Blogs written by Adam Atkinson for PurposeCity.

Determining Your Spiritual Strengths

Determining Your Spiritual Strengths

Last year I joined a basketball league. After putting together a team I soon realized something very important – I was the tallest player on my team. Without knowing me, that might not right alarm bells for you, but you must understand that I am only 6’1 and that is on a good hair day. You see, when I put together the team, I tried to put together a team with a lot of skill. We had speed, sound defense, good outside shooters, and everything you needed to be successful… except for height. We were ready to out-hustle our opponents every single game, and we believed we could win using this strategy.

A few weeks later we walked into the arena for our very first game. That feeling of confidence quickly diminished when we realized their SHORTEST player was about 6’5.  Before the game even began, the team was crippled by fear, wondering how they would possibly compete. We didn’t believe we going to be able to defend near the basket and how would we score on offense? Instead of sticking to our strengths, we adjusted and tried to “man up” by playing their style of basketball – we thought we could beat them at their game irregardless of our height differential. As we continued to play, we realized most every team was bigger than we were. We lost our first 10 games before we finally realized that we had been playing this basketball season all wrong, we’d abandon our skills and we were too worried about improving our weaknesses, a weakness we in reality could never change. This resulted in an overall ineffective team and a poor start to the season.

As you consider your role in the Kingdom of God and the team of people he has put around you – are you all playing to your strengths? There are so many opportunities to make a positive difference in the world today, yet for some reason many are locked up by fear and afraid of utilizing their God-given strengths to reach their nearby communities, schools, and neighbors. Personally, growing up in the Church, I have witnessed that many people tend to do this same kind of outreach. Typically, the same few participate in reaching their community, while the other Church members stay away because they feel the particular activity the others are participating in isn’t something they can best contribute to. The select few then serve at food kitchens, housing projects, etc…, while everyone else can easily be found stuck at building we call the Church, failing to ever go out and impact their local community.

God has given us strengths for a reason and it is when we discover what our strengths are, and how we can use them within our community, that we see the greatest results. I encourage you to consider, what are the spiritual strengths that are unique to you? Are you utilizing those gifts or are you playing above your “height,” trying to impact in a way that’s not playing to your particular strengths? These are all simple questions, yet it wasn’t until we made these connections that the basketball season turned around and it wasn’t until I made this change in my personal ministry that I saw tremendous growth in my spiritual journey,  allowing me to be most effective for the Kingdom of God.

 

Christian Forgiveness

Christian Forgiveness

We have all heard, at one point or another while growing up, the famous saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

Let me tell you, I have experienced my fair share of broken bones and though it is a painful experience, the pain only lasts for a specific time frame even when we must rehab those injuries before they can be completely healed. Yet, hurtful words don’t always abide by this rule or the famous children’s saying. Words and actions by others not only can hurt us more than a broken bone can, they tend to last a lot longer than a physical injury.

The reality is we see this almost everywhere we turn. School bullying is a major problem with today’s youth. So much so that there have been a whole slew of laws and movements started to bring awareness to the issue, let alone the newest trend of cyberbullying. Bullying even recently spilled into the professional sports world. We see racial slurs, derogatory words and crude sayings in the media, in entertainment, and in our music.

With so much hurt affecting the world today, it is refreshing to turn to our fellow Christians and ministries for support. Yet, what if a Christian, a Church, or ministry has burned us? How do we act now?

In my life, I experienced this very thing – let me tell you, it hurts more than anything. I have experienced a Pastor leave the Church because he had an affair, I have had believers steal from me, and I have had a Christian ministry lie and leave me abandoned in ways you couldn’t imagine. In all of these cases the hurt was amplified because I wanted to believe that all Christians at least tried their best to treat people right. The fact of the matter is, Christians make the same mistakes everyone else does and leave a path of destruction as a result. The sad truth of the matter is, the destruction is not only within the physical world, but the spiritual one as well. So what do we do when someone treats us wrong? While it is extraordinary tough, Jesus calls us to forgive.

The Bible shows us all kinds of examples of strong believers being tempted and failing, but through forgiveness God gave them a second chance. Examples like King David, who was a man of God yet had an affair with Bathsheba and had her husband killed in the process; or Peter, who got so angry that he used a sword to cut a soldiers ear off; or Saul who both persecuted and hated Christians. If God can forgive those men, and forgave each of us of our many sins, how can we not forgive those who wronged us – even if they are Christians? We need to take a deep look at our heart and no matter how much pain resulted in their actions, and how much pain will result from forgiving the person who wronged us, we must be the Godly example of Christian forgiveness and reconcile with those who have hurt us. We need to remember that we are not perfect and follow Jesus’ example – forgiving all, even our brothers and sisters in Christ.

 

Living for Jesus

Living for Jesus

Chances are, if you look back through pictures you’ve posted online, be it Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, you were at one point in time caught up in the YOLO (“you only life once”) craze and likely could find a picture or two labeled in this way. There are a lot of catch phrases out there, yet this might be one of the most commonly used ones and one that, frankly, sums up the way many feel today.

I, back in the day, wasn’t immune to this catch phrase. I used this as a hashtag for pictures when I was eating something bizarre (like chicken hearts) or before doing something extreme (like jumping a waterfall). “You only live once” can be applied to so many things that we do in our daily life – it can serve as either an excuse or a rally cry. For the most part, people have made it synonymous with a care free approach to life, similar to the catch phrase “just do it” of the 90′s. Often, people take it to mean “don’t worry about the consequences of your upcoming decisions,” and this is where YOLO becomes dangerous.

As Christians we can certainly apply the phrase “YOLO” to this life. While we have another life waiting for us with Jesus, we only have one life to live here today. I’m not advocating for making mistakes or living life on a whim, but what I am saying is that we should live this life to the fullest and make bold choices. What are these choices? As Christians we are called to make the tough calls, which at many times are unpopular, but calls that demonstrate the love and greatness of our one true God – choices that display a life centered only on  Him.  1 Timothy 4:8 says,

For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

We  know that we only live once, but are we living for for ourselves or living for Jesus? Will we train ourselves for the physical world or our eternal relationship with God? It is so important that our lives pursuit is one of Godliness, modeling the life that Jesus put before us, above all else. Therefore, what will your YOLO chant be? Will it be only chicken hearts, or will it be going all out for Christ each and every day (with the occasional cliff jump here and there)?

 

Delegation

Christian Leadership: The Art of Delegation

I have seen a major transformation take place in my personality recently. I never thought I needed growth in this area before, frankly because I didn’t believe my personality was broken, but it definitely needed repair.  So what was the problem you ask? I was transformed from a “yes-man” into a “do-er.”

You see, growing up, I always believed that it was far better to always say “yes” than telling somebody “no” or “I’m sorry, I can’t do that”.  But was I far off! See, the art of delegation is a wise tool to use. Not only does it help you from being overburdened, but it also allows somebody else to participate and accomplish something themselves. That person might actually be better suited to do a specific task than you are. By allowing others to do, it allows them to take on more responsibility and helps them on their journey towards being a leader themselves. By saying “yes” to something you shouldn’t, you might actually be taking away an opportunity from someone else!

Prior to my transformation, I would use “yes” often, and things would get accomplished, but often it wasn’t to its greatest potential because I was spread too thin. I learned it’s not always best to be the one with a full list of things to do. Rather, it was better when I focused on a specific task, gave it my all, and then moved on. In the end, I saw first-hand that doing is far superior to simply  promising. I also saw how it directly impacted my life because when I had an overwhelming amount of tasks to accomplish, it could easily cause distractions, or in my case, be incredibly overwhelming. Moses dealt with the same exact struggle while leading the people in the desert and actually pled to God for help:

“Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me.” Numbers 11:13-14

There are many times I can look back and see areas that I never accomplished what I set out to and I believe the reason was I was afraid of failing, asking for help, doing it wrong, or saying “no.” Even Moses himself needed help and knew he couldn’t do it on his own. He didn’t need a book on Christian leadership, he simply spoke from his gut. Today, I know, if I am prepared and focused on one task at a time, and I am open to the help of others, together we can accomplish whatever we set out to.

Never be afraid to ask for help. Never be afraid to say “no.” Be focused on pursuing what the Lord has given you, always keeping your end goal in mind.

 

God

Relying on God

I have a tradition each time I go someplace new – I always take a picture of my feet. This may sound odd, but to me it a symbolic – I am able to stop and say, “look where my feet have taken me today!” Though we have planes and cars that take us most places today, it is our feet that takes us to the sandy beaches, the rugged high mountains, or the grassy green acres.  Our feet guide us to all sorts of places and while they serve as the means. it is our minds that determine where our feet should lead us to.

This is what I think about when I read the scripture in Psalms 119:9

“How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word.”

In the world today, every day is a battle to stay pure in a world that offers us so much. It is too easy to “walk” ourselves into areas that cause us to stumble and sin. We have to fight our own minds, a plethora of advertisements, and other forms of temptation apparent everywhere. So how do we avoid our feet from taking us to locations we ought not to visit? The answer is right there in the second half of verse 9 – “Live according to the Word of God.”

The word of God is amazing it that all the answers are right there for us and most of the time while we know they are, the hard part is applying what we have learned – controlling our minds so that our feet don’t walk us into trouble. That’s when we must learn what it means to go about relying on God because we can’t do it by ourselves. Personally, I know that when I try walking on my own, apart from God,  time and time again it ends in failure. The reality is, we cannot do it on our own – when we try to we must remember 1 Corinthians 10:13,

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

While we often want to take complete control and go wherever we like, we must rely on Him and His word. If we do this, we can rest assured knowing that our feet will never mindlessly walk us into trouble that we cannot overcome.

 

Adam and Laura's Story

Seeing God at Work: Adam & Laura’s Story

Forward by Noah Curran: I’d like to introduce Adam Atkinson. Adam and his wife Laura have an incredible heart for the Lord and have joined PurposeCity! I’ve asked him to share here  how God has been working in their lives and that is what you will find below. It is an incredible story of how God’s fingerprints can been seen all over your life when you take the time to look back. I urge you to reflect upon his journey and think about how God might have actually worked in your life to date.

As my wife and I celebrated our two year wedding anniversary I took a moment to process just how God has taken us to new heights in our spiritual maturity. As we celebrated our special day just last week, I had a thought – if our lives as a married couple were summarized and made into a book, the first and last chapter would look as though not much had changed. A quick glance would be the furthest thing from the truth though. The reality is, it might look similar as we celebrate our two year anniversary at Disneyworld, the exact same place we vacationed for our honeymoon; however, two years later at lot has changed and we stand smiling, enjoying what God has done in our lives. Let me fill you in briefly on how God transformed us and took us from that first day in our marriage, to where we are now, just two years later.

The day I married Laura I knew my life wouldn’t stay the same, but I never would have envisioned the changes that actually took place. You see, for four years I juggled 40+ hours working as a physical therapist aide, in addition to countless hours volunteering as a youth pastor. I always wanted to pursue a career in full time ministry, but I wanted all the opportunities to simply fall into my lap. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t realize until much later that life doesn’t work like that.  I continued to keep the job to provide income for my family, but I knew ministry was my calling. I wanted to make a difference in the community and reach teens who were lost. Mostly, due to my own stubbornness, I was unwilling to look at alternatives when it came to ministry as I was extremely comfortable, enjoying the luxury that was working and living in the same area as my family. This stubbornness continued for quite some time, even though it meant Laura and I weren’t taking advantage of the strengths that God had given us. Laura and I would often discuss how we envisioned ourselves doing so much more, but then I would quickly dismiss any more talks or “dreams” because I ultimately wanted to remain in my comfort-zone. This went on for quite some time and sadly, it would cause Laura pain as she saw the potential God had put in me, but knew I had a lot of maturing to do. Therefore, instead of wine and complain, she would go to the park and pray everyday.

Along this journey my grandmother died and I felt like I lost one of my very best friends. My grandmother and I were very close and it was tough for me to cope with the loss. It had rocked my world. During this time I was blessed to have Laura though, as she would pray with me often to help me work through the pain. It was through this time spent in prayer that I felt a calling to change and simply… do more. I felt the need to get out of my comfort-zone and stop waiting for someone to simply realize my strengths. It was time to actually pursue our dreams.

The first thing that changed, and it was only through the power of prayer, was God taking me out of the great state of New Jersey. I had never seen myself working as a missionary overseas, but now I felt God calling me to discover a new skill set and learn only from His guidance. The steps it took for me to get from hearing God’s call to actually getting on that airplane proved to be a long and tedious. There were times when obstacles were so big that all I wanted to do was revert back and crush this new-found ambition. It was again the power of prayer that kept me going. In the end, I can look back and see it was God making me a stronger man, one who wouldn’t give into the pressure. I was now bent on only trusting Him and I was ready to serve.

On January 24, 2013, Laura and I boarded a plane and flew to Santiago, a city in the Dominican Republic. As I was in the air it finally hit me – there was no turning back now, and the next three months became totally overwhelming! I was excited, but I realized that I had just left behind my family, our apartment, our memories, and all our “stuff.” We left with just four suitcases and headed to a land where we had no clue what to expect. When we first arrived that night I felt God place a reassuring peace over me. I was anxious for what I was about to learn and I felt like this might be the start of a new journey for Laura and I.

During the three months in the DR, I never was nervous, I never feared what might happen while I was there and as a result, my life, which often felt like it was protected by a glass barrier, was shattered to pieces and my eyes were finally opened. As we worked alongside the national churches of the Dominican, I was coached by a missionary named Rick Romano. Rick helped me to grow and operate in a style that was completely outside of the box. In fact, one day you might have found me mixing cement by hand and the next I might have been teaching English or throwing a baseball with the locals. You see, each one of those days was committed totally to the ministry of Jesus. This new mindset required that I stop being hesitant to serving God and understand that I have unique strengths that only God can use.

Sadly, three months later April 24th came and it was time for Laura and I to return home. I honestly had knots in my stomach about leaving my new “home” – that’s how much God had changed my heart while I was there. Laura and I knew we would never be the same people we were before we left. Our whole mindset had changed as we both found our God-given strengths in ministry and now desired to put them into use. Ideally we saw the DR as the perfect place to stay, but God had other plans for us. And, while we loved the DR and knew we had to leave, we also had a feeling that NJ wasn’t a good fit for us at this time. As crazy as it might sound, we were actually happy when we heard that the apartment we were going to rent was flooded and no longer livable. We were honestly excited to find out that both our jobs filled while we were gone and my youth pastor role was filled at the church. Why were we so elated about not having a house to live in, a job, or my old ministry? Because it was another sign for us to keep trusting God, because He was not finished with us and our role in helping to build His Kingdom.

Laura and I again were faced with the uncertainty of not knowing what was next. This time we both knew what to do. We prayed & wrote down our strengths. We focused solely on what we would both like to do and cast a large net with those strengths in mind. A couple weeks went by and we stayed strong trusting God. One day, just to switch things up, I decided to apply for a couple ministry jobs for Laura and she would apply to some openings on my behalf. The next week Laura and I both were contacted by two people – things that seemed as though God created them just for us. Oh I forgot to mention that both these people just happened to contact us from the same city – Tampa of all places. Laura ended up getting a job at a local Christian ministry as a house parent working troubled teenage girls. You see, Laura had gotten a taste of mentoring and leading while in the DR and wanted to continue in that capacity. As for me, I am so excited at the opportunity Laura’s position has allowed me to be able to get involved with PurposeCity. I am passionate about digging into the community, getting to know people, and helping them feed their hunger for Jesus.

So that brings us back to the start – we are two years removed from standing in the same exact place we stood this week – Disney! A shadow is cast behind us and reminds us of our journey thus far. We smile and both realize that this is not the end of the book, rather it is a start of a new chapter in our lives as we pursue God. And… for the first time in my life I am not afraid of the blank pages that follow, rather excited for this journey that Laura and I will take together fulfilling God’s will for each of our lives.