We pray that you and your families are safe and drawing strength from the Lord and one another in this time of trial and testing. Many people are experiencing a renewed faith and love for family members and those the Lord has called them to serve in our current crisis. We are so thankful for your continued fellowship and for your faithfulness in monthly financial support to Locking Arms during this time of economic uncertainty. Please pray for us as we are continuing do our weekly huddles through Zoom or teleconferencing in most all cases. I am continuing to meet one on one where needed and I am coordinating our Missions of Mercy food distribution initiative (see below) with 12 of our brothers. See also below our updated Locking Arms Calendar. Please read below my reflection on perseverance and the cross.
Perseverance & The Cross of Christ
The cross must be a disciple’s vision. During this time of testing and humbling it will mean we accept God’s plan for maturity to be produced in us through perseverance.
“Perseverance, translated literally, means remaining underneath, not throwing off the load, but bearing it. We know much too little in the church today about the peculiar blessing of bearing. Bearing, not shaking off; bearing, but not collapsing either; bearing as christ bore the cross, remaining underneath, and there beneath it—to find Christ.” 1
Bonhoeffer’s word on perseverance calls us to bear the load as Christ bore the cross. This is the test. Will we remain underneath our cross and join him in his work? If we will, we will discover Christ there with us—in the fellowship of his suffering (Phil. 3:10). This cross training is the path for every follower of Christ. Not just a special few. Our faith must be tested to grow strong. Only persevering faith will lead us to maturity. James said it this way, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4 NIV
We are seeing that the necessity of a disciple’s life, giving up any right to themselves, is being made even more clear to us now with this global pandemic. Will we continue in fear to hang onto our comforts, our standard of living, our investment portfolio? Will the sacrifices we make be only for our loved ones? Or will we choose to turn over the control of our lives to our Lord Jesus. In doing so we will bear the cross through our love and generosity, against all reason, to share with God’s family and those in great need. Following Christ has always involved the pathway of paradox; losing our lives as our daily choice for Christ and his mission we find them in resurrection. Paul said it simply and powerfully, “I die every day!” 2 I like how Mark states Christ’s call to us as his disciples.
“And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.”
Mark 8:34-35 ESV
A few thoughts on this passage jump out to me. The first is that the bar is set high for all followers of Christ. The crowd along with the chosen 12 disciples both receive the same divine call. “If anyone would come after me.” All Christians are called by our Lord to be his disciples. The word “disciple” is used 235 times in the New Testament, always referring to followers of Christ. Only 3 times is the word Christian used. Though we may prefer the word “Christian” or “Believer” it is the word disciple that Jesus used to in the great commission and best describes a Christ follower. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations..” There is no advanced degree whereby we progress from being a “believer” or “Christian” to becoming a disciple. All born again children of God must be his disciples. The testing will reveal if we have been practicing a Christianity without discipleship which is not Christianity at all.
This time of testing is being used to call both followers of Jesus and those who are separated from God in unbelief. We must give up our lives; give up all of the “ vain and empty sources” of life and comfort we have worshipped in substitute for God. This includes our idols of greed, sports, gambling, lust and our deep self reliance. The heart of repentance from our sins is to turn from self worship to worship of our Lord and King Jesus. Augustine said, “Sin is man bent inwards upon himself.” We must give up our right to ourselves. Choosing instead to humble ourselves before the cross, trust in the power of the blood to wash us clean from all our sins, and follow Christ in obedience.
I do understand that many people will not be able to take any further risk at this time. “Bearing under” the cross may be your present trial due to your existing physical condition, risk group, or because you must serve people in your immediate network of care. The Lord is with you. But for some throughout history however their has always been disciples who responded to a divine call to carry the love of Christ and the gospel to those suffering regardless of the costs. History may show that this was another time for a similar obedience. “He is no fool who gives away what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” 3
1. Dietrich Bonhoeffer – A Testament to Freedom, p. 291
2. 1 Corinthians 15:31
3. Missionary Jim Elliot
Missions of Mercy
“Blessed are the merciful for they will receive mercy.” Matthew 5:7
We are joining the Lord’s army to bless some individuals and families as we can in this time of great need. We are sending out men out 2 x 2 on “missions of mercy” to needy families, shut ins and needy children being identified through our ministry partners. These teams are making deliveries of non perishable food items (care package) and prayerful encouragement. We are taking careful precautions as regards COVID-19.
We are partnering with existing groups who serve the poor by identifying these needy families so that we may serve with them to the glory of Christ. Some of our contacts include: Urban Impact – North Side, Bridge Mentoring Program- Wilkinsburg, Joanne Galinowski, Father’s Touch Ministries – George Fleming in Homestead, Knead Cafe – Kevin Bode in New Kensington. So far with your generosity in our first week we have delivered 60 bags of food to needy families, praying for them and sharing with them the love of Christ. Thank you!
If you would like to contact us regarding Missions of Mercy: email Joel Gray: email@example.com or Leo Wisniewski: firstname.lastname@example.org . If you would like to make a donation we are in need of the assistance to meet our monthly need for May. You can also designate it to Missions of Mercy Both donations can be done on our website: lockingarmsmen.org/giving . Thank you for your partnership with us in the gospel!
Locking Arms Upcoming Events
April 10th – Now Cancelled – Good Friday Service at the Union Building
April 24-26 – Now Postponed – Locking Arms Men’s Retreat at Ligonier Camp – This event is being rescheduled – Reimbursements available
May 14th – Burgers, Brawts & Axe Throwing – Now Rescheduled to June 25th – See below
Upcoming Events Still Scheduled:
*May 23rd Light of Life Virtual Walk:
The Annual Tunch and Wolf Walk for the Homeless, a wonderful day where friends and family gathered to support the initiatives of Light of Life Rescue Mission, is now going to be a virtual event…And now, more than ever we need to raise awareness, and provide an opportunity for our community to come together. Learn more at: www.lightoflife.org/get-involved/events/walk/
**Saturday, June 13th – Man Up Pittsburgh at Victory Church in Cranberry. This is an amazing event in its 6th year that gathers 1,500 plus men from all over greater Pittsburgh and beyond. Coach Tomlin, Steelers Color Analyst Tunch Ilkin along with current Steeler players participate annually. Details and registration at uifpgh.org/manup
June 25th ATP Fundraiser – Burgers, Brawts, Cigars & Axe Throwing with Jon Kolb, Tunch Ilkin & SteelersCome join us for a night of burgers, brawts, cigars and axe throwing hosted by our brother Russ Livingston in the ultimate Steelers ManCave in the Burgh. On Thursday night June 25th from 5:30pm to 8:30pm we will be enjoying some great “guy time” and helping a great charity- Adventures in Training with a Purpose (ATP). The cost is $60 per man and that includes dinner, a cigar and some great brothers.
Registration on the ATP website: adventurestraining.org/events
Friday, August 28th 6th Annual Golf Outing at Quicksilver Golf Club – For more information go to our website or call Leo Wisniewski (412) 445-8842. lockingarmsmen.org/events
*This event is not hosted by Locking Arms. It is hosted by our ministry partner Light of Life.
** Sponsored by ministry partner Urban Impact.