In 1994 Dr. Billy Graham was quoted as saying, “The greatest moments of Native history lie ahead of us if a great spiritual renewal and wakening should take place. The Native American has been a sleeping giant. He is awakening. The original Americans could become the evangelists who will help win America for Christ! Remember these forgotten people."
In contrast, in 1890 Frank Baum (author of “The Wizard of Oz”) wrote in the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer Newspaper, “With his fall, the nobility of the redskin is extinguished, and what are left are a pack of whining curs who lick the hand that smites them. The whites by law of conquest, by justice of civilization, are masters of the American continent, and the best safety of the frontier settlements will be secured by the total annihilation of the few remaining Indians.”
I mention the latter only to make a point on how the Church is dealing with the new Native American contextual Christian movement that is now taking place on many reservations and urban cities throughout North America. In much the same manner, there seems to be a new spirit of conquest to put out the cultural revival fire that is currently sweeping across the Indian nations. You’d almost think it was the Ghost Dance.
The Ghost Dance, which was organized by Wovoka of the Paiute tribe, just as well may have been called the Holy Ghost Dance. It was said that he told the people that if they danced long and hard the Great Spirit would basically come for them, and in plain English, lead them out of bondage. This is very Biblical sounding to me, and was by no means the start of another uprising as the Americans called them. Once again it was lack of knowledge about Indians.
Today, using contextual ministry, many native people want to sing songs of praise to God on the traditional hand drum or the larger pow wow drum, while others want to play the Native American flute to honor Him. Many desire to dance before him in full regalia while others want the freedom to pray out loud in their own native language without shame.
For too many years, our Native American people have been labeled as “heathens.” This is so far from the truth, it’s almost funny. The Europeans brought the Gospel (Bible) with them, but the Holy Spirit was already on this continent too. They did not bring the Comforter that Jesus promised with them. God created the entire earth at the same time, not one region at a time.
Our ancestors prayed everyday as part of their daily life. They prayed to the Great Spirit, the Great Mystery; they didn’t know him by name, but they were smart enough to accept the fact that there was a creator, a supreme being if you will, and their prayers were addressed to him directly.
The chiefs, i.e. elders, would go high on the mountaintops seeking to be close to Him, seeking visions and direction on how best to lead their people. Sounds like Proverbs 3:5-6 to me. Everything was sacred because everything was created by Him. Respect was a word that was very much a part of tradition.
We all know that the Pilgrims survived because of the natural loving nature of the Native American People. That reminds me of John 13:34-35. The Bible tells us the importance of loving one another. Heathens? I don’t think so! There are many similarities between the Old Testament and Native American traditions. Jews were the first Christians, and they were also tribal people.
What I’m saying might ruffle some feathers, but that’s certainly not my intention. What we need more than ever is unity among the churches of all denominations and a deeper understanding of Native American spirituality by all of them. A more compassionate approach rather than a “stop being Indian” and be one of us approach! This is dated primitive outreach.
I believe in common ground ministry as expressed by the Apostle Paul in 1st Corinthians 9:19-23. We are all who God made us. He created the culture, tradition, and language of all people. We were all, not just some, created in His image. Within the last few years, in line with what Dr. Graham said, I’ve seen a tremendous move of God among the nations across this land. America, get ready for a “Holy War Path,” led by Native American pastors, evangelists, prophets, and teachers from within all of the Indian nations.
Churches have got to stop jumping to conclusions, many times without sufficient knowledge to back up their claims, and be so quick to label everything Native American as demonic. The drum, flute, regalia - this can all be redeemed before God. Why does it have to be burned as so many have been told to do? They were all made from materials created by God to begin with. Why are Native Americans constantly being singled out as being wrong in everything that we do? Are we the black sheep of God’s family? I certainly don’t think so, not the God I serve.
I know that there are many Native American Christians who do not accept contextual ministry, and that’s all right too - as long as they know Jesus and don’t have a speck in their eye. I myself was finally brought to Christ in a Full Gospel black church, and I can truly say you haven’t been to church until you go at least one time to a Full Gospel church. They have a new found culture that God has blessed them with.
You see, what Satan meant for bad, God meant for good. When they were brought to America as slaves, they were all from different tribes, spoke different dialects, and had specific culture and traditions. Their identity was taken from them, they could not change their color, but they took away their tribal identity and African culture and traditions.
However, from the songs that arose from the cotton fields, came new found culture and traditions with a distinct sound all its own. Their regalia today can be seen in the beautiful robes worn by the bishops, the colorful dress code of both the men and women, as well as the large hats worn by the ladies, along with complete freedom of expression to worship God in their own way. This is all modern day regalia in a church service that has plenty of African culture and tradition, and rightfully so.
Why can’t Native Americans be Christians and still be Indians?
Churches send missionaries to all parts of the world, and this is awesome, but there are also mission fields in America that are being ignored. Reservations have long been Satan’s killing fields, and the time has come to do what the Apostle Paul said in 1st Corinthians. Instead of falling into Satan’s trap and allow him to divide the Church into two different kinds of “Indian Christians,” we need to be more Christ - like and ask ourselves the question, “What would Jesus do?” Do I really have to answer that!
In the interim, thousands of our native brothers and sisters, and their children, have not been reached with the word of God because of man’s doctrine, not God’s. You need a discerning spirit, and I realize that there are certain elements within the tradition that can no longer be practiced as Christians. They fall into the law of the Old Testament and are no longer necessary because of our Lord’s supreme sacrifice for all of us on the cross at Calvary.
Culture on the other hand is different, and many different nationalities of people bring their culture into the Church without any problem, that is, all except Native Americans. I feel that the time has come for non - Indian churches to open up their pulpits to Native American pastors, and not just for a special “Indian Day” celebration and allow us to evangelize your people for a change.
I really believe that Native Americans are God’s chosen people on this continent; we are the landlords appointed by God. When Native Americans are accepted as equals in the pulpits of America, you will see a move of God across this land that will ignite a revival throughout the country like we’ve never seen since Azusa Street.
The time has come to stop stereotyping and come to the realization of what our Lord said, “The last shall be first.” ---Tom Bee
The more I searched for what I thought would satisfy that empty feeling in my spirit through drugs, alcohol and women…the deeper I plunged downward. The high from each lasted but a fleeting moment, and then the unrest in my spirit, the guilt, the suicidal tendencies would come back stronger. Satan was chasing me like crazy, he was all over me and I couldn’t shake him! Satan knew that if he could keep me in this pattern, I would self-destruct. The Bible says in John 10:10 “The Devils purpose is to steal, kill and destroy but God’s purpose is to give life in all its fullness.” The devil was already preparing a place for me where my thirst would never be quenched. I was so close to Hell I could feel the fire! My heart was full of hate, anger and self pity. How many of you know that if the Devil can get you to hate yourself, he can get you to do anything? I didn’t know how to say “I love you,” and I had no love in my heart. The Bible says in John 4:8 “He that loveth not, knoweth not God.” Satan wants to steal your soul from God, kill your joy and destroy your family, Why? For one reason and that’s to separate us from God, our very lifeline and source of love, because God is love! Jesus is the manifestation of God’s love and he can heal our heart, restore our families, and give us back all of the things that Satan has stolen from us. I know now that no matter how much pain I felt, or how much I hated myself, no matter how much abuse I inflicted upon myself or others….I was not alone! God was waiting patiently in line for me to come home. He waited for me to come out of my coma because Jesus is an Apostle of patience when it comes to his sheep. Because of the gift of salvation, Satan has an intense jealousy and hatred for mankind. 1st Peter 5:8 says it best; “Be careful, watch out for attacks from Satan your great enemy. He prowls around like a hungry, roaring lion looking for some victim to tear apart.” I don’t want to digress, but I do believe that we must understand who are enemy Satan is. We need to stop reading the same “Jesus Loves Me” verses over and over again and put on the full armor of God. Satan is running scared in these last days and none of us are immune from spiritual attacks. We must be prayed up so that we can keep the devil laid up, Amen, Amen…Praise God! I have found that God wants people who love righteousness and truth, not just “Church Folks” looking for blessings! Because God has given us the gift of free will, we must choose to follow and serve God. Our time on earth is a proving and testing ground where we can either choose the kingdom of God or choose the world, the kingdom of Satan! I believe that after Satan was kicked out of Heaven, his ultimate goal was to win more souls to his kingdom than God. Beloved, we cannot and must not let this happen! For the Bible says “The harvest is plenty but the workers are few.“ Let me tell you that only through God’s grace and mercy was I lifted out of the garbage! I’m not just talking about being pulled out of the garbage on the day that I was born, but also the very trash that filled and soiled my black stained heart. I was a heavy drinker, an abuser of drugs and time after time like a dog I returned to my own vomit. There were many times that I wanted to end it all and commit suicide! You might say I was a professional garbage man until the day that God emptied the trash and filled my can with His love! I know the Lord was listening to my dear mother’s prayers as well as to the prayers of my loving wife Vicki. Never underestimate the power of prayer it’s the most powerful weapon we have against Satan! For so many years I set fires of destruction but now I’m fighting fires for God! Remember that with God’s help you can prevent the forest fires in your life. Not only do I not want to spend an eternity in Hell, but I don’t want you to go there either! We can’t grasp how long eternity is, but I know that I want no part of Hell! Quench your thirst and use the living water to put out the fires from Hell! ---Tom Bee
I like to compare serving God faithfully to that of an athlete with the NBA or any professional sport for that matter. It takes discipline (obedience), practice (prayer), and dedication (reading the word). Let’s use basketball as an example. Like all sports, the coach expects his players to listen, and to know his voice, and to put trust in his decisions. God is our spiritual coach and He says in John 10:27-28 “My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow Me, and I give unto them eternal life and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them from Me.” Ask yourself, are you a player? No matter how perfect we think we have our game down, or how perfect of a player we may think we are, we all have flaws and shortcomings. So many of us are still baby athletes, still dependent on training wheels to keep us from tripping up. The problem is, so many of us think we’re star players, we don’t need to practice, we got it going on. Isaiah 40:26 says, “look up to the heavens, who created all these stars? As a Shepard (coach) leads his sheep (team) calling each by its pet name and counts them to see that none are lost or strayed, so God does with stars and planets.” You cannot be a champion in the game of life unless you follow God’s plan for you. You must be a team player, no showboating allowed; it’s all about God, not about you or I. We have too much linen in our game, too much soft cotton. We need to add a little polyester in the mix. We need a wrinkle free game style. Only God can iron out the imperfections in your game. Some of us are not yet ready to wear the God’s Property T-Shirt, still lifting light weights, not yet ready to grow in our strength with God, not yet ready to sprint, still barely walking, not ready to run, too tired to pick up the pace. Some of us are still dribbling on the sidelines, never been off the bench, never breaking a sweat or getting your uniform dirty. In the NBA draft option, Satan wants the best worldly possessions; God wants those that are newly born again. God’s NBA stands for the ‘New Blessings Available,’ Satan’s NBA stands for "No Blessings Available." A good offense means nothing unless you have a strong defense. In Psalms 59:10, our spiritual coach says, “because of His strength of will, I wait upon thee, for God is my defense.” You must decide if you want a champion’s crown in heaven or loser’s thorns in hell. Without God’s defense, Satan’s game of sin will find you, blind you, and grind you! God wants you to have a winning season; Satan wants you to have a losing season. God wants you in His locker room with the rest of God’s players. We may scrimmage, but we don’t follow the coach’s instructions. We’re not ready for field goals from any angle, much less a 3 pointer. We’re always looking for free throws. Some of us aren’t ready to suit up or even make it as far as the bench. We’re still in the showers trying to get clean. You can’t put the moves on God. He knows our every move. Some of us blame everyone else for our losing season. We pout, whine, and say, “The coach doesn’t like me.” That’s right, He doesn’t like you, He loves you. What other coach do you know that can tell you “I forgive you, I love you, come on over to My house,” all in one breath. God’s ready to play ball. Are you? Many of us are content just watching the game from the bleachers, afraid to set foot on the court, afraid to shoot, not realizing that God wants us to score in the game of life. Remember, God wants you to have a winning season. Satan wants you to have a losing season. So many of us are still sitting in the cheap seats, out of touch, out of view, proudly flaunting our double zero jersey. Satan wants to keep us in the cheap seats, he’s a cheapskate. You can only foul out so many times in the game of life, and before you know it, the game’s over. You’ve got to make the devil foul out of your game. Satan doesn’t want you to get in any playing time. God wants you to play the full game. God wants to crown you a champion in the kingdom. Satan wants you to wait till next season. God wants us to at least show up for the game, but many of us would rather forfeit our blessings and compromise with God by rescheduling to a more convenient time for us. The spirit of fear has kept us out of the playoffs year after year. When I think about God’s goodness, it makes me want to have a serious fourth quarter rally. It makes me want to do some serious slam dunkin’ on the devil, it makes me want to score like crazy. I just want to rout the devil! I leave you with this thought; don’t get so caught up in physical fitness that you neglect your spiritual fitness. Spiritual fitness also requires daily exercise, reading the word, praying, and loving others. I ask you, are you a player? ---Tom Bee