What a Compassionate God Wants You to Consider as Your Next Yes

2017 Messages

Todd teaches on the importance of life—all life. When accounting for abortion, the actual infant mortality rate in America is between 20-25%. Todd shares his vision for the Life Center, a place dedicated to the sanctity of life and would include a museum, office and conference space, and a place to help women in crises. He challenges Watermark to get involved with foster care or adoption in Dallas, Tarrant, and Collin counties. Watermark is also partnering with Compassion International to work with and train churches in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Todd invites Charles Mully on stage who is using his riches for the glory of God and has adopted thousands of children in Kenya. Todd challenges the church to bridge the gap between God's heart and the orphan. With many opportunities to get involved, he exhorts us to discover what is our next "yes."

Todd WagnerOct 1, 2017Isaiah 1:1-17; Isaiah 1:1-16; Micah 6:8; Proverbs 19:17

Good morning, friends. How are we doing? Online, and in here in Dallas and in Plano and Fort Worth, it is awesome to be with you. The thing I want you to walk away with today is an answer to this question…What is my next yes? What's the next thing I need to say yes to? We're going to be talking today about how lives are changed when people just say yes. I love the question that is often asked…How do you get to where you are? What I usually tell people is "You have to start simply and simply start."

Some of y'all need to make a decision today to just simply start a journey toward understanding who God is and his love for you. Some of you have to make a decision to start to take the next step of growing in your faith and moving forward and connecting with a body and being discipled. But what's your next yes?

There was a story I became aware of this weekend. We met with our Plano team. We took a bunch of leaders, hundreds of them, from the Plano Campus and met with them all weekend, just encouraging them and reminding them that as leaders go, so goes the community.

One of the guys who is now a part of the leadership of Plano came up to me and said, "I need to tell you my story. Somebody said yes to caring for me. I was out in Dallas. I was not living well. My life was not okay. In fact, I wasn't okay at all, and this person met me. As I was sharing with them my place in life, her exact words to me were, 'Hey, come and see the kindness of God. I've run with other people who have come to see that those who are weary and heavy-laden and those who maybe have all the appearance and trappings of success who just know there has to be something more…

Watermark is a place where it's okay to not be okay, and we're going to love you just the way you are. You're going to find out that God loves you enough to not let you stay that way, but it's okay to not be okay. That's why Jesus is there. That's why he's called a Savior. That's why he's called kind and good and merciful and compassionate.'" He goes, "So I came by myself, not with that friend, and I was over here."

They were sitting over here one Sunday, and during that little time we call meet and greet that just happened on all of our campuses, somebody saw them not engaging because they weren't doing okay. They didn't have the energy to reach out and love somebody else. They were just standing there with their hands in their pockets kind of quietly. They left their seat and walked over to him and said, "Hey, how are you doing?"

The guy was going to say what we all say, which is, "Okay," which is "Be nice to me and leave me alone," but then, he said, "The words of my friend echoed in the back of my mind, which said 'I heard this is a place that it's okay to not be okay,' and I just looked at this person who walked up to me and said to them, 'I'm not okay.' They said, 'I could tell.'"

He said, "They grabbed my hand and sat me down in the midst of all the roar that was in the room and said, 'Tell me about why you're not okay. Because I saw you over here, and I just saw that there was something that just didn't look like you know what I know.'" That began a relationship and a friendship that put them on the journey to finding out there's a God who's not okay with them not being okay, because God cares for people who aren't okay.

That person now two years later has been a part of re:generation, has been a part of the church as a member, is in community. Went up to the Plano Campus, because that's where they live now. They looked me in the eye and said, "This Tuesday, I'm not going to re:generation. I'm going to be part of the leadership at re:generation, and I'm going to have my very first closed group that I'm going to shepherd and help them learn how God wants them to be okay." I thought to myself, "What else do you want to do?"

It was all because the next yes for that somebody was being bold out in Dallas, Plano, and Fort Worth this week and just saying to them, "Hey, my next yes is to tell you that God loves you." Then somebody else's next yes was to walk over and really care for people and not just throw away that time.

This week, as I was talking to others about what I was going to do and as I began to read and study and look at different things, I came across this gentleman. His name is Josh Rossi. Josh is a passionate photographer, and he loves people, and he was going to use his gift of photography to help kids who were in a tough place in life.

He was actually going to do a shoot with kids in Justice League characters, but he didn't just want to use any kids. He wanted to use kids who were born with congenital defects or who maybe had some terminal disease, and he was going to help them and say, "Hey, I see in you the strength, the courage. Your superpower is to not give up and to fight through the trials you've been handed in life with great courage, and I want to show you how I see you." Isn't that beautiful?

His next yes was to use his skills as a photographer to bring life to kids whose condition in life was not as it should be. One of my favorite stories out of this is the story of a young man who was made into a cyborg, Kayden Kinckle, a 5-year-old who was born with a disease that caused his internal organs to exist outside of his body through his navel. In order to save his life, he lost his legs.

His mom was told by the doctors while he was still in the womb, "This kid is going to be a burden on you. This kid is not going to have any quality of life. You need to abort that child." The mom said, "No." The mom had the courage, a superhero's heart, and her superpower was faith and her belief that "No, this is a life with dignity," and that mom brought that child to bear. Then bring Josh Rossi along, and then little Kayden was shown, "I see beauty; I see God's dignity in you," and he became this amazing, powerful cyborg. Isn't that amazing?

Don't you just see the goodness of God and the love in just caring for somebody like that? But here's the thing. God doesn't just want that to be a Photoshopped picture. God wants that to be a reality in every single one of our lives because somebody says yes. I can remember a number of years ago as I was in Israel… I went to Yad Vashem. Yad Vashem is the Holocaust memorial there in Jerusalem. You can imagine how amazing it is. It's moving to go there. I went through that with a friend of mine whose parents went through the Holocaust.

Alongside of Yad Vashem, which is this amazing narrative that talks about how Hitler and the fascist Nazi regime singled out the Jewish community that was there in order to exploit them and make them, in effect, a way for him to build national unity and put forward his vision of a restored Germany through the veneration of the Aryan race at the expense of others; how it took this people that had continued to exist racially as Jews and often religiously as Jews that had assimilated all through Europe and Asia and even in North America…

How they became a targeted people, and ultimately how six million or more of them were eradicated in the Holocaust. Alongside Yad Vashem, there's a child's Holocaust museum that the Spiegel family who had lost a relative as a child there… People who study such things say somewhere between a million to two million of the six to eight million Jews who were lost during the Holocaust were children, depending on how you define them by age.

I remember walking through the children's memorial. It only takes three to five minutes to walk through. It goes almost into the ground, underneath the ground, almost a hellish environment. It's pitch dark, and inside there's a railing you hold on to that guides you, because in the midst of this pitch-dark room underneath this mound there's just a single candle, one candle that is surrounded by a column of mirrors that echo out all through the room.

When you walk in there, you see what is a very artistic expression of something Anne Frank said, that a single candle can cry hope in the midst of darkness and its implications to a world are immense. They took that idea of Anne Frank, as she wrote about her experiences during that time, and made that the memorial. But when you see that single candle in there, because there are mirrors it's multiplied out, and all around you it's still a very, very dark place, but there are little spots of light and hope.

When you lose one child, you lose future generations. It's an amazing and humbling thing to think about the implications of a million children being eradicated and all of the future generations and potential that was lost with them. I remember walking out of that child's memorial, and as soon as I got back in the sunlight I just sat there. I was filled with sadness for what had happened.

Almost in a moment God said, "Hey, Todd, you know that all around here the nation of Israel celebrates the righteous among the nations, which are Gentiles; the nations of the earth that stood up and did something about the Holocaust that was going on during that time, the Corrie ten Booms, the Dietrich Bonhoeffers, the Oskar Schindlers, some of the names that you know that have been memorialized by the nation of Israel that are righteous among the nations because they put their lives at risk to care for those who had been forgotten.

I know you fantasize about how you might have been a hero in that moment. I know sometimes, Todd, you think about how William Wilberforce stood up over there in England and did something about the slave trade and brought about the abolition of that and the reformation of manners in his country.

I know how you have been disgusted about racism in your country and how you have spoken out against that and how you think you would have marched with Martin Luther King Jr. had you been a contemporary of his and how you would have not had one of those churches in the South that continued to allow that oppression of certain races to continue even though they were no longer slaves.

Todd, let me just tell you something. Do you know that right now in your country this year there are going to be as many children who are going to be murdered in your country this year as were lost in this Holocaust? It's great that you're moved by what happened in history, but what are you doing right now as a righteous among the nations?"

Let me explain to you what I mean. This week, I Googled infant mortality rates. Infant mortality rates are basically a statistic that talks about how around the world… In certain countries, you can imagine there a number of kids who don't live to their first birthday. The infant mortality rate is the number of kids who don't make it to their first birthday out of 1,000.

The country that has the highest infant mortality rate right now is Afghanistan. Out of 1,000 children, 112 don't even see year one. Mali is second. Somalia is third. They both have right around 100. Then you have other nations whose names you might think about, underdeveloped countries, countries that lack resources, countries like Chad, Niger, Angola, Burkina Faso. Nigeria is tenth at 70 kids out of 1,000 who don't even get to see their first birthday.

As I was looking at that and thinking back about what I experienced as I walked out of that children's memorial by Yad Vashem, I started thinking about, "Hey, you know what's really true of our country? Our country has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world." You go, "Wait a minute, Todd. If you look at that list, the USA is way down at about 165. Only about five or six kids out of 1,000 don't get to see their first birthday."

As I was thinking about that, I know that's not true, because I know what the statistics say. Almost every year since 1973, almost a million children or sometimes over a million children have not just never seen their first birthday; they have never seen a birthday. In 2016, just under four million children were born in America. In 2016, just under a million children never saw life outside of their mother's womb. The infant mortality rate in the United States of America is close to 20 to 25 percent. The most dangerous place you can live in America is in a mother's womb.

I remember being struck by this even before I knew international infant mortality rates. I was just moved by the Lord to go, "Todd, what's your next yes? What are you going to do more than just speak about this? About 50 years from now, 100 years from now, your kids are going to look back, and maybe by the grace of God we're going to have come to our senses about what we're really doing right now to children, that 20 percent of all life that is conceived in America is murdered, is killed, is removed from the potential for all the life they had before they ever get to see their first birthday.

Your grandchildren are going to look back and go, 'Oh, that's nice; he had a few messages. Oh, that's nice; he spoke about that in private circles.' But, Todd, are you really seen as a righteous among the nations? Are you doing everything you should do?" I started to pray and ask, "God, what do you want me to do? I want to do more. I want to see the abolition of the abortion mindset, not just Roe v. Wade."

I want to see the abolition of people who are so vulnerable and so scared and so alone when they come across what would be defined as an "unwanted pregnancy," that they're surrounded by people who love them and care for them and say, "We've got you. We don't want to just show you a 3D sonogram of your child. We want to say we're going to care for you, Mom, and when that child is born we're going to care for that child."

We've talked about that here. We've said if there's anybody here who's scared right now and has an unwanted pregnancy we want to care for you. We want your child. If you can't raise that child, if your situation overwhelms you, we will take your child. We will raise the child, love the child, put it into a loving home. Mom, we'll care for you. We'll help your life be a life you're proud of, that you can maybe keep that child. We are committed to that here.

One of the things God said was, "Todd, I think maybe there's something you can do that's like Yad Vashem that would help raise the awareness of what's happening out there today in your culture, so that when your kids look back they'll go, 'Our father, our grandfather was one of the righteous among the nations who saw the need and was moved.'" So I'm going to share with you today a little bit of that vision.

It's something I've been working on with a very small group of friends. It's appropriate that I share it with you today for a number of reasons. It's called the Life Center. It's not a small vision. It's a big vision. Those of you guys who know what the Green family is doing up there in DC with the Bible museum that's about to open, we also looked at land up there on the National Mall. We looked at land in New York.

We've looked at stuff in Chicago, and we've looked at land right here that we've begun to identify where we could potentially put a place in the ground that we could build that would be a world-class illustration of the horrors the world has faced in the past, like the slave trade, like the Nazi Holocaust, like sex trafficking, and the heroes who have stood up to do something about it and the hope that has come out of that.

Then as we all look back and go, "Yeah, I would've been part of the righteous who would have spoke up against that," to go, "Hey, there's something even more horrific than the slave trade that's happening today. There's something even more horrific than the Nazi Holocaust that's happening today, and you can be the hero, because this nation, this world, is looking for heroes."

Let me just say this to you really quickly before I show you this. If you're a person who has been a part of an abortion story, it's not okay to not be okay, because I know when you got your abortion you thought your problems were going to leave. No, they didn't leave. You became un-pregnant in that moment, but you didn't become an un-mother, and you know it, and I know every year when that birthday rolls around you know how old your child would be.

I know the lack of self-forgiveness you're experiencing. I know about the hate you might have for society and for yourself and the secret you're burying and the idea that you don't know what your next yes can be, but you're pretty sure you can't be honest about that with God or even yourself because it just horrifies you to this day. Can I just tell you something? I think the largest abortion recovery ministry in the country is right here at Watermark. It's called Someone Cares.

We love you, and you need to know that God is not mad at you. He is heartbroken that you, his daughter, are still living in the darkness of trying to bury that very real act you were a part of. Maybe it was pushed on you. Maybe you didn't have all the information. Maybe you were young. Maybe you were scared. It doesn't matter. God loves you, and he wants you to experience the forgiveness I have experienced and the mercy that I personally have experienced.

Maybe you're a guy and a part of one of those stories. We have a ministry called Forgotten Fathers. We want to help you. All you have to do is take that little perforated section and just write your name. Put your contact information there. Slide it into that little box in the back and just say, "Does someone care?" We will have a woman call you or a guy call you, and we'll begin to walk you through the same hope.

You're about to meet one of my friends who has been through Someone Cares, who has been a part of the Life Center prayer with me. Now look. This is a big idea. I've said this before. There's going to come a day… Some of you guys in the past when we've been moving forward, there was a day when the biggest hindrance to our ministry was a lack of facility. I don't know if you've noticed. We use this facility pretty hard seven days a week.

It's an amazing privilege for my family and me to have sacrificed and said no to things so we could invest here, with so many others of you, so we can use this facility and the one in Plano and the one we have in Fort Worth and the one we're developing in Fort Worth to serve even more. Some of you have said, "Hey, Todd, I'm not really sure I get too excited about giving to the bricks and mortar of a church. Doesn't church do something?"

Well, I told you there was a day coming when I was going to give you a chance to give to something that was going to show that you really weren't just about that you don't think churches should build buildings to keep your money but to give you a chance to put your money to work so you could really serve people. This is one of those days. Right now, Watermark, you need to know there are things we need to do on each of our campuses that we're not doing because the resources aren't here.

We don't work in debt. We don't work out of obligation. We're asking you to pray, to see the things that are out there, to go to watermark.org/makingroom and look at the story, and to give as God stirs you. I encourage you guys to still do that, but here's an opportunity. If you don't want to give to bricks and mortar of a church, I have things for you to give to today that I'm just saying, "Okay, we just checked off that excuse."

Maybe you care about this issue. We're going to put an illustration together and an equipping center together that's going to begin to do something about this issue in our country that's going to bring healing and hope to our land. And I have other ways to give. You just have to figure out what your next yes is. Part of my next yes was thinking about what God might want to have me do. Part of it might be this thing called the Life Center. Watch this short video.


Todd Wagner: Here we are in the 2000-teens, and we're still having to have conversations about the dignity and value of every human life in and out of the womb. There were Christians in Germany. There were a lot of Christians in the bigoted South who were just silent. So as I look back at some of these issues that happened with what I would call some sort of temporal arrogance, that if I had lived during those times I would have been a Bonhoeffer, I would have been a Martin Luther King Jr., I need to realize I need to be a faithful Todd Wagner today.

Amy Levy: As a young teenager, I made the decision to abort, so it's with me. It's like, what do you do with it now? I started volunteering at a pregnancy crisis center, and I felt like I was just being more reactive to women who were coming in already in a crisis situation. I just kept thinking there are so many people out there who are doing incredible things, but they're all working separately of one another.

Todd: There's not a single place that we can come together to sharpen and encourage each other. There needs to be an epicenter. Everybody, when I talk to them about this, is shocked that it has never really happened before. The Life Center is a tool we're missing. The anchor of it, the museum, is a place that we can illustrate what's going on right now and say, "Let's just come and reason together. Let's go look at this. Let's have a conversation." The idea is to let people understand the horror of what's happening but the heroic opportunity that's before them.

Amy: They will come in. They will feel warmth. They will feel loved, but they will get truth in that, and there will be scientific evidence to support that. So I think those who come in who are neutral will leave no longer neutral.

Todd: The Life Center will be made up of four key areas. The first will be a world-class museum, a beautiful building that will incorporate stories and science and facts and examples from history that will challenge the abortion mindset. The second will be a class-A office space where we will bring together the best minds and organizations in the world passionate about the life topic, uniting thought leaders who can influence cultural change.

The third area will be a beautiful meeting and community space to facilitate gatherings, events, training opportunities, and conferences. Finally, the fourth will be a separate area where women in current crisis pregnancies can find help and encouragement, as well as areas where men and women who have been a part of an abortion decision can find healing and hope.

The Life Center will help brave women who are willing to place their children for adoption connect with loving families, as well as loving families who want to work with children who have been brought to term and are in dysfunctional homes through foster care services. This is going to be something that's excellent.

It's going to be world class. It's going to educate people. It's going to heal people. It's going to advocate for that which will ultimately open the eyes to the beauty of life, stir the heart toward human good, and awaken the mind to things that are true that folks, frankly, just aren't dealing with. The Life Center can be the means through which they'll deal with it like never before that's going to make the abortion mindset unthinkable and hopefully something that's in our past because the heroes of today have acted on it.

Amy: We all feel like there's something we're created to be part of that's bigger than ourselves. So many times we're just on the cusp of figuring out what that is, and when people come into the Life Center they're going to go, "This is it." What greater mission is there than life and the sanctity of it?

[End of video]

Todd: I want you to know something. I've been praying about that for four to five years, and a small group of friends and I have begun to look at stuff. Right now, in terms of working in design and creative elements to communicate that story, we're in site location right now, and that takes a ton of resource. I keep asking God, "Hey, listen. I don't want to get ahead of you. I want to do this if it's what you want me to do." I'm not yet at the place where that's 100 percent what I should do. I know what he wants me to do right now.

In addition to keeping on developing that idea and working with those of you whose hearts are going to be stirred with me today, I know what he wants me to do right now is lead this community of faith. One of the things that has happened over the last four to five years is that God has said, "Todd, I love so much about what's happening there at Watermark, but there's something we can do right now. While you're praying about what you might do with this Life Center thing, there's something you need to do right now because you care about life."

I have a really good friend whose name is Randy Alcorn who has done a lot on the issue of life for the last three to four decades. He has written one of the best books out there to help you understand the reasonable and compassionate defense of the pro-life idea. When Randy was a pastor in Gresham, Oregon, he and some other friends would peacefully demonstrate and seek to minister to abortion-determined people who were moving that direction.

Randy and his wife even went so far as to be a home for one of those little gals who said, "I don't know how to make my way through this season." He said, "Well, come live with us. We'll care for you." Randy was actually demonstrating out in front of a clinic with some other folks one day. He lives in a very liberal state.

He was actually sued as a result of one of these demonstrations. All of his wages were garnished. He significantly suffered and paid a price for his conviction about how he should speak up for these children who don't have a voice. I can remember when Randy told me a story about how the news media came when he was out demonstrating one time. The media has a narrative. This is the narrative of the world that's out there that doesn't understand God's heart for life.

With the camera behind her, some young newswoman walked up to Randy and said, "Hey listen. It's great that you guys are here with all your moral indignation, but can't it truly be said that while you're making a big deal about kids in the womb, you really don't care about pregnant moms and you really don't care about kids once they're out of the womb and suffer all the way to the tomb. What would you say to that?"

Randy was ready, and Randy said, "Well, I'll tell you what I'd say to that. My wife and I actually right now have a young woman living with us who is one of those women, because we do care for her. By the way, I'm so glad you asked about what we do when they're out of the womb. This is my friend over there. He happens to be on my staff with me. You go talk to him. He and his wife have adopted 19 children, many of them with special needs."

When he said that, the woman went, "What did you say?" She goes, "Turn the cameras off." She put it down, and her narrative was gone. It opened up an opportunity for a different kind of conversation. Not one she really wanted to advance, but it certainly silenced her. "Hey, you guys aren't just a bunch of troublesome meddlers who tell people what they shouldn't do. You do what? You bring people into your home? Nineteen kids, many of them with special needs that nobody else wants?"

I'm here to tell you today that what I want to talk to you about is the Life Center that God might have us move to completion on but something that I know God wants us to be completely committed to as a body. If you have a Bible, open with me to Isaiah, chapter 1. I want to show you something. Let me give you a little background of what's happening in the book of Isaiah. The book of Isaiah was written at a time when the nation of Israel was experiencing immense suffering.

The reason they were experiencing immense suffering even though God had told them he wanted to protect them and cause them to flourish because they walked in relationship… Humans always flourish when they walk in relationship and humble obedience to God. That's God's design. "This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome." God wanted Israel to be an illustration of that to the entire world.

He just said, "I'm going to protect you. You're the apple of my eye. As you walk with me and as you are a holy people and you declare to the nations that you are righteous, not because of who you are but because you know God in his mercy has made provision for you, and you declare that to all of the surrounding nations, I want to bless the world through their understanding of me, which will be illustrated through your life that you have with me."

Israel was not experiencing flourishing because they weren't walking in humility with God. This now is roughly 300 years since the monarchy started. It existed as a nation through Joshua as they began to take over Canaan several hundred years before that. We're not 400 or 500 years into Israel's history where they had long forgotten God and not walked with him. One of the nations of the earth (there was a world power at the time, if you know your world history) was Assyria, and Assyria had come and wiped out about five-sixths of the nation of Israel.

God drew a line right there, just before coming from the north to the south at Jerusalem, saying, "I'm going to stop the judgment right here. I'm going to protect the two tribes to the south," because they had lived a little bit more obediently than the tribes to the north had, and God was trying to get their attention. Isaiah is a prophet to God's people before judgment ultimately finally falls on them.

Now listen, church. We are not Israel. We don't believe in replacement theology here. We don't take Israel's place. See also last week's message in Acts. We are existing as people called out of darkness by God into his marvelous light, who walk humbly and obediently with him, who experience forgiveness and increasing okay-ness, certainly ultimate forgiveness through the justification of the cross and our faith in Jesus, but also our lives increasingly become a life of blessing as we're sanctified and become more like him.

The Jews should look at us and go, "What are you guys doing, flourishing the way you are? This nation that wasn't a nation, this righteous among the world that are living with hope and gladness and a perspective nobody else has. Who are you people?" and we are to say, "We are people of God, called by his name. We believe in your Messiah. You should trust in him."

God wants to use us to make Israel, in effect, jealous that we're dancing with their date, and we're to happily say, "Well, come on. Cut in. There's plenty of God to go around. This is the promise he gave to you for the world. We're just living in it." Now listen. Israel is being told right here in Isaiah, chapter 1, "This is about what's to happen to all of you because you say you know me but don't walk with me."

There's application for us. Isaiah, chapter 1. We're told that this is the vision of Isaiah and it's to Judah, which is the larger of the two tribes there in the south, geographically located where Jerusalem is. God says, "Listen, O heavens, and hear…" God calls the heavens as a witness, because when God made a covenant with Israel there was nobody else to witness it, so he called creation.

He, in effect, metaphorically said, "Creation, you be the witness. You watch what's about to happen. It's going to happen on your ground and underneath your sky." He's calling, in effect, to the witness stand that which has witnessed Israel's rebellion and lack of heart for God. He says, "Look. The sons I have reared up…" Speaking about Israel. "…have revolted against me."

Then he uses as a little aside, as his opening argument, "Even an ox, one of the strongest creatures on earth, is humble enough to walk in the way its master wants it to walk, to put itself into subjection to the yoke of leadership, so it can be a part of fruitfulness and the planting and harvesting of crops so that the ox itself would be blessed. Even though the ox is stronger than its master, it still humbles itself under its master."

Then he goes on to say, "Even the donkey, which is considered the dumbest and most stubborn of all creatures, knows where to go to find life, to eat there at the manger of its master. But Israel, my own children, don't know," God is saying. "My people don't understand. Alas, they're a sinful nation. They're weighed down with iniquity. They are offspring of evildoers, not offspring of God. They're sons who act corruptly. They've abandoned me. They've despised the Holy One of Israel. They've turned away."

Verse 5 then says, "Will you be stricken again? Will you continue in this way that's not leading to human flourishing?" Look at me for a second. There are 350,000 churches in America today, and what you're going to find out is that America is not flourishing, and one of the reasons America is not flourishing is that the people of God who he has called to live in the land and to call other people to walk with the Holy One of Israel are not doing an effective job. So there's increasing chaos.

What you're going to see here is a description of Israel in 700 BC, and you're also going to see a description of what's happening in our society. "As you continue in your rebellion…" You put "In God we trust" on money, just like Israel went through its little sayings about Yahweh but didn't walk with Yahweh. We don't walk with the God we say we trust in.

"The whole head is sick and the whole heart is faint." Metaphorically, he says, "From the sole of the foot even to the head there is nothing sound in it, only bruises, welts and raw wounds…" Does that sound like our country right now? Boy, in so many ways. They're not being really addressed. People are confused. How do we bring healing to our country? No one is ministering to or bringing healing. "…not pressed out or bandaged, nor softened with oil. Your land is desolate, your cities are burned with fire…"

You see cities on fire in this country because of rebellion and chaos and confusion. "…your fields—strangers are devouring them in your presence…" Talking specifically about Israel, that the Assyrians now dwell in the lands they used to harvest. There's no protection over them. Verse 8: "The daughter of Zion is left like a shelter in a vineyard, like a watchman's hut in a cucumber field…" You're like, "What? What in the world does that mean?" Well, let me tell you what it means.

God promised he would protect Israel. In America, we protect certain things. You can't just go barging into the White House. You can't go into the Federal Reserve. You certainly can't go to Fort Knox in Kentucky. It has a lot of security. Do you know where you can go? You can go to a watchman's hut in a cucumber field. Nobody is protecting that thing. What is that? Well, it's where there are a bunch of dead vegetables and they put one guy out there to shoo away the crows.

Just a little hut in the middle of a cucumber patch that doesn't have a whole lot of protection, because all he's really fighting is birds, but here's the problem. "You're not just fighting birds as a nation," God says. "You're fighting a marauding group of forces, and you're about as protected right now as a watchman's hut in a cucumber field. In other words, you're extremely vulnerable. Why? Because you've left me, the one from whom your help is to come."

Isaiah says, "Unless the Lord of hosts had left a few survivors, we would be like Sodom and Gomorrah." Okay, Sodom and Gomorrah. Who are Sodom and Gomorrah? That rings a bell. Oh, Sodom and Gomorrah were two of the most wicked nations on earth. Do you want to know why Sodom and Gomorrah were so wicked? "Oh yeah, Pastor, tell them. Because of sodomy. Because they were homosexuals. That's why." Right? What's sodomy? It gets its name from Sodom and Gomorrah's sin. But not completely.

For a long time, we've made a big deal about Sodom and Gomorrah being places that needed God's judgment because they wanted to have illicit, inappropriate relationships with vulnerable people in their land. The story, if you don't know it, is found in the book of Genesis. "Righteous among the nations" Lot, the nephew of Abraham, who was supposed to be a means of grace everywhere he went, went to the cities in a plain, Sodom and Gomorrah, and got swept up with making his life more comfortable.

He stopped being an agent of grace and change and light in the midst of darkness and became corrupt along with that nation. God sent some messengers, ultimately, to Lot and his wife, saying, "You need to get out because judgment is coming on that city," and when those messengers were there in the house to tell Lot, "You have to go because tomorrow judgment is coming," the city heard there were foreigners in the land who were vulnerable who had no allies, no one to protect them.

They came and banged on the door and said, "Hey, we don't care about people here who are vulnerable. We just use everybody for our own pleasure," and they yelled out, "Bring them out! We'll have sexual relations with them," which is a very perverse act to be sure, but you need to know something. Judgment was already fallen on Sodom and Gomorrah before they wanted to commit sodomy in that particular instance.

What was the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah? Keep reading. Verse 10: "Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom[and Gomorrah]…" He's talking to Israel, but he's saying, "You want to know what was going on with Sodom and Gomorrah? You want to know why you haven't been devoured yet and the reason you're not desolate like Sodom and Gomorrah are? It's because God has given you one more chance to hear." So now he's going to tell Israel about why Sodom and Gomorrah were messed up.

He starts by saying it wasn't because they didn't have churches there. There was worship that was happening, in effect, certainly in Israel at the time. Verse 11: "'What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?' says the Lord. 'I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle; and I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats.'" He's describing Old Testament sacrificial system, which is to honor God.

He could say to America today, "Hey, enough of your hymn singing. Enough of your responsive reading. Enough of your going to church and your praise choruses. Okay, great for you that you give your 10 percent. Okay, good for you that you're involved in a Community Group. Way to go that you're there Christmas and Easter." That's the "new moons and festivals" he's about to talk about with Israel.

Hey, is the church doing what the church is supposed to do? Look at what God says. This is just searing. Verse 12: "When you come to appear before Me, who requires of you this trampling of My courts?" That's the way God sees dead religion, people who walk into church and sing praises to him and then walk out of here like nothing changes. He goes, "You're just trampling in my house."

He goes on to say in verse 13, "Bring your worthless offerings no longer, incense is an abomination to Me. New moon and sabbath…" That's their Christmas and Easter. "…the calling of assemblies—I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly. I hate…" This is God. "I hate your big religious services. They're a burden to me. I'm weary of bearing them, because you act like you love me, you sing my little songs, but you don't care about what I care about."

Aren't you like, "Well, God, what do you care about? Tell me what you care about, because I want to care about that." He says, "So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen." O God, we want you to listen. What is it that you want? Verse 15: "Your hands are covered with blood." What do you mean our hands are covered with blood? You're about to see why God thought their hands were covered with blood.

Maybe they weren't themselves the ones having the abortions. Maybe they weren't themselves the ones who were committing murder on the vulnerable and the innocent. Maybe they weren't the ones who were exploiting the foreigner among them, but this is what he says. He's going to tell you now what God is looking for. "Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil…"

There's a place in Scripture in Micah 6:8 where you kind of go, "Okay, Lord. What do you want?" This is Micah 6:8: "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice…" In other words, not just make sure your rights aren't violated but you make sure you care for people who don't have the ability to speak up for themselves, who have injustice falling on them.

Maybe it's just a godless home. Maybe they're being exploited. Maybe they're being abandoned by their family. Maybe they're the vulnerable and the weak and the poor. Maybe they're the immigrant among you. "Do justice and love kindness and walk humbly with me." That's the summation of it all in Micah 6:8. Well, here's another prophet in Isaiah, chapter 1, and this is what he says. Watch this. "I want you, Israel, I want you today, God's people, to learn to do good. You seek justice."

The Scripture says in Proverbs 24, "If you see those being led away to slaughter and don't hold them back, if you don't speak out for those who have no voice, I have a problem with you." There are people with no voice in our land today. You reprove the ruthless, those who are taking advantage of the vulnerable to make money or exploiting scared women to make money in the name of helping them. Defend the orphan. Help the widow.

The half-brother of Jesus… His name is James. When James was talking to the early church and wanted to tell them what it was God was after, he just said, "Do you want to know what pure and undefiled religion looks like in the sight of God our Father? Do you want to know what it is? Here's what it is: to visit orphans and widows in their distress," and then not be like the rest of the world but to keep yourself unstained, to be shining lights in the midst of a dark and perverse generation, Philippians 2 says. Show yourself to be holy.

One of the ways you're going to show yourself to be holy is not just by telling people that that's wrong. He says, "You cleanse yourself. You seek justice. You speak up for those who don't have a voice, and you help the orphan." Can I just tell you something? I really think God is going to stir us to complete this thing called the Life Center one day. God is going to raise up a group of people who are going to help me.

But I want to tell you something. While we're thinking about whether or not we should do that, I know what God wants us to do. While we're waiting to see if we can make this monolith and this illustration and this epicenter of that which would stir the heart toward beauty and move the hands toward good and awaken the mind toward what is right, we have to see the beauty of God's love for those who aren't okay. We have an opportunity, church, that I'm so excited to share with you.

Do you guys know that right now in our city our government has walked into homes of individuals and said, "Hey, listen. We need to, at least for a season, terminate your parental rights because maybe you're not okay enough to care for your kids. Maybe your life was so bad as a kid that you grew up and never knew how to control yourself as a leader, and as a result of that, you've run toward escapism and chemical dependency or maybe you're just lazy or maybe you're just out of touch with reality, but when you have a child in your home you have to be responsible for that child, and we're just telling you this is not a good home for that child anymore."

So Child Protective Services comes in, and they'll take those kids out for a season, and they need homes to put those kids in, these temporary orphans, many of whom parental rights will later be completely terminated who now are orphans indeed. Do you know that right now in Dallas County, Tarrant County, and Collin County there are just under a thousand kids who are waiting to be adopted who, in our own city, have no home and no parents they can go back to?

Do you know that in foster care right now there are roughly 2,500 different kids in Dallas, Tarrant, and Collin Counties who are being placed right now? Do you know that right now there are kids who are waiting for a home? This should not be the case when you live in cities like ours. Across our country, there are 350,000 churches. There are 100,000 kids in the foster care services around the country who are waiting for a home. Did you hear that?

If only one out of every three churches cared for the very thing that God said, "I care about these kids…" Not one individual. If an entire church cared for one kid only 33 percent of the time, we wouldn't have a world that would be looking for a place that would be safe and loving where people of God are there to love those kids and care for them. There wouldn't be a single kid waiting to be placed if just one out of every three churches did one thing God wants them to do.

In Texas there are 27,000 churches. There are 13,000 kids looking for a place to go in a temporary way. You've already seen the numbers for our area. Here's what I want to tell you, church. I don't know if God wants us to go together ultimately to build a Life Center. I know he wants us to care about life, and we have an opportunity.

One of the things I love… I know there are close to 100 families already at Watermark that are involved in adoption and foster care. More than that probably. These are just the ones we listed out in a quick perusal of our minds. But there's so much more we can do, and what I'm going to tell you is that we're not just going to talk about this; we're going to institutionalize it.

I've been praying. I've been working. I've been looking. Literally, we did a nationwide search, looking for somebody who could come and lead us in this area, and I want to introduce you a little bit later today to my friend Bruce Kendrick. Bruce is a 35-year-old servant of Christ. When he and his wife were 21 years old they had their first child.

They were living in a three-bedroom home in McKinney, and his wife said to him, "We have an empty bedroom. We say we love God, and it says in the Scripture that people who love God are going to care for those who are in a different situation than us. Maybe we ought to make that room available to kids who don't have a home because it's not safe for them in their home or maybe their parental rights have been terminated."

So they called Child Protective Services and different agencies that work with them and said, "Hey, do you have a kid nobody wants?" and they went, "Well, yeah, but you don't want that kid." "Why?" "Because nobody wants kids this age." They said, "We do," and they took a 15- to 16-year-old foster kid into their home.

As I said, that young man's family disintegrated to the point where those parental rights were ultimately terminated, so Bruce and Denise adopted that young man. Fast-forward 14 years. Bruce and Denise are now parents of nine children and grandparents of three at 35 years of age. They don't think everybody should adopt five kids and have four biological of their own, but they think they can share with us.

I'm asking him to help us equip more people who get involved with helping families like the Kendricks and the hundreds of other families at Watermark that are already in the game to become child advocates who can provide respite care, and that we can equip more of you to say, "Hey, listen. There are 600 kids right now who need a home."

We're going to talk to 15,000 to 16,000 people this weekend. We're going to get in the game, and the city of Dallas is going to say, "I have to tell you, they're not just full of moral indignation over there. Those people love kids." This is a big deal, guys. When you read the Scripture, you're going to see nothing but the heart of God. Who does God's heart go out to? Well, especially those who aren't okay. Is there anybody who's not okay as much as a child whose home is not safe? Is there anybody God cares about whose life is not okay who has no mother and father?

So here's my question. What are we going to do to get the heart of God over to these kids who are crying out, "God, I'm being abused in this home," maybe sexually? "God, I'm being beaten in this home," maybe physically. "Can anybody care? Does anybody love me?" How does God get his heart to those kids? The answer is that he shows some people who were without God and without hope in the world, orphaned because they had left their father…

He through his mercy and grace adopts them and grafts them in and makes them his children, children themselves who have received the kindness and grace of God, and he says, "You be my hands and feet. You seek justice. You care for those who needed grace and mercy, just like you needed grace and mercy, and you be for them my heart as I've shown you my heart."

It's the church, people. The church is the means through which God's heart is shown to the orphan, that the world can see, "Yep, there is a God who's concerned about life and the most vulnerable among us." What we want to do is equip you, encourage you, and educate you. We want to be a church that eradicates the need for foster care placement and adoption in the city of Dallas. We want to do it right here in a way that the cameras might turn on and go, "Who are you people who love this way, who would leave your comfort to care for others?"

See, that was the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah. "We're all about our own pleasure. We're all about our own city. It is the happening place." It was where business went down. "We don't really care about God. We don't care about vulnerable refugees or immigrants. We don't really care about those who are in a womb who don't cry out, who we can't see. We don't even care when they're out of the womb. We just let them die of exposure. They're somebody else's problem."

God says, "No, that's your opportunity to show the world my love," and we're going to get after it. We're going to equip you. October 22 here in Dallas, we're going to give you an opportunity to jump in. You can go right now today… Maybe this is your next yes. Maybe you leave today and go to watermark.org/life and fill out that little Formstack and say, "Todd, I'd like to talk about the Life Center" or "Hey, I'd like to know more about foster care and adoption" or "I'd like to know how I can support families in this church that are already doing that."

We'll get back with you, and we'll encourage you and equip you and surround you with others. We're going to move in a way that our city is going to be like, "Thank God that God's people are here caring for these children." I'm going to tell you something else we're going to do. We're going to try to engage some of you in a way that we haven't engaged you in some time. We have 700 kids we've been clothing and feeding and spiritually developing in Africa.

We went over there and taught conflict resolution and leadership skills, specifically in Uganda, where there had been a lot of activity by a terrorist group called the LRA and there were a lot of kids who were orphaned and needy. We put mentors on the ground who we're caring for, who we're discipling, who go and visit kids, and through the local church we're working to have these kids cared for.

But here's the thing. We took care of those 700 kids four to five years ago like that. We've been writing them. We have a relationship with them. We went over and did a residential camp for them. We've developed a vocational school to train them in bricklaying and IT and sewing and other means that they could be productive members of society. You guys have been doing that, but here's the thing. That was 700 kids, and there are about 15,000 of us here every week.

So I've been working with my friends at Compassion for some time to try to come up with a way that we could, in the name of Jesus Christ, through the local church, love kids. We finally came up with an opportunity. Listen to me. This might be your next yes. I talked to my friend Jim Mellado, who's the president of Compassion, and I just said, "Hey, Jim, we want to not just take kids all around the world. Can we do something together? Could we go somewhere where we adopt a bunch of kids in one area through the local church and equip this church and help them take on a region?"

He goes, "Todd, I have a place for you." He goes, "We have a bunch of kids right now, many who have been waiting for a group for five months, and we're going to put them all together in one little region."

"What region, Jim?"

"Well, Todd, it's the most dangerous place in the world. It's part of what's called the 'Northern Triangle,' Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador."

If you've been watching the news at all lately, you've seen a lot of the immigrants we're pushing out of our country are part of MS-13. They're originating from and making their base camp in El Salvador. It is the most dangerous region in the world. There have been more murders per capita there than anywhere else in the world, and we're going to go right in the middle of it. Do you guys know what El Salvador means? It means the savior.

When you walk out of this room today, you're going to have an opportunity. You're going to see pink balloons for little girls who live in El Salvador and blue balloons for little boys who live in El Salvador. We have 2,500 of them that we're going to try and take care of today. You can go right out there today and say, "Okay, Lord. I'm going to take this little girl, this little boy. He's going to be mine. I'm going to write him."

We're going to go down there. We're going to train churches. We're going to work with churches in partnership with the Olympic Committee, believe it or not, Compassion, and Watermark, and we're going to take this most dangerous place in the world and love people in the Savior's name, and it's going to become a nation that's going to be renowned for grace.

That might be your next yes. If you don't get a chance to do it when you walk out of here, go to compassion.com/watermark. But don't go on the website. Those kids are sitting out there waiting for you. That might be your next yes. What's your next yes? We have to do something. It's not enough that we just gather and sing. Watermark, you guys do so much. This church is so faithful in so many ways, but I have to tell you…

Forgive me for not being clearer and louder on this for a long time. This is the first area that God's heart wants to be expressed in the city. This is pure and undefiled religion. We have a foster care opportunity here, an adoption opportunity here. We have a country that the Savior's name is on that we're going to go into. It's the most violent place on earth, and we're going to make it a place of peace in Jesus' name.

There's your big idea. You don't want to give to bricks and mortar? I'm calling you on it. Then don't give to bricks and mortar, even though this bricks-and-mortar place is raising up disciples who want to go change a country and want to change their city. I have a hunch we all have enough of God's resources to do both. Let's just do something. Figure out what your next yes is.

I'm going to bless you with something here before we close. It'll take about five minutes, and I'm going to introduce you to a friend of mine who just said yes. I'm going to tell you Mully's story as he walks up, and I'm going to encourage you to do something. This is my friend Charles. Charles is from Kenya. Charles happened to be an orphan. He had an abusive, drunk father. His mother grabbed the younger children and moved quickly away and left him alone. He became a street kid for five or six years, desperate, starving, stealing in order to find a way to live.

He bumped into somebody who was a house of peace. They invited him in. They saw his work ethic, and then Charles began to be faithful in the midst of this as a young teenager. They saw his industry. Charles a little bit later was given management over a small company. Then he left that to start his own company, a little transportation business, and this street kid went on to become a multimillionaire in Kenya. Yeah. Just your typical Kenyan success story. I asked him, "Hey, did you make $10?" He goes, "Oh, I made $10."

"Did you make $10,000?"

"Oh yeah."

"Did you make $100,000? How much did you make?"

He goes, "A lot. I made a lot." One of the first stone houses with carpet in it in all of Eldoret up there in northwestern Kenya, but that's not why Charles is up here. He's up here because one day, in the midst of all his wealth and concern for how he could enjoy it, God grabbed his heart and said, "Mully, I want you to say yes." What did God ask you to say yes to, Mully?

Charles Mully: Thank you very much indeed for having me here. I'm so delighted to speak what the Lord God has really done in my life and through the ministry of Mully Children's Family. When the Lord called me, I could not believe that he wanted me with all myself, my money, and my family. With all the money I had made then, he said, "Yes, you be the father to the fatherless, and you go with everything you have."

I tried to refuse. I said, "No, God, not me. I cannot do it." But eventually it did not work anymore. I surrendered everything, and I gave it to the Lord through helping the very poor children, orphans, street children, young people who were addicted to drugs and…

Todd: So what Mully did is he went and said yes to one. He told his wife and kids, "Hey, I think God wants me to stop making money in business and use every bit of money I have the rest of my life, until I have no more money, to care for those who are like I was." He said, "Yes." He went into the slums of Nairobi. I've been there. It's one of the darkest and most dangerous places on earth. Mully walked in and grabbed a child and brought him into his beautiful home. He said, "This is my business now." Your wife was not really excited initially, was she?

Charles: Yeah, my wife was really confused. Even my own children. They really cried. They thought I was crazy running mad, because how on earth that their father, her husband, could do all this, give all the love to those kids who don't deserve everything, all the effort that I had been working? I remember being asked, "Is this what you have chosen in your life from now henceforth?" Then I said, "Yes. I've decided God has given me that charge for the mission, to reach out to these dear children."

For those years now, 28 years… I was 40 years old by then. I committed myself, and I know it's because of the Lord, by his love, by faith, and again through humility, from there to come down and to be with these kids, learn about them, especially those who are addicted to drugs even today. Over 12,000 children have gone through the program whereby we have been able to give them accommodation in our own place, given them food every day three times a day, education through our own system schools that I built there. Up to this day over 12,000-plus.

Todd: What Mully said is he didn't start an orphanage; he opened his home. First 1 kid, then 4 kids, then 12 kids. He has adopted 258 legally; 12,000 on his property where he built dorms, and his own kids got involved in the ministry to these children in his house. That became his business. Now we have doctors, engineers, and IT specialists all around the world who have come from Mully's family. Mully's goal is to die with no money and a big family, showing the heart of God to the orphan.

Now listen. I don't want you to adopt nine kids by the time you're 35 or have 12,000 by the time you're 68. God might, though. God wants it to start with just one. Mully, would you share with them Proverbs 19 and why you do what you do out of your heart for God? Mully is not here to get us to sponsor his kids. Mully has those kids. God gave him the ability to make wealth. There's an opportunity to get involved with that if you're so interested, but we're here to change our city the way Mully changed his. He's here as an illustration for you.

His movie is out this week in Dallas on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Go see his story. God decided to raise him up and not just encourage his town but now encourage the world. Look at what one man can do when he gets a glimpse of the heart of God and stops trying to make his Sodom and Gomorrah an increasing place of comfort. This is a servant of the King who is just here to tell you the greatest joy in his life has been his obedience and the next yes to Jesus. Tell them what Proverbs 19:17 says.

Charles: Thank you so much. One of the most important things in my life is to know that what I do and what we do back in Kenya, helping all these children in Africa, equipping them with technical skills as well as the Word of God is that whoever… In Proverbs, chapter 19, verse 17, it says that whoever helps the poor, whoever lends to the poor, he lends to God. Those who do that and who give themselves, then he, God, will reward them. He will reward them according to his riches in glory.

But how can you lend to God who owns everything, who owns even our lives? Nobody. It is just by grace, that even when you take one child, when you take two children, it's by the grace of God. It's not that you are doing great thing to God. Yes, it's part of it, but by the grace of God you can make a difference, and that's why I'm here.

I flew all the way from Detroit where I had gone for two days, and now I'm here. We came yesterday in the evening, and here we are, and we have been together with you. After a short while now we are flying to Los Angeles. We will fly again to Boston. We will go to Grand Rapids.

Todd: You're going many places because God wants many people to know what the heart of God looks like.

Charles: To encourage people.

Todd: Mully, you're an amazing example of this. I'm going to put the proverb up behind so everybody can see it. It says, "One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the Lord …" **Just lends him his life. Right?"…and[God]will repay him for[what he does]."** I can't wait to see, Mully, the way God continues to repay you. I'm glad he's elevating your story, and thank you for elevating for us what the heart of Christ looks like.

Charles: You are all most welcome. On October 3, 4, and 5, as Pastor has said, the Mully movie… Through mullymovie.com. Check anytime, and you'll be able to see any theaters that are located, over 800 theaters across this country, and you can bring a friend. You can bring your family, and you'll be blessed. Thank you so much, and God bless you.

Todd: This is Bruce Kendrick. Bruce is going to lead us in prayer, that we might be little Mullys and imitate Jesus as Mully has imitated Jesus. There are three websites: watermark.org/life (just let us know how we can equip you), compassion.com/watermark (or just go out there and get the kids), and mullymovie.com (Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday this week). What is your next yes? Let's pray.

Bruce Kendrick: God, we are awakened this morning, and our hearts are stirred and our minds are challenged. Our lives, our homes, our families, and the resources you have put in our possession are challenged to see how we might use them to glorify and honor you, and yet it is not enough for us to just be awakened and aware and be thoughtful. At some point, we must step into this game. So engage us, equip us, and encourage us. Help us support one another. Help us encourage one another.

Help us challenge the other churches here in Dallas, Collin, and Tarrant Counties, that we might raise them up, that we might hold your banner, that we might be a people who love the vulnerable, who love the fatherless, who practice pure and undefiled religion; Father, that we might be givers of our own homes and our own marriages and our own families so that those who do not have a family might have one. We ask these things in the able, powerful, and wonderful name of our majestic Lord Jesus Christ, amen.

Todd: God bless you guys. Go get your orphans in children's ministry, and have a great week of worship. We'll see you.