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I stood in a downtown office building overlooking a busy city street, shocked out of my designer heels, because God had just told me that everything was about to change.
After 15 years in a corporate job I’d enjoyed, losing my dad to cancer, and embarking on a new journey as a first-time author, I’d begun to feel a cosmic shift happening in my walk with Jesus. Not only was the nudge to step away from my career growing stronger, so was the restlessness around another realization—I’d been sleepwalking through my faith.
Something had to change. But what? I was a corporate trainer by day, a budding fiction author by night, and a wife and mother in the in-between times. Not only did I not have breaks in my schedule for the in-depth Bible study I was looking for, but I had even less confidence that I could open the Bible and truly understand what God was trying to show me.
I soon discovered studying the Bible did not require a theology degree or hours of time. It simply required willingness.
For me, the breakthrough was in the verse mapping study method—an old school study method that breaks down Scripture’s historical context, translation, and theological framework. We become researchers, learning everything we can about a verse, and, as a result, learning more about who God is, through five steps:
- Verse: Select what verse to map.
- Design: Write the verse in different translations.
- Develop: Look for key words or phrases in the verse in Hebrew/Greek. (blueletterbible.org)
- Actions: Research and document what the story says through the people, places, and context of the verse.
- Outcome: Document what you have learned.
Through verse mapping, I realized that in order to fall in love with the Word—not just when I was valley walking but in the day-by-day journeying with Jesus—I needed to overcome the barriers that had been holding me back:
- DON’T BE AFRAID TO START SMALL. My first maps owned a lot of blank space on the page, and that small amount of progress could have derailed me from the beginning. Instead of focusing on what wasn’t happening right away, I shifted my focus to what was—steady growth in my relationship with God.
Those first maps built an appetite for study that grew over time, and what began as 10 minutes here and there quickly grew into carving out hours on my schedule, and maps that spanned to the margins of every page.
- WE’RE QUALIFIED. Overcoming the fear that I couldn’t understand the Word may have been a bigger barrier to actually studying it. But with verse mapping, the largest component of this study method was shifting my lack of knowledge over to God. Instead of going it alone in the confidence department, the Holy Spirit became my teacher and guide.
I learned that through prayer and seeking more of Him in the pages, I was inviting Him to fill the study time. Like Peter in Acts 2:14, the Holy Spirit becomes our greatest enabler to learn, speak truth, and share the gospel with a broken world.
- DEDICATE TIME. I’d gather in a women’s Bible study often feeling guilt creep up when I hadn’t completed the homework that week. If one of our children got a fever, we had an unexpected family gathering some evening, or a work deadline gobbled my schedule, those things couldn’t be helped. But what could—gasp!—was whether I’d opted to binge-watch my favorite Netflix shows or do some extra scrolling on social media newsfeeds, thinking I’d get to my study time later in the week.
It took a while to learn that a packed schedule wasn’t the primary problem; dedication was. What I had to develop was the heart-need to choose the Bible over so many other things. For me, verse mapping helped to develop that desire. I could fit ten minutes of study in one day and pick it up an hour or more in the next. Verse mapping helped cultivate a desire for the Bible, which then helped me to see Bible study as something I could and wanted to do, no matter the surprises of my schedule.
- MAKE IT YOUR OWN—Surprise, surprise. Bible study doesn’t have to be complicated. That’s one of the reasons I like the verse mapping method. I already had all the tools I needed—usually in my handbag or sitting around the home office: a Bible (smart device for Biblical translations and research), a journal, markers or pens, and if I wanted to kick it up a notch, a concordance. With the tools and the time, what else did I need to make learning stick? It was also critical that verse mapping become unique to my individual walk with God.
If journaling works, get a little artistic. If a more analytical space feels like home, then make outlines with your research. Ask questions. Get curious and find answers. Doing what feels authentic to who God made us to be will go a long way in what helping us discern He wants to say.
Whatever method of study we choose, the strongest barriers can be overcome if we’re open to try something new. It may feel like a risk to begin to chip away at the things we’ve built on our own, and instead, surrender our faith walk to Jesus.
No more sleepwalking through our faith—God’s Word can become an amazing journey if we’ll step out and explore a new story road with Him.
Kristy Cambron is an award-winning author of Christian fiction, including her bestselling debut “The Butterfly and the Violin,” and an author of Bible studies, including the Verse Mapping series. She is a passionate storyteller who travels to speak at ministry events across the country, encouraging women to experience a deeper life in the Word through verse mapping. To connect with Kristy or to learn more about verse mapping, visit kristycambron.com