The Call to Worship & “GOING” in the Christmas Story – Matthew 2:1-11 ESV
There is a stark contrast in the birth narratives of Jesus that emerges in the characters that are introduced to us. We will focus on three of them from Matthew 2:1-11. They are King Herod, the Jewish religious leaders (chief priests and scribes), and the Magi. Though there are many things to be learned it is their response to the birth of Jesus that can instruct us.
King Herod is a wicked king, rightly paranoid and fearful of any threat to his power. Like the evil one he followed, his time was short. He had a history that included “murdering his wife, several of his own sons, and relatives.” 1 Later when the Magi never reported back to him he had all the male babies two years and under in the region of Bethlehem murdered. He represents the spiritual darkness of the cosmos and the spiritual warfare being waged by the evil one, desperate to snuff out the life of the Christ child. “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5 ESV
The Jewish chief priests and scribes are invited into this holy celebration as well through the questioning of King Herod. Following the visit of the Magi, the chief priests are asked by Herod where the Christ was to be born? Not even a tough Shabat type question. Slam dunk! Micah 5:2 “in Bethlehem of Judea.” But what about the response by the chief priests and scribes that followed? What do we hear? Crickets. As far as we know they never travelled to Bethlehem to worship Jesus. It was all of a 6 mile journey from Jerusalem. Their indifference was the opposite reaction of the Magi.
The Magi (where we get our word ‘magic’) are not Kings but rather sorcerers who practice their craft by way of astronomy, astrology, interpreting dreams and calling spirits from the dead. Their practices are strongly denounced in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 18:9-14, Daniel 2:2). The scriptures give every indication that despite their lack of pedigree as sinful pagan Gentiles, they are invited guests (like the shepherds) chosen for this holy and joyous moment. They have travelled a very great distance being drawn by an amazing star and an inward compulsion. They’ve come to worship a great King, if perhaps even “the King of kings.” Revelation 19:16 ESV
Have we followed Christ’s call to worship? Have we humbled ourselves, contrite in heart for our unworthiness to worship so great a King? Are we following Him in the GOING out of the great commission? Have we become self satisfied in religion, prideful, and self righteous in our judgment of others? Do we cherish the mercy of Christ in the gospel and proclaim it freely?
Locking Arms Weekly D Groups, Events & Retreats
The heart of our work with men continues to be the intensive relational process of gathering men in weekly discipleship (D) groups. Events and retreats continue to be the “places” where we engage men. In the D groups our disciple makers lead by building trust through friendship, transparency and acceptance around the word of God. The Holy Spirit empowers the men, individually and as a group, to follow Jesus. Following Jesus means to discover him more deeply through the gospels, abide in his love, and obey his commands in community (John 14:21, 15:10-11). We took on a valued part time staff member in 2023, Neil Walker, who is our Youth & Family Discipleship Director in New Kensington. He is working alongside his Pastor and Director of Humble Ministries Jerry Jefferson and together they are reaching that community through the young people and training them as disciples! These are the pathways that express our revamped mission: Locking Arms is equipping men to love Jesus, love their neighbor, and make disciples!
Watch this 3 minute video that captures our mission in action: https://vimeo.com/848088393/31f6a5f74d
Our recent Christmas Breakfast was a time of beautiful worship with classic carols supported by a full band with a gifted trumpet section. We were given a strong biblical challenge from Hollis Haff on the meaning of the names of God in Isaiah 9:6. We had almost 120 people representing men and family members from a diversity of friendships and huddles. Three of our ministry partners (Del Rey Ministries, Mercy For All Nations, Good Shepherd Academy) shared over breakfast an update on their progress in 2023. Thanks to our table sponsors and all who attended!
In the last 16 years in working with men I have done nearly 30 men’s retreats (15 of those with Locking Arms). Each one has been a celebration and a renewal of the Lord’s covenant love to us and our “testimonies” to follow Christ in Spirit-led obedience. Our brother below captures the heart of intentional prolonged fellowship time shared in brotherly love.
“One man’s obedience is connected to so many destinies. We are all deeply connected together. That’s my quote that sums up my experience at the retreat.”
These biannual retreats challenge and equip us as husbands, fathers, grandfathers, sons, young mentees, and disciples of our King Jesus. Our December retreat gathered 50 men ages 8 to 74 at Camp Peniel near Somerset. It was another powerful time of celebration in worship, fellowship and the teaching of God’s word. Our theme was “Believers—Followers & Disciple Makers.” Our lineup of preachers were all kingdom men of God who instructed us through the word and by the integrity of their lives. The group included two Bible Chapel pastors Dave DiDonato and Rob Thornton along with Hollis Haff (Bonhoeffer Project Regional Director), Pastor Jerry Jefferson (New Kensington), and Jon Kolb (ATP Founder).
Your prayer support and financial help is critical to our daily work and it is greatly appreciated. Your partnership enables us to continue in God’s work here in Pittsburgh leading men to Christ and walking with them in discipling relationships. Also we are “sowing” into ministry partners like Mercy For All Nations (John Carey), ATP (Caleb Kolb), in the Dominican Republic through Del Rey Ministries (Kim Costanza), and in the South Sudan, Good Shepherd Academy (John Chol Daau). See website addresses below.
We started Locking Arms with a pledge 9 years ago to give at least 10% of our annual budget to support our ministry partners. In 2023 Locking Arms will give away approximately 20% of our annual budget to our ministry partners and through retreat/event/mission trip scholarships.
We want to give special thanks to all who gave as part of our monthly support team! This accounts for almost 50% of our monthly budget need. We need your help to close out 2023 and send us into the new year. Can you make a donation? Maybe you could help us by becoming a monthly donor? You can choose to designate your one time donation or monthly donation for Neil Walker.
You can make a donation on our website at: lockingarmsmen.org/giving
Locking Arms Men is a registered 501 (c)3 organization with the IRS.
You can also send us a check payable to Locking Arms Men. Our address: 6307 Oyster Bay Court, Bridgeville PA 15017.
Have a Mighty Christmas! Be like the Magi, REJOICE EXCEEDINGLY with Great Joy! (Matthew 2:11)
- ESV Study Bible, p. 1244
Mercy For All Nations (John Carey) – Website: mercy4allnations.org
Del Rey Ministries (Kim Costanza) – Website: delreyministries.org