A while back I started reading the New Testament. I have never read the whole bible, and I admit that the thought of reading the bible has not always thrilled me. I get so lost in the words I can't pronounce and names I can't remember that too often I find myself just putting it down altogether. But alas, here I am, plugging away.
The gospels were great. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John...piece of cake. Then I got to Acts. Oh boy was I confused. I would read the same paragraph over and over and not realize that I had already read it. I wouldn't remember what I read the night before. I found it downright boring and I struggled to get through. And once I did get through it I realized I took very little from it. But oh well, I thought, I'll just move on to Romans.
At the beginning of July our pastor introduced our church's newest challenge, 40 days of prayer. We would spend time praying separately and corporately, reflecting on the role prayer plays in our lives, and as Christians, try to understand what kind of prayer life God wants us to have. This all sounds great. I am totally in.
Then our pastor told us that we would be reading through a book of the bible, an essential book that discusses prayer deeply. "We will spend the next 40 days reading through the book of Acts," he said with a smile, as to ask "isn't that great everyone?" I on the other hand was not amused.
There have been so many times in my life where God is tricky. Really tricky. He sneaks things into your life when you least expect it but when you most need it. Maybe it's that song that comes on the radio, or the e-mail that pops up, or the person who calls at just the right time. Or maybe it's the pastor who gets you all excited to read a book of the bible, just to tell you it's the exact same book that you read last week and thought was boring.
So now I'm reading Acts again, and taking it slower. I'm journaling after each chapter and making sure I understand what the author is trying to teach me. I'm reflecting on it's meaning a bit more, and trying to let it sink in. And the re-reading over and over again of paragraphs has decreased significantly.
Here's a tidbit that I've taken away from Acts "take 2" that I thought I would share, but to set the stage, a little about me...I am an introvert and consider myself a relatively quiet person. I am usually the one that sticks to the back of the room and tends to listen rather than talk. Some call me reserved...I call myself reticent.
But you know what I think? I think God wants us to be extroverts when it comes to sharing His message. He wants us to sit in the front of the room, use our outside voices, and be the ones with our hands in the air wanting to talk.
There are so many examples in Acts where individuals were not just sitting quietly, being shy, and hoping to spread the word of God through osmosis. Instead they were raising their voices and addressing large crowds (2: 14), praying until the earth shook (4:31), teaching and proclaiming the good news (5:42), and "speaking boldly in the name of the Lord" (9:28).
When the apostles were jailed in chapter 5, an angel opened the door for them and instructed them to "tell the people the full message of this new life."
I am thankful that God opened my eyes to His word and led me back to Acts chapter 1 again. I'm excited to see what else He will reveal and to discover ways I can stand up and speak boldly in His name.