Sacred Scripture comforts in our sorrows, soothes the aches and pains of this valley of tears that we walk through, and finally, fills and sustains our souls as bread does for the body. Through reading and meditating, we receive new mercies, applicable to our need, and we are nourished.
Last year, I accomplished my resolution to read through the entire Bible (including the Deuterocanonical books of the Catholic Bible). Also last year, I began collecting different ways to study and memorize Scripture. I found several new (to me) Bible study methods that I’ll share with you, learning as I go…the first is called verse mapping.
Verse mapping is defined by Kristy Cambron as “a method of studying the historical context, transliteration,translation,connotation, and theological framework of a verse in the Bible. Plain and simple? Verse mapping is getting real about studying the Bible. All of it. It’s not just reading. It’s researching everything you can in a verse to learn more about Who God is, and how He wants to speak to you through His Word. In short? It’s serious study.” This is the best definition I have found to explain the scribbles, bubbles, and lines that make up the pages of my Bible journal.
She has a wonderful post that explains very well the basics of verse mapping, and even offers a worksheet for beginners to use. I have taken her approach along with some other methods and styles I have seen in online communities, and am in the process of tweaking it all together to make it mine…that is the cool thing about verse mapping, there doesn’t appear to be one correct way to do it, but can be custom fitted to your own personality, preferences and time availability.
This year, I haven’t made a resolution yet. But I am drawn to journaling and Bible study, and am happy to share my process, with the knowledge that it is a process, and apt to change at any time. This is what mine looks like right now:
1. Choose a verse. I like using a verse from one of the passages in the daily readings of the Catholic Church. I love how those verses-even though they were selected hundreds of years ago-are so often relevant to my life, speaking specifically to an area that needs affirmation, consolation, or correction. I write this verse out in black ink in either the middle of the page or at the top…depending on how I’m feeling at the time. I read it over a couple or three times, changing the focus and inflection of the words, really mull it over…there are always words that stand out. I Highlight those, more on that later.
2. Read it in different translations. This is a personal preference, and I typically choose only approved Catholic translations. My go-to versions are: the New American Bible Revised Edition, New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition, and Douay-Rheims. I occasionally use the New International Version, or the Message…mostly out of curiosity, but occasionally, I will like the way it is worded and add it to my notes. I still find myself quoting from the King James Version that I memorized as a child, so there is that. For a fun exercise after you are finished, read the passage in the Amplified version of the Bible, and see how many of your thoughts overlap with the translation there.
3. Look at related verses, Catechism, and commentaries. I draw a light green squiggly line under words or phrases that I want to cross reference, then I record those verses or citations in green with an arrow connecting them. Sometimes I box them in, other times, I fill in areas between boxes with this kind of info…none of my pages ever look the same, that is why I feel constrained by a worksheet, as much as I want to use and love it, I haven’t found one that fits my style yet, so mine are mostly freestyle for now.
Years ago, my husband invested in the Logos Bible software and has an extensive digital library that can be hyper-linked to Scripture, commentaries, and dictionaries. A few years ago, he was ecstatic to find that they offer a Catholic version of this called Verbum. Of course we upgraded to that, and have been blessed to add to our library with Catholic sources. The hyper links make quick work of cross referencing, looking up definitions, and toggling between translations. I love the hyperlink from Scripture to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I want to make sure I am understanding Scripture in the original way it was intended to be understood, and in agreement with the Magisterium’s translation and interpretation of Sacred Scripture.
If you can afford to invest in this awesome resource, I highly recommend it. If not, there are free versions of Bible software available online. I have had good success with Bible Gateway (I use the desktop version online because the last time I checked, the app did not have the Catholic versions of Scripture available) and Bible Hub. I record the differences in translations on my map…note the translation in initials, and draw a red box around it. The Catechism of the Catholic Church can be found online here, as well as in the Laudate app. I use all of these in the course of my studies, are we not so blessed to have the myriad of resources available today for studying and applying God’s Word to our hearts and lives?
4. Define and/or clarify key words. Those words in #1 that I highlighted…sometimes looking up the definition and or Hebrew/Greek word it was translated from can be so enlightening to the message of the verse. I use a tan/brown pen for this step, sometimes I box it in. Verbum has links to the Greek and Hebrew, and will also shed more light on the original meaning of the verse.
I also like to add the dictionary definition and list synonyms for the word. I typically use dictionary.com and thesaurus.com for this and write it in blue. I will upload a picture of my latest entry so you can see how it all comes together.
5. Sometimes I will have thoughts that I want to record…I do this in my favorite purple color…you can see this on today’s map that I am sharing here.
This is one of three techniques I use for my journaling Bible verses. The other two will be in separate posts…later. What do you think? Do you map out verses or journal them in some way? I find it a good exercise for hiding God’s Word in my heart, and processing it out loud, so to speak, for later use. I’d love to see your maps, thoughts, or entries.
I want my spiritual nourishment to be just as important as my physical. What if, every time I was bored, instead of snacking on food, I was grazing in the Word of God? How would it be to hunger and thirst for spiritual communion as I do for breakfast…or my first cup of coffee? What would my prayer life look like if it was as routinely anticipated and prepared as my caffeine intake? Do I ever skip morning coffee? Not without serious consequences. Why don’t I see the spiritual consequences of skipping my prayer, devotion and Bible reading with the same attitude?
Lord, do you hear my words? Are you paying attention to my sighing? In the quiet hours of the morning, I am begging you, my King and my God, to acknowledge the sound of my cries when I plead my case to you. I continue to wait expectantly for your answer.
I know that you are not a God who tolerates unrighteousness, and the evil one cannot live and walk with you. You hate all evildoers, and the boastful cannot stand in your sight, neither those who are dishonest, deceitful or those who are bent on destruction.
But because of your steadfast love, I am welcomed into your house, and in awe of you, I bow down toward your holy temple.
Continue to lead me in your righteousness and make your will and your way clear to me, for the sake of my enemies…because there is no truth in their mouths, and they are full of destructive plans. Their throats are open graves, and their words are filled with empty promises and flattery. Make them bear their guilt, Lord; Use their own words of advice to trip them up and make them fall. They are rebelling against you, Lord. Their sins have separated them from you, and they are cast away from your presence.
But, let me, and everyone who takes refuge in you be filled with joyful songs forever, as we rejoice in You. Spread out your mighty arm of protection over us, so that we who love you may celebrate and delight in You. Because you bless the righteous, Lord, and you protect them with your kind assistance, as with a shield.
Last month, I set out to memorize Colossians 3 on my facebook page. I loved having it broken down into bite-sized pieces and taking it a bit at a time, chewing slowly, and thinking through some of the really cool word pictures there. When I finished I wished that I would have blogged it, and I still may, but I’ve decided this month to memorize Ephesians chapter 5. I’ll be blogging my progress and thoughts on it here, then sharing to my fb page. Funny, the similarities between this chapter and the passage in Colossians…Almost like God is trying to cement some truths down, huh?
I find that blocks of 5-7 verses work best for my mind to take in and remember at a time…so that’s how I’m breaking these up. Funny, they seem to kind of flow in complete thoughts accordingly, at least this chapter.
1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children,
2 and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
3 But fornication and impurity of any kind, or greed, must not even be mentioned among you, as is proper among saints.
4 Entirely out of place is obscene, silly, and vulgar talk; but instead, let there be thanksgiving.
5 Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure person, or one who is greedy (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
I will never forget the real life example shared with me about this passage. My good friend’s husband had contracted polio as a child and from then had developed a noticeable change in his gait…a very pronounced limp. Their son, as a young boy developed this same limp when he walked…as he imitated his daddy.
If we are following Jesus closely, we are looking at how He walks, talks, and behaves, and we are instructed to imitate him; “walk this way!” When we do this, we will be living (some translations actually say “walk”ing) in love as verse 2 says, as Christ loved us…giving himself up for us. By doing so, he became a fragrant offering…a sacrifice to God. If we are imitating Him, we’ll have that same scent on us.
All the yuck in vs 3 and 4, will not be associated with us, because we are not imitating that…we are imitating Christ. Those qualities cannot co-exist with love and giving of thanks. And just in case that wasn’t clear enough, we are specifically warned that fornicators, impure, greedy persons (and idolaters) will not share in any inheritance of Christ. Again, they cannot co-exist with the qualities inside an imitator of Christ.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, and have your company as I commit this passage to memory. Won’t you join me?
Not only are we instructed to do so, we are shown in two different passages of Scripture what that looks like: The first is the passage that immediately follows the Lord’s instruction at the request of His disciples to be taught how to pray (Luke 11:5-13 ), and the other is the parable of the unjust judge (Luke 18:1-8).
It should have come as no surprise to me (especially after this month) that this (Ephesians 6) is the passage that speaks of arming ourselves for war. This passage shows an active fight…one of defending ourselves with the whole armor of God, and using the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God in our offensive attack against evil. I love that this passage outlines what that armor is, and how it’s used, and am reminded in reading through that there is nothing to protect my backside, which means that there is no retreat in this battle, without risk of injury.
Truly, this is another passage that needs a whole weekend of its own, I urge you to study this out yourself. It’s rich, and full, and so essential in understanding our need for perseverance in prayer, and in God’s divine provision for everything we need to accomplish it.
For the sake of this post, I will focus on this verse:
Ephesians 6:18 Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,
What an incredible epiphany to find in this passage that we are instructed as the body of Christ to persevere in prayer for all the saints. That’s us…the body of Christ, continuing in prayer for one another…for all the other parts of the body. This thought dovetails in my mind so beautifully with my post on the communion of the saints, which, incidentally included another verse that talks about persevering…check it out!
Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
This passage paints a picture of a race…his followers running with perseverance (or endurance), without excess heavy baggage that bogs us down, and/or sin that easily attaches itself to our flesh. This verse dovetails with a thought in another of my previous posts about being Son Followers. Look where our focus is…we are looking to Jesus and following His example of enduring His cross, for what? For JOY!
Sounds an awful lot like this verse, doesn’t it?
James 1:2 Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Steadfastness in this verse is translated “perseverance” in other translations.
As I am putting this retreat together, I have my Pandora “Full and Overflowing” station on. (This station has been renamed “Make My Life a Prayer“, for the sake of this retreat…another Ebenezer of sorts). It has some incredible worship tunes, and I find myself getting lost in some of the lyrics. Right now, Lifesong by Casting Crowns is on, and I find it an appropriate prayer to wrap things up. It states very well my heart’s desire to serve and please the Lord. “I want to sign Your name to the end of this day, knowing that my heart was true!” Let my lifesong sing to you.
When Mary and Joseph “lost” Jesus, and “found” him in the synagogue teaching the teachers, they asked why he would behave this way and cause them anxiety. If we want to follow and imitate Him, His answer should give us a clue to our mission. He answered; “didn’t you know I had to be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2)
As His followers, we need to be about our Father’s business. When we pray “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”, we are recognizing that His will in heaven is our business here on earth, and when we pray for His Kingdom to come, we are lining ourselves up with and agreeing with His will for His Kingdom. If we are boldly praying for His Kingdom to come, it would behoove us to know what His kingdom looks like. I think we get a great insight into this by the example Jesus set for us in His prayer in John 17.
According to this passage, His will is:
- …that He be glorified in me so that He can bring glory to the Father.
- …that I know Him. And as a result of knowing Him, I have eternal life in Him.
- …that we (His followers) be one, as He and the Father are one…His will is unity in the Spirit.
- …to have His joy made complete in me.
- …that I would be sanctified in His word, that is truth.
- …that the world will know God loves them and will believe Jesus was sent from God by looking at me, and seeing my relationship in Christ.
- …that God’s love will be in me, and that Jesus Himself will be in me.
Here I wrote out my favorite answer to the question “What does God want me to do? What is His will for me?” I actually learned to sing this Scripture when I was young, and it has never left me.
You can read more of my thoughts on this here.
I was meditating on this part of the verse as John 17’s words about unity and oneness with the Father, Son, and one another reverberated through my mind, mingled with parts of the Apostle’s creed. His will (according to John 17) is that we be one…and according to this model of prayer that He gave us, we are to pray that His will be done on earth, as in heaven. He has one body, and we are all part of one another, here on earth as well as in heaven.
This is a vivid picture of the communion of the saints that is taught and professed in the apostles creed. Though they have gone from this life on earth to REAL life, eternal life in heaven, a departed saint is still part of the “body of Christ”. Dying has not disconnected them from Christ’s body of believers, otherwise, where would they go? Christ only has one body, and it is comprised of those here on earth, as well as those in heaven.
I believe they are part of that cloud of witnesses in Hebrews 12 that is watching and cheering us on in our journey (the race), and they can and do continue to pray to the Father for us. They haven’t left or been removed from His body, they are still active participants in His will at the feet of “our Father in heaven”, just as we are present in His body, the church, here on earth. We are still one body, and we are held together, connected in purpose and spirit, by the Son, in whom we find unity one with another, as He prayed we would.