In the winter prior to Jesus’ crucifixion, at the time of what we today call Hanukkah, He said, “I have come that they may life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10b). In these essays this week, I have found myself reflecting on our denominational core values from the perspective of the death and resurrection of Jesus. For several of them the timing has been propitious: the theme of justice on Good Friday and for Easter the theme of generosity.
Before more discussion about generosity and Easter, I want to acknowledge an insight from Dr. Moses Kumar, IPHC leader in Hyderabad, India. The IPHC core values were presented in 2013 and a year or two later he remarked to me, “Bishop, have you noticed that the first three of our core values are theological, the last three are practical application, and the central value is the hinge between the two?” I replied that I had not noticed that. But over the years I have often pondered his observation and given thanks to the Holy Spirit for guiding the church in the affirmation of these seven, and specifically in the order in which they are arranged.
God’s timing is always perfect and usually we do not recognize it until we look back at moments in our lives. What might have appeared to us as a missed opportunity often turns out to be God’s protection and provision within the framework of His purposes for us and His kingdom. I found this to be true in the year 2020. The whole world knows what occurred in the early part of that year when the Coronavirus pandemic shut down entire nations. All of us wondered what the financial and social impact would be. Since 2013 the denomination had given each of the core values a yearly focus, and without our intentional preparation, the year 2020 was given to We Prayerfully Value Generosity.
As 2020 unfolded we discovered the reality of God’s timing and provision. I was a leader of ‘little faith’ (just like the disciples!) and was preparing for a significant decline in financial resources. But by the latter part of 2020 I was amazed at how the people of God had faithfully given to their local congregations and the impact that had on denominational resources. People faithfully tithed and contributed above their tithe to local church projects and a special international Covid Relief offering through World Missions Ministries. Now, two years later, my heart is filled with gratitude for the faithfulness of IPHC people around the globe whose hearts were filled with divine generosity. In many respects this generosity has been about much more than finances. It has included generosity of time and energy to advance the kingdom of God.
Which brings me to God’s generosity to us on Easter. We all know John 3:16 and the fact that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” Love and giving are the driving verbs of generosity flowing from the heart and character of God.
I encourage you on this Easter Sunday to take a few minutes and read the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. As you read, take note of how often these words occur and their context: rich, riches, inheritance (1:7, 14, 18; 2:4, 7; 3:8, 16; 5:5 in the NKJV). You will discover the abundance of living in the power and presence of the resurrected Lord. You will discover that God’s generosity, and the generosity to which He calls us, is far more than our financial assets. We are called to a generosity of time, a generosity of forgiveness and compassion, a generosity of holiness, that encompasses our entire being for the praise of God’s glory in Jesus Christ!
When you finish reading Ephesians, listen to the late Joyce Lowrie Shealy sing about the generosity of God in this arrangement of Steve Darmody’s “How Rich I Am.” Happy Easter everyone!