Daily Devotional

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Note: If you hover over the scripture references a popup will appear with the verses, you can also click them to view them in a new window.

SATURDAY (2/27/21)

Hi, my name is Malia Marshall. I am a member of the Near Northwest
Home Group through Riverside! I am a senior at the University of Notre
Dame, and I am originally from Portland, Oregon. I have been attending
Riverside since my freshman year at Notre Dame, and I am also a Young
Life leader at Jefferson Intermediate in South Bend.

  • Take a moment to stop and read Matthew 7:15-28.

When I read this passage, I am struck by Jesus’s warnings against
following false prophets who “come to you in sheep’s clothing” but are
“ferocious wolves” on the inside. He goes on to say that we will recognize
whether someone is worthy of our trust by the fruit they produce. What
I think is interesting about this metaphor is that the false prophets (the
“wolves”) who mislead people and should not be trusted by followers of
Jesus, disguise themselves as harmless sheep who seem very nice and
very trustworthy. Jesus then says that to tell what someone is really like,
we should not pay attention to their appealing words, but instead, pay
attention to whether they live their lives in a way honoring to God.

This part of the passage stuck out to me because I am discouraged
when I see and read about Christian leaders who misuse Christianity
and their power in ways that harm people and that do not reflect the life
and teachings of Jesus. Some examples of this include Christian leaders
who use their influences in ways that demean groups of people, abuse
women, promote violence, or seek personal wealth/glory.

While we are all imperfect people deserving of grace, sometimes actions
of Christian leaders come to light that are so egregiously against the vision of Christ, and I find it difficult to understand in the aftermath how other Christians didn’t see the warning signs or chose to look the other way when they did. The end of the Sermon on the Mount reminds me that the actions of Christian leaders (their “fruit”) really do matter and should be evaluated. This doesn’t mean expecting perfection from people, but it does mean it is important to hold people, especially leaders, accountable for acting in a godly and loving way. I pray that while remembering to treat all with grace, I would also have the wisdom and discernment to know and not dismiss when a Christian leader produces bad fruit in their lives.

Consider the following questions as you reflect on today’s reading:

  • What kind of fruit would a “false prophet” produce?
  • What fruits do you believe are important for Christians to show in their lives? (See Galatians 5:22-23).

FRIDAY (2/26/21)

Hello! I am Sarah Enck, and I am a member of the Near Northwest Home
Group. I am a mom to twin boys, wife to Ryan for nine years, and a
School Counselor at Saint Joe High School. I am passionate about story
and the most fulfilling thing is to sit with someone while they share their
story with me.

  • Today we continue to think of our own story as it relates to our relationship with others and with Christ. Let’s continue our study of the Sermon on the Mount with Matthew 7:1-14. Read this passage now – thoughtfully – thinking through each verse.

Judging others. I don’t know what first comes to mind when you read
the first six verses in this chapter, but I always feel defensive – I’m not
a judgmental person. As I’ve studied this idea further, I’ve had to really
evaluate what judgment means and what Christ is commanding of his
followers. Should I always give my friends unconditional approval or
just judge their actions? According to this passage, judgment should be
fair and not hypocritical. I cannot approach someone in love without
being open to them coming to me to talk through the areas in which
I fall short. In whatever those conversations look like, they should be
measured with justice, mercy, and love.

Ask. Seek. Knock. I have read these next verses so many times, and I
think this is the first time I have thoughtfully considered seek and knock
in relation to the rest of the passage. Typically, I stop at ask and settle
on the idea that if I ask God to grant my requests he will follow through.
Thankfully, I have grown in my view of God and no longer see God as just
a magic genie who grants my wishes. Instead, I see that asking requires
believers to come to God with a spirit of humility – acknowledging that
we cannot do anything apart from the help He provides. Beyond that, we are to seek him in our requests and prayers with care and application.
As we ask in humility and seek his presence, we continue to knock -approaching him with earnestness and perseverance. We need to
implement each of these steps in our relationship with the Lord because
we need help from him in order to live out what is he commanding us in
the rest of the Sermon on the Mount.

Consider the following reflection today:

Think of a current situation that you can implement ASK, SEEK,
KNOCK this week. Pray about this and ask for his guidance. Seek Him as
you meditate on his Word and reflect on what He is telling you. Continue
to knock and wait on Him as he reveals His plan for you.

THURSDAY (2/25/21)

“Hallo”, my name is Lea Barthuly and we have been going to Riverside
since moving to South Bend over 3 years ago. I grew up in Germany and
have worked/lived all over the place, from Texas to China to Florida.
Now, my husband Josh and I live in the Near-Northwest-Neighborhood.
We love going to our NNN home group and connecting with international
students on Notre Dame’s campus.

  • Today’s reading is Matthew 6:19-34.

This winter, as I watch the sparrows devour the bird seeds outside my
window, I am often reminded of verse 26: “…they neither sow nor reap
nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” These
little birds go about their days without worry and God provides all they
need. Even during a South Bend winter! Verse 26 also asks “Are you not
of more value than they?” Yes, you are.

As God’s son or daughter, we are called not to worry about tomorrow
and the day to day but to “seek first the kingdom of God and his
righteousness.” Why? Because we have a heavenly father who already
knows about all our daily needs – who deeply cares about them.

I like to think of it as a daily adventure. If He is my father and has told
me He will provide, then how will He do it today? I can pray for an open
parking spot, a difficult meeting, or for the food that I burned to still taste
good… and then watch Him in action! What happens next is sometimes
truly miraculous. And sometimes seemingly “less” miraculous. The
response to my prayer comes as a lesson in patience or a reminder that
even after failures, His grace is still sufficient for me.

Daily adventures are our training ground. When we entrust our heavenly
father to take care of the “small” things and see that He keeps His word,
we can also trust Him with tomorrow’s “big” things and stay focused on
His kingdom.

Reflect on the following questions today:

  • Do you believe that God truly cares about your daily needs and troubles?
  • What “small” thing will you pray about today? At the end of the day, make a note about the outcome.

Sing/read the song out loud: “What a Friend we have in Jesus”

What a friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and griefs to bear
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer
Oh, what peace we often forfeit
Oh, what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer

WEDNESDAY (2/24/21)

Hey there! I’m Nicole Forgette. I’m originally from Minnesota but have
lived in South Bend for the past three years. I love adventure, especially
the infinite adventure in knowing God through Christ in His Word. I serve
in the ministry of Revive Our Hearts in the Spanish division and am part
of the wonderful Near Northwest Home Group through Riverside.

  • Let’s read Matthew 6:1-18. You probably have a section of this memorized without even knowing it!

The Lord’s Prayer! It’s one many of us learn as children or hear in movies
or at Christian events. So easily it can become a repetition that we may
not realize what we’re actually praying for. So let’s pick it apart a bit and
take a closer look!

Notice the first two verses have to do with God. So easily we can start
our prayer with talking about ourselves. Let us put our first focus in
prayer on Him!

  • “Your Kingdom Come”—When we ask for the Kingdom to come, do we know what we’re asking for? Do we know what God’s Kingdom is?
  • “Give us this day”—God meets our daily needs. So quick we are to worry about tomorrow, but God tells us to not worry about tomorrow. Let us focus on today!
  • “Lead us not into temptation”—Often it seems like we lead ourselves into temptation and then ask Christ to deliver us.
  • “For Yours is…”—The doxology, finishing the prayer in praise! May we both start and end our prayers in praise to Christ our Lord.

This prayer isn’t one we’re supposed to constantly repeat but it is a
pattern/example of how we should pattern our prayers.

Reflect on the following question as you go about your day today:

  • What other lines of this pattern prayer seem confusing?

TUESDAY (2/23/21)

Hello, I’m Janelle Phillips and I participate in the Near Northwest Home
Group. I’m married to David and my two boys Jonah (6) and Theodore
(3) help keep me busy and curious about the world. I also teach at a local
nature-based Montessori preschool where I love exploring the wonders
of God’s creation with little people. I’ve been even more thankful than
usual for outdoor spaces this past year!

Today we’re reading Matthew 5:27-48.

In verse 44 Jesus says to “love your enemies and pray for those who
persecute you.” In my life right now I’m not being actively persecuted
and I try not to have any enemies. But the past year has brought many
polarizing events and opinions and it can be hard for me to continue to
extend love to someone who in word or deed seems to stand directly
counter to my own beliefs and values.

I might wonder, in disbelief or dismissal, “How could they do that? How
could they think that?” Even if I do not say or do anything in response
to the other person I know the attitude of my heart and the thoughts of
my mind matter to God and need to be more aligned with His Kingdom.

As you go about your day today, consider the following question:

  • Who is God asking you to extend love to today, even if it’s hard?

MONDAY (2/22/21)

This is from David Phillips. I am from Plymouth originally and work at
Notre Dame. If you know me at church, it is probably as the tall guy
chasing after two little boys. I am in the home group that meets at the
Encks’ house near Keller Park (Near Northwest) during normal times.
Our home group has spent most of the last year studying the Sermon
on the Mount, Matthew 5-7, so we are going to lead the devotionals for
this part.

  • For today, first take some time to read through Matthew 5:1-26

This start of the Sermon on the Mount surprises me. Jesus has been
healing people and calling disciples, gathering a crowd, but we haven’t
heard much from Jesus directly yet. Then, he starts off with these
unusual statements. “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” “blessed are
those who mourn,” and so on. I’ve heard it summarized as “lucky are
the unlucky.” It is just so different from what I am used to and what
I naturally pursue in the world; it is so upside-down. And yet it is the
center of Jesus’s teaching. It is the first thing Jesus shares with this
big crowd. When I read it, I have to force myself to take it at face value,
because it is just so different.

These upside down statements have helped me in the midst of the COVID
pandemic, when the world has been turned upside down. “Blessed are
those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” has been particularly
meaningful to me, a verse that I have said multiple times each day
over the past months. This statement is a promise of eternity to me,
of what is to come: people dying in a pandemic, political division, and
isolation are not the end; God and good will eventually win. But what
has been most important to me is that Jesus’s words are also true now.
Life is hard right now, but that death and mourning over it is somehow
creating space for resurrection.

When I mourn now over the daily struggles of working from a windowless
room in my basement, the effects of my own sin, or even very literally
mourn people who are dying, I am learning how to follow the Jesus who
came and conquered by dying.

Reflect on the following question today:

  • What is God trying to do in you in this time of mourning?

SUNDAY (2/21/21)

Each Sunday through Lent, we are going to observe our predictable
routine of slowness.

In the introduction, I observed, “the shared rhythms of Advent,
Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost root us in the redeeming
story of Christ, and live into the Biblical wisdom of the teacher that
‘there is a time for everything’ (Ecclesiastes 3:1).”

Built into these annual rhythms are the wide spectrum of our life with Christ: anticipation and fulfillment, proclamation and response, lament and joy.

  • Today, spend some time reflecting on a season of life that was characterized by Advent-like waiting. Are you still waiting? What are you waiting and longing for?
  • Spend some time reflecting about this to the Lord – He wants to hear your thoughts, fears, and dreams.