Salt and Light: Jesus’ Teachings in Matthew 5:13-16

This week in our “Gospel Encounters” adult Sunday School class we will continue our study and discussion of Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 5. Following verses 1-12, which we call “The Beatitudes” and we discussed last week, Jesus explains to his followers how we are called to act as both salt and light in our world. The Message presents these teachings in clear language:

‘“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven. “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven. “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven. “Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.’

Here are the slides we will use during class to discuss and explore these verses.

Starting at the 1:16 timestamp, we will also view this depiction of these teachings by Jesus.

In the interest of time, I will likely just reference but not play the following videos, which include some of the cultural references to “a city on a hill” for me. These include President Ronald Reagan in his farewell address from the White House.

Another reference these verses bring to mind is the lighting of the warning beacons of Gondor in J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel trilogy, “The Lord of the Rings.” This is the depiction in Peter Jackson’s third movie in the series, “The Return of the King.”

Last of all, the well known children’s song, “This Little Light of Mine,” has a very important second verse, which proclaims, “Jesus is the Light.” We will discuss tomorrow how this is a vital distinction. Unlike ancient and modern gnostics, as reformed and evangelical Christians we believe Jesus is the light of the world, and it is only through his grace and power that we can come to know our Father in Heaven and receive forgiveness for our sins. We are not the light, but we do seek to share and reflect the light of Jesus in our lives to a dark world hungering for truth, righteousness, love and all the fruits of God’s spirit.

Podcast12: Unleash Your Digital Creativity for Jesus (May 2018)

This is an audio recording of Wesley Fryer’s workshop at the May 5, 2018, MoRanch Men’s Conference near Hunt, Texas. The title of the session was, “Pocket Share Jesus: Be a Digital Witness for Christ.”

The session description was:

This workshop will empower you as a Christian to share the transforming reality and love of God with others around the world through multimedia and social media. By creating and sharing Bible verse “infopics,” creating sketchnotes and narrated sketchnotes and recording “quick edit” video interviews on mission trips, we can digitally amplify and share God’s Word and work with others.

Slides for this session, which include live hyperlinks, are embedded below and also available on wfryer.me/mo2018. This presentation is also linked on the main project site for “Pocket Share: Be a Digital Witness for Jesus Christ” www.dw4jc.com. Videos shared and referenced in this presentation are also embedded below. Refer to the podcast shownotes for links to many referenced resources from this session.

Show Notes:

  1. Presentation Slides on Google Slides
  2. MoRanch Men’s Conference
  3. Contact Wes Fryer
  4. Wes Fryer’s Christian Twitter channel: @pocketshare
  5. Wes Fryer’s professional Twitter channel: @wfryer
  6. Wes’ Bible Verse InfoPics on iCloud: wfryer.me/bible
  7. Photos on Instagram tagged #dw4jc
  8. Wes’ Flickr album of Bible Verse InfoPics
  9. YouVersion Bible App
  10. InfoPics Chapter of Pocket Share Jesus
  11. Recommended website source for royalty free/remixable photos: unsplash.com
  12. Adobe Spark Post (online version)
  13. Adobe Spark Post: Poster Maker for iOS
  14. 7 minute [VIDEO] tutorial – App Smash: Bible Verse Infopics
  15. Sketchnotes Chapter of Pocket Share Jesus
  16. Flick album of Sketchnotes by Wes Fryer (includes sermon sketchnotes)
  17. 63 second [VIDEO] tutorial: Tips for Sketchnoting
  18. The Noun Project (great source for icons)
  19. Best TEDx Talk Ever: “Drawing in Class” by Rachel Smith (@ninmah)
  20. John 15: Bearing Fruit for Jesus (Narrated sermon sketch note)
  21. Narrated Sketchnotes Chapter of Pocket Share Jesus

Inspired by Oscar to Watch God’s Not Dead #GodsNotDead

One of the highlights of my fall semester last year was getting to know one of my 4th grade students, Edgar, a little better. In October I learned about the absolutely fantastic builds he’s made on the Android version of Minecraft Pocket Edition, and a week later we recorded this 15 minute video together where he took me on a tour of his creations. The things he has built in Minecraft are truly spectacular. In addition to recording that video, I was able to share the video with most of my STEM classes in subsequent weeks to highlight his creativity and Minecraft skills as exemplary. I think that meant a lot to him. I received a very sweet Christmas note from him just before break.

Christmas note from a student by Wesley Fryer, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  Wesley Fryer 

After making a connection to Oscar through Minecraft, he started bringing some different DVD videos to school for me to borrow and watch. The first one was about tornados and stormchasers. The second one was the 2014 movie, “God’s Not Dead,” which I’d heard about but never seen.

As a STEM teacher, I talk a great deal about science, our scientific understanding of the universe, but don’t talk about my faith or Christianity. Talking about my faith during class in a public school, as a public school teacher, would not be appropriate. I think Oscar loaned me the movie, “God’s Not Dead,” (he actually had checked it out of a local public library) because he things I’m an atheist. I asked him if he wanted me to watch the movie so we could discuss it, and he said yes. We didn’t have an opportunity to visit about it before Christmas break, and I won’t have him in class during the spring semester because of our rotation schedule for STEM and Art classes. I was very touched that he wanted me to watch the movie, however, and I plan to talk privately with him about this at an opportune moment when we get back to school.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the Friday morning after Christmas (when Mark Veasey shared his testimony) one of the guys at my table for our men’s group was talking about having just seen “God’s Not Dead.” I told him one of my students had loaned me the movie to watch, and this friend (Ron Bath) encouraged me to watch it.

A few nights ago, 4 of the members of our family watched “God’s Not Dead” on AppleTV. We had to buy it, however, since it’s not for rent from iTunes. It is a very good movie. It raises some great questions and issues, and led to some good conversations with our girls, particularly with Rachel (who is 11.) There is some discussion in the film of acknowledged atheist Stephen Hawking’s evolving views on the origin of the universe, and that was more meaningful to the girls and I since we’d recently watched “A Theory of Everything” at the movie theater. That film is the biography of Stephen Hawking, and was also worthwhile to see. It included much less about theoretical physics than I’d hoped it would, but it made a big connection with our older daughter and her understanding of ALS. Afterwards at dinner she made the connection, “So THAT is what the ‘ice bucket challenge‘ was raising money to try and cure?!”

I thought the portrayal of Christians and Christianity in “God’s Not Dead” was very good. Certainly there are all kinds of beliefs and Christian denominations, and it’s impossible to generalize with complete accuracy what “Christian faith” means to everyone. The movie’s focus on “God is good, all the time,” and that God places us in exactly the right place at the right time to do his work resonated deeply with me. The college professor who is a main character in the film grapples with the existence of evil, and like many others has anger for how a benevolent Creator could exist who would allow evil to apparently flourish in the world. Without a doubt this is a HUGE question, and one which turns many people away from faith in God around the world.

Because I continue to personally EXPERIENCE the reality and power of God’s existence through prayer and my shared life experiences in our family and community of faith, I do not see any incompatibility between my love and interest in science and my faith in God and his Son, Jesus Christ. I continue to be humbled and grateful at the ways God opens up doors in my life, my wife’s life, and the lives of others to serve Him and love others. I count it a great personal blessing to have been able to teach Oscar for the past five months. I’m glad he wanted me to see the movie, “God’s Not Dead.” As the lyrics to The Newsboys title track for the movie say:

My God’s not dead
He’s surely alive
He’s living on the inside
Roaring like a lion

Praise God for his goodness and his faithfulness! My God bless you and your family this new year in 2015.

Family Advent Service

Today for the first time in as long as I can remember, our family stayed home on Sunday morning and didn’t go to church. There was a lot of ice on our cars, and although the roads were clear it seemed right to stay home. We had a wonderful morning together and decided later we’d have a family church service together. We have shared short family devotionals together previously, especially before Christmas during the Advent season, but it is not (unfortunately) something we have done often. Tonight’s family church service, then, was particularly meaningful and special. I’d hoped it would be a time when everyone could participate: sharing, singing, praying, and reading from God’s Word. It was.

Family Advent Service

We used our AppleTV to project the lyrics to “The First Noel,” which we opened with, and these words from the Old Testament prophet, Isaiah:

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder. For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:2-7 NIV)

We used this description of the four candles of advent (though it differs slightly from our church tradition) and read a meditation from “God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Flipboard magazine: On Faith, God & Jesus

I love the iPad app Flipboard. It is, without a doubt, the best way to read information that others share with you via social networks like Twitter and Facebook. The only other iPad magazine I currently read which can compare is National Geographic, but that is written and curated by professional journalists.

I started a new @flipboard magazine today: “On Faith, God & Jesus.” The description I wrote is:

A collection of articles and posts related to Christianity, religion, and faith aggregated by Wesley Fryer. Including an article here does not constitute the endorsement of or agreement by the aggregator (Wes) with the topics addressed or opinions expressed. For the opinions of Wes related to issues of faith, see his Christian blog, “Eyes Right” on http://pocketshare.speedofcreativity.org

I hope you subscribe and share this with others. I won’t post to this Flipboard magazine as often as I do to my edtech Fipboard magazine, “iReading with Wes,” but I’ll post periodically when I find and read / watch / listen to thought provoking content related to faith, God and Jesus.

Be A Digital Witness for Jesus

Today at the 61st annual Men’s Conference at Mo-Ranch near Hunt, Texas, I shared a presentation titled, “Be A Digital Witness for Jesus.” I audio recorded the second session, and added that audio to my presentation slides on SlideRocket. You an hear the entire 60 minute presentation by pressing “play” on the embedded version below, but you’ll have to manually advance the slides because it doesn’t appear that SlideRocket lets me set the synchronization/advance timings.

Please access all referenced resources on this Google Site, including all videos except the profane one I discussed briefly. I don’t have the presentation slide I used for it or the video “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus” included on SlideRocket, I added those slides after I’d already uploaded my presentation.

If you have any questions or comments, do not hesitate to contact me directly. Please share this idea with your own church members and encourage them (especially your youth) to get involved documenting the stories of faith in your community. We all can be digital witnesses for Jesus.

Lesson plan on my iPhone

Our fifth grade Sunday school class has been using the Grapple curriculum from Group Publishing this year. I have been pretty pleased with the curriculum topics and activities. Generally when I have taught a lesson (we have several co-teachers so we rotate the lesson leadership periodically) I’ve brought in a projector and speakers so I could show videos, use Google Earth, and sometimes share a slideshow. This morning it would have been nice to have the projector and computer to use, but I didn’t want to take the time required to get everything setup. I did, however, need a copy of my lesson plan to bring with me and use, which is in PDF format, but I didn’t want to print out a hard copy or bring my laptop to church.

To bring my lesson plan with me, I turned to readdle, a website developed for the iPhone offering free and commercial hosted services for mobile document access on the iPhone. In less than ten minutes, I setup a free account on readdle, downloaded my lesson plan PDF file from the Grapple website, uploaded the lesson plan to my readdle site, and was able to login and pull up my lesson plan on my iPhone. I was thrilled! No need to print out the lesson plan… I was able to refer to it prior to and during my lesson without any problem. Our classroom is on the ground floor of our church and for some reason the cellular network coverage there is very poor. WiFi is not available, but this was not a problem, since I loaded up the document using readdle in the iPhone’s Safari web browser earlier. Because I didn’t close Safari, the document remained open and accessible even though I did not have access to an EDGE network connection or WiFi connection in my classroom. My free account on readdle permits me to upload up to 50 MB of documents, which is very generous, and if documents are not needed I can delete them to free up more webspace. The website let me create an organizational folder for my Sunday School documents. I’m looking forward to using this website to “bring other documents” with me to other meetings in other contexts of my life.

Thematically I have been very pleased with Grapple this year, but I have found the online interactive potential of the website to be very wanting. The interactive elements are basically limited to a text-based bulletin board (I think they use phpBB) and our students have not been able to really practice much Internet safety in creating a website with a profile, like social networking sites permit. My thought for next year (I am going to co-teach 5th grade again) is to setup a Moodle course that we can use for discussions and interactions in between our classes, and invite students to setup accounts on Imbee.com to have fun, learn about safe social networking, and extend our conversations beyond class times. I’ve wanted to utilize Imbee with students for several years now but have not had an opportunity– I think next year we’ll use it and learn together about how Imbee can help learners of all ages practice via experiences safe online social networking.