Hey, friends. Several of you have asked for a post on verse mapping so I thought I would dig into that today.
What is Verse Mapping?
I found several definitions online, but I think this one is great –
Verse Mapping is a method of studying the Bible in a way that unpacks the scriptures using word origins, historical context, definitions, maps and prayer to help you find deeper meaning in God’s Word and apply it to your life. It’s similar to a mind map but helps you to dig deeper into the verse.
My definition is pretty basic. I think of verse mapping as a way to interact with scripture in order to gain new and deeper understanding of God’s word.
With just one Pinterest search on verse mapping you’ll find that there are tons of methods out there. But the truth is that there is no one right way to verse map. My methods vary based on which verse I am studying and what God is pointing me to on any given day. So before we get into the how-to of verse mapping, please know that this is a personal exercise between you and God. Your map doesn’t need to look like mine or anyone else’s. You do you!
Materials to Consider:
- paper or a notebook. I use either my Bible Journals or Scripture Writing Journals, but you can use whatever notebook or paper you have.
- pens, pencils, highlighters. 100% does not matter what you use, but I know y’all will ask, so here are my favorites –
- your Bible or a Bible app
- a dictionary
- a concordance – your Bible may have one (most Journaling Bibles don’t) or you can use an online versions. I like biblegateway.com, biblehub.com, biblestudytools.com, or blueletterbible.org.
- A variety of Bible translations – I like to do parallel searches on bible gateway.com to compare translations.
How to Get Started:
- PRAY. Always begin and end your study time with prayer. Ask God to be with you and open your eyes, ears and heart to receive what He has for you. Ask Him to reveal new truth to you as you study.
- Choose a verse. If you are in a Bible study you may want to pick a verse from what you are studying. If you are just starting out, I recommend choosing a Psalm. If you are struggling with a particular issue, you may want to choose a verse that focuses on that topic.
- Read the verse 2 or 3 times, preferably aloud.
- Write the verse. I like to leave space between lines for boxes, arrows, circles, etc.
- What to note: (You may not have room or time for all of these suggestions. Just go with what works for you.)
- I like to start with a who, what, when, where, why and how list. I may not be able to answer all of these at the beginning, but it helps focus my study and I usually add to them as I go.
- Read the verse again and note what words stand out to you. Also note the relationship between words. For example – in the phrase, “Salvation belongs to the Lord,” I would draw an arrow between salvation and Lord.
- After you have marked any key words, you may want to start making lists of meanings and applications of those words or topics. I like to take a word and see what word is used in different translations. You may also want to look up a definition to bring new light into the meaning.
- Make note of any commands given by God.
- Make note of any characteristics of God you see in the verse.
- What from this verse do you need to apply to your life?
- Make note of any questions you have.
The most important thing to do is just START. Don’t be concerned with what it looks like or following any rules, just dig in. As you continue mapping you will become more comfortable and eventually your very own system will emerge. Just start and He will meet you there.
Do you have a method you would like to share? Or questions about verse mapping? Drop a comment below and let us know!
Blessings to you,
Welcome Back to Journaling Through James, Week 2 (James 1:26-2:26)
Did it make anyone crazy that we didn’t finish out chapter 1 last week? The reason (in case you didn’t already figure it out) was that I really felt like Chapter 1:26 fit SO well with the themes found in Chapter 2, so I wanted to look at them together. Let’s dive in with this week’s overview, shall we?
1. It doesn’t matter how “good” a person you are, if you let your mouth run, unchecked, your religion is worthless. Words have weight and power. In the beginning was THE WORD. The entire world was created with WORDS (“Let there be…”) In the same way that words create, they can also destroy (lives, reputations, testimonies, relationships, credibility, etc.) Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. Instead of running our mouths, our time is better spent focusing on the needs of others.
2. Take care of the helpless (widows and orphans) and keep yourself unstained by the world. I think it is no coincidence that these commands come on the heels of James’ warning about the tongue. Instead of running our mouths, our time is better spend focusing on the needs of others. Choosing not to engage in idle prattle helps keep us from becoming “stained” by the world. The longer a contaminant is in contact with a fabric, the more deeply the stain sets in. Steeping ourselves in gossip/engaging in a bunch of argumentative conversation (yes, I’m talking to you, Facebook) is detrimental to our spirit—like wallowing in our flesh. There are plenty of better things to do. Love/help others. You will win over far more people for Christ serving than getting on your social media soapbox.
3. Don’t show favoritism. Again, James addresses a counter-cultural concept (that is still completely relevant today). God has chosen the POOR in the world to be RICH in faith and heirs of the kingdom. (He sent his own son to be born of an un-wed teenager in a stable. As an adult, Jesus traveled around like a nomad with no place to lay his head. He was looked down upon by the “religious” Pharisees) It’s like James is saying, “Wake up! Stop pandering to the rich—they’re the ones who oppress and look down on you. Don’t appeal to them. They have their reward here on earth—impressing them will have no eternal reward. Instead, love your neighbored and don’t show partiality.
4. Whoever keeps the while law but fails in one point becomes accountable for it all. If you sin (no matter how “small”) you are a sinner—thank GOD for grace and mercy! You must show mercy in order to receive mercy.
5. FAITH without WORKS is dead. Claiming faith=WORDS. Empty words=No Action. Truth faith will be accompanied by actions that validate it. In other words, practice what you preach! It’s not enough to do good works (without the presence of faith). Faith should be the driving force that motivates our good works. (NOT: People-pleasing, scholarship pursuits, guilt, bribery, or personal gain) God sees our motives. He knows our heart and He desires a heart that serves out of an overflow of thanksgiving, not one that is seeking recognition and personal reward.
We recognize God as the Supreme Being; our Maker and Creator, but if our faith stops there, are we any better than the demons? They don’t deny His power or existence. What separates us is who we choose to serve with/by our works!
James uses the example of Abraham being justified by his works when he offered up Isaac on the altar. This ACTION was an example of obedience to a specific, direct command from God, as well as evidence of Abraham’s willingness to withhold nothing from God. James also sites Rahab as an example of someone who was justified by her works (for hiding the Israelite spies and misdirecting the king). This was a representation of following God at the risk of personal injury or harm.
6. In order to obey God’s voice, we must be open to it/listen for it. Based on the examples given by James, we can ascertain that God’s instructions might sounds crazy, scary, impossible, unbearable, dangerous, or inconvenient, at best. However, all are opportunities to prove our faith genuine by how we respond. James concludes the chapter by comparing faith without works to a body without a soul. Faith without works leaves us as empty shells.
When I think of Jesus’ time on earth, I can’t help but think of how his faith was proven genuine time and time again by his works—the way in which he lived his life. The way in which he spent his time. The people with whom he chose to associate. James’ instructions in this chapter and the previous seem almost as though they were intentionally pattered after Jesus’ life!
What about you? Did anything jump off the page at you this week? Please feel free to join the conversation/post photos of your own journaling journey from this week in the comments below!
Welcome to Journaling Through James, Week 1!
I’m so excited you’re here with me as we study James 1:1-25! I love new beginnings, fresh, unwritten pages, and I LOVE seeing the living, active Word of God come alive each and every time I read it! James is one of my absolute favorite books of the Bible, and although I find myself coming back to it time and time again, God never fails to show me something new with each and every read! I pray that He will do the same for you, whether this is your first or fifty-first time to study James.
To set the stage, the book of James is actually a letter, thought by many scholars to have been written by James (the brother of Jesus, not the disciple). In the letter’s introduction, James addresses “the twelve tribes in the Dispersion” (v1). How interesting to read this letter on the heels of a time when the church has been scattered in a different way (Welcome to 2020= Quarantine/Home Church much?) Some believe that this letter was written sometime after the stoning of Stephen (recorded in Acts 7), when Saul was wreaking havoc on the church in Jerusalem, persecuting them so fiercely that they were caused to be scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:1). If this speculation of the timing of this letter is correct, it would make perfect sense that James would reference “the Dispersion” as well as for him to provide words of encouragement in the face of trials.
Keeping that in mind, this letter was not written specifically TO us, but it was still recorded FOR us.
Here’s a recap of James, Chapter 1:
- Consider it pure joy when (not IF) you face trials. Almost as if he anticipates the jaw-dropping reaction to this counter-intuitive suggested response to suffering, James assures his audience that the by-products of testing is cause for celebration.
- For those unsure of how to muster this illusive joy in the midst of difficulty, James offers this advice, “Ask God for wisdom!” Notice he doesn’t say to ask to be rescued from the fire. Instead, ask for understanding and a heart that is open to being taught though the trial. Ask, and do not doubt! God will not reward doubt—don’t expect an answer and you won’t get one.
- Remain steadfast under trial. It may not feel like you’re winning in the now, God has promised a crown of life for those who love him. (Even in the midst of the darkness when you’re tempted to feel forsaken and give up on Him. Stick it out like Job!)
- Listen up, pipe down, and chill out. The anger of man doesn’t produce the righteousness of God.
- It’s not enough to hear/study the Word. Live it out in your life.
I love the imagery we closed with in this week’s text. The Word is like a MIRROR that reveals what we SHOULD look like (as we mirror our lives after Christ). Let it reverberate in the way you intentionally go about your day. Like a mirror shows us our flaws so we can correct them (Think spinach in teeth), the Word convicts us, not just to make us aware, but so that we can right our course. It’s not enough to just look in the mirror (study the Word). Get the spinach out of your teeth! (Act on what it shows you).
I can’t wait to see/read what God shows you this week! Be sure you post your journal entries/share your thoughts in the comment section. I’m praying for your as you continue your study, and look forward to seeing you here next week! Blessings!
Esther Bible Study Week 10
Good morning and happy Wednesday! I can’t believe this is our last day in Esther. I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have. So let’s jump in.
- Esther 9:20-32 basically establishes the observation of Purim for the Jewish people. Mordecai sent out a letter to all 127 provinces obliging them to keep the 14th and 15th days Adar as days of fasting and gladness.
- We learn that the name Purim comes from the Persian word for the lots that Haman cast when determining the right day to slaughter the Jews. Btw, I found out I have been pronouncing it wrong for years – it’s /poo-REEM/.
- Did you notice any repeated words or phrases? The Jews were OBLIGATED (x3) to observe this celebration. This isn’t just a couple of days off of work – it’s an official Jewish holiday that the people accepted as their obligation to observe without fail. There are also 4 references to the obligation of teaching this tradition to their offspring and descendants. They took the business of tradition keeping very seriously.
- In verses 29-32 Esther and Mordecai send out a 2nd letter. This one established the fast that is observed the day before Purim (13th of Adar). This fast commemorates the 3 days of fasting in chapter 3 as Esther readied herself to plead with the king on behalf of her people.
- We finish with chapter 10 which tells us the king was very powerful and Mordecai was his very powerful second in command. Maybe the drunken king was powerful because Mordecai was his second in command? The final words about Mordecai are lovely – “he was great among the Jews and popular with the multitude of his brothers, for he sought the welfare of his people and spoke peace to all his people.” I love that this book which is so full of killing ends on a note of peace.
So, what did you learn? What did God reveal to you as you studied and prayed and journaled?
I was really struck by how much thought and emphasis was given to making sure this holiday of Purim would endure. Do you consider holidays an obligation? If I am honest, I have never thought about Easter this way but I think I will now. Remembering the sacrifice of Christ for me should be an obligation I take very seriously. And making Resurrection Rolls (if you haven’t tried these look them up- they are AMAZING) with my children is not just making memories with them, it is ensuring that they will keep these traditions and celebrations alive.
I hope this study of Esther has blessed you! Now get ready for James, because we’re jumping in next week! 🙂
The question I get asked most often about my Bible journaling is what color coding system I use. And the truth is that, for the most part, I just go with what makes sense to me at the time. However, in spending some time trying to come up with an answer to this question, I have realized that I have what might be a loose framework. So I’m gonna do my best to put it into words for you. 🙂
For me, determining how to use color in my Bible boils down to 2 questions:
1. How can I use color to make this passage easier to understand?
2. How can I use color to make it easier to find key concepts?
I don’t really have any hard and fast rules about what different colors mean. I tend to use purple for Jesus, but other than that it varies from book to book. (If you want a color coding system to use throughout your entire Bible head to Pinterest – you’ll find tons!)
Different types of Books:
When I am studying a book that has multiple characters and stories, the way Genesis, Ruth and Esther do, I will assign each major character a color. This helps me keep the characters and their words and actions straight. And when I come back to that passage to find verses it helps me locate information based on color.
In books like the Epistles (New Testament letters) I focus more on key concepts such as grace, forgiveness, love, etc. I will assign each concept a color and mark the passages accordingly.
Other things I make note of:
1. Locations and times
2. Repeated words or phrases
3. Transition words such as but and therefore
5. God’s promises
Ok, so let’s break it down and and look at Psalm 40 together.
- Pray! Before I tackle a passage I try to always start by asking God to clear my mind and give me the focus I need to understand His word. I ask Him to speak to me and allow me to hear His voice.
- Next, I will read the passage a few times just to make sure I understand what is going on. This will help me determine how I am going to highlight the passage.
- In Psalm 40, David talks about himself, God, people who are against him, and gives advice to believers so I will use color to differentiate between those 4 perspectives. I also notice the word deliverance is repeated 4 times and referenced in verse 2 so I will also use color to highlight that word.
- As I highlight and mark I also make note of what I learn about God and His character as well as things I need to be doing. I usually wright notes in the margins about these things.
- Now I am going to get on my soap box about commentaries and study Bibles for just a minute. When you are new to studying your Bible it can be very intimidating. The temptation is to turn to someone else and let them tell you what a verse or a passage means. The problem with that is that you are relying on their opinion and not on God. Give it time and allow God to speak to you before you look for the opinions of others. I definitely use commentaries and study Bibles but not until I have spent time with God and really wrestled with the passage myself. Ok, stepping down off of the soap box now. 🙂
And that’s about it! I think the biggest take away that I can give you is to trust yourself. Create a system that works for YOU! It’s great to get tips and ideas from other people, but in the end this is between you and God and His word. Be open to trial and error. If you try something and it doesn’t work, that’s ok! The MOST important thing is that you are diving into God’s word and discovering His truths for yourself. That is always time well spent!
You may also want to check out the guiding questions that I use when studying here.
Do you have a system for marking in your Bible? I would LOVE to hear about it!
Esther Bible Study Week 9
Good morning and Happy Wednesday! Let’s dive on into Esther 9:1-19:
- Today we see the Jews destroy their enemies, and I am not gonna lie, it’s always a little hard for me to read about them killing 75,000 men. Maybe because we only read details about Haman’s hatred and not about how they were treated by others – regardless, they clearly had the need to defend themselves.
- On the 13th day of the 12th month all of the Jews in Persia, both in the citadel of Susa and in the provinces, gained mastery over those who hated them.
- Did you wonder why Esther asked for an additional day for the people living in Susa? It is possible that on the 13th they were dealing with the haters in the royal district of Susa and they needed the 14th to deal with the rest of the city. So those in the provinces celebrated on the 14th day and those in Susa celebrated on the 15th day.
- Did you notice a repeated phrase throughout this chapter? Whenever something is repeated in scripture it means we need to pay attention. “But they laid no hands on the plunder,” is repeated 3 times – there must be a reason. And if they were so adamant about not taking plunder, why did Mordecai include that in the edict? I think he included it not because he wanted the Jews to plunder, but because that clause was in Haman’s original decree and Mordecai was reversing the entire thing.
- So, why didn’t they take the plunder that the king’s edict granted them? It goes back to the fact that Haman was an Agagite (Esther 3:1). In other words, Haman was a descendant of Agag, the king of the Amalekites (If you are not familiar with King Saul and the mistake he made with Agag head over to 1 Chronicles 15 and check it out). When God sent Saul to deal with the Amalekites He told him not to take the plunder and since they were not permitted to take plunder in God’s original decree neither did they take plunder now.
So, what did you think? What did God reveal to you as you journaled this week? Is there something God has told you to do that you’re ignoring as Saul did? I can’t wait to read your thoughts and see your journaling! #farmgirljournalsesther
Good morning and happy Wednesday! Here’s my summary of chapter 8:
- The king gives Esther and Mordecai Haman’s house as compensation.
- Esther speaks to the king and begins to plead and weep for her people. She begs King Ahasuerus to write an order to revoke Haman’s edict to destroy the Jews. Sounds like a totally reasonable solution to this whole mess, right? Well, not so much.
- The king tells Esther that no edict that is written in the King’s name and sealed with his ring can be revoked. Really? That doesn’t seem wise in a country where the king stays drunk most of the time. Kind of a recipe for disaster. But apparently, this was how things worked in most countries at this time.
- So the king tells Esther and Mordecai to simply write another edict in his name and take care of it. Clearly the king wasn’t up to doing it himself – he probably had more wine to drink.
- So all the scribes are called and Mordecai writes a new edict in the name of the king and sealed with his ring. It said that all Jews had the right to not only gather and defend themselves, but also to destroy, kill and annihilate any armed force who may attack them on the 13th day of Adar. They also had the right to plunder any who attacked them (this always gives me pause, but it was the way things were done at the time). The edict was written in every language of the provinces and taken by mounted couriers riding royal horses (from the royal stud!) and displayed for all of the people.
- Then Mordecai left the palace in super fancy robes and a golden crown and the city of Susa (not just the Jews, the whole city!) shouted and rejoiced. And the Jews had light, and gladness, and joy and honor. Every province had a feast and a holiday. And many people declared themselves Jews because they were not afraid of them.
What did you think? What stood out to you? Do you think the people who declared themselves Jews were actual converts or were they just claiming to be out of fear? I can’t wait to read your thoughts! #farmgirljournalsesther
Esther Bible Study Week 7
Happy Wednesday! Let’s jump in with the summary:
- This chapter opens with the king and Haman at Esther’s 2nd feast. As usual, the king and Haman are drinking and the king asks Esther again what he wish is.
- Esther replies that her wish is for the king to save her and her people because they have been sold into annihilation.
- The king is astonished! Who would do this? Esther responds, “A foe and enemy! This wicked Haman!” Whoa!
- Well, the king’s mind is clearly blown by this revelation. He is filled with wrath and goes out into the garden.
- When he returns he sees Haman falling on the couch where Esther is sitting. Not good. The king says, “Will he even assault the queen in my presence, in my own house?” (There is lots of speculation about what this means – was he attacking Esther? Trying to rape her? Or did he just fall as he is begging for his life. I am going with the fall theory.)
- “As the word left the mouth of the king, they covered Haman’s face.” Haman was at that moment a condemned man.
- A helpful servant pipes up to tell the king that conveniently enough, Haman built a huge gallows outside of his house when he was planning to murder Mordecai.
- The king says to hang him on that. And that was the end of Haman.
I don’t know about you, but when I am upset about something I have a hard time keeping it in. I am so impressed with how Esther patiently waited until the right time to tell the king what was happening. She was willing to wait for God’s perfect timing and it certainly paid off.
What are your thoughts? What stood out to you as you studied? I can’t wait to see your journaling and read what you learned this week! #farmgirljournalsesther
Esther Bible Study Week 6
Don’t you just love this chapter? The tide is beginning to turn for Haman. His life is becoming a comedy of errors.
- The night after Esther’s first feast the king was unable to sleep so he had the book of memorable deeds brought and read to him. They just happened to turn to the story of Mordecai saving the king (do you see God’s hand?).
- The king asked how Mordecai had been honored and was told that nothing had been done.
- The king called for Haman and asked, “What should be done to the man whom the king delights to honor?”
- Haman assumed the king could only be speaking of himself (what an ego!) and suggested: 1) robes that the king has worn, 2) a horse that the king had ridden and who wore a crown, 3) give these to one of the king’s most noble officials, 4) have him dress Mordecai, and 5) have him lead the horse through the city square, proclaiming: “Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor.”
- The king loved the suggestion and told Haman to hurry and do it all for Mordecai. And don’t leave out a thing!
- Haman had no choice but to do all of this for the man he hated. Can you imaging his face???
- After, Mordecai returned to the king’s gates, but Haman went home in mourning. When he told his wife and friends what had happened, even they saw the writing on the wall. The same people who had advised him the night before to build the huge gallows to hang Mordecai now saw that Haman’s hatred for this man would be his downfall.
- The chapter ends with Haman being hurried to Esther’s next feast.
Something that stood out to me this time was that Haman was very specific about wanting things that only the king would normally have. He wanted to wear the king’s clothes – surely that was unusual. Was he plotting a coup? Did the king notice?
What stood out to you? Did you see God moving behind the scenes? Are you enjoying Esther? I can’t wait to read your thoughts and see your journaling!