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Monday, January 17, 2011

Times Square Church Sign

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"Appropriating The Light"

"And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it" (John 1:5).

Those who follow our series and photos quickly recognize that Brooksyne and I focus a lot on the country setting since that's where we live and we both thoroughly enjoy it. Periodically we make it to the shore or to the mountains but less frequently to the city (apart from Lancaster City, and those in the big cities might chuckle as they compare the size of Lancaster to a "real" city such as New York City!)

Well, this last Saturday we traveled to New York City. Mike Stillman, one of our friends chartered a bus and treated us to an Off-Broadway play his brother had produced. It was amazing to observe the dramatic skills and convincing dialogue of the two actors who portrayed atheist Sigmund Freud and theologian C.S. Lewis. Once the house lights were turned off it was as though we were transported right into that time period and became silent observers of a colorful interchange that took place in Sigmund Freud's study.

We had several hours to walk around the snow covered city (or a small part of it) both before and after the play. In fact we calculate that altogether we walked around 5 miles through Central Park, Broadway and Times Square. Cities are interesting places to visit but I sure realize my element is out in the country! I realize there are readers who have quite the opposite view, feeling far more comfortable in the city layout than in the quiet country setting.

The Times Square area was bright though darkness had already fallen when we ventured into the famous location. Huge glaring bright marquees framed both sides of the street as we walked along taking in the sights and crowds of people. We certainly viewed the flash and dazzle of the famous and wealthy on the marquees. Aspiring musicians lined the walks showing off their talent and peddling their wares. Wealth was evident right alongside those who were impoverished. The variety of people and sights we viewed could fill a page. Certainly there were people of faith in our midst right alongside those who walk in the darkness of the world. We were heartened by the evidence of light and spiritual witness in the midst of  spiritual darkness.

One place we looked for was Times Square Church, founded by David Wilkerson. As we walked down Broadway near Times Square we spotted the church building right across the street from a "Gentleman's Club". When walking the streets of the city and passing businesses of ill repute it's as though you unconsciously hold your breath not wanting to take in the air that surrounds such an evil place.

But when a gospel witness such as our main lead-in photo is visible in the same surrounding it’s as though you can breathe again, “Whew!” There is hope made available through the message of salvation in the same neighborhood where darkness is rampant. Brooksyne and I both gave thanks for those who week after week, year after year, uphold the light of the Gospel in such a diverse environment.

Today's verse is found in the prologue to John's Gospel. The light which shines in the darkness is referring to Jesus Christ. It's significant that "shines" is in the present active and reveals that Jesus Christ shined during the time period that John wrote the Gospel late in the first century and He also shines today (whenever you happen to be reading this.) This is so because of His immutability, so powerfully expressed in Hebrews 13:8, "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday and today and forever." Our Savior is indeed unchanging.

The latter part of the verse is so instructive; "And the darkness did not comprehend it." Bible translators and theologians differ on the sense of the word translated "comprehend" in this version (NKJV). It most literally means "grasped". Other common translations use the word "understood" (NIV), "overcome" (ESV) and "apprehended" (ASV).

I personally find the Amplified Bible helpful here, "for the darkness has never overpowered it [put it out, absorbed it or appropriated it, and is unreceptive to it]. Now that's a rather lengthy and somewhat clumsy wording but is an attempt to express the meaning of the word. Many years ago I did a study on the underlying Greek word and found the sense "appropriated" interesting. To appropriate something means to put it to use and that's an observable reality in this dark world regarding the Light of Christ. Those who
believe and accept appropriate the Light, while those who disbelieve and reject do not.

In John 3 the teaching on light and darkness is continued and we read this powerful perspective regarding the interface of light and darkness.  "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God” (John 3:19-21).

The good news today is for those of us who have appropriated the Light by believing in and following Christ. The critical news of our day is that there are many who have not yet appropriated the Light of the Gospel. We must never cease being a witness to them and praying for them. We must also uphold our spiritual leaders along with other believers who give a steady witness of the gospel in darkened places.  Let us all continue to appropriate the Light!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily Prayer: Father, we thank You for Jesus who came as a Light to the people walking in darkness. Though many have not grasped the gospel message due to their preference for sins of the flesh, we thank You for the many who have comprehended and applied the gospel message of salvation throughout history and in our own generation. We’re grateful for their godly example, their biblical instruction and their enduring prayers on our behalf. We, too, must share the light of the Gospel through our words, our actions and our convictions based upon the Holy Scriptures. Bless our Christian brothers and sisters who tirelessly present the gospel message in surroundings where evil prevails and dark deeds are touted as freedom of expression. Keep them faithful and protect them from the lure of the very evil they stand against. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

Times Square Church history
A plaque outside the entrance to Times Square Church explains the inspirational history.

Central Park carriages NYC
We enjoyed a pleasant walk through Central Park even though it was cold. We saw lots of these carriages but weren't ready to spring $50.00 for a 20 minute ride when we can ride with our Amish friends for free!

Building on Fifth Avenue
We wonder how many who pass this building on Fifth Avenue realize they're reading a Scripture! Three characteristics listed from Micah 6:8 were inscribed on the other side of this building, "do justly, love mercy, walk humbly with thy God."

Entrance to NBC office
A part of a Scripture verse is above the entrance to the NBC offices.
Can you recall where in the Bible this phrase is found? (See below)

Apple store on 5th Avenue
We went into the Apple Store on 5th Avenue which I suppose is one of the coolest places on earth to those who crave the latest in technology.
It was very crowded!

Times Square NYC
Times Square at dusk.
I assume it's always packed with people and always lit up.
In this area the light from the signs made it as bright as day.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
Click on the link to open and play.
(In some cases you may also need to click again to start the song.)

"Shine, Jesus Shine" Video  

"Song For The Nations"  Video  A local church

"Freud's Last Session": Here's information about the play we saw. It was very interesting and thought-provoking. One of the producers is Rob Stillman, a man I used to visit weekly in a chaplain role I had about ten years ago.

Times Square Church: We have discussed making another trip into New York City as a family. If so there are two churches I would like to attend, this one and  Brooklyn Tabernacle.  

Several weeks ago we wrote about the increasing boldness of atheists in expressing their faith. Here's an interesting page (watch video)

"Wisdom and knowlege shall be the stability of thy times", the phrase found above the entrance to the NBC offices is a portion of a verse found in Isaiah 33:6  However this selected portion misses a vital aspect  you will note as you look at the entire verse.  We have a message we would like to share tomorrow concerning this verse.

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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