As I read the numbers I erupted in a fit of rage! The list was long of those rushing to become part of the endangered species list. Hundreds standing in line to join the silence of those who have left us never to be heard from again. There was the American Peregrine Falcon. Able to dive at speeds of more than 75 miles an hour. With its short neck, pointed wings, and long tail – the falcon was made to hunt. Hunting season may end soon if the numbers keep declining at the current rate.

There appeared on the list the Hawksbill Sea Turtle. Weighing in at 160 pounds, the beautiful yellow and black turtle keeps to himself while traveling the globe. Because of its beautiful shell people have the hunted the turtle almost into extinction – and for what? Eyeglass frames, jewelry, or for a piece of furniture to collect dust in a dingy dining room.

The list went on naming those whose numbers are continually dwindling. The Golden-capped Fruit Bat, Atlantic Blue-fin Tuna, Asiatic Black Bear, Louisiana Black Bear, Black Rhino, and Giant Panda to name a few. How could those who have been entrusted to be good stewards of all that God has created, create such a mess? How could we rob those who will come after us from watching the beauty and majesty of those magnificent animals?

While I was reading the list I heard a voice speak out from the heavens. “There’s someone missing from the list! All of Heaven weeps! The Father’s heart is broken and His rage is about to be unbridled against those who have placed His most prized creation on the endangered species list!” What do you mean Lord? Who is missing from the list? The Panther? The Kitland Warbler? The Bald Eagle? “No, no, no!” I heard the voice say. “As much as I cherish those creatures of Mine, there is one I love even more!” Who is it Lord? Let me work to restore. Let me fight for their life so that the heart of Heaven might be mended once again. Who is it Lord? “Look below at the little ones who play at your feet. Those who smile at everyone they meet. Those who play ball at the edge of the street. Who will speak up for the little ones – who will save the children?” And I heard Heaven weep…

I want us to talk today about a very serious subject. Not a politically correct subject. Oh, the politicians like to say nice things about loving and protecting our children, but then they turn around and protect those that bring harm to the little ones, they allow the proliferation of the smut and stuff that seeks to destroy childhood, and they won’t even protect babies from having their womb of comfort turned into a tomb of death.

What I want to talk about is not a subject the church likes to talk about either. I know this from experience because any time adults feel children are getting too much attention, too much of the church pie, or are not acting “right” – adult’s belly-ache, moan, and cry out.

I want to talk about the latest addition to the endangered species list – our children. This past week the Governor has turned to the pastors of our city and asked them to speak about the horrors of abuse, neglect, and death that our children are experiencing at alarming rates. 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.” My curiosity was aroused as I heard the Governor speak so I called his office and found out that they have a 23 page booklet detailing the horrors of neglect and abuse cases in Oklahoma. Marsha went to get the booklet and when she returned we couldn’t believe what we read. Here’s some information for you.

==> 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 last year.

==> 76% of those abused were age 12 or under.

==> 77% of those children abused were abused at the hand of their biological parent.

I was shocked to read the statistics, wondering if things were really as bad as reported or if this was just a government pamphlet overstating things. I called Dr. Don Brown, an OBGYN who works in with children and parents as well as serving with the State of Oklahoma Board of Health. Don told me that those numbers won’t even begin to touch what is really taking place. Don serves with some other doctors on a review board which studies the cases of children killed by abuse. On the last Thursday of every month, Dr. Brown and others get together – not for fellowship or for donuts and coffee, but to review the children over the past month who have lost their lives through abuse. What is going on? How did we get to where we are? In light of the purported idea that this is a Christian nation, governed by Christian principles – how did we get to where we are?

How can we, who take seriously the words of Jesus, read “Jesus on children” and continue to abuse and kill our children? Jesus said in Matthew 17,

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. {7} “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come! (Matthew 18:1-7 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 “paidi,on” (paidion). The word means, (1) literally “of age;” (a) as a newborn child infant, babe (HE 11.23); (b) as a small child (young) child (MT 2.8). 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, 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 him or herself, misbehaved children…the list goes on and on and on. Even those these are things which trigger anger and end up hurting our kids, I don’t think these are the cause, I believe they are merely the symptom. 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, 1.6 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. 1.6 million babies will be aborted in this country in this year! That’s 4,400 deaths a day. 183 deaths every hour. Three deaths every minute! During this time that you and I will spend in this sanctuary worshipping the Creator of life, 183 babies will lose their lives!

Here some basic statistics for you to contemplate:

==> There have been more deaths from abortion in the United States (30 million) than all of the deaths from all of the wars that we’ve been involved in during our nation’s history (1.16 million).

==> 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 1.6 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 by 1,497%, from 167,000 in 1973 to 2.5 million in 1991. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services).

==> Over 84% of women who choose abortion stated that they would keep their babies under better circumstances; 72% stated they would definitely not have sought an abortion if they were illegal.

==> Just last week the U.S. Senate refused to overturn the President’s veto banning late term “partial birth abortions.”

==> 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 begins at conception, 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 1.6 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. 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.

In Britain, those battling for life have been facing hard times lately. In early August, the government ordered 3,300 frozen human embryos to be destroyed. Then, one week later, controversy was stirred again when a gynecologist said he had agreed to perform an abortion on a woman who was pregnant with twins, but couldn’t afford to raise them both. The doctor determined which twin was the most healthy and aborted the other twin. The obstetrician in the case, Dr. Phillip Bennett, said he had performed 3,000 abortions during the last ten years, despite his claim to be a Christian who believes abortion is morally wrong. Dr. Bennett says, “I don’t draw any major distinctions between embryos, fetuses and newborn babies in terms of existence. In a moral and emotional sense I am terminating a life.” And yet, Dr. Bennett has performed 3,000 abortions in the past ten years! What’s the motivation for a supposed “Christian” doctor to do such a thing? M-O-N-E-Y!

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 every and any god who promised 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?” I’m sure there will be times when I will repeat those same words, but they did not allow their frustrations to lead them to violence against me and I can’t allow my frustrations to over-rule my responsibility to bless my children.

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 way children best 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 to 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 1.6 children to be killed by abortion each year? I will guarantee you that if 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 by our own ingenuity – an ingenuity that is bent on finding happiness, wealth, and peace. Children have not lost that sensitivity to God. Children know that God’s Word rings true when He says,

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)

Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him. (Psalms 127:3 NIV)

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)

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)

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 2,666 children who were beaten and abused in our city last year. “Take care of the weak.” Tell that to the 183 children who will be aborted while we are here in this sanctuary this morning! “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 are mere commodities to be used, abused, and eliminated whenever the need arises!

Jesus had strong words for those who would bring harm to their 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 only place the Greek word, “skandali,sh” (skandalise) occurs is in Matthew, Luke, and Mark in their accounts of this very story. The word means, “cause to stumble;” in the NT (1) action as occasioning transgression cause to do something wrong or sin (MT 5.29); pass. be led into sin, be caused to do wrong (2C 11.29); in a sense fall away, give up believing (MT 13.21); (2) as taking offense at Jesus or refusing to believe in him, be offended (MT 11.6); (3) as furnishing an occasion for someone to be shocked or angered give offense to, offend (MT 17.27).

I wish we had an entire morning to talk about the implications of the word “skandalisn”. 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 like Ryan Luke is killed by those who were blessed by God to be able to care for him – it’s scandalous! When a young boy like Shane Kaufman is beaten and stomped to death by his mother and her boyfriend – its scandalous! When 1 in 3 girls are sexually abused by their eighteenth birthday – it is scandalous! When 1.6 million babies are aborted each year – 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 of 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 Douglasses, or Apostle Pauls?

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 effect us and as a result we’ve seen our nation begin to rot from the inside out. For so long we thought that our greatest enemies were from without – the military forces of the Soviet Union, China, and other countries whom we thought posed a threat to our national safety, but not 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, but I’m not worried about what you think of me, I’m worried about whether or not I’m being obedient to my Lord and my God. 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?

Who Will Save the Children?
Matthew 17:1-7