On Thursday night, while Herman and I were sitting at the church during our “24 Hours of Prayer,” I was looking through old studies I had taught on Mother’s Day in years gone by. I ran across a study I did in 1996. The study I want to share with you this morning.
The thing that first caught my eye were some statistics that then Governor Frank Keating had shared with a group of pastors here in Oklahoma City. The statistics concerned the alarming rate of child abuse and neglect cases in our state. At that time, Governor Keating said,
We are doing everything we can to pass laws that will make it tougher on those who choose to abuse their children, but all of the laws in the world will not work because what we have is a spiritual problem. Our pastors need to address the subject.
The State had just published a 23 page booklet detailing the horrors of neglect and abuse cases in Oklahoma. Here is some of the information that was included in the report.
• In 1995 there were 11,700 confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect in the state of Oklahoma.
• In our city alone there were 2,666 cases of confirmed child abuse and neglect reported for 1995.
• In Oklahoma County there were 15 children who died at the hands of one of their parents.
• 76% of those abused were age 12 or under.
• 77% of those children abused were abused at the hand of their biological parent.
The government noticed that we had a problem back in 1996. With all of the resources—financial and human resources that the State has at its disposal, I would assume that the problem has now been eradicated, and today, as we celebrate Mother’s Day, our children are safe. That would be a false assumption. Let me update you.
I called Judge Roger Stuart on Thursday. Roger has been a Judge for 15 years, many of those years dealing with “abuse and neglect” cases for our kids. Roger sent me a document that details the alarming findings.
• Oklahoma County alone has more children in Foster Care than 17 other states within the United States. In Oklahoma County alone there are just under 4,000 children in Foster Care.
• In 1995 there were 11,700 confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect. In 2008 there were 13,000 confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect.
• 51 children died last year at the hands of one of their parents in Oklahoma. This number leads the nation.
• There are 5,542 homeless children in Oklahoma.
• 39% of children born in Oklahoma are born out of wedlock.
• Oklahoma’s divorce rate is 5th in the nation.
• We are number 1 in the nation in incarcerating females. 5th in the nation in incarcerating males. Roger says there is a direct correlation between taking mom and dad away from kids and abuse.
I asked Roger what he has seen transpire in the 15 years that he has been a Judge. Roger said, “With all of the resources we have to use, the financial resources, psychologists and psychiatrists, and trained social workers, the government cannot protect children. Parents are the first line of defense to protect kids.” You really need to hear those words folks. God has placed parents at the city gate to provide for, protect, nurture, and assure our children that they are, and will be, loved and protected.
I know that this will not be the most downloaded “Mother’s Day” lesson that I have ever taught because what you hear this morning will not be one of those “sappy, sweet” Mother’s Day lessons. We don’t need to be told that everything is wonderful when it is not. Many moms and dads have bought into the cultural philosophy of a lifestyle of convenience and abandoned the call of parenting. These telling trends that we are witnessing right before our eyes are not unique to the United States, nor are they unique to living in a post-Christian nation, but they are signs of a society in decline, a nation which has departed from the ways of God. I was struck by God’s words to His people through the prophet Isaiah this week. In Isaiah 49:15 we read,
15 “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! (Isaiah 49:15 NIV)
If you ask the same question today, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?” Most people would get sentimental, tear up, and say, “Oh no. There is nothing more precious than a mother and her baby.” Yet, what we are seeing is exactly what God saw in Isaiah’s day. Mom, and dad, are forgetting.
In Matthew 18:1-7, Jesus addressed the issue of true greatness, real success. He used a child as His illustration, and then He had strong words to say to any of those who would cause any little one to stumble. Jesus said,
1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 He called a little child and had him stand among them. 3 And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 “And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. 6 But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. (Mathew 18:1-6 NIV)
To set the context for the things that we are discussing this morning, I want to look a little deeper at Jesus’ words. Maybe by taking the time to really understand how serious and how pointed Jesus was, we might be more inclined to become more incensed by what is going on all around us.
As we come to the story, we find the disciples arguing over who would be the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven. They made a big mistake when they asked Jesus to settle the argument. Jesus, after hearing their question, called a child. There might be some among us who would say, “Well, what did Jesus mean when He said, ‘child?” That’s a good question. Did He mean a “child” of God which would then broaden the category to include all people who are followers of Jesus? What did He mean?
The Greek word used by Jesus is “paidion.” The word means, “as a newborn child, infant, babe, or as a small child.” Jesus brought the little child up before the adults, the followers of Jesus who were arguing about “greatness” and He said, “Behold, greatest of the kingdom of heaven!”
Jesus said, “Unless you change and become like these little ones you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” When Jesus says, “Change” – He means turn around. The disciples were heading in the wrong direction with their selfishness and their desire to look out only for themselves. My friend, Jesus is saying to us today – unless you change you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. We are just as misguided for the same reasons today as the disciples were in their day.
What causes a parent to beat, brutalize, abuse, and even kill their kids? Stress, economic problems, problems with their mate, no spouse to help take care of the kids, low self-esteem, ornery children, having been abused as a child misbehaved children…the list goes on and on and on. Even though these are things that trigger anger and end up hurting our kids, I don’t think these are the cause, I believe they are merely the symptoms. Those who brutalize their babies lose sight of the responsibility given to them by God to set “self” aside and give themselves to blessing, rather than bruising their children, caressing rather than crushing the little ones who look to them for love.
It’s not just those who harm their children who have rejected Jesus’ high call to protect and care for children. Today, in our country, over 1 million children will never see their mother or father, never be allowed to run and play, never be allowed to gain an education, never be allowed to sing “Jesus Loves Me”, and never be given the chance to grow up and experience the glories of God in this life. Over 1 million babies will be aborted in this country in this year! That’s 2,740 deaths a day. 114 deaths every hour. Two deaths every minute! During this time that you and I will spend in this sanctuary worshipping the Creator of life, 150 babies will lose their lives! Here some basic statistics for you to contemplate:
• There have been more deaths from abortion in the United States (50 million) than all of the deaths from all of the wars that we’ve been involved in during our nation’s history.
• Planned Parenthood reports that 1/3 of all babies conceived in the U.S. are aborted.
• There are currently 2 million couples waiting to adopt a baby and over 1 million babies aborted this year alone.
• Since abortion was legalized in the U.S. in 1970, the number of reported cases of child abuse has increased from 167,000 in 1973 to 1.7 million in 2000. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services).
• 70% of the total number of abortions each year are for women who describe themselves as either Catholic or Protestant.
• In 1963, Planned Parenthood produced a pamphlet called “Plan Your Child.” In the pamphlet it is stated, “An abortion kills the life of a baby after it has begun. It is dangerous to your life and health.” In 1990, Planned Parenthood reported prenatal care for 4,732 women and abortions for 122,191 women.
• Abortions are performed by doctors who have taken the Hippocratic Oath. An oath which states, “I will neither give a deadly drug to anyone if asked for, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect. Similarly I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy.” Maybe it should be called “The Hypocritical Oath.”
How did we get to where we are? I know some of you are very uncomfortable right now. You’ve either had an abortion yourself or someone really close to you has gone through the procedure. I can relate. I have friends who are close to me who have had an abortion. I hurt for those who have gone through this horrible experience. God’s forgiveness is available. His healing is available for those whose lives have been broken by the horrors of abortion. I love you and want to see God restore to you your peace of mind through His forgiveness and mercy. While I love you deeply, I am just as passionate that life is precious, that bringing life into the world is the work of God and not the choice of men or women, and that the convenience of having a “problem” taken care of is killing more than the babies that are losing their lives—its killing us. Our conscience is becoming seared and our hearts are becoming hard.
I’m sure there are over 1 million reasons why the abortions had to take place. Threat of life to the mother, rape, incest, economic problems, genetic problems, etc. Difficult situations to be faced, but there are far too many abortions being performed because a baby would be inconvenient and because there is some slick marketing and big bucks to be made off of the hardships of women facing pregnancy. This is not a problem pertaining only to those who don’t know the Lord. The statistic I just shared with you is startling—Christians are having abortions and making decisions based upon convenience at an alarming rate. Doctors are making decisions to perform these detestable procedures based on money, there is a lot of money to be made from the abortion industry.
We must stop bowing at the altar of convenience and money and worship the One True and Living God. God has warned us in Exodus 20, to “have no other gods,” but we have winked at His command and bow at the feet of anyone who promises us greater happiness and contentment.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that having children is easy. I’m not suggesting that there are not times when our children press us to the extreme and drive us to the brink of insanity. I know there was more than one time that my parents wanted to throw up their hands and quit. I’m sure they wondered, “Why in the world did we ever decide to have children?” There have been times that, even with my three angelic children, I’ve wondered, “What were we thinking?” Children bring struggles into the lives of their parents, but those struggles are to mature us and teach us to depend upon God for His grace and wisdom. They are not meant to lead us to harm our kids.
We have been called to teach our children about the Lord, to tell them of His faithfulness and love for them. Do you know the best way children learn of God’s faithfulness and love? By watching me and you. When our children are young, so impressionable, they look to me and you for a correct picture of God. We are the closest thing they have to grab hold of when they come to think of God. What kind of message are we sending them when they come to understand that fathers and mothers are sexually abusing, physically abusing, and even killing their own kids? What kind of message are they receiving when they come to learn that we are allowing over 1 million children to be killed by abortion each year? I will guarantee you that if I were to ask a child if abortion was right or wrong and describe to them what happens when an abortion takes place – the child would not hesitate to offer you his answer – it is wrong!
Why do children know what we do not? Because we have cut off our dependence upon Almighty God, we have rejected His Word, and we are seeking to forge ahead in our pursuit of convenience—a convenience that is defined by happiness and getting what we want. Children have not lost that sensitivity to God. Children know that God’s Word rings true when He says,
3 Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. 4 Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. (Psalms 82:3-4 NIV)
3 Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him. (Psalms 127:3 NIV)
13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. (Psalms 139:13-14 NIV)
5 Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations. (Jeremiah 1:5 NIV)
6 if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm (Jeremiah 7:6 NIV)
“Do not shed innocent blood.” Tell that to the 13,000 children who were beaten and abused in our state last year. “Take care of the weak.” Tell that to the 51 children who lost their lives last year by the very hands that were created to bless them! “Children are a reward from the Lord.” Tell that to the countless millions of adults who look at their children and the children of others as mere commodities to be used and abused!
Jesus had strong words for those who would bring harm to His children. Jesus said to His disciples,
6 …if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.
When Jesus warns against “causing a little one who believes in Him to sin” – He uses a unique word. The word, “sin,” is really not a good translation. The NAS says, “stumble” and the KJV says, “offends.” Either of those are better than the NIV translation of “sin.” The Greek word used here is, “skandalise” (skandalise) occurs is in Matthew, Luke, and Mark in their accounts of this very story. The word means, “cause to stumble;” in the New Testament it is used to describe “a transgression causing to do something wrong or sin, be led into sin, be caused to do wrong, or to fall away, or give up believing.”
I wish we had an entire morning to talk about the implications of the word “skandalise”. It is the word from which we get our word “scandalous” and I can’t think of a better word to describe what is happening to our kids today. When a little child is killed by those who were blessed by God to be able to care for him – it’s scandalous! When a young child is sexually abused by her mother or father, or anyone else–it is scandalous! When defenseless babies are shaken to death by their parents—it is scandalous! When children are beaten by those who are supposed to bless them—it is scandalous! When children are sought out by predators to take advantage of them and then kill them–it is scandalous! It’s scandalous what we are doing to our children today!
How many future leaders have we robbed our country of because of the scandals that are taking place each day? How many future Abraham Lincolns have we robbed our country of because of the scandals that are taking place? How many future Albert Einsteins, Martin Luther King, Jrs, how many Mother Theresas, or Harriet Tubmans, Frederick Douglass’, or Apostle Paul’s?
The real question this morning is, “Who will save the children? Who will speak up in their behalf?” We have been silent for too long. We’ve stood by when it didn’t directly affect us and as a result we’ve seen our nation begin to rot from the inside out. For so long we have thought that our greatest enemies were from without – the Taliban, North Koreans, or some other military power who is a threat to our national safety, but now we are finding that like all great civilizations gone before us – our greatest enemy is from within. We are killing ourselves as well as our children. We must speak up for our children or one day there will be nobody left to speak up for us.
Martin Niemoller was a preacher during the time of Adolf Hitler in Germany. After the effects of Hitler were being felt by the entire country, Niemoller wrote,
First they came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me.
When will we realize that we must bring an end to the silence and speak up for the children? Will it cost us our friends? I’m sure it will, but it will not cost us our character. Will it cost us prestige and prominence in our community? I’m sure it will. Some of you will leave here this morning and think badly of me for speaking out, for having such a “downer” sermon on Mother’s Day, but I’m not worried about what you think of me, I’m worried about being obedient to God and speaking out. The cost may be high, but the reward is greater still! The reward is that maybe someday a child will be saved, a life lived, a hope fulfilled, and the heart of heaven will be mended once again. Who will save the children? Will it be you?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
Oklahoma City, OK. 73114
May 10, 2009