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WAYS: Guidance for life from the Old Testament

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

Two 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

Proverbs 3:5-6 was the most frequently cited by those who chose an Old Testament passage, closely followed by Micah 6:8 and Psalm 46:10.

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

“But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15b, NRSV). My mother and grandfather lived this verse, making sure my sister and I were firm and knowledgeable in our faith at an early age. I have continued living by this verse and have impressed this greatly on my son, now 28. I am proud to see my faith, and the faith of my mother and grandfather, live on in him. Jean Hall Dwyer, Lakewood UMC, Huntsville, Alabama

Joshua 24:15b (NRSV): “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” This Scripture has always been a favorite and one that my wife and I have tried to live out from the time our children – now 52 and 49 – were small. Our son is a minister of music in Chicago, and our daughter is a pastor serving a small, rural UMC church and running an equine counseling ministry. They are living out this Scripture. John W. Sherer, Faith Community UMC, Xenia, Ohio

2 Chronicles 7:14. Living in today’s secular world and striving to follow Christ’s teachings is a challenging task. We are called to a lifestyle of high standard – to be humble and intentionally to focus our prayer life on him, putting away pride, yielding and allowing him first place in our hearts. Our land desperately needs healing, and this Scripture serves as our guide that the world may know Christ. We must be the example. Jane Finley, First UMC, Toccoa, Georgia

The Scripture that most guides my life is the 23rd Psalm. When I am stressed, I recite it and find myself taking a deep breath about the third verse: “God restores my soul. God leads me in paths of righteousness for God’s name’s sake.” It always calms me. Pat Slater, Clarence (Iowa) UMC

Psalm 34:13-14. When younger, I would have chosen a verse of encouragement and written from a personal, individual perspective. Now, moving toward retirement and concerned for the future of my grandchildren and about the desperate rush of institutional church toward every new strategic fad promising growth or survival, Psalm 34 leaps off the page. These words offer a moral compass that would help transform the world from the inside of both individual and the church to the outside. Rina Terry, Cape May (New Jersey) UMC

My guiding Scripture, for decades, has been Psalm 46:10a, NRSV: “Be still, and know I am God.” If we want to find God’s guidance, it does not come in activity or letting our own minds whirl in circles. It comes in stopping. In listening. What Scriptures have resonated with me this day? What opportunities to serve have shown themselves today? Where is God working? Where is he saying “not now”? Tom Atkins, Rupert (Vermont) UMC

My Scripture is Psalm 46:10a, NRSV: “Be still, and know that I am God!” This reminds me that God is in control. Grace Leighton, First UMC, Canoga Park, California

The Scripture verse that guides my life is “Be still, and know that I am God!” (Psalm 46:10a, NRSV). I use it as a breath prayer to get me to slow down, be quiet and stay grounded. It reminds me to quit talking and just listen for God's voice. It really changes my attitude and outlook. And I feel his holy presence! Lonni Harrison, UMC of the Pines, Minocqua, Wisconsin

When times become difficult and seem beyond my control and I hang my head in frustration or sorrow, I recall Psalm 121. It assures me of continued protection, victory over evil and steadfast support and keeps me looking up and forward instead of down and backward. Marlin Blackburn, Sugar Hill (Georgia) UMC

Proverbs 3:5, NRSV: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.” When things are their darkest, I turn to this passage. As I learn to trust God, I know he will lead me where I am to go. The way may not be the path I would choose, but trusting that God knows what is best and understands all things gives me peace. For this, I give him praise and glory. The Rev. Helen Dayle Badman, Morrisonville (Illinois) UMC

Proverbs 3:5-6, NRSV: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Anything and anyone can fail, but the Lord never fails. He will light the way. He will lead, even through the valley of the shadow of death. We cannot hide from his presence. Where he leads, he provides. The Rev. Sherry Judy, First United Methodist Church, Pascagoula, Mississippi

Proverbs 3:5-6: ”Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” My life verse serves as a guide to living. If I trust God, I will stay on the path I should be. No need to worry since God's path is straight and right for me. I thank God. Debra Bostron, St. James UMC, West Friendship, Maryland

When I left home for college, my mother gave me Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not unto your own understanding. In all ways acknowledge him and he shall direct your paths.” This verse reminded me to look to God and believe he would always lead me.  No matter how much knowledge I was gaining in college, I should trust in God alone, not my education. Marilyn Wilt, Lima UMC, Media, Pennsylvania

I have two life verses I personalized so they speak directly to me. One is Proverbs 3:5-6: “I will trust you, Lord, with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding. In all my ways, I will acknowledge you, and you will guide my path.” The other is Jeremiah 29:11-13Kathy O'Dell, First UMC, Greenville, Ohio

Through my life, I have leaned on Proverbs 23 many times. It contains so much wisdom on how a man ought to live. I wish I had read it in earlier days. Aside from that, I love the James epistle. It's where religion meets life head on. Alfred Campbell, First UMC, Cape May Court House, New Jersey

Isaiah 6:8, NRSV: “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I: send me!” No real need to explain or try to understand. The service to the Lord is understood; yet, maybe, it’s not always so easy. Ray Asay, Aurora (Missouri) UMC

Isaiah 49:16: “See, I have engraved your name on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.”  To me, it is a powerful visual image – my name engraved on the palms of God’s hands!  What more secure place could I rest than in God’s hands, knowing that he carries me with him, every minute of every day. These words have comforted and sustained me through dark times in my life, and bring me great joy and thanksgiving in daily living. Claire G. Phillips, First UMC, Deming, New Mexico

Jeremiah 29:11: “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster to give you a future and a hope.’” A friend gave me this Scripture during a difficult time in my life. This is a powerful verse and pulled me through during the difficult years. I believe it saved my life. It is my “go-to” verse and never fails to make me feel better!  Debra Higdon, Carteret Street UMC, Beaufort, South Carolina

Micah 6:8. As I look around, I see so many blessings I did nothing to deserve. I am grateful to be able to share in God's goodness to me. I try to treat people justly when they fail, when they strike out against God's laws. They, too, have their story. I can listen to it and be merciful, forgiving, helpful and generous. If I become humble, and ask God for help, I can bless others in many ways. Janet M. Knutson, New Richmond (Wiconsin) UMC

My guiding passage is Micah 6:8. I want my life to be a life of justice, acting with justice and fighting for justice for others; a life of mercy, acting with love, compassion and forgiveness for myself and others; and a life of humbly walking with my God, living in God's presence and knowing everything that I am is because of God, to whom be the glory. Barbara C. Miller, UMC at Newfoundland, New Jersey

Micah 6:8b, NRSV: “And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” The challenge is that the call to action is not simply a rejection of injustice, cruelty and idolatry, but also a rejection of the apathy, alienation and isolation inherent in inaction. In its rigor and simplicity, and as an image of the kingdom of God, it is both beautiful and daunting. Justin Travis, Grace UMC, Naperville, Illinois

So many Scriptures guide my life, but primary among them are Micah 6:8 and Luke 4:18. These passages shape the direction of ministry and form for me the directions from God of how each of us should be in community with the rest of our world. They teach that in both the Old and the New Testaments, God is deeply concerned about justice and mercy and how we as God's children interact with each other. The Rev. Doug Mackey, U.M. Churches of Syracuse, New York


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