{April 8, 2018}

Heartland Community Church


April 8 – 14, 2018


Before/After: Grace

By TJ Gonzales

I really enjoyed earning A’s in school. I often competed with other students to earn the highest test score, or to become top of the class academically. High grades meant recognition from teachers, the honor roll…etc. It also meant praise from my family, mom and dad were proud of me. Last but not least, my uncles would give me money! "One dollar for every A."  For context, this was in the early 90s, when a dollar could get any kids’ attention.

Earning and performance are deeply ingrained in our culture. Earning high scores ended up paying for the majority of my college tuition costs. Earning can be great! But this system left me wanting when I failed to perform. What about when I don’t measure up to expectations? Am I a failure? If I was a winner before…am I a loser now? 

Unfortunately, I have encountered many who feel like losers in God’s eyes. They genuinely feel they have to earn God’s love. Believing they need to clean themselves up a bit before they can have a meaningful relationship with him. Truthfully, we could spend forever cleaning ourselves up and it still would not be enough. We cannot earn his love. And this is why I am thankful God lives by a different system, a different code. God lives by the grace code.

God’s grace code means his love is not based on our performance. When we mess up, make mistakes or do things we regret, his love remains for us. And as we confess our sins, he loves us, forgives us and helps us through it. What a different code this is! Life before and after grace is radically different. He isn’t challenging me to earn an “A” to obtain his acceptance. He has already accepted me in Christ! So then, I don’t live in a way that pleases God in order to earn his love. Instead, because I already have his love, I can live in a way that pleases him.

“For grace is given not because we have done good works, but in order that we may be able to do them.” – Saint Augustine

{sunday 4.8.18}

Read Hebrews 4:16

Observe, Reflect, Apply: At times we may feel unworthy to pray. How does scripture encourage us to approach God? God promises to give mercy and grace in our time of need. What needs – past, present, future – where you could use a heap of his grace in your life?


{personal reflection and bible reading plan}

As you read the verses each day, make notes of questions you have about what you’re reading as well as answering the reflection questions below. Grab a friend or two to discuss what you are learning and what God is doing in your lives.

This week we wrap up our study of Matthew and begin to explore the book of Mark. CLICK HERE to check out a great overview of Mark from our friends at The Bible Project.

CLICK HERE or on the video below for their summary of Mark.

{monday 4.9.18}

Read Mark 1:21-34

Observe, Reflect, Apply: Unlike other teachers of the time, Jesus taught the scriptures from his own authority. Why is this important enough to be mentioned in the scriptures?

{tuesday 4.10.18}

Read Mark 1:35-45

Observe, Reflect, Apply: Jesus touches the skin of a mean with a skin disease. Imagine how this man felt being touched by someone else for the first time in a long time. Where is your pain that you would like Jesus to heal/comfort you?

{wednesday 4.11.18}

Read Mark 2:1-12

Observe, Reflect, Apply: People around Jesus watching him do miracles seem more concerned that he is forgiving sins than with the miracles themselves. Why do you think they were concerned?

{thursday 4.12.18}

Read Mark 2:13-28

Observe, Reflect, Apply: Just like the Pharisees, I’m going to ask the same questions. Why does he eat with tax-collectors and sinners? Answer in your own words. If this was set in our day and age, who would you imagine Jesus might be sitting with that would suprise everyone around?

{friday 4.13.18}

Read Mark 3:1-12

Observe, Reflect, Apply: Jesus was upset with their hard-heartedness. In your own words, describe what hard-heartedness means. Have you ever felt hard-hearted about someone or something?

{saturday 4.14.18}

Read Mark 3:13-19

Observe, Reflect, Apply: Jesus names 12 people his apostles and sends them out with authority to cast demons. Have you ever felt called to something from God? Share this with a trusted group or close friend.


{community discussion questions}

We weren’t meant to experience the life of Jesus alone, so we encourage you to rally a few others to discuss what you are hearing, reading, and reflecting on together. Whether you are meeting as a Journey Community group, talking with a few friends throughout the week, or bringing up spiritual conversations around your table at home, feel free to use some of these questions as conversation starters on your journey.

  • Can you name a takeaway or challenge from the Sunday message?
  • How has that been relevant, challenging, or meaningful to your life this week?
  • What have you observed about God, Jesus, yourself, others, or God’s plan for you from these readings?
  • Where do you need a breakthrough from God this week?
  • Who do you need to share what you’re learning about God with?


{extra journey resources}

CLICK HERE for more on how to use the observe-reflect-apply approach to getting the most out of your Bible reading.

The Bible App Get a free Bible for your phone, tablet, and computer. Experience the Bible anywhere, with options to highlight, save notes, and share what you are reading with others.

Bible Gateway Provides advanced Bible searching capabilities, which allow readers to find passages in scripture based on keywords, phrases, or scripture reference.


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