Chosen During Lent

During this past week’s spring break vacation, I’ve been reading a new book and re-watching episodes of the amazing TV series “The Chosen” with Shelly which have had a profound impact on my walk with Christ and our walk together through a season of tumultuous change and uncertainly. In this post I’ll share a little about these experiences.

Two weeks ago, I flew to Charlotte, North Carolina, and interviewed for a new teaching position at Providence Day School starting in August 2022. Moving to North Carolina after our youngest child’s high school graduation in June has been our ardent prayer as a couple for many months, so this was and is both an exciting and emotionally-laden time. I shared more about this on Facebook March 13th.

I flew into Charlotte on Saturday afternoon, Thanks to the recommendation of Sarah-Emily Steinhardt, the Member Engagement Coordinator at St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church in northwest OKC, I went to church Sunday morning in Charlotte at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church downtown. According to the “History” page on St. Peter’s website:

Considered by many to be the “mother church” of the region, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church was the first Episcopal Church in Charlotte, organized in 1834 and recognized as a parish in the Diocese of North Carolina in 1844. Area churches including St. Martin’s, Holy Comforter, St. Mark’s, St. Michaels, St. Paul’s in Monroe, and Christ Church all trace their roots to St. Peter’s.

History. (2012, January 30). St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. st-peters.org/history

I went to the mid-morning workshop service at 9 am at St. Peters, and then attended the “Adult Forum” / “Adult Formation” class offered at 10:30 am, led by the Father Jacob E. Pierce and Mother Amanda C. Stephenson. During Lent, they are reading and discussing “The Last Week: What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus’s Final Days in Jerusalem” by Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan.”

https://twitter.com/PocketShare/status/1502792050856583175

I am about halfway through the book now, and am REALLY enjoying the “deep dive” which authors Borg and Crossan provide into the Gospel of Mark. I’ve focused most of my own Gospel-specific study and Sunday School class lessons (back when we attended Westminster Presbyterian Church in Lubbock, Texas) on the Gospel of John, and to a lesser extent the Gospel of Matthew. Last fall when I was teaching our adult Sunday School class at FPC Edmond, “Finding Jesus in Media,” we used videos from “The Bible Project” as well as multiple Bible translations and interpretations to dive deeper into Matthew’s Gospel. But until the last couple weeks, I haven’t spent as much time studying the Gospel of Mark.

One of many things which the book’s authors are encouraging me to reflect on more deeply is the theological construct of “Substitutionary atonement.” This is a very familiar theological idea to me, having grown up in the Presbyterian church and “Reformed tradition” of churches and pastors strongly influenced by Martin Luther and The Protestant Reformation. It’s interesting to read Mark’s Gospel with greater attention and see its emphasis on Jesus’ invitation to all his disciples to join him on “the way” which leads to Jeruselum.

This is the journey we’re invited to take during the season of Lent, which culminates in Holy Week and Easter. I’m not sure I’d thought as much about how Jesus invites his disciples to not merely WITNESS his confrontations with the Roman and Jewish church authorities during Passover in Jerusalem, but ultimately JOIN HIM in participating in this confrontational series of events that culminates in his arrest, crucifixion, resurrection, and ultimately ascension into heaven.

Jesus does not call us to merely be PASSIVE OBSERVERS. Jesus calls us to be active participants with him in our faith, our journey of faith together to the cross and ultimately to God Himself. This is a journey of sacrifices, faith, and persistence despite frustrations and many reasons to both be seized by fears and turn aside.

In addition to reading “The Last Week,” I’ve also enjoyed re-watching the first two episodes of “The Chosen” this week (Season 2) with Shelly. We watched the entire series together last year, but it’s amazing how many details as well as “broad strokes” of the television series I either missed or am just seeing again now “with fresh eyes.”

I LOVE how the series writers are providing such a “deep dive” into the personalities and individual characteristics of the disciples, as well as Jesus himself. Based on the Gospels and the other books of The New Testament, the script writers, actors, and others involved in the creation of these films have created a RICH media tapestry that is both insightful and challenging to us as followers of Jesus and students of his life. I have particularly enjoyed the relational dynamics between Peter and Matthew, as well as Phillip and Matthew. Seeing the series a second time has encouraged me to “see” and think more deeply about the past experiences and perspectives of different disciples, considering how each one had been uniquely prepared by God for the work they eventually were called to do with Jesus and for Jesus after his resurrection.

The scene at the end of Season 2, Episode 2, when Nathaniel first encounters Jesus and is called by Jesus to follow him (thanks in part to the friendship with and guidance of Phillip) spoke to me particularly loudly today.

I can relate directly to Nathaniel’s story of being alone, at “the end of my rope,” calling out to God for aid, assistance, comfort and direction. That is a personal story I am not going to share here right now, but perhaps will some day. It can be both powerful and emotional to see threads of “our own stories” in the Bible narratives, and to understand a little deeper how God has and continues to work through our lives to bring us closer to Him and to places where we can choose to follow His commands. To respond to His invitations. To “join Him on THE WAY.”

Praise God for the access we have to Holy Scripture, for the opportunity to intersect with the people, events, and stories of the Bible through media interpretations like “The Chosen,” and for a break from school and work over Spring Break when I’ve been able to dive more deeply into the themes, traditions, and ideas of Lent.

I pray you will join me in seeking God this day and in the weeks to come. Check out the book “The Last Week: What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus’s Final Days in Jerusalem” and consider reading it, and DEFINITELY watch (or re-watch) “The Chosen.”

God is at work all around us, and invites us to join Him in building His kingdom today on earth!

The Origins of the Universe – Free Will and Quantum Mechanics

On July 10, 2020, I shared a lesson on “The Origins of the Universe – Free Will and Quantum Mechanics” for our Friday Morning Men’s Group at First Presbyterian Church of Edmond, Oklahoma, meeting virtually over Zoom. The video is 31 minutes long. The lesson was based on Chapter 3 of Francis Collins’ book “The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief.” This was a lesson I shared last year for our adult Sunday School class, “Curiosity and Questions: Jesus and Science.” Our focus Bible verse was Genesis 1:1-5.

‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day. ‘

Genesis 1:1-5 (NIV)

The slides for this presentation are also available.

The Last Supper and Atonement: Luke 22:7-36

Tomorrow in our adult Sunday School class, “Gospel Encounters,” we will continue our study of The Last Supper by reading Luke 22:7-38, watching the video from The Lumo Project based on these verses, and also watching and discussing the outstanding Bible Project video, “Sacrifice & Atonement.” Here are links to the slides we will use and these video resources.

The Lumo Project video for Luke 22:14-38 is not embeddable but is freely available / viewable via Bible.com. Learn

I will not likely share the audio from this video and speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in tomorrow’s class, but have included in our slides (slide 10) and will embed it below. I LOVE this exhortation from Dr. King, which is based (I think) on this passage from Luke 22. Yes indeed, “We all can serve!”

Gospel Encounter: The Last Supper (Matthew 26:17-35)

Tomorrow in our adult Sunday School class, “Gospel Encounters,” we will be reading and discussing The Last Supper as recounted in the 26th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, in verses 17-35. These are the slides we’ll use during our lesson. Please feel free to use them and any of the ideas/resources which are included for your own Christian teaching and learning. (My slides are licensed CC-BY. Linked video content, however, is shared by others under varying license terms.)

After reading this scripture together, we will watch this six minute depiction of the Last Supper with Jesus and his disciples, focusing specifically on what Jesus SAID and DID during this time.

If we have time, we may watch The Lumos Project’s video about Matthew 26:1-35. (It’s free to watch from the previous link, but not embeddable or readily downloadable.) In the Lumos Project version, a narrator reads the words of the scripture while actors re-enact the scenes. Both are powerful and valuable for better understanding this pivotal episode in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. I’m choosing to share the LDS website version (the video embedded above) because it is a more detailed and theatrical presentation, which seems to provide a more immersive peek into the world and life of Christ. (As noted in my slides, the use of this LDS video should not be interpreted as an endorsement of the Mormon Church or LDS beliefs.)

I plan to focus some of our discussion on both the Old Testament and New Testament contexts for “atonement,” and will show The Bible Project’s excellent six minute video, “Sacrifice and Atonement.” Note a freely downloadable version of this video is available on their project website, which does not include the request for project donations included in the YouTube version.

If you live in Edmond, Oklahoma, or the Oklahoma City area and are able, please visit our church (First Presbyterian of Edmond) and consider attending our Sunday School class! You can check out past lessons as well as our upcoming schedule, continuing our focus on “Gospel Encounters” both historical and contemporary, by visiting pocketshare.speedofcreativity.org/ge/.

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.

The Beatitudes: Jesus’ Teaching of The Sermon on the Mount

These are resources for our adult “Gospel Encounters” Sunday School lesson on September 16, 2018, at First Presbyterian Church in Edmond, Oklahoma.

After Joys and Concerns, I’m sharing the free Life Church / YouVersion iPhone app, “Bible Lens.”

This app makes it super-easy to take your own smartphone photos and create Bible verse “infopics” with them.

Learn more about creating Bible verse infopics in that chapter of the “Pocket Share Jesus.”

Here are the slides for our lesson on The Beatitudes of Jesus, shared in Matthew 5:1-11.

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.”

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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

God Empowers Us to Serve Others Through Trials

Yesterday’s Sunday School lesson, as well as sermon, both focused on why we have pain and suffering in our world. These are tough topics for anyone to address. I was and am thankful to for the opportunity to facilitate this lesson at church for several reasons, however. This has been a topic on my mind and heart more frequently than usual in the past few months. It’s also, according to Barna research, the most common question asked by people about God everywhere. “Why does God allow pain and suffering in our world?”

One idea which emerged during our class discussion yesterday is this: While we often (or always) “come up short” understanding the grand plans of God and how individual cases of pain or suffering fit into them, as Christians we often DO experience situations where God empowers us to serve others through our trials and through the trials of others. As one of the speakers in the longer video we watched yesterday explained, often our best response when someone comes to us in pain and suffering is to embrace them and cry with them. We may not have “the answers,” but do have the capacity to love and support each other. We can embrace others and embrace God through faith, and have confidence that God is the one opening the door for us to love each other through our struggles and our dark valleys.

This is also one of the most important ideas which emerged for me yesterday during our lesson: God invites us to call upon him and use the name of Jesus to bring strength, peace, healing, and love into our darkest and most painful moments. I have experienced times like these in my own life, when I have literally cried out to God for help and assistance to bring me back from the abyss of despair. It’s a bad place to be, and an especially bad place to be ALONE. But that’s exactly one of the key messages of the Gospel of Jesus Christ: We go nowhere alone. God goes with us, and he promises to never abandon us or forsake us. What good news this is to everyone facing the suffering and trials of this life! We may be uncertain about the timetable of God’s cosmic plans and how our lives fit into them, but we can be certain about His reality and His provision in our times of need.

The name of Jesus is powerful! Do not hesitate to call upon the Lord when you are feeling isolated or alone, when you are suffering and full of despair. Call upon the name of Jesus to fill you with God’s Holy Spirit in all circumstances, whether they are filled with light or darkness. This is the Good News of the Gospel, that Jesus came to save us from our sins and the destructive power it has in our world. God wins. And we’re on God’s side. This is good news.

A couple more items from yesterday’s lesson.

Here’s the short video I shared with our class, as I gave a brief summary and enthusiastic recommendation of The Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C. Sarah and I were able to spend about 4 hours there last week during our visit to the area, and it was fantastic!

Here is a 44 second time lapse version of my sermon sketchnote yesterday, on Eric Laverentz’s (@ericlav) message, “The Problem of Sin.” I drew this and exported this video with the ProCreate app for iPad. Learn more about creating sermon sketchnotes in this chapter of “Pocket Share Jesus: Be a Digital Witness for Christ.” I added quite a bit more to this chapter over the weekend, but still need to add more to the chapter on “Narrated Sketchnotes.”

It worked well to use the website mentimeter.com yesterday to get members of our class to respond to a question using their smartphones. I used this as an opening question on the screen when class members came into class, “What is your favorite encouraging Bible verse?” This was a good way to start a relatively “heavy” lesson on pain and suffering.

May God bless you richly this week as you seek Him and strive to better understand His call upon your life. Make no mistake, God will open doors for you to not only draw closer to him in relationship, but also serve others with whom you have contact today and this week as you ask Him to.

Praise God for His love and the revelation of His truth through His Holy Word. Have a great week!

App Smash: Creating Bible Info Pics

Today I’m sharing a chapel talk at school for upper division, middle division, and lower division students. The talk is repeated, so I’ll simplify it in several ways for the younger elementary students. The title of the talk is, “Pocket Share Jesus with Bible Verse InfoPics.” These are my slides, which include a sped-up video (4X) showing the steps for using these apps. iPhone apps demonstrated include the YouVersion Bible, Safari with the website PhotosForClass.com, Adobe Spark Post, Instagram and EchoFon.

I created a 7 minute narrated screencast demonstrating these steps as well, which I published to YouTube.

These resources are now included on the InfoPics page of the “Digital Witness for Jesus Christ” website, as well as the “Pocket Share Jesus” page where I’m sharing presentation slides on the topics of this project.

This is a work in progress! Please send feedback / suggestions to @wfryer on Twitter or via webform.

Narrated Sermon Sketchnotes on Acts 19:1-7 by Eric Laverentz

This is my sketchnote and narrated sermon sketchnotes for Eric Laverentz’ sermon at First Presbyterian Church of Edmond, Oklahoma, on July 29, 2016. Eric was nominated by our Pastor Nominating Committee to serve as our new “lead pastor,” and this was his sermon on Acts 19:1-7, right before our congregational meeting in which we voted to approve that nomination! The title of his sermon was, “The Christian’s Guide to Starting a Riot.” Eric encouraged us in the sermon to become a “Lampstand Church,” which supports members as we take meaningful stands in our culture for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Follow Eric on Twitter at @ericlav. Eric is the author of the book, “Is Caesar Our Savior?” 

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