Let’s Help Matthew Bring His Buddy Home

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me'”–Matthew 25:40 (NIV).

matthew and levi

Matthew and Levi, the service dog that is being trained to provide for his special needs.

Matthew needs your help. A third grader at Claremont Elementary School in Claremore, Oklahoma, Matthew is suffering from various health issues, including the inability for his body to properly regulate temperature. “A service dog will help monitor and notify him and others, should he begin to get dangerously overheated,” says his mother, Angy Bains.

Matthew also has Aspergers Syndrome, which is on the Autism spectrum, and affects language and behavioral development. He also suffers from a variety of other health issues, among them, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, which is a group of disorders affecting connective tissues, such as those which support the skin, bones, blood vessels and other organs.

When Matthew’s parents learned that a service dog could be trained for Matthew to recognize the signs of overheating, the family began their fundraising efforts. Matthew has already selected his dog, Levi, which is being trained through Glad Wags Service Dogs of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

“The cost is around $10,000 and we’re a long way from being there,” says Angy.

To help raise the funds, his mother has set up a “go fund me” account at http://www.gofundme.com/mattsbuddy.

If you live in the Claremore area, a chili dinner, silent and live auction as well as children’s authors will be helping with his fundraising efforts. The chili dinner is set for Saturday, March 28, beginning at 5 p.m. at Claremore FUMC, on HWY 88, just north of the Will Rogers Museum. Come out, eat a bite of chili, bid on auction items and buy a children’s book to support Matthew or go to his “go fund me” account and donate online.

Note to my readers: I am friends with Angy and Matthew. If you would please click on the link above and donate any amount you can to help Matthew pay for Levi and bring his buddy home, I know he will not only be blessed, but you will too! Jesus tells us, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Lent: A Time for Reflection

40 daysLENT REFLECTIONS: Day 32

Thursday, March 26, 2015

It’s the climax of the story—the high point—by which God has planned to save the world. For Jesus, it brings pain and humiliation as He is nailed to the cross and then suffers further taunts from the Roman soldiers.

While Mark, in his gospel, says only that “They crucified him” (Mark 15:25), movies and sacred art portray a gruesome image. Yes, it was violent. Cicero called it the “cruelest and most disgusting penalty.”

Usually portrayed as wearing a loincloth, Jesus was most likely crucified naked. The Roman’s intention wasn’t just about torturing and killing their victims, it was about humiliating them as well. Although the Romans’ intent was to humiliate Jesus, in his gospel, John portrays the crucifixion of our Lord and Savior as glorification (Read John 19:16-30).

In Day 32 of Adam Hamilton’s book, 40 Days of Reflection, the author says, “This King of the Jews hung there, naked and suffering, to save his people. He laid down his life for them. It was here that God demonstrated his true character to the human race, his willingness to suffer and die to save his people.”

We can’t fully comprehend the humiliation and suffering Jesus endured on the cross. Ask God to help you understand and to be affected by this story. It’s your story too. Jesus gave His life so that you might live.

Read the following scripture today as you continue on this 40-day lent journey: Mark 15:25-26.

Lent: A Time for Reflection

40 daysLENT REFLECTIONS: Day 31

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Five minutes. That may not seem like a long time for us. But if you were Jesus, forced to walk between the traditional site of His sentencing and Golgotha, where He was crucified, five minutes might seem more like five hours.

He had been beaten almost to death. Then, He was forced to carry the 75-pound horizontal beam of the cross, also called the patibula. What should have been a five-minute walk probably turned into more than 30. Jesus struggled. He couldn’t carry the cross any farther.

What happened next probably changed one man’s life—and possibly that of others—when he was ordered by a Roman solider to help Jesus carry the cross the rest of the way to Golgotha. Not only was Simon not a follower of Jesus—he was merely passing by—but he probably didn’t expect his day to be interrupted while he made his way through the streets of Jerusalem.

In Day 31 of Adam Hamilton’s book, 40 Days of Reflection, the author says, “Frightened and perhaps frustrated, Simon picked up the beam, slung it over his shoulder, balanced it there, and then sought to help the bloodied and beaten man. The sooner he reached Golgotha, the sooner he could leave, go back to his tasks, and forget about the entire experience.”

Hamilton adds, “What Simon did not know was that this unexpected interruption to his otherwise busy day would ultimately be the most profound and important experience of this entire life. For in this interruption, he had carried the cross for the King of Glory.”

Mark’s gospel mentions Simon and his sons, Alexander and Rufus. Hamilton says, “…in a matter-of-fact fashion, assuming the Christians at Rome (the most likely recipients of his Gospel) would know them. They were likely leading figures of the church there. In that frightening and burdensome interruption of Good Friday, Simon’s life would forever be changed.”

Ask the Lord today to help you be aware of any interruptions and to see them as an opportunity to serve Him.

Read the following scripture today as you continue on this 40-day lent journey: Mark 15:21.

Lent: A Time for Reflection

40 daysLENT REFLECTIONS: Day 30

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

If you’ve seen Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, or any other movie portraying the last hours of Jesus, you know the horror He faced. I, for one, cannot wrap my mind around the cruelty inflicted on Him, let alone any human. Yet, this was a common practice during those times.

In Day 30 of Adam Hamilton’s book, 40 Days of Reflection, the author says, “There are many dimensions to the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. Among them is the idea that in Jesus’ suffering and death, God was fully identifying Himself with us and was able to experience what we go through as human beings.”

I find that comforting, and thankful that most of us will never experience that kind of cruelty. Hamilton adds, “God knows what it means to feel small, to be attacked mentally and emotionally, and to be physically abused.”

In three of the Gospels—Matthew, Mark and John—we read of the humiliation Jesus experienced at the hands of the Roman soldiers. Hamilton adds, “He was taken before the entire cohort—some three hundred to six hundred soldiers—who stripped him naked, mocked him, crowned him with thorns, struck him, and spat upon him. He stood there naked, accepting the meanness, the hate, the cruelty. I envision his strength, staring at his tormentors with determination and perhaps a glint of pity. He took their spittle, their blows, their taunts.”

As a child growing up in southwestern Louisiana, I often felt left out because I didn’t fit in. I had friends—several close ones—but we were not a part of the “in” crowd. My best friend, Gwen, and I were not athletic and tended to gravitate to the library where we usually had our noses in a good book.

Because of our “differences,” Gwen and I were often picked on. I realize now that God has had His hand on me from the beginning and He knew how small I felt back then.

Hamilton adds, “For every child who was ever picked on, taunted and humiliated, Jesus stood there that day. For every man and woman who was ever made to feel small by others, he stood there that day. For every victim of torture, everyone falsely condemned, everyone who has been abused by another, he stood there as if God were saying, ‘I subjected myself to the hate and meanness of others so that I could identify with you.’”

Think about the pain Jesus suffered for you and thank Him for identifying with your hurt and pain. Also, ask Him to forgive you for the times when you may have been on the giving end of hurt.

Read the following scripture today as you continue on this 40-day lent journey: Mark 15:16-19.

Lent: A Time for Reflection

40 daysLENT REFLECTIONS: Day 29

Today’s scripture focus is only one verse, but it is a powerful one. Although we don’t know much about the form Jesus’ flogging took, we learn in John 19:1 that “Pilate took Jesus and had Him flogged.”

In Day 29 of Adam Hamilton’s book, 40 Days of Reflection, the author says, “Far more time is devoted to describing the humiliation He endured at the hands of the soldiers.”

From other sources, however, we know that those who were beaten by the Romans with their whips and rods on occasion died while suffering a flogging. Sources also reveal that the flesh was ripped from the bones when the guards used leather whips which had been embedded with sharp objects. Hamilton adds, “This was a serious punishment for wrongdoing. But for whose wrongdoing was Jesus being punished?”

According to scripture, Jesus fulfilled over 350 Old Testament prophecies. In Luke 24:44, Jesus says, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.”

In Isaiah 53:5, we read the following prophecy:

But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.

 Hamilton says, “While the suffering and death of Jesus can be seen through many different lenses. One of these is the lens of punishment and forgiveness. Jesus volunteered to take upon himself a punishment that rightly belonged to us. As described in Isaiah, ‘He was wounded for our transgressions’ and ‘by His bruises we are healed.’

Today, thank God for His Son and ask Him to help you comprehend fully the sacrifice He made for you.

Read the following scripture today as you continue on this 40-day lent journey: John 19:1.

Does Jesus really understand our trials?

“Jesus and his disciples came to a place called Gethsemane. Jesus said to them, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ He took Peter, James, and John along with him. He began to feel despair and was anxious. He said to them, ‘I’m very sad. It’s as if I’m dying. Stay here and keep alert’”—Mark 14:32-34 (CEB).

dejected jesus

Distressed? Agitated? Afraid? Would you use these words to describe Jesus? Most of us would not. However, in Mark 14:32-34 above, we read that Jesus experienced emotions just like the rest of us.

I’m participating, along with other church members, in a 40-Day Lent study by Adam Hamilton. In Day 10 of Hamilton’s 24 Hours That Changed the World: 40 Days of Reflection, he reminds us that Jesus was feeling what any human should feel when facing what He was going to face. “In Jesus Christ, God experienced anguish, sorrow, and suffering as human beings do.”

In Hebrews 4:15-16, Paul wrote, “For we do not have a high priest unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but, we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Have you ever been distressed, agitated or afraid? I have. I recall a time in February 2007 when I received a phone call from the wife of my oldest son. My son was being transported by Life Flight to a Tulsa hospital for an injury he’d sustained in an accident.

My son, who is what you would describe as a “horse whisperer,” had been picking up a horse from a client when the animal spooked. Whirling around, the horse kicked, striking my son in the side of the face and knocking him unconscious. Thank the Lord, my son was not alone. A friend called 911.

Lent: A Time for Reflection

40 daysLENT REFLECTIONS: Day 28

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Have you ever done something to please others, even when you knew it was wrong? This is the situation Pontius Pilate faced when he chose “to satisfy the crowd.” Doing so meant he sent an innocent man to his death and released a known criminal.

In Day 28 of Adam Hamilton’s book, 40 Days of Reflection, the author asks several questions about Pilate’s decision to satisfy the crowd?

  1. Was it merely that he feared a rebellion if he did not crucify Jesus? Perhaps
  2. Did he want to accommodate the crowd because he was tired of dealing with Jesus? Probably
  3. Was it even possible that, like many of us, Pilate wanted the crowd to accept and affirm him? It seems unlikely. Pilate was a cruel man who routinely abused his subjects.

Hamilton says, “I am fundamentally a people pleaser. Most pastors are. We are wired to like people and to want them to like us. I suspect the same is true of politicians as well. Maybe it is also true of you”

However, what happens when you face doing something you believe is right, knowing it will upset a large number of people? It might even cause them to turn against you.

Hamilton adds, “I came to realize some time ago just how easy it is to betray God, even to lose your soul, if your primary objective is to satisfy the crowd.”

God knows when we’ve had a crisis of courage. He knows when we’ve remained silent and when we should have spoken out. Today, pray for God’s boldness, courage and love.

Read the following scripture today as you continue on this 40-day lent journey: Mark 15:15.