Day 266: September 23, 2013

Today's Reading(s)

Acts 11:19-30
19 Those who had been scattered as a result of the persecution that started because of Stephen made their way as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, speaking the message to no one except Jews. 20 But there were some of them, Cypriot and Cyrenian men, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Hellenists, proclaiming the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord. 22 Then the report about them was heard by the church that was at Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to travel as far as Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged all of them to remain true to the Lord with a firm resolve of the heart, 24 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And large numbers of people were added to the Lord. 25 Then he went to Tarsus to search for Saul, 26 and when he found him he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught large numbers. The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch.

27 In those days some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and predicted by the Spirit that there would be a severe famine throughout the Roman world. This took place during the time of Claudius. 29 So each of the disciples, according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brothers who lived in Judea. 30 They did this, sending it to the elders by means of Barnabas and Saul.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.

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Today's Reflection

Key Verse(s)

The Lord’s hand was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord.
—Acts 11:21

Real Living in a Fantasy World
by Mike Harland, Member of Brentwood Baptist Campus

Ever play in any of the fantasy sports leagues? Professional baseball, football, and hockey (and I’m sure there are more) all have online leagues.

A person picks a team of individual players from any of the teams in the professional ranks, and then they accumulate points using these players’ stats during the games they play. Those points are then compared to other teams in that particular league and a winner is declared.

The people I know who play fantasy sports (including my son) love it! The rest of us just wonder what’s going on with them and their fantasy competitive nature.

But it’s an interesting idea. What if you could pick your dream team at work or even your dream family at home? And as a church, what if, for any endeavor we attempt in ministry, we could pick the absolute best person to enable us to succeed in the effort?

Well, the truth is, we can.

After Stephen was martyred, God took the aftermath of that tragedy and turned it into the greatest expansion of the gospel up to that point in the early church. The disciples scattered and the truth scattered with them. And because their hearts were on fire with the truth of who Jesus is, God’s power went with them.

In this passage, Barnabas is lifted up as a specific example of what these people were like. He was a good man, the Bible says, and full of the Spirit. And he was willing to identify with believers wherever he went, in this case Antioch.

In verse 24 we’re told that “large numbers were added to the Lord.” Why was he, and the rest of them, so successful in this effort to expand God’s kingdom on earth, despite living in a season of intense persecution and difficulty?

Because of who they had on their team. Jesus was lending His hand—literally. And because He wins every time, the people who have His hand on their efforts always win too.

So, what do we learn from this? When our hearts and missions match the heart of Jesus and His mission, He puts His hand on the work. And when His hand is on the work, His work is accomplished.

Our focus then should be to know His mind and care about what He cares about. Because when we do, we have Jesus on our team—and when that is true, we cannot lose. And that’s no fantasy.

Reflection Questions

  1. Can you think of examples in our church when God’s hand rested on His people and His work flourished? Or times when the work faltered because of a misplaced focus? Describe those experiences.
  2. How can we know the mind of God so we are sure we care about what He cares about?
  3. Think of the “Barnabas” people you have known. What was unique about their service to the Lord?
  4. Verse 29 reminds us that everyone will not have the same part in God’s kingdom work. What do you believe is your part in our church’s mission effort?

About the Author

Mike Harland

Originally from Corinth, Mississippi, Mike grew up playing sports and his guitar, and writing and singing songs. After he graduated from Delta State University, where he majored in music and played baseball, Mike earned his Master of Church Music degree at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

For 25 years, Mike served in churches as a worship pastor across Mississippi and Texas. Along the way, songwriting became an important part of his life’s work. His songs have been recorded by Christian artists and arranged for church choirs. He has more than 200 published works that include a number of musicals and collections.

In 2005, LifeWay Christian Resources asked Mike to lead the development of music and worship materials for churches as Director of LifeWay Worship. In this role, he writes songs and articles, and he speaks about worship across the U.S. and around the world.

In 2008, Mike was the Editor of a new hymnal for Baptists. He also co-authored the book and Bible study Seven Words of Worship with Christian Music industry veteran Stan Moser. Later, in 2011, New Orleans Seminary awarded him the Distinguished Alumni Award.

Mike is married to Teresa and they live in Franklin, Tennessee with their youngest son John. They’ve been members of Brentwood Baptist since 2005.