Reading the Bible is harder than you think, even with e-readers and the Holy Bible app. It’s just a whole lot easier to scroll mindlessly (and soullessly) through Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit which offer compact snippets of the world in the form of cat pictures, inspiring quotes, and political rants filled with grammatical atrocities. The Bible, on the other hand, is huge and daunting and sometimes extremely opaque and…you get the picture. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.
So I’ve been doing this with a couple of guys on Wednesday mornings for the last few months, and I recently started doing it as part of my own Bible study and prayer: I’ve started using the ACTS acronym to guide my reading and praying. As our church is currently in the middle of a series of Mark, I’m doing this with one chapter of Mark each day. Here’s what the acronym stands for:
Adoration–What does this passage in the Bible tell us about how we can adore Christ? In Mark 10, for example, we see that Jesus “said to [his disciples], ‘Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.'” In the next verse, Jesus says “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” We can adore Christ’s love and mercy because he bids us come to him as little children. And believe me, I have my moments when I am “like a child.” And not in a good way. Later in the chapter, Jesus heals Blind Bartimaeus. We can adore Him as one who heals us.
Confession–What do we need to confess? One of our pastors, Steven Castello, is fond of asking ‘how are you not believing the gospel?” with respect to essentially any problem, trial, or trouble. In Mark 10:17-31, Jesus tells the rich young man to sell everything he has and follow him, and in verses 35-45 James and John have asked to be placed at Jesus’ left and right hands, with Jesus saying in verse 45 that “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve.”
Where to begin on confession here? First, I think a lot of people misread the passage on the rich young man and focus on material possessions and charity rather than the larger issue, which is the fact that he let something stand in the way of following Jesus. Second, I see myself in both passages–as one who trusts in things other than Christ and as one who–though I would never say this–likes to be served rather than serve.
Thanksgiving–For what can we give thanks? Each bit of text in Mark 10, for example, turns us away from our own understanding, away from our reliance on our own works, righteousness, strength, whatever, and toward Christ as our redeemer, our judge, our hope, our everything.
Supplication–For what can we ask? As I write this I want my back to stop hurting as I strained it pretty badly while playing with the kids a few nights ago, but I think supplication is deeper than this. In Mark 10, I see and hear a call to pray for the strength to turn to Jesus when I want to rely on my riches, when I want to dissolve a friendship, or when I start thinking too highly of myself.
Reading the Bible and praying can feel pretty overwhelming. The ACTS acronym makes it a lot easier and a lot more accessible by providing a framework within which to meditate on relatively short passages. It has made a big difference for me, and I heartily recommend it.