Opening Video: “Depraved Indifference”
Sermon Audio (33 minutes):
Pastor Dan (transcription):
There are an estimated 163 million orphans in the world today. To put that number in perspective, that is roughly about one-half the total population of the United States of America… 163,000,000 orphans in the world today.
But then again, statistics sort of make us numb… don’t they. I don’t know if any real action has ever been evoked through some statistic. Perhaps it’s what allowed one author to be able to say, these words,
“We’ve learned that orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names; they are easier to ignore before you see their faces; it is easier to pretend that they’re not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes.”
I remember when God made this quote for me come alive in my life… I, like many people who are Christians, had been a Christian for many years, but had never really known the name, never really known the face, certainly had never held an orphan; I knew about orphans, I knew about God’s care for orphans, but it had never been personal for me.
So several years ago I went on a trip with my last church to Haiti. And I was bringing a group of about 10 people from the church. I had been there the year before to check out some ministry opportunities; and a year later I was returning now with ten other people from the church and we were going to visit a particular orphanage in Haiti.
When we arrived there we came across an all-concrete 2-story structure, about the size of many of your homes, maybe 2500 square feet or so, but the conditions of this concrete structure would make most of our foreclosure homes look immaculate.
And when we got inside of this orphanage we didn’t discover a family of five living in the 2500 square feet, instead we discovered that there were 50 orphaned children living in this orphanage.
And so there were the 11 of us, the 50 children, and a few other adults and we were having this sort of chaotic greeting time where we were sort of meeting each other and trying to warm up to each other… and of course there’s a language barrier… it was just total chaos.. and some of the kids as you can imagine were more affectionate, and other kids were a little more standoffish, and some of us on our team were more outgoing, and others were more reserved.
And there was a scene that was going on and all of the sudden in the midst of the scene a set of arms wrapped around my legs. And I looked down and I recognized the face of this 5-year old girl… her name was Magina.
And see… our church, about 10 months before we arrived there had decided to sponsor, on a monthly basis, every single child that lived in that orphanage.
We had passed out photos and bios of all the kids, and we had gotten all of them sponsored on a monthly basis, and just a couple months after that, at Christmas time, we sent each of the children a shoe-box full of goodies, and we were encouraged to send our kids, that we were sponsoring, a photo of our family.
And here this 5-year old girl Magina, when our daughter Sophie saw her profile, she brought it to us and said, “This is who we’re sponsoring” 🙂
And so, this girl had gotten a photo of our family, maybe 7 months or so before we arrived there. And the fact that someone sent her a gift, that someone sent her a photo of themselves was so significant, so meaningful…
Think about what our kids would do with that… it would last for maybe a WEEK and then they wouldn’t know where it was. But this was so significant to her that by the time I arrived there seven months later, she completely recognized me, and there she was with her arms wrapped around my legs.
And throughout the week it was hard to even separate from her in any way at all, and I think by day #2 she was calling me, “Mi Papa”... which is something like I think, “my father”`… this is my dad.
… that once you know an orphan’s NAME, and you know their FACE, and you’ve had the opportunity to pick them up… then everything changes.
They were easy to ignore before that… but not anymore.
And I hope in the few minutes that we have together this morning, to show that our care for orphans is in line with the heart and the character of God, because it’s inline with the truth of His Word.
I’m going to invite us to a passage found in the Book of Isaiah, Chapter one.
If you have a Bible with you and you’re the type of person that would like to turn to that passage as well, we’ve got pew Bibles, if not, that’s OK, we’ll have the Scripture on the screen behind me. But we’re going to be in the Book of Isaiah, chapter one.
And when you look up the word “orphan” in the Bible there’s like 50-some results that show up. Some of them talk about orphans in a different way, but there are still around 40 passages in the Scripture that deal with the subject of “orphan care” in a way that we’re going to be dealing with it.–forty passages of Scripture.
But instead of bouncing us all around the Bible, I found one that I think can stand up to all the weight, questions, and scrutiny about whether this is really something we should be doing as a church. Isaiah, chapter one.
As you’re turning there I also want to let you know this was written by a man named Isaiah… he was a prophet or a messenger of God, and his job was to go and to speak to God’s people.
At this time, God had a special relationship with the nation of Israel; and by this time that he’s writing this, Israel had become sort of divided into two if you will… there was a Northern Kingdom and a Southern Kingdom.
And he’s writing to them about the destruction that they’ve either faced, or are about to face because of the fact that they’ve turned their backs on God.
And so Isaiah is a unique prophet because he’s writing to the Northern Kingdom that has already at this time been destroyed by the nation of Assyria; he’s also writing to the Southern Kingdom that is about to be destroyed by the nation of Babylon.
So he’s writing sort of in the midst of destruction; he’s also writing a message of warning of destruction as well.
As we read this passage, I want you to be thinking about two things… whether this is your first time ever being exposed to the Scripture or not, I think you can be thinking about these two things:
- Listen for the devastation, the total devastation in this passage–of what God allowed His people to experience; and then secondly,
- I want you to ask yourself, “What must they have done that would cause God to allow such destruction upon his people.
Listen for the total devastation and destruction, the extent of the destruction; and then ask yourself, “What must they have done?
“Hear me, you heavens! Listen, earth!
For the Lord has spoken:
“I reared children and brought them up,
but they have rebelled against me.
The ox knows its master,
the donkey its owner’s manger,
but Israel does not know,
my people do not understand.” (vv 2-3)
So God begins by saying, “Look, I had a special relationship with you Israel… I cared for you, I provided for you; I looked out after you like a Father does a child, but then you grew up and you turned your back on me, and in doing so you prove yourself to be less wise and even an animal”.
Woe to the sinful nation,
a people whose guilt is great,
a brood of evildoers,
children given to corruption!
They have forsaken the Lord;
they have spurned the Holy One of Israel
and turned their backs on him.” (v 4)
He’s not getting specific yet, but he’s saying, “Listen, I raised you up… and eventually you’ve turned your back on me, you’ve gone far from me… My Heart is no longer your heart.. My Character is no longer your character… you no longer care about the things that I care about.”
Now listen to the extent of the destruction that He allows His people to go through… first through some metaphors:
“Why should you be beaten anymore?
Why do you persist in rebellion?
Your whole head is injured,
your whole heart afflicted.
From the sole of your foot to the top of your head
there is no soundness—
only wounds and welts
and open sores,
not cleansed or bandaged
or soothed with olive oil. (vv 5-6)
For those of you who prefer a more literal description of what happened to Israel, here it is (in vv 7-9 ):
Your country is desolate,
your cities burned with fire;
your fields are being stripped by foreigners
right before you,
laid waste as when overthrown by strangers.
Daughter Zion is left
like a shelter in a vineyard,
like a hut in a cucumber field,
like a city under siege.
Unless the Lord Almighty
had left us some survivors,
we would have become like Sodom,
we would have been like Gomorrah. (vv 7-9)
So God is saying to us… now He has allowed such incredible judgement and destruction to come upon His people, that it is widespread across the entire nation. We cannot even begin to imagine, living here in America, what God’s people in Israel are experiencing here at this time.
So many people having their life completely changed and transformed… so many people killed by Assyria that He steps in and says, “Unless I had intervened with my gracious character, and insured that some people survived, there would’ve been no remnant at all… you would’ve been totally destroyed like the people of Sodom and Gomorrah…” that’s how widespread, that’s how vast, that’s the extent of the destruction that God’s people have experienced.
And we should be asking ourselves, all along, “What did they do? What could have caused this?” What must they have done would allow God to have this happen to them?
I don’t know if you’re like me, but when I hear about people getting judged in such a harsh way… I immediately think of a couple possibilities:
- I’d think to myself… “Oh I know what they did wrong… I bet they embraced the sinful character of their culture around them… they started doing all kinds of things that they shouldn’t have been doing… they started accepting things and tolerating things that they shouldn’t have been doing… my mind kind of goes down that road.
- Or, the other place my mind goes is, “I know what they were doing… I bet they just sort of abandoned their relationship with God; I bet they were no longer going to the temple… I bet they were no longer making sacrifices to God… I bet they were no longer making offerings to God… I bet they were no longer praying… they just completely abandoned God and God is judging them as a result of it.
Well, listen to what the Scripture says next, moving on to verse 11,
“The multitude of your sacrifices—
what are they to me?” says the Lord.“I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—I cannot bear your worthless assemblies. Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. (vv 11-14)
Do you hear what God is saying… Israel was still going through all of the religious motions… they were still going to the Temple, they were still making sacrifices before God to acknowledge their sin; they were still bringing offerings to God; they were still honoring certain days and remembering God on certain days in their calendar… they were doing all these types of things.
This is like the modern day equivalent of saying of someone who:
- has great church attendance,
- they say the Prayer of Confession,
- they tithe money, and
- they honor the Sabbath really well.
They’re doing all of these things well… and yet God allows this to happen to them. What must they have done?
In fact they were being so religious, and God is rejecting their religion to the extent that He goes on and says this,
“When you spread out your hands in prayer,
I hide my eyes from you;
even when you offer many prayers, (v 15)
So they’re still PRAYING to God… they’re still trying to have this relationship with God; He says,
I am not listening.
Your hands are full of blood!
Wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds out of my sight; (vv 15,16)
What must they have been doing so wrong? And then this sentence… and I always picture Isaiah saying it a little bit louder than the rest…
“Stop_doing_wrong. Learn_to_do_right!” (vv 16,17)
Ya know… I had asked Pat, our Children’s Education Director, if I could maybe do the Children’s Message this morning… and I was gonna call all the kids up, and huddle them real close, and I was gonna give the shortest Children’s Message ever here at Kirkmont… and I was just gonna get’em real close and I was gonna to say,
…and then we’d send them on their way. But Pat seemed to think that Judy could do a better job than I could (LAUGHTER)… “We love you… we care for you… and all these things”… (LAUGHTER) —she’s right 🙂
You see, I think the proper way to read this is not how it might seem to you at first.. “STOP DOING WRONG”.. meaning “here’s a bunch of things you’re doing that you shouldn’t do”… and also “learn to do right, learn to do the things that you should be doing”.
I actually think the proper way to read this is…
STOP DOING WRONG, BY LEARNING TO DO WHAT IS RIGHT !!!
You see the wrong that they were doing was not a bunch of things that they SHOULDN’T have been doing; the wrong that they were doing was the things that they WEREN’T doing that they should have been doing.
You see I think there is Biblical support for that, because in the next couple of verses we finally get to the specific… we finally see the details of what_God_wants_them_to_do. And it’s FOUR THINGS that He lists; and He doesn’t list a bunch of stuff that they ARE doing that they shouldn’t be doing: He lists four things that they SHOULD be doing that they aren’t doing.
You wanna hear what the are? …
- Seek justice
- Encourage/Defend the oppressed
- Take up the cause of the fatherless
- Plead the case of the widow
STOP DOING WRONG, BY LEARNING TO DO WHAT IS RIGHT !!!
“Seek justice… encourage the oppressed; defend the cause of the fatherless; and plead the case of the widow.”
Do you see that how of all the things God could have mentioned to correct Israel’s behavior, He states just 4 things … NONE of those things that they were doing that they shouldn’t have been doing; He states four things that weren’t doing that they SHOULD have been doing, and among just those four he says that one of them is…
“DEFENDING THE CAUSE OF THE FATHERLESS”
Which means that their failure to care for orphans was a large part that lead to their destruction.
When we talk about God judging nations, people often ask me, “Pastor, do you think that God still judges nations that way… it doesn’t really seem like the fairest thing, because certainly when he blesses a nation there are those who don’t really deserve to be blessed who are counted among them… and when he judges a nation, certainly there are some who don’t really deserve to be judged or counted among them… do you really thing He still judges nations that way?”
I have to be honest with you… I think the answer to that question is a mystery.
But I will say this with much more confidence… I believe that God deals with churches like He used to deal with nations. And He’s about the business of judging entire congregations… which means, that there are churches, not only all across this country, but this globe that have died, are dying, or about to begin the process of dying. And for many of them, it’s not because they’ve embraced some sinful lifestyle or some sinful part of the culture around them.
For many of them it’s not because they’ve abandoned God in their relationship with God and their religious practices. No, for many of them, it will be because they have stopped doing the things that God wants them to be doing. Their HEART is no longer His heart; their CHARACTER is no longer His character. They no longer care about the things that God cares about.
Ya know… I believe that a good pastor, every once in a while, should SAY SOMETHING that makes the congregation think, “should we have hired this guy?” (LAUGHTER)… this is one of those opportunities.
I would rather be the pastor of a church that DOES the things it shouldn’t do, and also does the things it should do… than to be the pastor of a church that DOESN’T do the things it shouldn’t do, and doesn’t do the things it SHOULD do.
And a specific example, I would rather be the pastor of a church that drinks too much on Friday, and cares for orphans; than to be the pastor of church that doesn’t drink too much on Friday and doesn’t care for orphans.
And one might ask “WHY DOES GOD CARE SO MUCH?” “Why would he list this “caring for orphans” as one of four things judge an entire nation of people? Why care about orphans so much?
Some of you had lousy moms or dads… who pointed you in the direction so far from the character of God that it was very difficult for you, or might still be very difficult for you to embrace the idea that there is a LOVING, GRACIOUS, CARING Heavenly Father out there.
Can you imagine how much more… just how much more difficult it must be for a child who has been orphaned all their life to embrace the idea that there’s a Heavenly Father who LOVES them, and wants to PROVIDE for them, and wants to CARE for them?
I want to invite some folks who are going to come up and sing a song, just as sort of an illustration for you at this time. I heard this song this past week and inserted it into the Service. It talks about the good, good character of God.
But I want to invite you to think about the idea that when we care for orphans, we bridge the gap; we invite them, we help them to see, not just our good character, but we help them to see, far more importantly, the good character of the Heavenly Father.
It’s a thing that many people, if we only bring a message, will never be able to grasp unless we also DEMONSTRATE it by caring for them.
So as they sing this song about the good character of God, I want you to think… a sense of REJOICE and THANKSGIVING about the fact that God is good in your life.
But also to be thinking about HOW MIGHT HE USE YOU TO BRIDGE THE GAP FOR SOME CHILDREN OUT THERE… who don’t yet know that, who can’t even begin to fathom that message, until they’ve seen it demonstrated in someone’s life.
Good Good Father – HOUSEFIRES II
You see friends, when we care for orphans, we reflect the character of God in a powerful way. When we care for orphans we reflect, we show, we illustrate, we demonstrate the Gospel, which so many of us hold dearly in a very powerful way.
Especially when it comes to the act of adoption. In fact I would go so far as to suggest that there is no greater act, no single act that you and I can do that better demonstrates the Good News of Jesus Christ more than the act of adoption.
I want to invite you to hear what the Scripture says in Ephesians 1:3-5. Hear what it says about our relationship with God.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—”
You see the Bible describes our relationship with God as one where we have been adopted. Meaning, at one point in time, you and I were ALL orphans… spiritually speaking. The Bible says that we have sin in our life and it keeps us from a relationship with our Heavenly Father…
But God looked at our circumstances and had compassion, and had care, and did something about them and adopted us into His family through His Son, Jesus Christ.
And we have the ability to do that when we care for orphans as well.
Some of you know that my wife and I feel like God put on our heart several years ago to begin the process of adoption. And we are now trying to adopt a child through China, and it has many roadblocks and stumbling blocks.
And there are times where its tempting to quit, and to stop; but it’s also so good to be reminded of the character of God, and how what we’re doing, in some small way, is just a foreshadowing, just a glimmer of the real character of a “Good Good Father”.
I mean I think about the fact that we have to get on a plane, and we have to fly half way around the world, and go to China, and be there for two weeks. And quite frankly, neither of us are real excited about flying. And so that creates a lot of nervousness and hesitation for us.
But then I think to myself, “Ya know, the one who adopted me, my Savior, Jesus Christ… He did some traveling too to do that. He left the heavens above; and He came and he was born in a manger; and he stayed here not 2 weeks, but for 33 years.
And we have all kinds of paperwork. Hundreds and hundreds of pages of paperwork and at times it get’s frustrating and discouraging, and I think to myself, “Ya know, maybe we should just not do this”… but them I’m reminded, that the One who adopted me, that the One who rescued me; He followed the Letter of the Law perfectly and all of it’s areas so that He could be a perfect sacrifice for my sins.
And then I think about the fact that, you know, by the time we’re done, we’ll have probably had to spend around $32 thousand dollars… and that annoys me, and that frustrates me… and at times I’m tempted to think that, “Couldn’t we do something else with our money?”
But then I’m reminded, that the One who adopted me… that the One who rescued me, He paid a price too. He paid His entire life. He gave His life on the Cross for my sins… so that I might be adopted, that I might be rescued.
Church, there are indeed 160 million orphans in the world. But there are 2.1 BILLION people on this planet who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ. So let’s be clear; God has not allowed the number of orphans to outnumber the number of people whom HE has already adopted into His family.
When you start thinking of it like that, this incredible number of 160 million orphans isn’t that daunting anymore is it. Because there are 2.1 BILLION people who claim that they have been spiritually adopted by God into His family… and read the Bible, and claim that it is the authority of their life…
There was a moment when Jesus was orphaned as well if you will. Some of you remember Matthew, chapter 27, verse 46 when Jesus said these words as He was there on the Cross,
“About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lemasabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
See, for a moment in history, the Bible tells us that when He’s taken our sin upon Himself, the sin of the world upon Himself, it caused Him to be separated from his Heavenly Father.
And so for a moment He knew what it was like to be orphaned, if you will… to have that beautiful relationship with the Heavenly Father severed. And it was the result of sin.
And let’s be clear.. the 160 million orphans today are not by God’s design, they are the result of sin… a sinful world, a sinful people, they are not what God has designed.
I invite you to consider a couple different options as we close our time together this morning. This is not one of those Sundays where we have this great agenda for you to go signup for something in the back of the Sanctuary as you’re leaving… we don’t have this specific cause that we’re tackling today. But we want to share, we want to “vision cast” with you some of the ways that we think we can be fulfilling this Biblical mandate.
First, the concept of ADOPTION as we’ve talked about earlier.
I would love to be a part of a church that has a culture of adoption; with a Sanctuary that’s filled with children from different places because the parents who are part of that church realize the Biblical Mandate here. Not simply because they can’t have kids, although that would be fine as well… but simply because they realize that there are kids out there who don’t have parents.
And I’d love to have an ADOPTION FUND… for those of you who care about this cause, but don’t think you can adopt; we could create a fund where we help the people who want to adopt so that money isn’t an unnecessary obstacle,
FOSTER CARE is something that we want to be talking about down the road.
SPONSORSHIP. This church has many people who are sponsoring children already from Compassion International. And you can be assured that we are either going to revisit our relationship with Compassion… or some other like organization, so that we can get children sponsored.
And then the whole idea of ORPHAN CARE… that would be an example of Sponsorship.
But then finally…
THE PREVENTION OF ORPHANS
My wife and I did a fundraiser for our adoption when God was calling us to adopt through Ethiopia, and that door sort of got closed on us… but we had begun that process… and one of the fund-raisers we did is, we were connected with an organization where were buying jewelry that Haitian women had made and we were buying it from them.
Then the whole idea that we’d then sell it to people and friends here in America for a few dollars more than what we paid for each one. That helps us to raise money for our adoption, but it also supports their work as well. It supports women in Haiti and helps to prevent them from not being able to care for their children and have to give them up to an orphanage.
There are a lot of wonderful ministries that are happening. God is doing a movement among His people in this world when it comes to caring for orphans. And this message is about inviting Kirkmont to join, to partner with what He’s doing.
I want to invite our Praise team to come forward; why don’t the rest of us get together and pray; then we’ll have or last song together this morning.
“Father God, thank you for your message this morning; we always thank you for the truth of your Word, and believe that it is useful for teaching and correcting, rebuking and training in righteousness because it’s all breathed by You.
And so we pray that the truth of this passage would resonate in our hearts and minds… and make us more like Your Son, Jesus Christ.
We pray for our church, and we invite you to show us if we’re not caring about the things that you care about; and then move us into action.
We ask these things in Christ’s Name… Amen”
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