Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany” and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.”
Listen Now. We will now be including the daily reading of Epistle and Gospel with The Prayer Team.
Goal-Setting for 2018
And they devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Acts 2:42
Part Three—Reading of Scripture
And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. Acts 2:32
Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
Good morning Prayer Team!
The primary way by which we hear God’s voice is through the Scripture. I am continually amazed that in a world where things are continuously changing, God’s Word does not change. I have never read the Scriptures with the idea that they need to be overhauled.
Let us discuss quickly the set-up of the Bible. There are two parts to the Bible, the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament is primarily a history of God’s people—it includes the Creation and the Fall of mankind. These are told in a narrative that could be understood by a young child. The Book of Genesis also includes God’s covenant with Abraham, which sets up the Jews as God’s people. This is important because they were promised a Messiah who would deliver God’s people. Jesus would later teach that He came for ALL people, Jews and Gentiles, but from Genesis, there was a segment of the population who was living in expectation of a Messiah. God’s people thrived in Genesis, with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as forefathers and leaders.
In Exodus, God’s people were oppressed in Egypt, and then led out of Egypt by Moses. Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy are where the majority of the Mosaic/Jewish Law are written. And yes, these three books can be very laborious to read. Joshua, Judges, I and II Samuel, I and II Kings and I and II Chronicles are history books of how the people of Israel conquered the Land of Canaan, fought to keep it, and eventually were exiled away from it.
The book of Psalms can be offered as a book of prayers. Proverbs are nice prescriptions for daily living. Major prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel, and minor prophets like Micah and Joel, gave God’s people hope and encouragement in tough times, and also foretold of the coming of Christ.
In short, the Old Testament is about God’s promises. The New Testament is about the fulfillment of those promises.
The New Testament includes the Four Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—which tell of the earthly ministry of Christ. In these books are the miracles of the Incarnation and the Resurrection, the fulfillment of “Messianic signs” that were foretold in the Old Testament, as well as the teachings of Jesus Christ. The book of Acts is about the establishment of the early church. The Epistles of Paul, Peter, James and John are letters to the early churches which still apply to the churches of today. The early churches struggled with the same challenges we still struggle with today. The book of Revelation, which is not read in the services of the Orthodox Church, is the vision of St. John the Evangelist of the Apocalypse.
If you have never read the Bible, start by reading the four Gospels. You don’t have to read a chapter a day. You can read one story, or even a few verses. Next read the Epistles, because these are lessons from the early church that are still applicable today. Read the book of Psalms—many times on the Prayer Team I use a Psalm as the prayer. Because most of these Psalms are actually beautiful prayers. Then read Proverbs, because these are excellent pieces of advice for daily living. And after you’ve read all that, then you might try the rest of the Old Testament. I don’t recommend starting from Genesis if you’ve never read the Bible, because you will get discouraged when you try to get through Leviticus, the third book of the Bible.
There are several other ways to read the Bible. There is a list in the back of the Orthodox Study Bible for how to read the New Testament in one year. The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese has a “daily reading” app that you can put on your phone and get the readings prescribed for every day. You can randomly select Scripture passages from the New Testament. And there are other ways as well.
The point of today’s message is that it important to read the Bible. Most people’s experience of the Bible is whatever they hear read in church. The Bible is a critical way that we “feed” on God’s Word and ultimately on God’s grace. They say that knowledge is power. The more knowledge we have about something, the more powerful it is in our lives. The more knowledge we have about our faith, the more of God’s Word we partake of in Scripture, the more powerful force Christianity becomes in our lives, and the better we are able to in turn spread the Christian message.
Shine in our hearts loving Master, the pure light of Your divine knowledge and open the eyes of our minds to comprehend the message of Scripture. Instill in us also reverence for Your Holy Commandments, so that having conquered sinful desires, we may pursue a spiritual life, thinking and doing those things that are pleasing to You. For You, Christ our God, are the light of our souls and bodies and to You we send up glory, with Your Father who is from everlasting and Your all Holy, Good and life-giving Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen. (Prayer before reading Scripture, adapted from the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, Trans. by Holy Cross Press)
Set a goal to read something from Scripture every day in 2018!
With Roger Hunt providing today’s Daily Reading: Listen Now.
These readings are under copyright and is used by permission. All rights reserved. These works may not be further reproduced, in print or on other websites or in any other form, without the prior written authorization of the copyright holder: Reading © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA, Apolytikion of Abbot Marcellus © Narthex Press, Kontakion of Abbot Marcellus © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA.
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
Photo Credit: Read the Bible in a Year
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