“Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men.” Mark 1:17 ESV
We are nearing our 7th full year since our launch of Locking Arms in December of 2014. We responded to Jesus call “Follow Me” to train up men as disciples. We had no idea how great the need really was. Many churches have neglected Jesus call to make disciples through an adoption of a cheapened “forgiveness only” gospel that falsely promises assurance of heaven based upon an intellectual agreement of a few gospel truths and a prayer. This false gospel makes discipleship with its requisite repentance from sin optional. Others have openly rejected the authority of scripture along with Christ’s mission and replaced it with “cultural” Christianity. This second group of churches are represented by professing Christians who are choosing accommodation to secular cultural values denying the truth of God’s word. There are many expressions of biblical truth under attack that we must live out and defend. But we cannot look only at the sin we deem the greatest. All sin separates us from our relationship with God as Israel experienced. The prophet Isaiah is calling us today in repentance of sin in all its forms; not our pet list of sins.
“Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” Isaiah 1:16-17 ESV
Isaiah begins with a command to make ourselves clean. This statement must be understood in context. It is not a call to become pure by human effort. Religion is a massive world wide enterprise to intellectually, emotionally, socially, and “spiritually” make its followers “clean.” When the Lord’s voice is quoted in Isaiah 1:18 just one verse down in our passage above it is clear that the promise of the Lord is to make Judah (Southern Kingdom where Jerusalem was located) clean if she will turn again to him alone. Only by his washing away of her scarlet stained hearts of sin will she be made clean “…though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” Only Jesus Christ the Lamb of God (John 1:29) whose blood was shed and life offered willingly for our sins (John 10:11,18) can make us “clean.” At the close of the Bible in Revelation in 7:14 Christ points John to those who have come out of the tribulation. “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Jesus is called the Lamb who was slain (5:6), the Lion of the tribe of Judah (5:5), the King of kings and Lord of lords (19:16), the Alpha and the Omega (22:13). In the last chapter of Revelation Jesus promises he is coming soon giving to us a return to the tree of life. He again calls everyone to be washed clean by his blood. “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life..” (22:14)
Turning from evil to good means aligning our lives with truth; knowing and obeying the word of God. Removing our evil deeds starts with repenting. Repentance is a change of mind and a change of heart that results in a change of life! This change of life means expressing God’s heart for justice, for those tho are oppressed, to the fatherless and widows in their need. Being in ministry with men for many years I am often broken hearted that more men are not bringing God’s love and mercy to the fatherless. Expressions of God’s heart like these from Isaiah are critical in our witness of love as Jesus disciples. Jesus emphasized that they were binding upon us in the new covenant as well through his merciful encounters and many of his parables (Sheep & The Goats – Matthew 25:31-46, Good Samaritan – Luke 10:25-37). There are costs associated with being “salt and light” as Christ’s disciples and increasingly our obedience will result in many forms of persecution.
God’s divinely inspired and inerrant word must continue to be our standard for truth (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Our continued obedience to it will bring knowledge of the truth and it will liberate us. “If you abide in my word, you are really my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32 ESV
We have seen God’s steadfast love and provision to us in many areas of ministry growth but especially with disciple making leaders. Training up men as disciples of Christ who in turn make disciples has been a concerted focus of our “D” groups. We have experienced his love and shared that love in a deepened way during COVID as we sought both to serve in our homes/churches/communities as well as food distributions to needy families through our partners. This is a large part of what it means to dwell together in unity (Psalm 133) as an authentic faith community of men. Our attendance at weekly huddles and two annual retreats has been very strong. Thank you for your partnership in this ministry!
We are witnessing his faithfulness to us in areas of growth that include: our weekly huddles North Side Discipleship Huddle 20+ men and a new Celebrate Recovery meeting. Monthly event highlights include: 60 men at our Burgers, Brats, Ribs & Axe Throwing on 6/14 (Raising over $9,000 for ATP) and 70+ men/boys at our May Jumonville retreat. The 2021 Man Up Pittsburgh conference on 6/12 was a big success in its’ 8th year being led by Ed Glover at the Urban Impact Foundation (UIF). Please pray for our follow up work, especially for fertile soil contacting 100 men from the event.
God’s financial provision has been very faithful as we have met our budgetary need for payroll, program expenses, and giving to our ministry partners in the past several months.
Our partners include: Del Rey Ministries (Kim Costanza), Mercy For All Nations (John Carey), Washington County Jail Chaplain (Mike Pierson), ATP (Jon Kolb), UIF, Light of Life (Jerrel Gilliam). Our giving to our ministry partners now accounts for well over 20% of our annual budget.
One area where we are seeing God moving is through our prayer walks. We are walking every Tuesday morning in partnership with Matt Geppert and the SEAPC missions family. They are launching prayer walking groups all over Greater Pittsburgh. Every Tuesday we gather at 6:00am at The Clemente Statue at PNC Park. We have someone lead a brief devotional thought with scripture followed by group prayer. Then we walk 2 X 2 along the river and pray for our city: the Mayor’s office, protection for the Pittsburgh Police Department officers (Police Chief Scott Schubert), First Responders, our veteran community, healthcare workers, teachers and especially for the body of Christ and people of goodwill to unite in bringing unity, justice, and mercy for all. All are welcome to join us. The other weekly prayer walk is up on Mount Washington every Wednesday morning with our great brother Tunch Ilkin. Each week a dozen friends celebrate him and pray with him.
@Please pray with us for our great city and especially for Tunch, his wife Karen, his family and our battle in prayer joining them with Jesus our intercessor in the battle with ALS.
@Please pray for us as volunteers now back into the Washington County Jail (David & Leo) and back into Renewal (Bob & Steve) to our weekly outreach groups. Please continue to pray for Terry Brown and his discipleship ministry spreading throughout the California Prison system. Please pray as well for his wife Morgan and family. We have been supporting them for over 5 years due in large measure to the faithful support from many of you.
@Please pray for John Carey (Mercy For All Nations) and those of us joining him sharing the gospel to the Muslim community in Pittsburgh this summer.
@Please pray for two new Bonhoeffer Cohorts launching in July then also in late August. Each group ranging from 9-12 people commit to an intensive 9 month discipleship training experience being led in connection with The Bonhoeffer Project. Hollis Haff will be leading and I will be co-leading with him. Several Locking Arms men are locked in to receive this advanced equipping experience. See thebonhoefferproject.com
Please view our upcoming events on our website including our family summer outing July 22nd at The Alpine Club.
Our Locking Arms 7th Annual Golf Outing is coming Friday, August 27th at Quicksilver Golf Club. This is our one and only fundraiser each year: https://lockingarmsmen.org/events/locking-arms-7th-annual-golf-outing-at-quicksilver-golf-club/
If you can help us with a one time donation or monthly gift we greatly appreciate it. Monthly donations are rising and they help us to manage our monthly budgetary need.
If you would like to make a donation on our website: lockingarmsmen.org/giving
Our IRS Determination Letter is there for viewing. If you wish to send a check.
Make it payable to Locking Arms Men.
The address is: 6307 Oyster Bay Court, Bridgeville PA 15017
Your prayers and financial support are greatly appreciated!
Locking Arms in Christ
cell: (412) 445-8842