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.”
The Journey to the Cross and Resurrection of Christ
All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. II Timothy 3: 16-17
Good morning Prayer Team!
One of the best acronyms I have heard for the word “BIBLE” is “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.” The Bible is the Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit, written down by people of God. What does that mean? The Bible was not written by God. It is a compilation of writings by multiple authors, who have been inspired by God to write about His work.
The Bible is divided into two parts, the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament is a collection of writings recounting the Creation and the Fall, the history of the Jewish people, Psalms, Proverbs and writings of prophets foretelling of the coming of a Messiah. The New Testament recounts in four Gospels, the life, ministry, Passion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Messiah come to redeem the world. The book of Acts recounts the establishment of the Christian church. The Epistles of St. Paul and others, are letters to the early churches, addressing both theology and practice of Christianity, which, when we read them, we realize that they still apply to our churches today.
There are several ways to read the Bible. One can read the Bible as a student, to learn the Christian faith. One can read the Bible for inspiration on how to live—it is a good book of moral principles. It is, however, much more than a guide to moral living. One must read the Bible as a love letter from God to His people, for it lays out the purpose of life, attaining of salvation and entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven, as well as the path for getting there.
Because the Bible was inspired by the Holy Spirit, those who read the Bible are also inspired by the Holy Spirit. I have read certain passages of the Bible dozens, if not hundreds of times—such as the accounts of the Nativity and the Resurrection, and popular parables like the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan. And I am continually amazed that even these very familiar parts of the Bible still speak in new ways to me. There are, of course, parts of the Bible that I am less familiar with, and when I read them, I am discovering constantly new things about life and faith and the path to salvation. In scripture, we hear God speaking to us.
There are historical accounts of how both the Old and New Testaments were put together. This reflection is not meant to be a historical commentary. Rather, the purpose of today’s reflection is to encourage you to read the Bible. At summer camp one year, we polled the campers about their experience of the Bible, and the overwhelming majority said that there experience of the Bible was limited to whatever they heard in church on Sundays. Miss a few Sundays of church and there is no Bible in your life. I would venture to say that this is true of many adults as well.
If you have never read the Bible, start by reading the Four Gospels, then the book of Acts, then the Epistles of St. Paul. Then go into the Old Testament and read Psalms and Proverbs (which we will be discussing in reflections this week). You can read the Bible from beginning to end. You can choose a book of the Bible and read that. I encourage you to read an “annotated” Bible, meaning, a Bible that has study notes on the bottom of each page, to help you better understand what you are reading. You can open any random page of the Bible and read it. You don’t have to read an entire book or chapter of the Bible—even meditating on one or two verses of scripture can benefit you greatly.
“Apps” like Bible Gateway are great for helping you find passages in the Bible. If I want to read about “love,” I type in “love” on Bible gateway and I can find every place where it is mentioned in the Bible. I try to start off email correspondence with Bible verses. This forces me to go into the Bible many times a day to look up passages to begin letters with. And so each “business letter” has a scripture component for both me and for the person receiving the letter.
The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America has something called “The Daily Readings,” which enables you to receive scripture readings each day via email to your phone. The church has selected readings for each day of the year. Whether you get “The Daily Readings” or open the Bible and read it in a planned way or a random one, the point is that we need to be reading scripture on a daily basis. It is the best way to “hear” God speaking to us. It’s His love letter to us. It’s basic instructions before leaving earth, and it is the roadmap to salvation.
Who takes a trip without a map? We don’t. We may have the map on the phone now rather than a book in the car, but the fact is no one makes an important journey without a guide. The most important journey we take in life is our journey to salvation. The Bible is the map. Without it, we can‘t make the journey. With it, the journey becomes more successful.
Shine within our hearts, Loving Master, the pure light of Your divine knowledge, and open the eyes of our minds that we may comprehend the message of Your Gospel. Instill in us also reverence for Your blessed commandments, so that having conquered all sinful desires, we may pursue a spiritual life, thinking and doing all those things that are pleasing to You. For You, Christ our God, are the light of our souls and bodies, and to You we give glory, together with Your Father who is without beginning and Your all holy, good and life giving Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen. (Prayer before Scripture Reading, from the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, Trans. by Holy Cross Seminary Press)
Read the Bible today!
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