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Lord, Scatter Us

March 23, 2011

I would like to share with you today a tale of two cities.  It is not just an interesting comparison but this should change or reinforce our worldview, our values, what we do and what we celebrate.

Every time I speak in another language or through an interpreter, I’m reminded of the first city

Immediately after the worldwide flood recorded in Genesis, God made it very clear to Noah and his family what they were to do.  In fact, it’s stated three times.

17 Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you—the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground—so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number on it.” Gen 8:17 (NIV)

1 Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. Gen 9:1 (NIV)

7 As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.” Gen 9:7 (NIV)

It was a reminder of God’s first command to the first man and woman:

28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Gen 1:28 (NIV)

Sounds like a simple enough command to follow, or does it?

Being fruitful and increasing in number meant having lots of kids and grandchildren.  But filling the earth meant that some would have to move away to new parts of the world maybe never to see them again.

God was telling them to scatter…

In Gen 11 and see how they did in carrying out God’s command.

1 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As people moved eastward,[a] they found a plain in Shinar[b] and settled there.

3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

5 But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. 6 The LORD said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

8 So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel[c]—because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth. Gen. 11:1-7 (NIV)

We don’t know the specifics concerning how the scattering happened but anthropologists will acknowledge that there are flood stories in the folklore of peoples all over the major continents.  Most of the stories are mere shadows of the true story recorded in the Bible since the story was passed down many generations orally and without a written record to preserve its accuracy.

Now let’s fast forward a few thousand years to a second city: Jerusalem

After Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection and immediately before He ascended into heaven, he told his disciples:

7 “…It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:7-8 (NIV)

God was about to scatter them for a different reason – to get the good news out.

Ten days later, God sent the Holy Spirit onto a bunch of Galilean disciples that spoke one language (Aramaic – similar to Hebrew) and instead of confusing their language, he gave them the supernatural ability to speak in the various languages of the Jews who had gathered in Jerusalem from many different parts of the world to worship God.

In Acts 2-7 we find them being fruitful, multiplying and increasing in number.

1 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing,… 7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith. Acts 6:1, 7 (NIV)

But we don’t see them being witnesses beyond Jerusalem yet, not until Acts 8.

On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison. 4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Acts 8:1b-4 (NIV)

In the New Testament, there are several things that were scattered:

1)    The disciples themselves – as in this case

2)    The word of God – it’s scattered or sown and there’s someone who gathers or reaps the harvest – people become followers/disciples of Christ

3)    Financial gifts to others:

6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Cor 9:6-7 (NIV)

We all like to gather, to reap the harvest.  We celebrate when our church body grows.

BUT before the harvest, there must be the scattering.

Let’s be honest.  We’d much rather gather than scatter, reap than sow.

1)    We’d much rather gather by welcoming new members to our church than to scatter by commissioning members to go elsewhere to spread God’s kingdom.

2)    We’d much rather gather by leading someone to believe in Christ than to scatter by initiating a conversation about the Lord.

3)    We’d much rather gather by receiving a check in the mail than to scatter by sending one out.

Why?

1)    Gathering often makes a name for ourselves.  Scattering makes a name for the Lord.

2)    Gathering brings security.  Scattering is risky business.

There will be both scattering and gathering but the act of scattering is an act of faith and obedience that makes certain that our heart is right when harvest time comes.

When we stand before God, our only Judge, I believe He will reward us not for…

1)    How many disciples our church has gathered but for how many disciples we have gathered and then sent/scattered.

2)    How large a building our church has built (seating capacity) but how we have spread His name and reputation (sending capacity).

3)    How many anniversaries our church has celebrated but for how many new ministries and churches we have reproduced.

As people, we celebrate our age, but do we not celebrate our children, grandchildren and great-grand-children even more.  As the Church, should we not do the same?

Join me in praying that God would continue scattering us until the whole world knows about the Lord.  Lord, scatter us wherever there is the need for more disciples and more churches.

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