Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion
Today we reflect on Luke 19:38.
Growing up as the seventh of nine children and the child of a father who owned a prominent business in the community, Paprocki Pharmacy, I had a name to live up to. My siblings had set the bar high as far as their achievements in school, and so I was reminded, on more than one occasion by teachers, that my less-than-stellar performance or behavior was not what they expected from a Paprocki! As I matured, I learned that my family name was something to be proud of, and I have always taken strides to bring honor to that name.
In Baptism, each of us takes on the name of Jesus Christ: we become Christian and, throughout our lives, we are called to live every moment of every day “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” This means living up to a name that stands for compassion, mercy, selfless love, forgiveness, and so many other virtues that Jesus modeled for us during his earthly ministry. During this Holy Week, may we commit ourselves to living “in the name of the Lord.”
“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.”
Blessed are we who live our lives in the name of the Lord. But do we always remember what it means to be a disciple? We must remind ourselves that our lives are about dying as well as rising. There is no resurrection without death. Life in the Lord requires glory one day and dejection the next. As disciples we have hope, because we know that God holds us the entire time.
How do you live your life in the name of the Lord?
How can you bless the dying and the rising of your life, knowing that both are in the name of the Lord?
(Pray using this prayer or one of your own.)
Gracious God, I bless you. I want to do your will. I freely place my whole being in your hands. Amen.
Jesus Enters Jerusalem:
Jesus, as we enter Holy Week, I am moved with emotion that you were able to put one foot in front of the other as you entered the streets of Jerusalem. You knew that Jerusalem was a city that did not like prophets, much less the Messiah. Surely you understand you were in danger as you went there. Surely you knew your life was at risk. Why did you go?
Jerusalem was your end, but it was our beginning.There are days that I pray with the Scripture stories about your time in Jerusalem leading up to your death, and I feel angry that you went there. Why didn’t you flee? Why didn’t you turn and run another way?
Praying with the Scriptures about you in front of Pontius Pilate I want to yell out to you: “Defend yourself! Speak up! Tell them who you are!” Why did you remain silent?
Jerusalem was your end, but it was our beginning.This week, I pray that we remember what you did for us—that you intentionally put one foot in front of the other as you entered Jerusalem; that you dined with friends knowing that you would be betrayed; that you were mocked, insulted, slapped, spit on, and falsely accused. You could have chosen otherwise. You could have fled, but you stood, rooted in your Father, and went where you were called to go.
Jerusalem was your end, but it was our beginning.May we remember what you did for us. May we remember that your death did not end in darkness and loss, but in the hope of the Resurrection. May we trust that God can use us to transform lives and the world the way you did for us. May we bring hope into the world the way you did.
And the LORD said to Gideon, ‘With the 300 men who lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hand, and let all the others go every man to his home.’ So the people took provisions in their hands, and their trumpets. And he sent all the rest of Israel every man to his tent, but retained the 300 men. Judges 7:7 ESV
Gideon had begun his journey with over 32,000 men. Now he stood with only three hundred facing an enemy army of over 135,000. He was afraid, but followed God one command at a time. It was a crazy plan; they were going to sneak up on a giant enemy army while they were sleeping, then use trumpets and hidden torches to surprise them, but then what’
It worked. When they blew the trumpets and smashed the jars to reveal the torches, the enemy panicked and started killing each other. Before long, they ran from the battlefield, broken and defeated. Gideon and the men of Israel pursued them and completely defeated Midian and their kings. From this victory, the land had rest for forty years.
When God is on your side, it is not what you have or how much of it that will determine your outcome. When Gideon awoke the giant sleeping army, they could have easily turned and killed him. It was God that fought the battle and He gave Gideon the victory. You only have to follow one step at a time to win this battle. Don’t stop, don’t turn back, keep putting one foot in front of the other one and you will come out a winner.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, be my guide today. Help me to hear Your voice like Gideon did and give me the grace to obey it, in the name of Jesus.
Bible Fun Fact: Solomon had 12,000 horses (1 Kings 10:26).
Unstoppable! ‘Preparing God’s Deliverer through Adoption’ — Acts 7:20-22
[Stephen spoke of God’s work through the life and hardship of Moses:] “At that time Moses was born — a beautiful child in God’s eyes. His parents cared for him at home for three months. When they had to abandon him, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and raised him as her own son. Moses was taught all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was powerful in both speech and action.”
Sometime, somewhere, someone who is struggling will read this devotional. She may think that she was unwanted. He may feel that his biological parents abandoned him. Each may wonder, “Why did I need to be adopted? Why didn’t they love me?” Please believe that the story of Moses is for you. Sometime, somewhere, someone will read this devotional and find herself struggling. “What should I do with this baby? I can’t take care of this child. I can’t face the pain and ridicule of pregnancy? Why don’t I…?” Please realize that this story of Moses is for you. Sometime, somewhere, someone who feels abandoned by God because they cannot have a child through biological processes will read this devotional. Please know, the Moses story is for you.
Some of God’s most significant moves of grace began with adoption. Moses was adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter. Jesus was adopted by Mary’s husband. Children who are adopted are not less than other children; they are children. God and their parents don’t consider them “adopted children”; they are children. God created each child in his or her biological mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13-16). The Father has a plan and purpose for each life. For some, their adoptive family becomes God’s way of getting them in a place to live out their mission. That’s what God did with Moses and Jesus. Imagine what the Father can do with us. Each of us has a story. What matters is that our story ends in glory, with a Father who loves, a faithful family, and an older brother who gave his life to adopt us into our heavenly Father’s family!
O precious Father, you know how important these words, these concepts, and your truth about adoption are to me. Please give each person who has read these words fresh confidence that you have a plan and purpose for each of us. Forgive us, and awaken us from the callousness of our hearts toward adoption and those on all sides of the adoption process. Remind us that when we sing your praises, read your word, and call you Father, we do so because Jesus paid the price for our adoption into your family. And, precious Father, please send your Holy Spirit to minister to any hidden hurts these thoughts about adoption may have stirred. Thank you for being our Abba Father. Amen.
Related Scripture Readings
Passion for Praise: ‘Be My Rock of Protection’
A Year with Jesus: ‘Compassion in the Middle of Conflict’
Note from Jesus
I came to Jerusalem and was greeted with wild enthusiasm. I came as the Prince of Peace, humbly riding on the colt of a donkey as prophesied (Zechariah 9:9). I did not come as a conquering general riding on a white horse.
The crowd was overjoyed at My coming to Jerusalem:
[A] huge crowd of disciples began to celebrate and praise God with loud shouts, glorifying God for the mighty works they had witnessed.
The religious leaders were incensed at My entrance into Jerusalem. They demanded that My followers stop their praises. What was My response to these leaders? I told them the truth!
Listen — if they [the people in the crowd] were silent, the very rocks would start to shout!
The time for diplomacy and subtlety was over. People had to decide what they believed about My identity. Fence-straddling was no longer possible. The issue of My identity could no longer be ignored. The people did not let Me slip quietly into Jerusalem. They wanted God’s promised deliverance. They were convinced that I could bring deliverance to them. But even with their grand expectations, they had no idea what was at stake as I entered Jerusalem!
Jerusalem’s leaders rejected Me. They made the excuse that they were trying to preserve and protect Jerusalem. I knew better. They were trying to protect and preserve their own positions. When I saw the city of David, the holy city for the Israelites, My heart was broken. The leadership of My people refused the offer of peace I came to bring them.
Only by accepting Me would Jerusalem have been spared impending destruction. However, Jerusalem’s leaders would not accept Me. They would kill Me for many reasons, but one of their stated reasons was to save their city, their temple, and their way of life (John 11:45-53). What these leaders didn’t realize was that they were rejecting their only chance for lasting and true peace by rejecting Me.
O how I wish they had welcomed Me and the peace I longed to bring. But in the end, all I could say was really heart-breaking:
How I wish you knew today what would bring peace! … Your enemies will smash you into rubble and not leave one stone standing on another, and they will cut your children down too, because you did not recognize the day when God’s Anointed visited you.
How could My heart not break?
How could My emotions not be aroused?
How could I not keep coming back to the temple to reach out to any who would listen?
How could I not confront the religious leaders with their hypocrisy, duplicity, and ignorance of the Scriptures they claimed to know?
What followed My triumphal entry was a week of conflict. Please know, however, that I loved these very people I confronted. I loved the people who listened on the fringes of the crowd. I loved each person in the crowd. So I ministered to their needs. I confronted their wrong-headed notions about their faith. I did not hide to keep Myself safe. I did not play the game of couching things in politically correct speech.
The strongest words of confrontation and accusation of My whole ministry came during this final week before My crucifixion. These words sealed My fate. Nevertheless, behind even these strong words, My heart was filled with compassion. I hurt for people held in bondage to their false notion of religion, to their pretentious show of religious knowledge, and to their pompous parade of the self-righteousness. My heart ached for those fueled by hate and determined to kill Me. They wanted to return things back to their religious and political status quo. I did not back down from the conflict. False religion and duplicitous hearts had to be confronted. However, I never let go of My compassion for those filled with hate and determined to kill Me!
I mourned their blindness. I wept for their self-imposed destruction. I grieved their hardness of heart. I died so they could be forgiven for it all.
Verses to Live
When He [Jesus] finished the parable, He pushed onward, climbing the steep hills toward Jerusalem.
He approached the towns of Bethphage and Bethany, which are near Mount Olivet. He sent two of the disciples ahead.
Go to the next village. When you enter, you will find a colt tied — a colt that has never been ridden before. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you why you’re untying it, just say, “The Lord needs it.”
So the two disciples found things just as He had told them. When its owners did indeed ask why they were untying the colt, the disciples answered as they had been instructed.
The Lord needs it.
They brought the colt to Jesus, threw their coats on the colt’s back, and then sat Jesus on it. As Jesus rode along, some people began to spread their garments on the road as a carpet. When they passed the crest of Mount Olivet and began descending toward Jerusalem, a huge crowd of disciples began to celebrate and praise God with loud shouts, glorifying God for the mighty works they had witnessed.
Crowd of Disciples:
The King Who comes in the name of the Eternal One is blessed!
Peace in heaven! Glory in the highest!
Pharisees (who were in the crowd):
Teacher, tell these people to stop making these wild claims and acting this way!
Listen — if they were silent, the very rocks would start to shout!
When Jerusalem came into view, He looked intently at the city and began to weep.
How I wish you knew today what would bring peace! But you can’t see. Days will come when your enemies will build up a siege ramp, and you will be surrounded and contained on every side. Your enemies will smash you into rubble and not leave one stone standing on another, and they will cut your children down too, because you did not recognize the day when God’s Anointed One visited you.
He entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. He began driving out the temple merchants.
The Hebrew Scriptures say, “My house shall be a house of prayer,” but you have turned it into a shelter for thieves.
He came back day after day to teach in the temple. The chief priests, the religious scholars, and the leading men of the city wanted to kill Him, but because He was so popular among the people — who hung upon each word He spoke — they were unable to do anything.
Response in Prayer
O Father, I want to believe that had I been there that day when Jesus entered into Jerusalem on a colt, I would have praised Him for His great works and His great teaching. But sometimes I find myself slipping into the mode of trying to preserve the religious status quo of my day. Sometimes I don’t want to risk having an extravagant and bold faith in Jesus and being rejected by people I know. I sometimes catch myself trying to water down some of Jesus’ strong words of truth because they are not acceptable to many people — inside or outside Your people of faith. So give me compassionate courage, I pray, dear Father. I want to stand for truth and speak the truth to the hearts of those who need it. Help me, dear Father. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
How to Grow a Close-Knit Family
Do you want to develop a close-knit family? Do you long to have close relationships with your extended family members, improve communication between parents and grandparents, and develop friendships with those who live far away?
Most of us want these things, but often we don’t know how to “get there.” And too often we tell ourselves, My family is a mess. My home of origin was strange. My kids fight, my marriage is shaky, our parents don’t understand or support us, and our extended family is dysfunctional.
There is no perfect family. We are all a mess to some degree. Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest are only images. Behind every perfect photo is a self-centered person with problems, one who has used ugly words, done awful things, hurt other people, and even discovered they don’t like themselves very much.
But God is not shocked by your situation, by your wounds, or by your history. He’s seen it all. And there’s nothing He can’t forgive, nothing He can’t change, and no one He can’t heal. As the apostle Luke says, “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).
No matter where you come from or your current marital status, you can be the first generation of a healthy, close-knit family.
How does this happen?
Here are four things that will help you develop a close-knit family:
1. Let Grace Rule
You may have a difficult relationship with your mother-in-law. You may wonder if she likes you. Or your son may be in a hard place and you feel him withdrawing from you and the family. Cousins may not have much in common or may even dislike each other.
Decide now to set aside your assumptions (which might not be entirely accurate) and choose to let grace rule.
This will involve choosing kind words. “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24). And remaining silent when offended (Proverbs 17:28). Solomon said it this way: “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense…” (Proverbs 19:11).
Learn to apologize and ask forgiveness.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to go to my husband and to my children (and friends, too) and say, “I need to ask you to forgive me for_________. Will you please forgive me?” I can’t remember a single time when I felt like doing that. We go to one another to ask for forgiveness not because we feel like it, but out of obedience. God has called us to do this (James 5:16).
Hurt feelings take time to be healed and restored–often a long time. But asking for forgiveness opens the door to allow healing to take place and trust to be rebuilt.
No matter what difficult family relationship you may be experiencing, grace and forgiveness can set the stage for healing and unity.
2. Cultivate a Family Vision
John and I recently celebrated 50 years of marriage. I still can’t believe it. When we first got married, we didn’t give much thought to our future family. We were just glad to be married! But the kids started coming–five in seven years, including twins. In that season I wasn’t thinking long-term about our family. I was simply staggering through the day praying I’d make it until someone napped.
Once we began to recover from sleep deprivation, we did begin to talk about what we wanted our family to “look like.” We asked, what character traits do we want to instill in our kids and how will we do this? What do we need to do to build a close-knit family? Even though we were both blessed to come from strong families, we knew there was no guarantee we could coast along and hope for the best. We had to be intentional. So over the years we’ve developed a family vision.
Even though today, all five of our kids are married, and we have 21 grandchildren, our family vision remains simple:
We pray that our kids and grandkids will love the Lord with all their heart and mind and soul and take care of each other forever.
To put “feet” on this vision, we have intentionally made family times a priority. It’s all too easy in today’s culture to let a myriad of activities pull your family apart. Parental peer pressure whispers: The mom whose child is involved in the most activities is the best mom. So we pack our kids and families’ schedules until we are just ships passing in the night and not relating to one another in a deep way.
When our kids were still at home, we designated one night a week as “Family Night.” We had a special meal, decorated placemats, played games and, as they grew older, had meaningful questions for table talk. Teenagers groaned, but they knew grumbling was useless. It was a sacred night.
Today we want to encourage our grandkids to know and love each other. And we want to have some input into their faith journeys. As grandparents we can get away with doing and saying things that parents often can’t. We don’t experience the “eye roll” as much as their parents do!
To put “feet” on our desire to cultivate a close-knit extended family, we began hosting a Cousin Camp for our grandchildren. For the past 11 summers, we’ve had Cousin Camp for 4 days and 3 nights. My new book Cousin Camp has all the details of how we do this as well as suggestions for all types of family reunions from large to small.
Getting together is one way to forge close family relationships. Of course, we’ve messed up a lot. We’ve had to separate quarreling cousins, thrown out a plan that wasn’t working, and fallen into bed exhausted, but above all we’ve had a blast.
3. Be willing to initiate relationships.
Recently a friend confided, “My relationship with my in-laws is rocky and it’s awkward to explain to my children. How do I show respect to my in-laws while being honest with my kids?”
What we share with our kids will be determined by their age and the circumstances. Often little kids do not need a full explanation; less can be better.
For instance, a grandfather had a drinking problem. In addition, he really did not know how to relate to his grandson. The child’s mother wanted to be honest with her son yet open the door for a relationship between grandfather and grandson. She explained: “Son, your grandfather has a problem with drinking too much. We need to pray for him. But your granddaddy is very good with building and fixing things. Ask him to show you some of the things he has built.”
What might be helpful here? If possible, find something that your son can do with his grandfather in a safe supervised situation. This will enable them to relate to one another in a natural way. Ask yourself: What is the person’s passion? What does he do well? While our tendency can be to focus on the faults, it is far better to highlight the strengths in one another. Our kids will learn by watching us. If a situation is unhealthy, it’s good to seek wise counsel from an older couple or a counselor.
Another friend shared, “I don’t have a relationship with my brother. How do I even begin to have one?” We begin by initiating. Remember their birthdays, even if you haven’t in years, and even if they don’t acknowledge yours. Send a text simply to say, “I’m thinking about you today. Remember when…?”and share some positive story from your childhood. You may not get a response but keep doing it, over and over.
Sometimes we don’t know what to say in a conversation. Make a list of good questions:
- What person has had a positive impact on your life and how did that come about?
- What has been a favorite book you’ve read? Why did you like it?
- If you were a reporter and could interview anyone dead or alive who would you like to talk with?
- What is your favorite place to be?
- How can I pray for you?
We’ve made lists of questions with our children and grandchildren. And we’ve practiced good conversations! Look the person in the eye. Ask questions that call for more than a one-word answer. In today’s culture, it is easier to relate to a screen than to a person. We have to train our kids in being good conversationalists.
4. Take the long-term view.
One of the hardest things about being parents is when we endeavor to teach our kids ways to behave and it doesn’t seem to make a difference. They still don’t get it. It’s discouraging.
We have to keep repeating things over and over and over. God is patient, and one day we will see progress. That shy daughter who couldn’t talk to an adult will surprise you by engaging in conversation with someone in her later teen years! So keep at it. Your older teenage son offers to help a neighbor with a project or call his grandparents. He has learned how to be thoughtful–a little bit anyway! My own mother used to say, “God is working while you are waiting.” It’s a good phrase to remember!
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations.”
Learn more about how to grow a close-knit family by reading Susan’s new book Cousin Camp:
“I love having our grandchildren in our home, but sometimes it seems like we’re in ‘survival mode’! Cousin Camp is full of ideas for making memories and building relationships (with lots of great stories of the Yates family’s experiences!).
“I was most inspired by the chapter on planning for long-term impact. Thinking through what each child needs socially, emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually and then setting goals for how to help them grow. I will keep Cousin Camp on hand forever for the ideas and inspiration in how to love and inspire our grandkids.
“Though the world is currently staying home during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s the perfect time to read Cousin Camp and plan for the special times when the grandkids can come over again.”
-Joan Thompson, Mom to 6, Oma to 2
Susan Alexander Yates is a mom to five children (including a set of twins) and grandmother to 21 (including a set of quadruplets!). Susan and her husband John have been married 49 years. Susan has written 16 books and speaks on the subjects of marriage, parenting, faith, and women’s issues. Susan’s favorite time of the year is June when all her kids and grandkids are together for a week of “cousins and family camp” in the foothills of the Shenandoah Mountains of Virginia. Follow Susan on Instagram, find her on Facebook, or watch her latest YouTube videos.