The Essential Guide to Verse Mapping: Step Three

The EssentialGuid toVerseMapping3

Verse Mapping is a Bible study method that examines the context, cross-references, translations, and word meaning of a particular verse in God’s Word.

In my previous posts on Verse Mapping, you learned Step One: Context–discovering the context of your chosen verse and Step Two: Other Translations–looking up your verse in different versions and translations of the Bible.

The EssentialGuide to VerseMapping3

Step Three: Cross-References

Now you’re ready for the third step in the Verse Mapping process–finding cross-references. A cross-reference is a verse that relates to your verse. It may use similar words or be on the same topic. The cross-references shed additional light on the topic as other authors teach on it.

Martin Luther wrote that “Scripture is its own expositor.” When we have questions about a verse, the best place to go for answers is the Bible. Other passages in the Bible can explain places that are difficult for us to understand. The more we read the clearer Scripture will become. The Holy Spirit speaks to us through the Word and illumines our comprehension.

One way to find cross-references is to use a study Bible. Often a study Bible will list the cross-references in the middle of the page between the two columns. To find a cross-reference, look for your verse number. The letters indicate cross-references for different parts of the verse, different concepts.

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Using Bible Gateway for Cross-References

Or you can use online Bibles for finding cross-references. On Bible Gateway, once you have found your chosen verse, you click on the gear symbol for “Settings,” and then on “Cross-references.” You will have to make sure that the version you are looking at has cross-references. For instance, the English Standard Version, the New American Standard Version, the New International Version have cross-references available. The New Living Translation and the Amplified Bible do not.

In the screenshot below, note the gear symbol (green arrow). Once you click the gear, the drop-down menu is visible. You can see that the cross-reference box is checked.


To find the cross-references, I look at my verse–John 15:5–and look for the letters in parenthesis. I can click on one of the letters and a little box with the cross-references will appear:


Or I can remember the letters in my verse–in this case, J and K–and then scroll down where all the cross-references are listed. You can click on the references and the verses will be displayed.


Some verses will have many cross-references. Others only a few. Write your chosen cross-references into your Verse Map Template.

Verse Mapping Step 3

From the cross-references for John 15:5, I notice that abiding in Christ is possible because we are united with Christ through His death and His resurrection. John 15:16 tells me that Jesus chose me so that I could bear fruit–lasting fruit. This is amazing to me! First of all, I’m astounded at being chosen and second, that part of my calling is to produce something lasting for God’s kingdom.

Through His Word, God continually teaches me more about being His child. Verse Mapping helps me see things that I might not otherwise notice.

Next Step: If you haven’t done so already, give Verse Mapping a try. Download a Verse Mapping template here. Look up cross-references for your chosen verse.


The Essential Guide to Verse Mapping: Step Two

The EssentialGuidetoVerseMapping2

Verse Mapping is a Bible study method that examines the context, cross-references, translations, and word meaning of a particular verse in God’s Word.

In my previous post, we discussed choosing a verse to study, assembling supplies, and Step One of examining the context of the verse.

The EssentialGuide to VerseMapping2

Verse Mapping Step Two: Other Translations

Now you’re ready for step two–looking at your chosen verse in other translations or versions of the Bible. This simple step can shed new light on the verse because a different version may translate the original Hebrew or Greek words with different English words that allow you to look at the verse in a new way. You gain new insight, a fresh perspective.

You can do this step with additional Bibles you own. Bible nerd that I am, I own English Standard Version (ESV), New International Version NIV), New Living Translation (NLT), Amplified Bible (AMP), New American Standard Bible (NASB), and The Living Bible (TLB).


You can also look up your verse in different translations with a parallel Bible which contains several versions side by side.

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But the easiest way to do this is to use an online Bible site. My favorite site for this is Bible Here is a screenshot of John 15:5 in ESV, NIV, NLT, and AMP.

John 15-5 in parallel translations

My go-to version is English Standard Version because it is one that stays very close to the original languages. NIV is a little more readable. New Living Translation often makes verses easier to understand. And I love the Amplified Bible because it expands certain words, giving additional meaning derived from the original languages.

With my chosen verse of John 15:5, I started out with ESV. But from the other versions, I can see that abide can mean remain. Abiding in Christ is remaining connected to Him. Perhaps remaining is more passive than abiding, reminding me that Christ is holding me. My role is simply not to wriggle away. From NLT I can see that bearing fruit is the same as producing fruit. And the Amplified Bible gives a little more meaning to “apart from Me”–“cut off from vital union with Me.” All of this helps me understand the verse a little better.

Using Bible Gateway

To look up your verse in multiple versions, go to and enter your verse in the search bar.

Then click on the “Add parallel” icon (note green arrow below):


You can look at up to five versions at a time. To change the version, click on the little gray arrow next to one of the versions and a menu of over 100 versions will pop up (note yellow arrow in picture below.) Click on the version you want to look at.

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Now write your favorite versions into your verse map. I chose the Amplified Version and also The Message because they both added new insights. The Message is a paraphrase of the Bible, not a direct translation. Sometimes I think it is way off from the true meaning of the verse, but for John 15:5 I thought it did a good job of catching the meaning and expressing it in a new way.

Verse Mapping Step 2

These versions remind me that apart from Christ, I can do nothing. But joined with Him, I can have an abundant fruit. Even in this process of Verse Mapping, rely on the Holy Spirit to teach and guide you. We cannot do it on our own. But, God loves to reveal Himself in His Word.

Next step: Look up your chosen verse in different translations or versions of the Bible. Choose your favorites and write them in your Verse Map. You can download my Verse Map template here.



The Essential Guide to Verse Mapping: Step One

The Essential Guideto VerseMapping

You love Scripture. You read it. You listen to it. You meditate on it.

Through it the voice of God speaks to your heart.

But sometimes you wish you could get more out of it.

Enter Verse Mapping.

What exactly is Verse Mapping?

Verse Mapping is a Bible study method that examines the context, cross-references, translations, and word meaning of a particular verse in God’s Word.

In Verse Mapping, you look at the individual parts of a Bible verse and then put it back together with the new understanding you have gained. It incorporates all the things I usually do to dig into God’s Word in a systematic way. Through this method, you will grasp the meaning of the verse in a new way that will help you apply it to your life.

Getting Started

To start the Verse Mapping process, you will need to:

A. Grab your supplies for your Bible journey.

Don’t worry if you don’t have all these tools. With each step, I will show you how to use online Bible tools.


The EssentialGuide toVerse Mapping

B. Select a verse to diagram

  • Begin with prayer: ask God to lead you to the verse you need right now.
  • Consider a verse from your daily Bible reading plan.
  • Or pick a favorite verse that you have questions about or want to understand better.
  • Copy your verse from your favorite translation of the Bible to the top of your verse map.

To illustrate the process, I will be mapping John 15:5 on my Verse Mapping template:

VerseMapStep 1Verse Mapping Step 1: Context

Now you’re ready for Step 1 of Verse Mapping–discovering the context of the verse. Look in your Bible and find out what was happening before and after the verse. If the verse is part of a story or narrative give a summary. Note who said or wrote the words in your chosen verse.

Context is very important to understanding the big picture. It will help you avoid making applications of the verse that were never meant by the original author.

Verse Mapping Step 1a

Now grab your supplies and start your own verse map. Whenever we open God’s Word, the Holy Spirit speaks to us and teaches us the mind of Christ. Verse Mapping can help us pay attention to His voice.

Download a copy of the Verse Mapping template here.

Next week we will explore Step 2.

Next step: Ask God to help you choose the verse that He wants you to study–the verse you need for spiritual growth. Ask Him to guide you through this in-depth study process.

Book Review: Sip, Savor and Drink Deeply


If you’re looking for a fun, yet meaningful Bible study, check out Deb Burma’s new book: Sip, Savor and Drink Deeply. This study refreshed my thirsty soul.

Using coffee analogies and word pictures Deb explores God’s Word–especially the topics of God’s refreshing grace and how that grace fuels our everyday lives.

The book has seven sessions:

  • A Clean Cup (forgiveness and renewal in Christ)
  • A Poured-Out Cup (God’s refilling when we feel empty)
  • A Dumped-Out Cup (dumping out the bad–guilt, worry, fear)
  • My Portion and My Cup–Circumstances (contentment)
  • My Portion and My Cup–Relationships (relationships with God and others)
  • My Portion and My Cup–Opportunities (using your gifts)
  • My Overflowing Cup (thankfulness)


Because I love studying Scripture, I especially appreciated Deb’s different study approaches. In one chapter she outlines the “blended-flavor details study approach.” First, she talked about how the different flavors of specialty coffee drinks blend together to the unique taste sensation. Then she encouraged readers to explore a passage of Scripture, looking at it from different angles, asking questions like:

  • How are you convicted of your sin and prompted to repent?
  • What do you learn about your Savior?
  • Specifically, how are you moved to praise Him and to respond with action, by the Spirit’s power?

Throughout the 7-week study, there are ample opportunities to drink deeply from God’s Word. And as we savor the Word, we receive His peace and joy.

The book also includes personal stories, fun coffee facts, delicious recipes, and even some coffee-themed projects that would be especially fun for groups to complete together.

The imagery in this study helps us grab onto concepts that free our souls and deepen our relationship with Christ. Deb writes,

As God pours His grace into our lives, it’s like a pure, sweet cream poured into the bitterest of coffee. Is the coffee still there? Of course. Will the bitterness of our circumstance remain in our lives, at least for a time? Quite often, yes. But what we taste has changed. By the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through us, we are able to see the same situations in light of God’s grace for us in Christ Jesus, who drank the bitter cup of suffering for us, dying in our place to forgive our sins and fill us with faith and trust in Him.

So grab a cup of your favorite cup of coffee or tea, settle into a comfy chair with Sip, Savor and Drink Deeply and refresh your soul through God’s Word. Better yet, invite a few friends to join you!

Find Sip, Savor and Drink Deeply at CPH and Amazon.

Next step: As you enjoy your next cup of coffee or tea, thank God that His Word refreshes our thirsty souls.

Deb BurmaDeb Burma has a passion for sharing Christ’s redeeming love in a creative, engaging style, touching the hearts of women, meeting them in the moments of their everyday lives, and engaging them in God’s Word. She travels extensively as a leader and guest speaker for women’s retreats, conferences, and other ministry events. Deb is a women’s ministry leader and youth ministry volunteer. She is the author of Bible studies, retreat kits, devotionals, and Christian-living books, including her most recent titles, Living a Chocolate Life and Raising Godly Girls. Find out more about Deb at her website, Fragrant Offerings.

Book Review: Women, Leadership and the Bible

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I met Dr. Natalie Eastman at a retreat for writers. She nearly bubbled over with excitement for equipping women to study the Bible for themselves. She has since written a book on that topic. Women, Leadership, and the Bible: How Do I Know What to Believe? teaches women a five-step process for studying God’s Word and discerning answers to theological questions through this intensive study of the Bible. As an example of the process, she uses the issue of women’s leadership in the church. Dr. Eastman does not tell you what to believe on this issue, only helps you study Scripture for answers on the issue. She does include examples of women pastors in the book, but asks the reader to make their own conclusions.

Following is an interview with Natalie about her book:

womenLeadershipBibleQ: What’s the purpose of your book, Women, Leadership, and the Bible: How Do I Know What to Believe?

A: The term “empowerment,” it seems to me, is vastly overused these days. Yet, admittedly, that’s exactly what I’m doing through WLB and Biblical Breakthrough! Through equipping women with seminary-level tools by which they can study, understand and interpret the Bible; then, stuffing them full of confidence through constant encouragement that they can do this, I hope to empower them to change from an internal status of paralyzed and possibly ignorant (or simply the feeling that one doesn’t know much or enough) to confident, ready, and trained to engage and effectively apply God’s Word with theological reliability and biblical skill.

On an emotional level, I simply want to tell Christians, especially women, “You can do this.” This is not rocket science. Nor do these abilities rely on a special gifting of the Holy Spirit. These are learned skills. Anyone who puts their mind and effort toward the training can and will learn how to know what the Scriptures are saying, as well as what they’re not saying. They can learn how to filter through the many voices “out there” that interpret God’s Word; how to tell the difference between when someone’s giving their opinion about what God’s Word says and when they’re interpreting; and what to do with the many conflicting opinions and interpretations. It can be done. People do it every day. And you can do it with greater skill and effectiveness, while still being sensitive to and filled with God’s very presence throughout the process.

Q: What makes it different from other books on women’s issues?

A: Plenty of books espouse one position or another on women’s roles or any other issue, effectively telling women what to think and why to think that. Yet, few teach women to discern God’s messages and desires for his people through systematic, thoughtful, seminary-level analysis. Women, Leadership, and the Bible steps into that void, offering step-by-step, approachable, “non-jargonese,”methodical process of analyzing an issue on many levels: scriptural, academic, spiritual, emotional, community, and personal. The ultimate goal is to equip women (and any men who desire to read it) to thoroughly and effectively investigate God’s Word, along with filtering through various interpretations of it, and subsequently make up their own mind about an issue.

Q: How could things change if every Christian woman was to read your book? :)

A: Just IMAGINE a world in which Christian women humbly, yet skillfully study Scripture to get clarity on their hardest biblical questions! And imagine women sifting and sorting through all kinds of opinions and interpretations as they study and consider what the Bible’s text says!

True freedom and self-confidence await the woman who engages the material in Women, Leadership, and the Bible. That freedom and confidence come from knowing and understanding not only what she believes, but why she believes what she believes. She will know she has formed her own thoughts, opinions, and interpretations using reliable, tested, and grounded methods, carefully testing her own and her community’s beliefs against Scripture. It is life-changing!

If women can engage their difficult life-issues with competent biblical integrity (and they can!) rather than relying exclusively on emotions, what others say, or the last book they read’s interpretation, as I did for so long, just imagine the difference this will make in their lives, their churches and, yes, the world! Women (and men who learn these skills, too) can feel confidence before God that they are attempting to understand his Word as best they can, as they subsequently seek to follow and obey it.

Q: What benefits does Women, Leadership, and the Bible provide to women?

A. Whether or not the subject of women in church leadership roles is an “issue” in your community, a thoughtful approach to understanding the issue can help a person feel secure in their practices and help them understand the interpretations of others. That type of studied, thoughtful understanding promotes good and helpful dialogue among Christians. The method taught in WLB benefits people wanting to get to the bottom of other issues, too; for, as we all know, many other theological issues have been or will become “issues” there at some point. WLB can benefit your church or ministry in numerous ways:

  • Engages women with the Bible.
  • Encourages women toward further biblical and theological development.
  • Develops women as critical thinkers, so they can embrace their faith and service with groundedness and confidence.
  • Urges independent thought within the context of Christian community, with unity being the ultimate goal.
  • Equips women with seminary-level hermeneutical skills and tools on an introductory level and, hopefully, whets their appetites (or satisfies one!) for further and deeper biblical studies.
  • Teaches women to recognize and face internal and external influences that impact their faith and practice.
  • Encourages grace-filled dialogue and study about this and other “controversial” issues within a safe space.
  • Provides a “virtual community” for women who really want to “get to the bottom of things,” biblically speaking.

Q: Do any other resources exist to help women take this material further?

A: Yes! So glad you asked! This summer, July 9, 2015, in fact, The Verity Initiative LLC (Dr. Eastman’s overarching LLC) is launching Biblical Breakthrough! An Online Coaching Program with Dr. Natalie Eastman (BB!). This internet-based training program takes people who want to work through their questions concerning women’s roles in church leadership step-by-step through weekly videos, all of which are free! Two further levels of deeper training opportunities are also available at nominal monthly pricing on a subscription basis. In the future, “generic” courses of study as well as courses of study into specific theological questions (i.e. human sexuality, baptism, etc.) will also be offered that take people through the same method in the book, but they will be able to investigate whatever issue/topic on which they have questions and/or for which they need answers.

Also, Dr. Eastman has a mailing list, through which people can receive The Verity Initiative’s monthly newsletter, “Dig Deep!” You can register at this link:

When you join the list through this link, Dr. Eastman will send you a fairly extensive excerpt of the book – a “sneak peek” – as a way of saying thank you for joining the list. This will be delivered directly to your email inbox of your registered email address. Feel free to share that registration link with anyone you believe may be interested in WLB, BB!, or Dr. Eastman.

If you want to buy a signed copy of the book you can do so here.

If you want to buy the book on Amazon click here.

NatalieEastmanDR. NATALIE R. WILSON EASTMAN (M.Div. ‘02, D.Min. ’05–Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) is a freelance writer, editor, and member of the Redbud Writers Guild. She has served as a full-time youth minister to girls and women; Bible study teacher; worship leader and team developer; missionary to east Asia; and retreat and event teacher/speaker. She lives in Delaware, OH, with her husband and three young children. Links to her blogs may be found at, and her training and coaching at

Connect with Natalie:

Twitter: Natalie_Wilson

God’s Love Letter to You

God's love letter to you. Click here to discover His relentless love.

The Bible isn’t always an easy book to read. At times it seems like a long list of dos and don’ts. Sometimes it reads like a rather dry history book. Some parts read like a racy novel. Other chapters seem like an action movie with plenty of violence.

So when you hear that God’s Word is His love letter to you, you might raise an eyebrow or stifle a laugh.

But it’s true. All the way through God’s Word He has woven His theme of love.  Take a look at the book of 1 Kings which is full of tales of unfaithful rulers and tyrants. Even there in 1 Kings 8:23 we find:

O God, God of Israel, there is no God like you in the skies above or on the earth below who unswervingly keeps covenant with his servants and relentlessly loves them as they sincerely live in obedience to your way.

There is no God like ours who relentlessly loves.

Who continually treasures us.

Who constantly pursues our hearts.

Take a minute and let that settle into your heart.

Breathe in and allow that truth to seep into your soul.

God relentlessly loves you. He will never stop. There is nothing you can do that will change His constant, persistent, unchanging, unyielding, unfailing love. You can mess up and He will be there with arms open. You can fall down and Jesus will gently pick you up. You can be too busy to notice the Father’s loving care, but even then He will be there right beside you ready to hold your hand.

This week in your Bible reading, look for reminders of the Savior’s love. Read God’s love letter to you and find evidence of His care in every book in the Bible.

Our God relentlessly loves.

relentlessly loves

Question: How does contemplating God’s relentless love change your day?

Joy in God’s Word: Lectio Divina Part Two

Lectio Divina sounds mysterious. Here is a demonstration of this new-ancient way of reading Scripture.

Lectio Divina.

Sounds mysterious, right?

Actually Lectio Divina means Divine Reading and is an ancient way to study God’s Word. I shared about the details of the method a couple of days ago, but I thought it might be helpful to see an example of the method. Take a few moments and try this way of listening to God for yourself. I have chosen Ephesians 3:14-21 for the reading today.

Preparation (Silencio): Before you read, take a moment to close your eyes and become aware of God’s presence with you. Let God know you are ready to hear from Him.

Read (Lectio): Slowly read the passage, pausing between phrases and sentences. Ask God to show you a specific word or phrase He is speaking to your heart today.

14 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.

When I recently read this passage, the word that God highlighted for me was “home.” I love this passage and know it well. I expected that the word God would choose for me would be “wide,” or “long,” or “high” from verse 18, but the word that I felt the biggest emotional response to was “home.”

Reflect (Meditatio): Read the passage again while asking yourself: What in my life needs that specific word or phrase right now?

I wondered why God wanted me to think about “home.” As I read the passage again, I realized that home is where you feel most loved and accepted (or at least that is how home should be). Even though I know that God loves and accepts me just as I am, I still often feel the need to perform. I don’t feel I deserve His love unless I’ve done something worthy of it.

Respond (Oratio): Read the passage one more time, listening for your heart’s response. What emotions bubble up when you read that word: love, joy, sorrow, grief, conviction? Be totally honest with yourself and God.

When I read the passage one more time, I first felt God’s sadness that I was still in a performance mode. But then I felt His comfort and peace. I felt a release of all the trying and striving. It was as if God was asking me to sit down in a big, cozy armchair right next to Him and simply enjoy being with Him.

Rest (Contemplatio): Take time to rest in God’s love for you and the words He has spoken. This is a time of surrender and rest in God’s loving hands.

During this time I asked God to help me feel at home in His presence. I continued that mental picture of sitting next to Him in a time of rest.

Resolve (Incarnatio): This step means to incarnate–live out–the Word of God. Write down the word or phrase given to you or think of an image of the word that you can carry with you throughout the day.

I resolved to carry that image of being at home with God throughout the day. Whenever I started to go back into my “try harder” mode, I pictured sitting in that cozy chair right next to a heavenly Father who loves me.

A couple of weeks ago I was with a wonderful group of women where we all participated in Lectio Divina with this passage. Each one of us received a different message very personalized to our needs. I would be interested in learning what word or phrase God spoke to you from Ephesians 3:14-21. Please take a moment to share. (If you are reading this in your email, click here to get to my website to leave a comment.)

Question: What word or phrase did God speak to you today in Ephesians 3:14-21?

Joy in God’s Word: Lectio Divina

If you're looking for an ancient-new way to read Scripture and hear God's voice try lectio divina.

Meditation. Prayer. God’s Word.

These are the elements of Lectio Divina, an ancient way to study the Bible.

It sounds very mysterious, but is actually a simple way to hear God’s voice in Scripture.

I have used Lectio Divina before, but recently learned a slightly different way to use this method. Today I’m sharing these steps that have helped me connect with God’s voice in a new way.

To begin, choose a short passage of Scripture (six to eight verses). It can be a part of your regular reading plan or a passage you choose specifically for this purpose.

Preparation (Silencio): Before you read, take a moment to close your eyes and become aware of God’s presence with you. Let God know you are willing to hear from Him.

Read (Lectio): Slowly read the passage you have chosen, pausing between phrases and sentences. Ask God to show you which word or phrase He is speaking to your heart today. Repeat that word or phrase softly, pondering it as a special message from One who loves you.

Reflect (Meditatio): Read the passage again while asking yourself: What in my life needs that specific word or phrase right now? Think about how that word impacts your life.

Respond (Oratio): Read the passage one more time, listening for your heart’s response. What emotions bubble up when you read that word: love, joy, sorrow, grief, conviction? Be totally honest with yourself and God.

Rest (Contemplatio): Take time to rest in God’s love for you and the words He has spoken. This is a time of surrender and rest in God’s loving hands.

Resolve (Incarnatio): This step means to incarnate–live out–the Word of God. Write down the word or phrase given to you or think of an image of the word that you can carry with you throughout the day. In quiet moments, bring back the word or image and continue to ask God what significance that word has for you. Thank Him for speaking to you through His Word.

What was new for me in this version of Lectio Divina was the listening for a specific word. I found this completely fascinating because each time I did this, the word that leaped off the page into my heart was never the one I expected. And yet it was the one that I most needed. Through that word God spoke to my deepest needs, even though before I read the passage, I might not have noticed that was my deepest need.

I pray that you will take a few minutes to try this simple method of finding joy in God’s Word.

Question: Try Lectio Divina today. Please share the passage you read and the word God gave you.