Once in a while, I attend a meeting where God gives such clear direction that I am stunned and amazed.
Westside helped launch the “Christ the Victor Freedom Initiative” (CTV) last year as a church for men and women who are incarcerated in our state prisons. We now have worship services in Lansing and Topeka Correctional Facilities with a total of almost 500 in worship each week. We have been working to plant a new congregation on Wednesday evenings at Avenue of Life for those who are released from prison.
Last night, at a leadership meeting for the new church, our team was discussing the men who are recently released from prison. Each of them is being mentored by someone from our leadership team. We have been able to find housing for them in an apartment complex at the corner of 18th and State Street in Kansas City, KS, about two miles from Avenue of Life.
As we discussed each of the men we quickly realized that they were all struggling with life on the outside. Early optimism gave way to harsh reality as we realized all of the men were showing signs of drug use and on a path that would lead them back to prison.
We talked about the need these men have for more constant fellowship. We talked about the urgency of establishing NA and AA groups. We talked about the community where they live and the spiritual darkness that is so real there. It wasn’t long into this discussion that someone suggested we consider moving our new church plant from Avenue of Life to the apartment complex where these men live. We realized we needed to be more aggressive in our efforts to disciples these men and establish a base for the gospel in the community where they live.
So last night the leadership team of Christ the Victor decided to take the church to the neighborhood.
We agreed to rent an apartment in the same complex to host Bible studies, NA and AA groups. At least once a week we will host a meal for the entire complex out of this apartment and at all times we will prayerfully look for ways to share Jesus with this community. Our hope is that we will not only effectively disciple the men in our congregation, but we also believe we can create an outpost for the Kingdom in the community.
Our hope is that we will not only effectively disciple the men in our congregation, but we also believe we can create an outpost for the Kingdom in the community.
This morning I was talking on the phone with Troy, the pastor of CTV. As we were celebrating this new move we acknowledged the profound need for a prayer covering. We invite YOU to pray for this new congregation. As we work to build an outpost for the gospel in this apartment complex we realize there is an enemy who will work against us. Pray for the spiritual and physical protection of our men and their leaders. Pray for the neighborhood to be transformed by the gospel!
Christ the Victor Freedom Initiative's vision:
To create an intentional Christ-centered community that values everyone's sacred worth, understanding what we have done and yet affirming what we can still be, united together through shared spiritual disciplines.
There’s an old apocryphal story from Spain that tells of a father and son who had become estranged. The son ran away, and the father set off to find him. He searched for months to no avail. Finally, in a last desperate effort to find him, the father put an ad in a Madrid newspaper. The ad read:
Dear Paco, meet me in front of this newspaper office at noon on Saturday. All is forgiven. I love you. Your Father.
On Saturday, dozens of Pacos showed up, looking for forgiveness and love from their fathers.
In Jesus, we meet our one true, loving Father, who not only forgives us, but runs to us, with arms wide open. There’s nothing we can do to make Him loves us more. There’s nothing we can do to make Him love us less. His forgiveness of us is complete and eternal, thanks to the finished work of Jesus at Calvary.
Yet, the forgiven often find themselves unsure or unable to forgive others. We’ve received this immeasurable wealth of forgiveness, but find it hard to spare a dime of it on someone else who has hurt or offended us.
Sometimes, we aren’t even aware that we are harboring unforgiveness.
Five years ago, I was on a five-day sabbatical that I spent in silence at a monastery. The first two nights, I didn’t sleep well. I was restless, tossing and turning. Nightmares plagued me. I was exhausted by day three.
That afternoon, I had finished praying the Sext, the midafternoon office, with the monks. As I was making my way back to my cabin, my thoughts drifted toward an individual, who had been very significant in my life for many years. This is a person I saw almost daily and loved dearly. As their face came to mind, a torrent of anger suddenly burst up out of me, along with a string of words that I won’t print here. To say that I was shocked would be an understatement. The whole thing felt so primal and almost involuntary, like vomiting a bad meal that gave you food poisoning.
In the aftermath, as the wave of rage passed, I was ashamed that I had said the F word, cursing someone I loved. In that moment of shame, the Spirit made it clear to me. Over the years, there were some habitual behaviors in this person’s life that had deeply wounded me. I had excused the behavior. The hurt I had buried deep in the basement of my soul, hidden behind a false wall. The combination of the three days of silence and prayer mixed with the physical exhaustion had caused that wall to crumble. In that moment, the years of hurt I had buried and all the unforgiveness I had harbored came pouring out.
Right then I knew I needed to say the F-word: Forgive.
Over the next hours, into the evening, through prayer and journaling, I revisited those wounds and wept. By God’s grace, I was able to pass on what had been given to me in limitless measure: Forgiveness.
I literally felt 100lbs lighter. I slept like a baby that night. My soul was free.
But the work of forgiveness had only begun. Over the coming months, I found myself needing to forgive that person again, as they continued in the toxic behavior. But because I was forgiving immediately, it cleared up my perspective to see I needed to change how I was relating to this person. My relationship with that person changed because forgiving empowered me to lovingly and directly address the behavior. Furthermore, instead of surrendering to a false martyrdom that turned me into a welcome mat for the inappropriate behavior, I began to erect healthy boundaries. Eventually, because the person wasn’t willing to change, I phased out of that relationship.
It was one the most life-giving moves Jesus ever led me through.
The next five weeks, we’re inviting everyone to experience the freedom that only the forgiveness can bring. We’ll address the myths about what forgiveness is that keep us from forgiving. Myths like, “Forgive and forget.” What!? How do you forget childhood abuse, a devastating divorce, or a rape? Trying to forget is not forgiveness, that’s insanity. We’ll take a clear look at what forgiveness is and what it is not. Furthermore, we’ll dig into the deep soul work that makes forgiveness of any wound possible.
With forgiveness comes freedom. Each week of this series builds upon the other, like a Master Class on Forgiveness, so make sure to be a part of every weekend. It’s time to say, “I forgive myself. I forgive you. I am forgiven!”
As a mom of 3 littles under 4 I was looking for a place to connect and belong. Motherhood can be both fulfilling and isolating, sometimes at the same time. We were new to the area and I was desperate for a community of moms where I could share my fears and frustrations, compare sleepless nights and potty training stories and build friendships that would follow me (and my kids) through the next decade.
We had been attending Westside for several months, but I had no idea they had a moms group. My plan had been to join a local MOPS group, but the one closest to me was full. I was pretty devastated that my ideal moms group wasn't going to be a reality, so I did what any mom would do. I took my kids to CFA and ate my feelings.
God has a way of showing up when we least expect him. I was sitting in CFA eating my breakfast and another mom and I strike up a conversation. In the past this might have been something I would have tried to avoid, but we immediately connected because both our kids were playing together and starting preschool that week. Somewhere during the conversation church came up and we discovered we both attended Westside. She asked me if I knew about the Moms group and proceeded to tell me about it and how to find it on the website, which was important. This mom didn't attend the mom group because of work, but I'm so thankful she listened to God and engaged me that morning. I immediately went home looked up the group and sign up to attend a meeting. I was hooked after that initial meeting. It was what I needed and desired.
Moments like that show how God is moving in this ministry. It's moms inviting friends and strangers to our play dates or out to coffee in obedience to God's prompting. It's asking for prayers over difficult situations and sharing our struggles without judgment. It's changing the culture of the group to include moms with kids of all ages and in various stages of life. It's allowing women to come together with a shared purpose to learn and grow.
I have been so blessed by this group in a short amount of time. My kids have also formed relationships that without the group I don't feel they would have made. This group was there when I was at one of my lowest points. My prayer is that other moms are impacted, encouraged, and blessed by MOMS Together.
For every mom, in every stage, YOU belong.
Language shapes culture. The words we use can shape the way we see the world. Culture gives meaning to language. The predominant cultural story we live in influences the way we understand words.
It’s an interesting hand in hand relationship I’m learning about. My fascination with language is not new. I majored in English… for a while. And my new, adopted life motto is, “I was told there would be no math… 'cause the maths is hard.” (Subject is plural, verb is singular. It’s funny. Trust me.)
Earlier this year, I was encouraged to pick up the book Gospel Fluency by Jeff Vanderstelt. I devoured it. Jeff makes the point that most of us only know catch-phrases or clichés about the gospel, we speak gospel-ish rather than being fluent in the language of gospel. This was an incredibly challenging idea to me, and it didn't take long to see that he was right. When it came to having a holistic picture of what it meant to be fluent in the gospel, to be able to speak it clearly, to be able to apply it to every area of my life, I was deficient. I could say the catch phrases everyone else knows, but I didn’t think, feel, and perceive all of life through that lens.
It wasn’t that I didn’t know anything about the gospel, or that what I had received was wrong or bad, it was that the understanding of the gospel that had been passed on to me was incomplete. Like so many, the way I understood the gospel made it about a one-time event or decision, and it was all about a future hope: "One day you’ll spend eternity in heaven with Jesus.” In my faith tradition, once you got that locked down, we didn’t really mention the gospel anymore. The gospel, you see was for unbelievers. “They” needed it to help them become believers.
The truth is, “We’re all unbelievers.”
Shocking right?! It’s true, though. We all have areas where we haven’t fully surrendered or where we just flat out don’t believe that Jesus can accomplish a new work within us or that he can take care of past, present and future problems. Go ahead and think on it for a minute. You can probably name a handful off the top of your head if you’re willing to be honest. “I’m not sure Jesus is really going to take care of us financially.” “I don’t think this relationship can be reconciled.” “I’m a failure at everything I do.” “I’m probably going to lose this job.” “I’m tired of being lonely.” “I’m never going to beat this addiction.”
The list can go on. The list is a list of all the places where you need good news spoken into your life. And the gospel can do that! What Jeff helps unlock is that the gospel is good news for every area of life, from now into eternity. So it’s not about a one-time event only. It is for that, just not only for that. It’s not about a future hope only. It is for that, just not only for that.
So we started to learn a new language in our family.
We’re relearning our dominant cultural story (The story of God in history). We’re learning the vocabulary of the gospel and practicing it. We’re learning the important cultural expressions and we’re trying to start by speaking the gospel to ourselves and each other on a daily basis. It’s reintroducing us to that joy we had when we discovered our first love. It’s helping us overcome those things in our life that steal our first love.
Daughters were princesses, and daddies were charming on a very special night recently at Westside Family Church. The Royal Ball Daddy Daughter Dance brought gave dads and daughters a focused time for fun and togetherness, and emphasized the importance of this precious father-daughter relationship.
Westside Family Church, in partnership with KC Street Hope and Exodus Cry put on this celebration to support fatherhood and introduce the dads to the Epic Project—a new program that protects vulnerable young women from exploitation.
Daughters in their most beautiful dresses enjoyed dancing, photos in the pumpkin carriage, refreshments, corsages, and a fun time with their dads. At the dance, dads demonstrated their deep dedication by attempting the limbo-rock and showing off their best air-guitar moves.
A wonderful time was had by all, daughters were cherished, and dads supported a great cause.
I've been a parent for ten years now and I have to say its much harder than I thought it would be. I remember all the books and videos and college classes on child development and none of them have really prepared me for this current reality - the parenting journey.
The truth is everyone goes through different phases of life. As a parent, it’s so important to understand this as it relates to your child and the different phases they will go through, while also thinking and parenting with the end in mind. We don't need to be overwhelmed by the realization that before the blink of an eye our kids will be off to college, starting a career, getting married—instead, we can and should be proactive about what we teach them now and how it will shape their future.
A Phase is defined as a time frame in a kid’s life where we can leverage distinctive opportunities to influence their future. Every phase has its own significant relationships, present realities, and distinctive opportunities.
Here are five ideas that can help as we parent through each phase, with the end in mind and as the parent God intended us to be.
1. Fight for the Heart of your son or daughter.
Keep the main thing the main thing.
"I no longer want well-behaved kids. That’s not the end goal for me. I want Christ-worshipers who know how to love and repent. Who run to Him when they fail. Only God can make this happen in their hearts—I can’t force it. But because this is the goal, I don’t sweat the small stuff as much anymore."
- When Kids Won't Bow to Your Idol, by Jennifer Phillips
2. Create a Rhythm in your home that leverages routine times to influence your kids each week:
* when you get up
* when you lie down
* when you walk along the road
"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up."
3. Predict and Redefine how you parent at every phase.
Anticipate what is coming before it gets here and learn to redefine your role as a parent.
4. Be Proactive instead of reactive and have a strategy when it comes to your child’s development:
5. Ask other people to be a part of your child’s life journey.
Widen the Circle: Connect your kids to other caring adults who will treat them like they are made in the IMAGE of GOD.
The point is… It’s just a PHASE. So don’t miss it.
"Our responsibility is not to do it all and to perform with perfection but to be available and diligent in our personal spiritual growth and to be willing to invest in the spiritual growth of our children. God will do the rest, sometime through us and sometime in spite of us."
-Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions, by George Barna
Family Ministry is hosting a parenting seminar on Wednesdays, September 20-October 11 that covers these 5 ideas in more depth! Join us any week you can make it.
We had so much fun at Westside Family Fest, and by the looks of it, so did you!
- A little rain didn't stop us!
- We welcomed over 600 first-time guests to WFC!
- Moms were pampered while faces were painted.
- The Brothers McClurg set the vibe with their live performances.
We can't wait to do it again next year!