On a day that reverberates with the shock of Pastor Fred Winters of First Baptist Church in Maryland, Ill., being shot and killed while standing at his pulpit – in the United States of America, not in an oppressive foreign country! – we are solemnly reminded of a number of things. First is that every day is a gift from God and not to be squandered. Without doubt Pastor Winters was doing what he loved and was called to do at the moment he met His Lord and Savior. While we grieve with his family, church and community, we should all be in that mode every day!
The other key point is that moral anarchy that has bubbled and boiled in the melting pot has now flowed over the top, and the stench is rising through the land like a plague.
I had the privilege of standing on the grounds of the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, this past weekend as a re-enactment took place remembering the historic stand there 173 years ago last Friday, March 6. As I read these words from Col. Travis’ letter dated Feb. 24, 1836, on a plaque located directly in front of the doors to the original chapel, my heart was both stirred and convicted:
Fellow citizens & compatriots,
I am besieged, by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna – I have sustained a continual Bombardment & cannonade for 24 hours & have not lost a man – The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken – I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, & our flag still waves proudly from the walls – I shall never surrender or retreat. Then, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism, & every thing dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch – The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily & will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days. If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible & die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country –
VICTORY OR DEATH
William Barret Travis
Lt. Col. Comdt.
As we now know, they did indeed die like many before and since. The question I am pressed with and now present as a call and challenge to pastors all over America is this – for what did they die? What was so precious and dear that they, with clear understanding and boldness, were willing to lay down their lives for it?
Your 401(k)? A larger church building with the latest technology and marketing dynamics integrated from floor to rafter? A comfortable position in the community with a respectable home and two cars? The right to demand of our neighbor that they take care of us? The right to overlook evil and corruption all around us?
The right to kill our unborn children in their mothers’ wombs? The sacrilege of giving godlessness and false religions equal standing with the God of our forefathers Who gave us both rights and privileges?
We well know what the greatest commandments are, but do we really know what the greatest love is? Jesus Christ said clearly, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Most of us will not be called upon in the foreseeable future to take up arms against a tyrannical ruler who has promised to put all to the sword who oppose him, at least we pray not.
After answering what we are willing to die for, we must then answer what we are willing to live for. The wonder in Jesus’ description of ultimate love is that it is sacrificial in nature and that must flow to the premise of being a “living sacrifice” as admonished in Romans 12:1. I may assert that I am willing to die for my wife and family, but am I dying for them daily to my selfish nature? I may die for my country, but will I live sacrificially for her every day?
We don’t yet know what the motive for Pastor Winters’ murder was; however, it is a somber thought for every pastor that we live in a society where the fear of God has so dissolved that a church is no longer a sanctuary from those with a mind to commit violent crime.
Travis, Bowie, Crockett and at least 186 others chose to die for a cause, centuries of heroes and martyrs of the Christian faith have done the same. Pastor Winters and thousands more pastors like him have not enlisted in military service but are called to lead in a different battle that has become more and more endangered – proclaiming the Gospel and name of Jesus Christ.
Whether it is a federal judge nixing a prayer, a legislator using “hate crimes” laws to silence pastors, radical Islam gaining a foothold toward attempted extermination of the infidels – the time for pastors sitting on the sidelines is long gone.
If we have the kind of love for our God, our families and our country that our Lord mandated and each deserve, there is no price too high, no convenience we can lose, no comfort we can give up to step forward and follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before us. Here is a four-step plan for every church:
- Pray and Repent – the first step of personal and corporate transformation
- Serve those in need – exercise pure and undefiled religion
- Raise the standard of righteousness – restore the moral foundations of the city
- Reap the harvest – See God restore our nation
That is a simplified list of a comprehensive plan that every pastor and church must enact without hesitation and reservation – in total, not just the “easy” parts. As I walked away from the hallowed ground of the Alamo, I felt the eyes of those men on me with a firm admonition and challenge. Will I be found faithful? Will you?