10 personal questions to start 2019 well

Ask yourself these questions to make sure your 2019 is a fantastic year.
 | JANUARY 3, 2019
Reflection is good for the soul. Personal reflection is even better if you act on it.
You may not be an “end of the year – take a two-day retreat in the mountains” kind of person. I’m not either. I can think through and process these questions in the time it would have taken me to drive there and back. Hey, I’m all for those who love a mountain retreat, but I’m not wired to be in that much silence for that long. I’d end up trying to make friends with a bear or something. If quiet reflection is not motivating for you, try it verbally with your spouse or a close friend. The key is to make it enjoyable, not a chore.
Regardless of your wiring, personality or how much time you have for this, investing quality think time to process 2018 will position you for a substantially better 2019.
There are three keys to getting the most out of this process:
Honesty Be honest with yourself. If you are courageous, ask a close and trusted friend to “test” your reflections. But, short of that, being authentic with yourself is essential. Don’t beat yourself up, but tell yourself the truth.
Gratitude The best disposition for this reflection is gratitude. If you begin by writing a quick list about all that you are thankful for specifically in 2018, the process will be more encouraging and productive.
Action Do something. That’s the bottom line. Change. How do you want to be different? Live differently? Live better? You get to choose. My advice is not to make a list too long. That can be overwhelming. If you do make a long list, then prioritize it and start with a short list of the most important things first.
Ask yourself 10 personal questions:
1) Did you make a new friend? Simple enough, right? Not always. Your life is busy, it’s full and it’s difficult to find time to do all that you are currently responsible for. Where would you find time for a new friend? Yet one of the most valuable, enjoyable, growth-oriented and life-giving things is found in meeting new people and making new friends.
2) Did you spend less than you made? I hope you did not endure a financial hardship this year that made this one impossible. If so, I pray 2019 is a fresh new start for you. Otherwise, we know the merit of this question and the wisdom of spending less than you make. The 10-10-80 method is still a great plan. Save 10 percent, give 10 percent and live on 80 percent.
3) Did you pray in a way that your heart is full? This might be a tough question. But to start, I don’t mean it quantitatively. It’s not about how much you prayed (though that can matter), but the results of your prayers. Did you pray in a way that you saw God move? Did your prayers draw you closer to God’s heart? Did you sense the power of the Holy Spirit at work?
4) Did you take good care of your body? Don’t stop reading now. I know this one may feel extra personal, but it’s just for you to consider. As someone who ate homemade chocolate chip cookies every night for some 30 years, I have my struggles here! But it’s possible to eat smart and exercise regularly. Don’t pick a hardcore fad. Start simple. Celebrate your success (not with a cookie). And keep going. If you are beginning, even a brisk walk 3-5 times a week can be life changing.
5) Did you learn something new and specific about leadership? It’s possible to lead for an entire year, work hard, read books and listen to podcasts and not learn or practice something new as a leader. So, naming what you learned and in what specific way you are a better leader is vitally important.
6) Did you love your family in a way they feel it? It doesn’t matter if you are a thinking or feeling based person (Myers-Briggs test) or if you are an introvert or extrovert, loving people in a way they receive it and feel it matters. I think the simple love language guide that Gary Chapman wrote years ago is still a great tool. The five are:
  • Words of affirmation
  • Acts of service
  • Receiving gifts
  • Quality time
  • Physical touch
Do you know which one matches those you love the most?

7) Did you forgive someone who hurt you?

As a pastor, I’m very aware of the hurts that people carry. I hear the stories and understand how hard it can be to forgive. And leaders are by no means exempt from this kind of pain. Nonetheless, the burden from lack of forgiveness is greater than the burden to find the grace to forgive genuinely. You may not be able to forgive fully in an instant, but you can start the process by acknowledging intent and desire to forgive. If your heart is genuine, God will help you get there.

8) Did you finish that one big project?

This is one of the questions that I don’t have the response I would like. I had several big projects around the house I wanted to complete this year but did not finish them. I didn’t even start a couple of them! I’m going after 2-3 in 2019 with a commitment to completion. How about you?

9) Did you focus on positive and forward-moving thoughts?

One of the most healthy and productive disciplines is staying focused on positive, pure and productive thoughts. It’s not as easy as it may seem. From difficult times, in general, to the fact that the enemy wants to cloud your mind with negative, self-defeating and sinful thoughts, it takes disciplined focus to remain consistently positive.

10) Did you hear God speak clearly to you?

We touched on this in question no. 5, but where that one focused on prayer, this one centers on you hearing the voice of God. What was the most impacting thing you heard God say to you in 2018? What is the last thing you heard God say to you this year? How did it change you? Listening is core to this practice, followed by joyful obedience.

I hope these practical and personal questions help you have a fantastic 2019!

Teaching Your Kids About Easter


At Easter, we celebrate Jesus overcoming death and making a way for us to be in a relationship with God. The resurrection is not G-rated. Jesus died a gruesome death for our sins, and three days later, He rose from the grave.

…entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; He is not here. See the place where they laid Him’ (Mark 16:5-6).

We all like chocolate bunnies, Peeps and Reese’s eggs, but we know there’s more to Easter than a magic bunny that delivers baskets of candy.

So how do we share the true meaning of Easter in a way our kids will understand?

  • Read a chapter or two of Mark every day leading up to Easter. Mark is only 16 chapters long, so you can finish the book in less than two weeks. 
  • Walk around the neighborhood and look for signs of spring. Talk about how spring reminds us of the new life Jesus gives us. Point out the signs of new life that are starting to appear.
  • Send your kids on a scavenger hunt for items that symbolize different parts of the Easter story. Look for things like a rock to symbolize the tomb, sticks to make a cross, something black to symbolize sin, something red to symbolize blood, something white to represent a clean heart, and something green to represent growing in our relationships with Jesus.
  • Read Matthew 27:62 through Matthew 28:4 as a family. Go hiking in search of an over-sized rock, and let the kids take turns trying to move it. Talk about how a large stone couldn’t keep Jesus in the tomb and how surprised the soldiers must have been when the stone was rolled away.
The article was adapted from a NewSpring Church website resource. The original article can be located at: https://newspring.cc/articles/teaching-your-kids-about-easter 

From deity to dust

From deity to dust

It is almost unheard of for anyone who has been a somebody to become a nobody.

For example, how ridiculous and insane it would be for Donald Trump to voluntarily surrender all the glitz, glamour and glory—all the presidential power and prestige—that is his to become a dishwasher at Denney’s? Can you imagine the field day the press would have if President-elect did that?

What if one of the world’s super models such as Kendall Jenner or Kate Moss quit the runway, gave away their wardrobes and trade the glamour of New York and Paris to move into the slums of a Chicago housing project?
What if Bill Gates voluntarily turned all of his assets over to the United States government to help pay off the national debt and went to work answering the telephone and manning the Help Desk for Apple?

You would think the cheese just slid off his cracker.

Once you’ve arrived and made it to the pinnacle, you hang on for all your worth; you grasp it and refuse to let go. As a matter of fact, even when the pinnacle has been reached some folks refuse to be satisfied with that: they want more and make a concerted grab for bigger, better, higher, nicer, grander, faster, finer, sleeker, larger.

Jesus had no need to grasp for more and neither did he clutch his deity in such a way that it was impossible for him to ever relinquish it.

He, as God, was supremely powerful, all-glorious, worthy of the highest accolades, the one adored by angels, feared by demons, possessor of all authority and strength, the eternal and all-wise God, full of goodness, grace, truth, justice and mercy.

But then Jesus did the unthinkable. (The sane person would say that the cheese slid off Jesus’ cracker). “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing . . .” (Philippians 2:6-7).

Advent means “to come, to arrive” and so the Christmas season attempts to grasp the idea that Jesus descended—plummeted from deity to dust and made himself nothing. “O come . . . let us adore him.”

Who’s job—God’s or mine?

Who’s job—God’s or mine?

By Ed Rotz | Sep 1, 2016

I first heard John Ortberg speak a number of years ago and I was immediately struck with his biblical, common-sensical approach to teaching God’s Word. Since them I have considered him to be a long-distance mentor, of sorts. While taking a few days of vacation in northern California in late August, I heard him speak in his home church in Menlo Park. It was a personal grace.

Some time ago, Ortberg asked the question of his audience, “Is spiritual growth (sanctification) God’s job or mine?” Some have taken the position that sanctification is solely God’s job, and say, “I can’t do anything at all. It’s not my responsibility to become sanctified.” At the other end of the spectrum are those Christians who take the drill instructor approach, evaluating spiritual growth as the end result of one’s commitment level and development of moral muscle.

The question is perplexing, one that many followers of Jesus wrestle with. Who’s responsible for whether I become more like Jesus—me or the Holy Spirit?

Ortberg’s wise response is tethered to Philippians 2:12-13 where Paul admonishes his friends, “Work out your salvation . . . for it is God who works in you . . .” We have a role to play, but we don’t control it. He illustrates it beautifully by pointing out the differences between a motorboat and a sailboat. In the speed boat, I’m in control, but in the sailboat, while I’m not passive, I have a role to play: sails need to be hoisted and the rudder needs to be steered, but I have to depend on the wind to blow to get anywhere.

Likewise, God has ordained a partnership when it comes to our spiritual growth. When God’s wind/Spirit blows it is my responsibility to trim the sails, catch the breeze, and keep my hand on the rudder. The responsibility for spiritual growth is not an either/or matter; it is both God and me.

​Dr. Wayne Schmidt elected General Superintendent

​Dr. Wayne Schmidt elected General Superintendent


On Monday morning, June 6, the General Conference of The Wesleyan Church elected Dr. Wayne Schmidt, by 63 percent on the first ballot, to be the General Superintendent of the North American General Conference for the next four years. His term begins at the rise of the conference on Wednesday, at which time the mantle of leadership will be passed to him by 8-year General Superintendent Dr. Jo Anne Lyon.

Dr. Schmidt has served as the chief administrative officer of Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University since January 1, 2010. He has led the seminary from its infancy to over 500 students from 34 states and 11 countries, achieving full accreditation and offering training in English and Spanish.

From 1979-2009, Dr. Schmidt was first a co-founding pastor, and then, senior pastor of Kentwood Community Church (KCC) in the Grand Rapids, Michigan, area. He gave leadership to planting the church and growing it to a multiethnic church with over 2,500 in weekend attendance and seeing more than 200 people saved annually. KCC also took the lead role in planting 10 daughter churches during Dr. Schmidt’s tenure.

Dr. Schmidt has given outstanding leadership to building strong multi-ethnic communities. At Kentwood Community Church, the congregation moved from being only two percent multi-ethnic to over 12 percent by 2009. At Wesley Seminary, the same commitment to multi-ethnicity has resulted in the strong Spanish language programs and also serving other ethnicities well, with a student body that is nearly 40% ethnic minority.

Dr. Schmidt has been on the district boards of administration in West Michigan and Indiana North Districts for a total of 15 years and also served as assistant district superintendent of West Michigan District for seven years. He has helped lead strategic roundtable discussions in all but two North American districts, and has ministered on several mission fields. He is an Indiana Wesleyan University graduate, holds a master’s degree, and earned a Doctor of Ministry degree at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

Dr. Schmidt has demonstrated seminal thinking in ministry leadership through half a dozen books, including Accountability: Becoming People of Integrity; Leading When God is Moving; Soul Management; Lead On; Power Plays; and Ministry Velocity. He also has contributed chapters to books such as The Church Jesus Builds, various articles to publications, and has been a contributing editor for Leadership Journal.

He and Jan have been married for 37 years and their three children and their spouses and six grandchildren all serve the Lord.

Dr. Schmidt has an intense commitment to prayer which has led him to lift, by name, hundreds of pastors and leaders across the denomination in daily prayer. The entire Wesleyan Church is urged to return that same commitment by praying for him and his family as he shoulders the responsibility of leadership for the entire North American General Conference. Pray also for Wesley Seminary as it will be seeking the Lord’s will for new leadership to carry the seminary forward on the strong foundation that Dr. Schmidt helped build.
Wayne Schmidt
Wayne Schmidt
Wayne and Jan Schmidt
Wayne and Jan Schmidt
Jo Anne Lyon and Wayne Schmidt
Jo Anne Lyon and Wayne Schmidt
Kyle Ray and Wayne Schmidt
Kyle Ray and Wayne Schmidt

The intentional walk

By Jim Dunn | Apr 18, 2016

Baseball has a play most fans of homerun hitters do care for. It is used by coaches and managers when there is a better chance of loading up more bases and getting someone out on a ground-ball force out compared to taking the chance of a good hitter driving in more runs. The catcher will extend the target of where the pitch should land over home plate way outside of the strike zone. There is little chance the batter will hit the ball. After four pitches are called “balls” by the umpire, the intentional walk has been executed. The batter is allowed to run to first base uncontested while the other base runners advance to the next base. It is all a part of baseball strategy.

The Christian life has an intentional walk too. In fact, I have a friend who is teaching about basic Christian discipleship using “The Intentional Walk” as a sermon series title while the baseball season is opening up this spring. What is your strategy for moving along in your relationship with God? What can you become intentional about when it comes to deepening your understanding and experience of the Holy Spirit as you journey through this life?

Be intentional with spiritual disciplines. Prayer, fasting, Bible reading, silence, worship, Communion, etc., are all practices a believer in Jesus can become more like Christ through on a daily basis.

Just like a baseball coach who is thinking about how to win a game, we need to think about practices or habits we can incorporate in our daily living that will lead us to strengthening our walk with Jesus. Some call it devotions; some call it time alone with God. Whatever you call it, intentionally engage with spiritual disciplines on a daily basis to grow in your spiritual walk.

Be intentional with spiritual fellowship. This cannot be emphasized too much. We were not created to go through life alone. We need each other for accountability, friendship, and encouragement. Devoting ourselves to breaking bread and fellowshipping with fellow believers makes the Christian walk rich. Do you intentionally spend time with others who follow Jesus? Are you in a group where “iron sharpens iron?”

Be intentional in spiritual service. The best way anyone will grow in his or her Christian living is through involvement by serving others for Christ and the church. Take a look around. People who serve are growing in their relationship with Jesus. They seem to be more content in life. They are engaged with the mission of the local church. They complain less because they are busy serving the Lord. We are meant to give ourselves away to others. Become a giver by intentionally getting involved in spiritual service. Talk with your pastor. See if there is any way you can personally contribute to your church being more effective at reaching the community around you for Christ.

Become a fan of the intentional walk!

Dr. Jim Dunn is executive director of Church Multiplication and Discipleship for The Wesleyan Church.

Praying the last seven words of Christ

Praying the last seven words of Christ

By Rev. Mark O. Wilson | Mar 23, 2016

It is significant that Jesus prayed from the cross. While experiencing the worst torture a human being could endure, he prayed.

Most of us, in such moments of anguish, would succumb to the suffering. Our prayers would be diminished to one word: “Help!” Reflecting on the worst moments of my life, I must admit “Help!” is the most sincere prayer I’ve ever uttered.

Yet, Jesus went beyond a prayer for help at Golgotha. His prayers from the cross reveal the intensity of his pain–yet, a deep love pouring from his heart. Instead of being consumed with himself, he turned his focus to God and others.

The old adage states, “We all have our cross to bear.” In our moments of anguish, we can look to Jesus, and see how he responded in his darkest valley. A review of Good Friday events shows that Jesus did three things:

  • He pressed into prayer.
  • He poured out love.
  • He surrendered all to God.

What an example for us! In deep sorrow and suffering, we, too, can press into prayer, pour out love, and surrender all to God.

The prayers of Christ from the cross serve as an excellent model for our praying during this Holy Week:

Father, forgive them for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34).

Are you holding bitterness and resentment in your heart? Who has wronged you? Are you struggling to forgive? If you can’t bring yourself to forgive them, ask God to do the forgiving for you. Forgiveness is for our own benefit. Carrying resentment is like swallowing poison and hoping the other person will die.

Today you will be with me in paradise (Luke 23:43).

Who is lost, broken, and hurting? Pray for those who are suffering from their own decisions. Rather than judge them, love them. Remember we all need grace, and our past mistakes do not necessarily dictate our future. Focus on the life beyond this life, and how God’s love draws us to where we need to be. Trust those who are wandering to God’s care.

Behold your mother (John 19:26-27).

Are you so consumed with your own pain that you are neglecting those closest you? What do your dearest loved ones need from you? Do you know how they’re doing? Pray for them. Love them deeply. Show them your concern.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me (Mat. 27:46, Mark 15:34)?

Admit your deep despair and loneliness. Where and when do you feel rejected and forsaken? This prayer comes from Psalm 22. Remind yourself that Psalm 23 follows immediately. We are never alone. In the darkest valley, God is with us.

I thirst (John 19:28).

What is your deep seated thirst? What do you think you need to survive? Thirst for praise? Thirst for acceptance? Thirst for significance? Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.

It is finished (John 19:30).

What needs finishing in your life? What have you begun, but not completed? What is God’s calling for you–his unique mission? Are you following it? If not, what stands in the way? What parts of you are still “under construction?” Be patient with others, as they are still under construction too. “Be patient with me. God is not finished with me yet.”

Into your hands I commit my spirit (Luke 23:46).

What do you need to release into God’s hands? Have you been trying to control outcomes and other people? Let them go. Release them into the hands of your loving father. Are you concerned about your future? Your past? Are you confused about your present situation? Are you struggling emotionally? Spiritually? Relationally? Physically? Surrender all to God.

Rev. Mark O. Wilson serves as senior pastor at Hayward Wesleyan Church, in Hayward, Wisc.

In the storm: five things I choose to believe about God

In the storm: five things I choose to believe about God

By Erin Branham | Mar 2, 2016

I have several friends who are just going through some hard things right now: job loss, severe health issues, loss of a spouse, an adoption that has fallen through. I see their hurt, and I wish I could make it better. I’ve been there, not their exact situations, but I’ve had my own “hard things.” I know the blessing that comes out of turmoil. But when you’re sitting in the middle of it? Oh, is it hard to trust that God has a plan, that he’s going to make sense of it all.

My friend Todd wrote this–it just struck a nerve with me so much that I had to share. If you’re sitting in the middle of “it” and you’re struggling to see God’s purpose, I hope this will encourage you. Keep hanging on. And if you need someone to pray with you or for you, we’re here. Feel free to reach out and let us know here.

What can be said when words fail?

When life turns upside down, how do you deal with a new, awful reality?

Are there anchors that still exist when waves have seemingly washed them all away?

Is drifting in the midst of despair the new normal?

In the middle of seemingly insurmountable circumstances, I’ve discovered that peace often precedes answers. Comfort tends to walk through the door before understanding. And in the midst of overwhelming emotion and angst, we can, with broken and yearning hearts, make choices that can provide stability and hope.

Let me suggest five of them:

1. I choose to believe that God is close to me when I’m at my lowest point.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed” (Psalm 34:18, NLT).

2. I choose to believe that despite how I feel, God is with me and ready to give me strength that I don’t have.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” Psalm 46:1.

3. I choose to believe that God has a perspective of things I don’t have, and is consistently working.

“O Lord God of Heaven’s Armies! Where is there anyone as mighty as you, O LORD? You are entirely faithful” (Psalm 89:8).

4. I choose to believe that God knows more than I do, and wants to comfort me when my heart says things are hopeless.

“. . . whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything” (1 John 3:20).

5. I choose to believe God can replace my fear with peace, something that can’t be found anywhere else.

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid” (John 14:27).

Everyone one of these five is a choice, not a feeling. In fact, it’s unlikely in the midst of our despondency we’ll feel like any of these are true. But believing unseen things is faith. And faith can sustain broken hearts like nothing I’ve ever seen.

It begins with choices, and choices especially anchored in one who claims to be a prince of the peace we desperately seek, set direction for recovery. A recovery which often starts inside of us, long before storms move past.

“God is a safe place to hide, ready to help when we need him. We stand fearless at the cliff-edge of doom, courageous in sea storm and earthquake, before the rush and roar of oceans, the tremors that shift mountains. God fights for us. . .” (Psalm 46:1-3)

Read original post here, the website for 95.1 SHINE-FM, Baltimore’s Positive Hits. Book excerpt from In the Storm: Five Things I Choose to Believe about God, by Todd Gaddy.

Sunset and sunrise

Sunset and sunrise

A hazy sunset over the Gulf of Mexico. A rosy sky as the last sliver of sun slid into the water. The blue-grey of the gulf blending with the sky until one was almost indistinguishable from the other.

These sights greeted us recently as we drove into Biloxi, Mississippi, a few years ago. We had hoped we would make it to the gulf in time to see the water before night fell. We barely made it.

A faint glow of light greeted another traveler as she hurried to her destination. In her case, it was not night but morning. Not sunset but sunrise. Our sunset was a happy sight. Her sunrise was not.

Mary Magdalene went to the garden tomb, early in the morning, actually before it was light. As day slowly dawned, she saw the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She assumed someone had removed the body of Jesus from the tomb.

Running to find Peter and John, she said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” (John 20:2 NIV).

She based her assumption on a faulty premise. She thought someone had moved the stone to take the body out. Actually, the stone rolled away so witnesses could see for themselves that the body of Jesus was gone!

Between the time He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven forty days later, Jesus appeared to more than five hundred people (1 Corinthians 15:3-8). It is one of the best-documented miracles ever.

That’s what we celebrate this Sunday.

Every Easter reminds us that Jesus rose from the dead. That gives all of us hope that there is life beyond this life. He told His disciples, “Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19 NIV). When we put our trust in Him, we have hope of heaven. Every sunset and sunrise can remind you, as the song poet wrote, that one day “we’ll say good night here but good morning up there.”

The Word That I Had Never Heard

The word I had never heard

I was in fourth grade, when I first heard the word.

“Wow” showed up in a Christmas song during music class at my school. The teacher and I had a discussion about it, and she assured me it was fine to say. I, however, was not easily convinced, and I asked my mother if that word was allowed in my vocabulary. The next day I reported to the music teacher that I had full permission to say, “wow!”

In preparation for Easter, view the word “wow” in another way: by making Passion Week the “week of witness.” Here is how it works: In the seven days between Palm Sunday and Easter weekend, share Jesus personally with at least one person and invite as many people as you can to join your Easter weekend services and activities.

That’s it. Tell someone what Jesus means to you. Don’t overthink it, and just tell others how Jesus has changed your life. Pray that the Holy Spirit will open up at least one opportunity to share your faith in Jesus Christ during Passion Week. Allow God to use you in communicating salvation to a coworker, classmate, friend, neighbor, or family member.

Someone told you about Jesus. Someone invited you to church. Thank the Lord for them. Now it is your turn to do the same for someone else.

May Passion Week be a “wow!” week.

Dr. Jim Dunn is executive director of Church Multiplication and Discipleship for The Wesleyan Church.