Friday, June 19, 2009

Worship the Giver, Not the Gifts

(Our house, ca. 1863)

I’m reflecting on the weekend we had with Shampa Rice of Iris Ministries. Shampa was with us Saturday evening, June 13, and then Sunday morning and evening, June 14.

On Saturday evening Shampa began by telling a miraculous story involving herself and her suitcase that had been lost upon her arrival in the U.S. The missing suitcase appeared after she asked God for help. It was quite a story that amazed the airline attendants. Shampa asked God who and what this story was for. Was it for herself? For the others who saw the thing happen? God clarified this, telling her He was giving her a word for the Church in America. That word was: do not be so enamored by the gifts and the miracles, signs, and wonders, so that you forget God, who is the Giver.

When I heard this I said “Yes! Shampa has it right!" We have so many Christians in America that are chasing after miracles, signs, and wonders instead of chasing after God first. Shampa took us back to basics when she said: “It’s all about the Great Commandment.” Which is: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. And the second commandment is this: you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Do these things, Shampa told us, and miracles, signs, and wonders will follow after you. She did not present this to us as a formula. Actually, Shampa said that even if we do not experience a lot of the miraculous we still are to walk in the love of God.

On Sunday morning Shampa continued this theme, which is: Love God first. Chase after God. Receive God’s love. “Love is the greatest” (1 Corinthians 13). Shampa told us a story about a gong in a symphony concert that, during a three-hour concert, was only struck once. She wondered what was the purpose of this huge gong if it were only to be used once? She asked someone about this, who told her, “Shampa, this gong makes so much noise that it would overwhelm the orchestra if it were struck continuously.” The point being: if we do not major on the love of God, we’re nothing, as worthwhile as a clanging, noisy gong.

God has given Shampa Rice and Heidi & Rolland Baker miraculous experiences, yes. But the center of their ministry is: love. The love of God. God is love. Love people. Love your enemies. There’s great power in the love of God. God’s love eventually conquers all hatred. God so loved the world. Love is the greatest.