April 13th, 2022
What would you do if you only had a week left to live? While we don’t like to think of those things most of the time, we would likely centre our attention around the things and people we value most, the things that define us. I would anticipate that most of my focus would be on me, and my needs.
So, what did Jesus do? The Bible teaches that a mere 5 or 6 days before he knew he would die, Jesus’ entourage is stopped by a blind man begging on the side of the road. And perhaps surprisingly, given the context, Jesus asks the man, “what do you want me to do for you?” Jesus’ last act of his ministry life, before he enters what we sometimes refer to as “Holy Week”, is one of selfless service to a stranger, an outcast, a disabled man. This says much about what Jesus’ priorities were.
Interestingly, just before this encounter, Jesus asked some of his closest disciples the same thing, “what do you want me to do for you?” They asked for a special place beside Jesus in heaven – a request perhaps self-centred and rooted in entitlement.
But the blind man, begs for mercy. And not surprisingly says he wants to see. And we are told Jesus gives him his sight. This was a harbinger of what would happen a mere week later, when Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection would offer us all a life free from spiritual blindness.
So, this Easter 2022, what are you asking of God? Are you asking him to bless you, and increase your significance, or are you asking for fresh eyes to see the messed-up world around you and the opportunities that surround you to make a difference? As for me, and my colleagues at Effect Hope, we want to line ourselves up with the blind man. Lord give us eyes to see the opportunities around us to make a difference.
The Messiah’s Donkey
April 6th, 2022
“Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here.” – Luke 19:30
“See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” – Zechariah 9:9
This image of Christ on a donkey is, for me, an echo, a closing of the circle that began when Mary came with the Christ also riding on a donkey.
At the time of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem – the donkey he was riding was a sign of peace. In ancient times, leaders would ride donkeys in civil processions, and horses in military ones.
A king arriving on a donkey would indicate that the person was on a peaceful mission.
The Messiah’s Donkey. All four gospels tell us that Jesus rode into Jerusalem for the Passover on the back of a donkey, most specifically a colt that had never been sat upon. For anyone who has ever ridden a colt, this is immediately striking. One does not just sit on an unbroken colt -Not unless you want a broken bone or two. They buck and fight, a colt needs time to become accustomed to both a saddle and a rider. This must be a very special colt.
Jesus sends a couple of disciples to go and untie the waiting colt and bring it to him. How did Jesus know a colt was waiting for him? This is a supernatural event – orchestrated by God, foretold in ancient text as far back as Genesis 49; the colt was born for this and waiting to be brought to Christ.
The colt had to be untied. Are we not all like that colt? Tied up and waiting for Christ to set us free. We are bound by so many things – guilt, anxiety, anger, forgiveness we haven’t given … we are bound to our tech, afraid to put down our cell phones, we are addicted, we are sick, we have bad habits, we have too much stuff… There is a limitless list things to which we are tied.
Christ was sent to set us free. Just like that colt, we are free to ride with Jesus: to Jerusalem, the Holy City, the city where God dwells. We are supernatural in spirit; each of us was born with a purpose: to love God and love each other.
Palm Sunday is the day when we, like the donkey and colt, are untied and set loose to be used for the work of God. I pray that you are able to surrender you burdens at the foot of the cross. I pray that Palm Sunday is the day when you are set free to worship with loud Hosannas the One who was tied on a cross to be our savior.
When The Answer Is No
March 30th, 2022
“Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’ Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’” – Matthew 26: 36-39
How do you respond when you are told “no” to something?
As parents, we often regale stories of our children’s foot stomping moments in voicing their displeasure of being told “no” to a particular request. Asking is not wrong. But the response to the answer demonstrates their level of their maturity. “Yes,” is always the preferred answer! But what if the answer is “no”?
As adults, we also make requests. In prayer before our heavenly Father, we may open our sorrowful and troubled hearts asking for concerns that deeply affect us and those around us. Surely the Father’s love and care for us will translate into our deepest longings and desires being answered according to our wishes? “Yes,” is always the preferred answer! But what if the answer is “no”?
Three times Jesus asked His heavenly Father that, if possible, He would take the terrifying spectre of death on a cross away from him. Overwhelmed, and distraught, “…he fell with his face to the ground and prayed. My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’” Jesus asked in earnest, pleading his case for another way, yet, with the caveat that acknowledged His Father’s will, and his acceptance of that will.
Secure in his Father’s love for him, Jesus could accept a no. It was certainly not easy! Probably one of the darkest, most difficult times he had ever experienced. The Father did not give him the answer he prayed for, but he trusted that his Father knew best.
How about you? God hears our prayers and wants us to express our true feelings. To ask of God is not wrong. “Yes,” is always the preferred answer! But what if the answer is “no”? Our response may show more of our spiritual maturity than we care to acknowledge. Regardless, God will continue to care for us and as he sent the angel (Luke 22:43) to strengthen Jesus through his trial, he will give us the strength and help we need to find our way through.
During this season of Lent, I pray you will find much comfort in remembering that Jesus understands and laments with you during any struggles and trials you may be facing. Trust him with the answers you seek.
As you reflect please enjoy this special thank you from Dr. Ruby, our partner in India.
A Royal Robe
March 23rd, 2022
When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” – John 19:5.
In January of 2021, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced that “True Purple” textiles had been discovered. What is remarkable – aside from the fact that the textiles survived at all – is this: in over 3,000 years, the dye had not faded – it is still vibrant and vital. Unlike your jeans and your memories – this special purple does not fade over time.
The “true purple”, also known as Tyrian purple, is a testament to antiquity’s genius. The dye comes from a gland in a tiny, ugly snail buried in the muddy bottom of the Mediterranean Sea. (wouldn’t you love to know how they discovered this?) The snails were harvested, scrubbed, shells carefully broken, and the precious gland was removed. From there the gland was boiled in brine filled lead vats for 10 days. It was a long and foul-smelling process.
Once the fluid reached the right colour tone, from blue to purple to red, a colour sequence mentioned 131 times in the bible, it was oxidized and exposed to sunlight. This process deepened or brightened the purple hue until the artisan was satisfied with the colour.
One gram will dye 10 grams of fabric (like a lady’s scarf). It takes 120 pounds of snails to produce just one gram of “true purple”. It was worth 10 times more than gold; today artisans estimate it would cost $2700 per gram. Like a Porsche in the driveway – purple was “the” status symbol.
This is the colour purple that Christ was draped in before death. Meant to be a mockery of his claims to royalty, it has the opposite effect on anyone who understands the deeper meaning of purple.
Just think – the purple that the Christ wore found its source in the simplest of creatures, reminding us that everything in God’s creation has a higher purpose. That everything given to us by God has something special inside.
True Purple never fades. The purple in the drape is a symbol of God’s unfailing, unfading, love for each of us. Our beautiful Christ was clothed in the purple that grows richer and more vibrant with time. Just like our relationship with Christ should be – a deeper, richer, more beautiful experience every day.
The joke is on the soldiers. Dressing him in a royal robe of true purple only highlights for eternity how special and precious is our Christ.
Effect Hope and The Leprosy Mission Bangladesh are old friends and have been working together on the LFRB project since 2013. In this video Dr. Khorshed Alam briefly explains the nature of the program and expresses his thanks for our support.
Betrayal and Forgiveness
March 16th, 2022
As his disciples were happily settling down to celebrate the Passover meal, which we now know as, “The Last Supper”, Jesus said something that would suddenly and dramatically change the mood: “One of you will betray me”.
He, of course, knew who it was but said nothing when questioned by his astonished brothers. “Is it I?“ they asked in one voice.
Wouldn’t Jesus have been right in saying, “All of you will betray me”? Afterall, Peter denied knowing Jesus and the rest of the disciples would go into hiding after his arrest.
Even though Jesus knew they would forsake him; he still washed their feet and shared a meal with them declaring, “I do not call you servants any longer… but I have called you friends”. Later, he would forgive them for their imminent and future sins by saying, “This is my blood of the covenant, poured out for the forgiveness of sins”.
But what about us? Shouldn’t we also ask, “Is it I?”?
If we’re being honest, can we say that we wouldn’t have done the same thing if we lived at that time? Having seen the brutality of the Roman occupiers and the power of our religious leaders to remove us from our community, are we confident that we would have stood by Jesus all the way to the cross?
Even today, can any of us say, as followers of Christ, that we have never betrayed Jesus or denied knowing him or abandoned him? What about the times when it was just easier to not admit that we are believers? When we were too lazy or afraid to defend ourselves amongst those who would label us as naïve, weak, and stupid for believing? Or the times when we heard Jesus’ voice in our spirit telling us to do something, but we did the opposite?
The reality is that all of us will betray Jesus in some way, at some time – all of us.
You may have heard this before but, like the disciples, we’re all human; we all make mistakes and are not always as brave as we would like to be. Remember, there was only one perfect, sinless human being and he paid for those mistakes and betrayals, so we don’t have to.
This realization should deepen our faith as we ask ourselves, “How can we not love Jesus? How can we not drop to our knees in repentance and gratitude?”
He went to the cross to save us and all we have to do is say thank you.
Walking To The Easter Cross (Pt.2)
March 9th, 2022
“Is any one of you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone cheerful? He should sing praises. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick. The Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. “ – James 5:13-16
The gospels recall Jesus praying frequently, both in joy and sorrow. He prayed early in the morning and late into the night, often withdrawing to a quiet place. He prayed before and after significant events of His life: baptism, feeding the multitudes, transfiguration, the raising of Lazarus, his agonized prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, and even on the cross.
We are called to follow Jesus’ lead in praying without ceasing. In the passage above, James reminds us to pray in all circumstances. He mentions different types of prayer: personal prayer, in community with others, and prayer for each other. This should be a continuous and life-giving practice in our daily lives.
There is power in praying in faith: “the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick. The Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven” (James 5:15). We can find hope in the Lord and healing for body and soul.
God wants to hear our prayers and desires communion with us. He is a compassionate Father, intimately concerned about healing brokenness in our lives. There is no doubt that He understands our troubles as Jesus lived with disappointment, grief, and the trials of human existence.
Pain, illness, sorrow, and sin do not have the final word in our lives. These physical bodies are not our forever homes. We are offered salvation through Jesus. Ultimate healing comes from the LORD, who is already victorious. Death has been defeated.
One of my favorite hymns triumphantly declares:
Up from the grave He arose
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes
He arose a Victor from the dark domain
And He lives forever with His saints to reign
(“Christ Arose” – Robert Lowry)
During this season of Lent join me in praying for healing: nations in conflict, broken lives, and the people we serve affected by neglected tropical diseases like leprosy. My prayer is for physical health and restoration, and ultimately for spiritual healing and salvation.
Walking To The Easter Cross
March 2nd, 2022
“…Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go.’” – John 11:43, 44
One of the most difficult situations we can face in life is to be present at the grave of a loved one. Death is the end of our spiritual pilgrimage here on earth and the finality of that jars our hearts with heartbreak and sorrow. Jesus experienced this when his dear friend Lazarus died. Soon, He too would face death. Adrift in painful emotions, Jesus wept. Lazarus was in a cave, a tomb. He was gone.
At times in our life, we may feel like a part of us is shut away, encased in a cave, a tomb of our own making. Like a piece of our heart has been buried due to exhaustion, hurt, betrayal, or grief. Emotionally we feel dead. Unable to cope with the continuing demands of our lives, how do we move forward?
The prophet Elijah can give us insight through what he learned during a dark time when he too found himself in a cave (1 Kings 19:9-18). Distraught, and discouraged, Elijah hid only to find that, even there, the Lord was present. Transcendent in His power God showed Himself to Elijah but God spoke to him in a gentle whisper that demonstrated his love and care. His question? “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
We are not meant to live in a cave. Pain comes – but it need not define our path forward. In the darkness God is whispering – “What are you doing?” Come out! Come out to the life I still have for you! As Jesus called Lazarus, so he calls to us. There is still work He has for us to do.
We are the people witnessing the renewed and restored Lazarus. Just as Jesus commanded those at the grave of Lazarus to remove the linen bindings, we are commanded to help all people live free from the spiritual death caused by disability and stigma. I am so grateful that I have the great privilege to bring restoration and hope to people, who essentially are living in the cave.
Prayer, fasting and giving are expressions of the fundamental purpose of Lent. Will you join me in listening to God’s whisper, and come out of the cave to do what He has next?
As you reflect, please enjoy this special Thank You message from Dr. Premal Das, our partner in India.