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WAYS: Guidance for life from the New Testament

In February 2015, close to 200 Interpreter readers responded to the question “What Scripture guides your life – and why?”

Three identified the entire Bible as their source of guidance:

I have committed to reading through the Bible yearly. What I have learned is that through the Holy Spirit and my dedication to the Scripture reading, I am touched. If I'm not in the Word, I am missing an opportunity to be in connection with Christ. Christ doesn't email or text me because he doesn't need to. He gave us the words, captured in the Scriptures to guide my day. Mark Queen, First UMC, Manhattan, Kansas

The whole Bible is a life guide! Esther Mannhardt, Holbrook UMC, Livingston, Montana

All Scripture guides my life, but no single verse, chapter or book. Hebrews 4:12 (NRSV) states, “The Word of God is living and active.” I also am living and active, but should you dissect me into pieces, the life would drain from me. So, too, with Scripture. As a unit, it’s all good and useful for human life, from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21. We don't get to pick and choose pieces. Dave Ring III, St. John’s UMC, Albuquerque, New Mexico

The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-11) was the passage most frequently cited by those choosing a New Testament section, closely followed by Matthew 25:31-46, Romans 8:31-39, Romans 12-1-2 and Ephesians 4:32.

Read through our readers’ selections – and reasons for choosing them. Then add yours in the comments section at the bottom.

The complete Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-11) are my guide. They encompass all I do in my work and life. As a grief facilitator, I face the challenge of helping people through their loss to find a new life. The Beatitudes remind me to stay humble and remember it is God who is able to bring them peace and comfort. I am merely a channel. Judith Kidder, First UMC, East Liverpool, Ohio

The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-11). Jesus taught that humility is neither meek nor weak but bold and not arrogant. The Scripture recognizes the need for God and that he calls us to his kingdom. The commentary of the Faith in Action Study Bible says, “The characteristics of the Beatitudes … are byproducts of a life energized by the Spirit.” God calls me to cooperate with the Holy Spirit to be a disciple for Christ. Heather Ashfield, Broadway UMC, Salem, New Jersey

My name, Aurora, means “morning light”! Matthew 5:16 is my verse. Good News Bible says, “In the same way, your light must shine before people, so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven.” When I was 10, this verse struck my heart. My soul embraced it! It has become my motto for spiritual living. We need light for our path to Christ to help the world of darkness find paths of righteousness. Let there be light! Aurora Piedad-Garcia, First Filipino-American UMC of San Gabriel Valley, Hacienda Heights, California

The Ten Commandments from the Old Testament (Exodus 20) and the Sermon on the Mount from the New Testament (Matthew 5-7) pretty well sum it up for me! Marilyn Ericson, Trinity UMC, Salina, Kansas

Matthew 6:33: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” This lets us know what we need to do to be successful – maybe not success by the world’s standard but by God’s standard. If we order our lives correctly and “act out” our faith, God will provide. Seeking is active, and putting God first tells us how we should order our lives. By God’s grace, through Jesus Christ, we are reconciled. Neel Hollis, Woodland UMC, Rock Hill, South Carolina

The questions in Matthew 21:23-27 confirms the irrefutable, logical truth of Jesus: “John the Baptist, was he from men or from God?” The priest’s answer confirmed their disbelief and ignorance. Living water guides me to truth. We can see the reflection of God in the New Testament and Jesus in the Old Testament. Wells of salvation and living water reflect God and Jesus Christ in each other, thus confirming their identities. They are who they say they are. Roger Kingsley, Ellis (Kansas) UMC

Matthew 22:36-40 and 1 Corinthians 13. The first Scripture provides Jesus’ succinct reply: Love God, and love your neighbor. The second Scripture elaborates, describing the nature of love. If I remember just those two things – and put them into practice – then all of my other problems become insignificant. Bill Bell, Ortega UMC, Jacksonville, Florida

My favorite “go-to” Scripture is Matthew 25:31-46, especially verses 31-40. Why? This is what Jesus did to transform people's lives as he equipped them to become his disciples. The most Christ-like action we can take is to practice what he did on a daily basis. Less judging, more loving. The Rev. George W. Buell, Aldersgate UMC, Starkville, Mississippi

Matthew 25:35-40. Hearing these words from Jesus is a reminder that God truly loves each of us, and it pleases God when I use my gifts and talents to help others. The most important commandments are to love God and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. This Scripture reminds me of my priorities if I claim to follow Christ. Terri Hunt, Mahomet (Illinois) UMC

The Scripture that guides my life is the Great Commandment as found in Mark 12. In Mark, Jesus adds “with all your strength.” If we live this commandment, everything we think, say and do is centered on God and God’s love. I pray this prayer every day with a body prayer to consecrate my day and all I do. I often fall short but renew my intention daily. The Rev. C. Karen Covey Moore, retired (charge conference, Aldersgate UMC, Wilmington, Delaware)

My life changed in 2001 when my wife and I were able to conceive a child after more than three years of struggles with infertility. During those three years, we relied on Scripture from Luke 1:37, NRSV: “For nothing will be impossible with God.” We trusted in his timing, and on July 19, 2002, we were blessed with our first and only son, Luke. That verse continues to guide my family's lives today and forever. David J. Partsch, First UMC, Nebraska City, Nebraska

Mary’s words in Luke 1:47a, NRSV: “My soul magnifies the Lord.” I try to remember that I am/have a soul through no action of my own. Its only use is to commune with God. Robin Burkhardt, Central Valley (New York) UMC

Although I have several favorites, the main Scripture I use for guidance is Luke 6:41-42. Always reminding myself that I need to repent of my own very large sins, before I even consider someone else’s (which I also do not know how hard they tried not to commit) makes me thankful every day for God's love, grace and forgiveness toward me and everyone else. The Rev. Michael Redmond, UMCs of Bangs and Santa Anna, Texas

Luke 10:27 and Matthew 28:19-20 guide my life because they are the core of not only our religious selves, but also who we are as children of the living God. If we love with God’s love and share it with the world around us, then, plain and simple, we will do all the things Jesus taught us to do, fulfilling the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. The Rev. Ted Fine, Delhi (Louisiana) UMC

Luke 16:13: “No servant has the power to slave for two masters. … You cannot serve [both] God and mammon.” Our culture sacrifices people on the altar of wealth every day. We seek prognostications from the oracles of the market. We put our faith in money to save us from an uncertain future. I struggle with the idol of mammon in my life every minute of every day. The Rev. David King, Asbury Our Redeemer Partnership (UMC, ELCA), Hood River, Oregon

John 9. This story would play out today just as it did then. It reminds me the people of the time weren’t bumpkins. Though we tend to laugh at them in biblical stories as if they just didn’t “get it,” most contemporary Christians would fall into the same behaviors. It reminds me to keep an open mind and to stay sharp. When Jesus walks among us, many (most?) won’t recognize him. Dan Thaxton, New Lebanon (Ohio) UMC

My mission statement as a pastor comes from John 10:3-5. I strive to be that gatekeeper by assisting the Shepherd in protecting and nurturing the sheep, but my primary role is to help the sheep learn to know the Shepherd’s voice and follow him. I as gatekeeper will not open the gate to the sheep for anyone but the Shepherd, meaning I must know the Shepherd and follow his voice as well. The Rev. Sarah Fotopulos, Aldersgate UMC, Nixa, Missouri

John 15:5 NIV: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” This verse reminds me to keep God in my life. As a young adult, I walked away from God. After marriage and the birth of my children, the Holy Spirit nudged me, reminding me that I was a child of God and I needed to ensure my children's spiritual growth. The Holy Spirit, through my children, brought me back to God. Deb Garvin, Woodlawn UMC, Panama City Beach, Florida

Three Scriptures guide my life: Amos 5:21-24, Matthew 6:25-31 and John 20:15-17. They remind me that instead of worrying about my own needs, I should care for others. Instead of giving “gifts” to God that make me feel good, I need to go out and do things for others, to work to bring real peace and justice to this earth. If I live by these Scriptures, I will be the hands and feet of Christ, working to make life on earth as it is in heaven. Nancy Bockelie, Christ UMC, Salt Lake City, Utah

Acts 1:8, NRSV: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses … to the ends of the earth.” This is a constant reminder that we live outside the walls of our churches and we might be the only gospel some folks will see. Arlie Persell, New Hope UMC, Topeka, Kansas

The revelation Peter shares in Acts 10:28b (NRSV) keeps rising to the surface: “God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.” In every facet of my ministry and life, in every person I encounter, in all discourse with people who may think differently, on all issues of exclusion in the church, this verse should guide me. God does not make people profane or unclean; our attitudes and judgments do. The Rev. Kirt E. Moelling, St. Stephen’s UMC, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma

Romans 8:31-39. As a high school athlete who had accepted Christ as my Savior, I struggled with the whole locker room atmosphere of peer pressure. I was a professing Christian, and my teammates weren’t. These verses helped me to understand that because I believed and trusted in God, who could be against me? Jesus intercedes for me because “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Those words sealed those verses in my heart, soul and mind. Lisa L. Simon, Fairhope (Alabama) UMC

Romans 8:35-39. I live with a chronic, disabling condition. This life has been the immediate filter of my understanding of God. This experience has often been one of rejection and exclusion (at various times and places; intentional, institutional, architectural or unthinking). My choice of this passage, which I understand as a statement of God's love and presence as limitless, unbounded, and wholly inclusive, is the result of this. Tim Vermande, St. Luke’s – The Garden UMC, Indianapolis, Indiana

Romans 12:1-2, The Message: “So here's what I want you to do, God helping you. Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering.” It is the everyday kindnesses, gestures and actions of all kinds that matter. Most of us will never have a momentary, extraordinary ministry, but we can use our everyday, ordinary lives to let others know God loves them. Cindy Whitaker, Glendale UMC, Savage, Minnesota 

Romans 12:2 guides my life. It calls us to active faith in community. The “your” is plural, and “minds” refers to our whole selves. For me, it captures and communicates the essence of other essential texts: “Seek first” (Matthew 6:33), “Be still” (Psalm 46:10), “Love God and your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31) and “seek justice, love kindness, walk humbly” (Micah 6:8). It promises to produce the “fruit that will last” of John 15:16. Barbara A. Dick, Wellspring UMC, Madison, Wisconsin

For years, my "go-to verse" has been 2 Corinthians 10:4b-5, "We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” This verse gives me peace and motivation to draw closer to Christ. With all the myriad problems and concerns discussed today, I grieve that there is virtually no mention of seeking answers in Scripture and then admonishing followers to obey God. Dan Smithwick, First UMC, Winter Garden, Florida

1 Corinthians 10:13 has been my ally since high school. Through all those early temptations, 1 Corinthians 10:13 was my strength to say “no.” Throughout life, so many times, the world seemed too hard to handle – illnesses, misbehaving teenagers, financial woes, family troubles, deaths of two sons. Here I am at 70, still with earthly troubles and some days bemoaning the trials, until that inner voice of the Holy Spirit reminds me, “God will not give you more than you can handle.” Lori Chrestman, Rocky Point UMC, Wilburton, Oklahoma

I have several I keep in my “Holy Spirit toolbox.” One I use frequently because it keeps me looking for how God is working is 1 Corinthians 12:18, NRSV: “But, as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.” When new people come to church, I look for how they will use their gifts. The Rev. Robert “Bob” Bailey, Warrington UMC, Pensacola, Florida

I began to stutter as a child in elementary school, which tormented me greatly. I prayed to God to take this from me. I came across Paul's writing in 2 Corinthians 12:7b-10 about the “thorn” in his flesh and God’s answer, “My grace is sufficient for you.” These verses encourage me to have a heart for others whose weaknesses or “thorns” threaten to become a debilitating force in their lives and cause them to think their weakness disqualifies them from doing great things for Christ. The Rev. Doug Williams, Aldersgate UMC, Rockford, Illinois

Galatians 2:19b-20, NRSV: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.” I need this verse because I need constantly to be reminded that it is not about me; it is about Christ and others. When I live the crucified life, I find that I live a happy and contented life. The Rev. Kevin D. Barron, Farm Hill UMC, Osceola, Arkansas

The Scripture I use is Galatians 6:9: “Let us not become weary in doing good things, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Mike Riley, First UMC, Pell City, Alabama

Ephesians 4:32. KJV: “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.” Without forgiveness, stress and hate reside in my heart. I could not be at peace without forgiving. If I do not forgive, I cannot expect to be forgiven. Robert Lowell, Freeland (Michigan) UMC

I try to live by Ephesians 4:32, NIV. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” This Scripture says it all. We need Christ, we need to forgive one another and we need to think of the love our heavenly Father has for us. Barbara Beck, First UMC, Liberty, North Carolina

Philippians 4:4, NRSV: "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” Life is not full of things over which I can rejoice. There are things that make me anxious, scared or troubled. Paul was not surrounded by all good stuff. He was in prison when he was writing this book to the Philippians, but he urged believers to rejoice and rejoice again. I try to practice this lesson.  Seonwoong Hwang, Nashville Korean UMC, Nashville, Tennessee

Philippians 4:8-9: “Whatever is true, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things. Whatever you had learned or received or heard from me or seen in me, put into practice and the God of peace will be with you.” This sums up the God-inspired life I should strive to live, based on God’s message. Donna Lam, Collister UMC, Boise, Idaho

Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me.” When our son learned he would deploy to Iraq, we were at Ichthus, a Christian rock concert. Our son purchased a bracelet with that verse and gave it to me. I put the bracelet on and never took it off until he returned safe. The verse continues to be my reminder that I can make it through anything with Christ. Nora Holtsclaw, Thoburn UMC, St. Clairsville, Ohio

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17. I wake in the morning, knowing Jesus, God and the Spirit are ready to greet me with the perfect day ahead. A grace filled day when I make mistakes. A heavenly day with them by my side encouraging me forever! A hopeful day. An uplifting day, where my heart beats in God’s timing. A strong day to complete good deeds. A day where my words are encouraging to others. Lisa Ellcessor, The Compass Church, Selma (Indiana) Campus

One of my two favorite Scriptures is 1 John 4:7-8. I try to live my life guided by God’s gift of love. How can I feel harshly toward anyone when I look at him or her with love as the filter? I often feel the love of God when I deal with a stranger and find I can look at him or her as a child of God and not someone with whom I have nothing in common. Polly Clark, John Wesley UMC, Charleston, South Carolina

1 John 5:11-14: “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (verses 11-12). For 37 years, the assurance of eternal life in glory with God has been mine since Jesus came into my heart, by grace, through my faith in the Son of God. The Rev. Torger P. Johnson, Cross Roads Community Church, Spicer, Minnesota

Revelation 21. In the new Jerusalem, God makes us new and lives among his people. There will be no more pain or suffering, death or sorrow; every tear will be wiped away. The journey to and with Christ is the key to the kingdom of heaven. Christ will return when we have completed the part of the plan he has for us. Janet Davis, First UMC, West Point, Georgia

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