Native American Spirituality | Can We See Jesus In It?


Spirituality vs. Religion: Does it Hold Water?

It’s popular these days to draw comparisons between spirituality and religion. I suppose it’s been that way over many centuries (I’m looking at YOU Crusaders!), but I’ve now been hearing it for a lot of my adult life.

christian crusader with sword and shield
Christian history is not all rosy, and we do suffer a certain degree of fallout – even hundreds of years down the road

As a Christian, most of the comments I’ve heard sandwiched around someone declaring themselves to be anti-religion are followed by some affirmation of belief in a higher power. Sometimes there’s a crystal clear reference to Christian intolerance; sometimes it’s part of the message left unsaid.

I think the beautiful story of Jesus and His message/example ARE damaged by the actions and attitudes of those who had either bad motives or warped knowledge of what that message is. And I still don’t know how to address it when evangelizing without sounding like a know it all.

Do I live enough by example that folks can see Christ in me? No.

Do I curse, gamble, chase women etc etc? No, but I’m still living too much “in this world” to fathom how I could flip the script that has Christ held at bay by so many.

Another Opportunity

As an American boy, I grew up in a home with a grandfather who loved watching old Westerns. Most of them featured Indians, but often in a non-flattering light.

So I gravitated to history books and learned “the real story” as Paul Harvey would have called it. Native Americans were pushed aside for decades to make room for European settlers.

One of the ugliest blemishes in U.S. history is known as the Trail of Tears. It was a massive and brutal relocation of the East coast Cherokee Indian tribe to land in Oklahoma.

There’s no reliable death count, but we know from what records there are that thousands perished from starvation, freezing temperatures and attack.

A Hollow Evangelism

squaw worships a nature force
American Indians were largely unconverted by the European settlers who evangelized aggressively

What makes European behavior even more pathetic is that Catholic missionaries from the South and Protestant evangelicals from the North were relentless in trying to convert Native Americans to their respective flavors of Christian salvation. Can you imagine the Indian perspective?

Their own spiritual life was not particularly organized. In loose terms, they believed that any higher power was woven throughout the world. No rules or criteria impacted any stages beyond death.

it must have been perplexing to hear that the beautiful stories of Jesus’ example were shared by the same European settlers who would force a death march on others in order to appropriate their land. Predestination arguments aside, what could Christian impact have been if we showed the example of Christ instead?

Doomed by a Shaky Past

Does Christian history have to become our future? Is any human capable of leading a life so Christlike that others are inspired? Can a groundswell of faith and example cause those who are scared of our many errors to re-evaluate the potential of a life spent serving?

I’m human enough to doubt this.

But I have enough faith to know that He can humble us. In fact, I’m excited at the prospect of being brought low so that He can gather more souls.

The Heart of Apostle Paul

arms of a passionate and loving father

I wrote yesterday about the apostle Paul’s earnest heart, and I later thought that I might add a better description. There’s nothing I’d change or omit about the first comment.

My grandfather’s name was Earnest (no, not Ernest) and so I am fond of the word – and it fits here.  Paul was so alive with this urgency to save everyone around him that he used no guile, no subterfuge.

Paul’s heart was also that of a father.  Maybe not today’s father who’s afraid to be anything but his child’s best friend, but the long-thinking father who said what mattered most instead of using placation or bribery.

His torment in life was that the news of Jesus’ death & resurrection would not get to the four corners of Earth, and he was desperate to extend the reach of the gospel message.  He broke himself, went hungry, endured imprisonment – all to advance a ministry beyond what any run of the mill zealot would accept.

He was “Just Do It” long before most people even had shoes!

I’ve wept when reading Paul’s letters. I’ve tried to place myself, as Paul at a desk, furiously scribbling messages to lead this ministry.

Imagine his options. Brilliant and persuasive man who could’ve settled down anywhere to build a congregation in relative safety.

But he couldn’t.

He was not looking to save 100 lives.  He wanted thousands, tens of thousands! He served no less than a perfect God and the joy of knowing that Jesus’ intercession had made it possible for us all to reach Heaven and be with that God for eternity could not be contained.

I’m sure Paul was frequently exhausted.  We know that he was beaten, malnourished, jailed and ridiculed. Yet those were just bumps in a long, important road.

He was going to meet God and didn’t want anyone left behind.

He took a hardline in most of his epistles, but he did it with encouragement and an infectious optimism that makes them precious to read. I hope you’ll dive into them soon if they’ve not been on your reading schedule for a while.

Is There a Message For Now?

I think my post from yesterday said it best.  So many salvations are at stake today.

We can’t honor a God without spreading the gospel. We’ve been given a love so deep and a gift so precious that, to occupy ourselves too long on trivial matters is great loss.

Gather your simple tools – a bible, maybe an extra one in tow for divine appointments. Move out and make great things happen before it’s too late!

A Sunday Sermon Recap – November 26, 2017

apostle paul pens a letter

2 Cor 6:1-13

The apostle Paul was, no doubt, a serious man. He also had an earnest father’s heart, and it’s reflected in every one of his letters.

Even when angry, Paul never loses sight of his main mission. And that is to claim as many souls in Jesus’ name as he can possibly claim.

He had confidence, but never ego. He had contempt, but only when he saw effort from others that didn’t reflect the urgency that he knew was of paramount importance.

The first 13 verses of Chapter 6 in 2nd Corinthians make it easy to visualize that passionate Paul, maybe standing in a torrential downpour with his pockets empty and turned out. Some component of his letters always has to take the time to convince his readers that he, and all those who move to and fro to spread the message and love of Christ, are not charlatans.

For any of you who have ever watched the Monty Python movie Life of Brian, you’ll recall scenes of what amounts to faith barkers peddling their babble in a dusty bazaar while others mill about listening and mocking the message. Paul never takes for granted that his body of work rises above that noise. Too much is at risk to make assumptions, and he knows that.

How Much Do We Suffer for Christ?

Very few of us can comprehend the sufferings of the apostles. It would be no surprise to me if you read Chapter 6 without spending any real time reflecting on the beatings, imprisonments and hunger referenced by Paul in v.5 alone. That’s almost incomprehensible stuff for Christian living modern-day America.

But, as I sat in church today, listening to some announcements at the beginning of the service I was struck by one in particular. Our church has both a front and back entrance that are used by regular attendees, and beginning next week, we are going to be locking the back door as the 10 AM service begins.

The reason? Security.

Can any of us equate this to the peril that Paul encountered? No, of course not. But two or three years ago it wasn’t even on the radar.

What will this look like in another five years?

One thing’s for sure, and it gets back to the urgency that I feel Paul bleeds as he leads into Chapter 6. It really is time. It’s time to come to Christ, cherish the grace and get to work building the kingdom that might just take this world back from the enemy.

We don’t lose anything by trying. The world, as it is now, is already lost and so reclaiming it risks nothing.

The world is truly absorbed in its own affections but our job is to approach without regard for that. As Paul approached the people of Corinth with a heart wide open, the only prescription for more salvation and greater civility is in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Are You Doing it Like Jesus Would?

the cross is where our forgiveness was gained

There’s no question that the world has many misconceptions about exactly what constitutes Christian belief in this day and age. Atheists, and even many agnostics, would have you believe that “hardline” Christian morality is responsible for a long litany of problems in this world.

However, is a belief in the Jesus Christ we know from our Bible consistent with a stance of discrimination and intolerance? Of course not.

God is perfect, and you could certainly make the argument that he is completely unforgiving about what constitutes sin as we’ve read it in our Bibles. But, he sent Christ here to die a painful and humiliating death on our behalf.

Not one of us is free of sin! And without the atonement gained by the death of Jesus, not one of us could stand before a complete and perfect God with any hope of admittance to heaven.

Therefore, authentic Christians don’t come anywhere close to passing judgment on others. In a world where we are all equally sinful in the eyes of God, what’s the point?

For that reason, we operate under the umbrella of Freedom Broadcasting, which generally supports a conservative/Christian point of view that is healthy and encouraging. No part of our message is given to chastisement or condemnation.

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