’m going to play a game of Keno. I’ll bet $3 on three numbers: 46, 69, and 80. At 42:1 odds, I’ll win $126. Now here’s the deal. If You let me win, I’ll tip the Keno runner, repay David the $100 I borrowed, I’ll quit gambling, and whatever monies I return home with, I’ll donate it to the church. Amen.”
When I awoke the next morning, I had all but forgotten about my prayer until I sat down for breakfast and saw the Keno board. Taking out a Keno card, I nervously marked the numbers 46, 69, and 80. As the Keno runner passed by, I gave her my card and $3. I don’t remember my breakfast much, nor the conversation that David tried to get going. All I could think of was the upcoming Keno game. When the betting closed I imagined it was only a matter of minutes before my life would be drastically changed.
The numbers began appearing on the Keno board. Random numbers, 20 in all, were mechanically chosen from a pool of 80 numbers. The combinations one could expect were unlimited, and I knew my chances were slim. After all, I had played the game a number of times before and had never won. I had been to FBI classes and learned that Keno was the “sucker’s game,” with winners coming few and far between. Yet I felt that, somehow, something was different this time.
I tried to remain calm and detached from the game, but my eyes remained glued to the Keno board. When “46” lit the screen, my heart skipped a beat. After about 10 more numbers, “80” blinked on, and I stopped chewing.
I wasn’t excited because I had won $126, nor was I excited because I had the money to repay my roommate. I was excited because God in heaven had listened and responded to my prayer. The God Peter had told me about—the God he assured me loved me and was interested in me—really existed! This is what I got excited about, and it all began with the Gospel According to Peter.
* Keno is a game of chance, similar to lotto, involving the random drawing of numbered balls or cards.
Dennis Yoshioka is the director of trust services for the Northern California Conference in Pleasant Hill, California