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November 15, 2017

Pastors and Pharisees

Benjamin Spalink
Matthew 5:5-6 reads, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.* Pharisees (the "hypocrites") were the religious professionals of the day. Pastors are religious professionals, too. This word applies to us, perhaps most ...
November 08, 2017

Straining for Sabbath Amidst the Demands of Phones and Computers

Reprinted with permission
By Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI We are becoming more enslaved to and more compulsive in our use of mobile phones and the internet. For many of us it is now existentially impossible to take off a day, let alone several weeks off, and be on a genuine holiday or vacation. Rather the pressure is on us to constantly check for texts, emails, phone messages, and the like; and the expectation from our families, friends, and colleagues is precisely that we are checking these regularly. The sin-du-jour is to be, at any time, unavailable, unreachable, or ...
October 30, 2017

City Grace Scripture Challenge

Benjamin Spalink
I kicked off a new campaign to increase scriptural literacy and change lives by encouraging my congregation to be more closely shaped and formed by God's Word. It's called the City Grace Scripture Challenge, and the challenge is this: within the next year, become an expert in one book of the Bible. I mean "expert" somewhat tongue in cheek, but the idea is that you would focus this next year on one book of scripture, and make it your business to learn as much as you can about that one particular book. This doesn't mean you don't read other ...
October 25, 2017

The Problem with Discouragement

Benjamin Spalink
It's easy to lose perspective when facing discouragement.  Sometimes, God is extending his Hand to us, but our discouraged hearts fail to perceive it.  We stay discouraged even though help is just around the corner. "Moses reported this (God's plan) to the Israelites, but they did not listen to him because of their discouragement and harsh labor." (Exodus 6:9) Moses comes as God's ambassador to deliver the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. He is preparing a spectacular show of supernatural power.  Redemption is just around the corner, but ...
October 04, 2017

Have I Committed the Unpardonable Sin?

Benjamin Spalink
The "unpardonable sin" is mentioned in all three synpotics (Matthew, Mark and Luke).  There are similarities and differences in how it is used which help us get to the heart of what, exactly, the unforgivable sin is. It is my conviction based on the phrase's use in all three Gospels that the primary issue at stake is one of identifying the validity and basis for Jesus' ministry of Kingdom inauguration and soul liberation. To "blaspheme the Holy Spirit" is another way of saying that one denounces as illegitimate the person and work of Jesus....
August 28, 2017

Life in the Church

Benjamin Spalink
This Sunday's sermon focused on Paul's vision for church life as articulated in Colossians 3:1-11 Church life can go off the rails in one of two opposite directions - you have those churches that claim to be "family" but are seriously lacking when it comes to regular involvement in each other's lives. At the other end of the spectrum are churches that are seemingly over-involved, with gossip and judgmental-ism souring relationships.  The Gospel forms a community that avoids both these pitfalls and lays a path towards ongoing spiritual ...
August 17, 2017

Summer Movie Series #2: Cowspiracy

Allen Peng
City Grace church members watched and discussed the documentary "Cowspiracy" as the second of three summer film series gatherings on July 22nd. "Cowspiracy" explores global warming and sustainbility through the production and consumption of meat, particularly of beef. While the documentary's arguments were compelling and left an impact on the members, several people thought that it was a bit dramatic. They also shared a healthy skepticism of the statistics presented in the film. "It was kind of what I expected," said Jonathan Poch, ...
July 18, 2017

Summer Movie Series #1: Requiem for the American Dream

Allen Peng
City Grace church members watched and discussed the Noam Chomsky documentary "Requiem for the American Dream" as the first of three summer film series gatherings on June 25th. "I think the screening went great!" said Jeri Kwek, who organized and co-hosted the event with her husband Matthias in their FiDi apartment. "We had a full house and started on time as I expected at 2:30." The summer film series is a new initiative at City Grace church to explore socially relevant issues and their intersections with its members' faiths. "It ...
May 23, 2017

How to change your attitude towards a job you hate

Benjamin Spalink
At a recent gathering to explore the connections between faith and work, the following question came up: The answer to the question is a "yes."  You can transform your attitude and yes, you do need to rely on, or wait upon, the Holy Spirit. Should you actively work to try to change your attitude? A quick survey of the NT will immediately reveal that even in situations where we're called upon to do work that we don't enjoy, God always encourages us to do everything with a positive, thankful and worshipful attitude: "And whatever you ...
April 03, 2017

Courage to face suffering

Benjamin Spalink
A Reflection on Revelations 2:8-11 The Church in Smyrna must keep its eyes on Jesus Christ and remember his example for us - that he died, yet his death led to new life.  The church in Smyrna is a church that is suffering.  They are experiencing persecution and poverty.  Jesus wants to remind this church that though outwardly they are poor, yet spiritually speaking, which is the most important way of speaking, they are rich beyond measure.  They have Jesus Christ as their Savior, they have a rich inheritance in the faith, they have the ...
November 14, 2016

City Grace Environments

Benjamin Spalink
Andy Stanley has some helpful insight on ministry.  All ministry utilizes environments - the physical places and feel of places we use to preach, worship, study, fellowship, serve or in other ways engage our guests. Worship happens in an environment. Community groups happen in an environment. Leader meetings happen in an environment. Stanley's goal is to create "irresistible environments." I'd settle for "winsome." Point is, people love the environments and want to come back. Leaders shape these environments whether they know it or not....
November 14, 2016

Reflection on Trump Discussion at church

Benjamin Spalink
New York City, I'm sure you've noticed, is distraught. People are visibly upset.  There is a sense of collective shock - how could this happen?  This is a historical moment, and it is a time to pay attention to how God is moving in his church. So yesterday we broke protocol. I didn't give a sermon. Instead, we opened up that time for an open forum discussion.  I wanted to check our pulse, to see how people are feeling and reflect on the events of this past week. Most importantly, I wanted for us to try to hear God's voice at this critical ...
November 03, 2016

Why I stopped trying to fix people

Benjamin Spalink
One of the things that has become abundantly clear to me in nine years of ministry is that my ability to change people is actually rather minimal.  Coming out of seminary, I was naively eager to fix people with my M.Div tucked firmly in my belt. It's humbling to realize 1) you need fixing just as much as anybody else and 2) trying to fix people isn't a great strategy (it's oftentimes hurtful) and 3) there's actually not much you can do for broken people anyway.  It's actually much easier to love people if you can simply accept them as they ...
September 14, 2016

True Rest

Benjamin Spalink
I'm back after having taken a ten week sabbatical. This sabbatical wasn't what you might think. There were no ambitious writing or research projects, no seminary classes and little traveling. Instead, I tried to treat it as one long continuous sabbath - learning to find rest in God himself.  Surprisingly, it wasn't easy, at least not at first. The first couple of weeks, I bounced back and forth between "this is too good to be true" and "I feel so guilty for not doing anything productive."  I tried to relax, read a little, went on long ...
June 07, 2016

Jesus and the church

Benjamin Spalink
The harvest is ripe but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the Harvest to send out workers into his harvest field.  So begins Jesus' commission to the seventy-two disciples as he leads them in the next installment of their own discipleship.  Harvest time can last a few days or a few weeks. It's the time when extra hands are hired to bring in the crops before they're destroyed.  Jesus has work to do and can't do it alone. His disciples-in-training are sent to continue his work, equipped by his Spiritual power and authority and message to do ...
April 13, 2016

"Personal relationship with God?" Let's use better language

Benjamin Spalink
Can I have a personal relationship with God? Constantly heard in evangelical churches is this idea: “You can have a personal relationship with God!” For many, this sums up the Gospel message. This is the reason Jesus died on the cross.  Megachurch pastors, televangelists, crusaders and regular church pastors alike are all claiming that through Jesus this is possible. But is it true?  A quick word search in the Bible will show that the phrases, “personal relationship with God,” “relationship with God,” and “personal relationship” never ...
April 07, 2016

The True King

Benjamin Spalink
Reading through II Chronicles in the Old Testament is a bit depressing.  Rehoboam, Solomon's heir, takes the throne and decides against the better wisdom of Solomon's advisers to exert brutal pressure on the people. All but Judah and Benjamin rebel, and the kingdom is torn in two. Subsequent chapters detail the ensuing rivalry between the two kingdoms and their subsequent risings and failings depending on their leadership. A theme soon develops. The fate of the nation in the hands of any one king depends almost entirely on one factor - the ...
March 23, 2016

Am I a real Christian

Benjamin Spalink
"Am I a real Christian?" The question is a helpful one to ask periodically.  God wants us to move beyond doubt when it comes to our salvation.  But because of the prevalence of sin that goes under the guise of "Christianity," it is necessary to test ourselves time to time.  Whether you answer in the positive or negative, the answer is helpful. If "yes," you can feel secure and thankful to God.  If "no," the Spirit is convicting you to bring about true repentance and faith - you may have saved yourself from disaster. I John is filled with ...
March 10, 2016

Receiving Forgiveness

Benjamin Spalink
"Simon son of John, do you truly love me?" (John 21:16) Simon (also named Peter) committed a terrible sin. He betrayed Jesus during Jesus' worst moment, denying that he even knew him.  Following Jesus' death, Peter is so wracked with guilt and sadness, he gives up the whole following Jesus business to return to his former way of life.  Jesus asks him this question. Jesus knows the answer, but he wants John to hear himself say the words, "Yes, Jesus. I love you."  He wants to absolve him of his guilt and remind him of his purpose - "Feed my ...
December 23, 2015

Space transition

Benjamin Spalink
City Grace is currently in the midst of a transition.  After being at the Village 7 movie theater for about 4 years, we were abruptly asked to find another venue to worship. The movie theater is in the midst of renovations, and the new seating only accommodates 54.  December 20th was our last service there. In a way, this comes at an opportune time.  City Grace has been thinking about its vision and purpose, and this move will help us to clarify both while we think intentionally about what kind of space we want to be in long term.  It's not ...

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