Holidays (Other)

Top 10 4th of July Twisted Scriptures

Originally published July 7, 2017

Independence day is my favorite of the non-major holidays. Fireworks, picnics, barbecues, and what other holiday has such grand music that nearly the whole country can enjoy and sing together? It’s the one day of the year when we, as Americans, can set aside our political differences and bickering and celebrate our God-given freedom to have political differences and bickering.

It is good to thank God for the blessing of liberty. It is right to be patriotic and celebrate our nation’s founding. It is evangelistic to use Independence Day as a springboard for explaining to people how they can find real freedom in Christ.

And with that freedom – our freedom in Christ and our freedom as American citizens – comes great responsibility. Namely, the responsibility not to throw all of those things into the Cuisinart at once and turn them into an Americhristian smoothie with red, white, and blue sprinkles.

There is a vast difference between American political freedom and the spiritual freedom found only in Christ. But when we lift Bible verses out of their context and stick a flag behind them in celebration of Independence Day, we conflate the two. Weaker brothers and sisters in the faith who already muddle American citizenship with heavenly citizenship are further confirmed in their confusion. We should be making these distinctions clearer, not encouraging their commingling.

Yet this is exactly what happens on Christian web sites, social media, and even in our churches as the 4th of July draws near. Sisters, this should not be so.

None of the verses in the Bible which contain words like “freedom” and “liberty” are referring to American political freedom. None. The verses containing these words are usually speaking of freedom from sin in Christ, freedom from Mosaic Covenant law, or freedom from literal slavery. We must use and understand them in context, or we are doing violence to the text and treating God’s holy Word with apathetic irreverence.

Here are the top 10 Scriptures I’ve observed being twisted on the 4th of July.

1.
Now the Lord is the Spirit,
and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
2 Corinthians 3:17

Most of the memes using this verse omit the first phrase, because even including those six extra words tends to give too much context to the verse for the person trying to make it about American freedom. If you read all of chapter three, or even just verses 12-18, you can see that this verse is about being set free in Christ from the demands of the Mosaic Covenant. Although 2 Corinthians 3:17 was misused by many, the first place I saw it was was from Lysa TerKeurst’s Proverbs 31 Facebook page – emblematic of why Christian women should not receive Bible teaching from anyone associated with this organization.


2.
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore,
and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Galatians 5:1

Most incorrect citations of this verse include only its first phrase. Indeed, Christ has set us free for freedom, but freedom from what? English tyranny? Political oppression? No, as the rest of the verse goes on to say, Christ has set us free from the yoke of slavery to the Law. In Christ, we are free to stop striving to be good enough to earn right standing with Him, and to rest in His finished work on the cross to clothe us in His righteousness. That’s way better than American constitutional freedoms because that kind of freedom is available to anyone, in any country, at any time in history who repents and places her faith in Christ for salvation.


3.
For you were called to freedom, brothers.
Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh,
but through love serve one another.
Galatians 5:13

This is a great verse that Christians can live out in service to our families, our church families, and even our fellow Americans. But we need to understand that when this verse says we were “called to freedom” it’s not talking about the rallying cry of the American Revolution. The freedom we were called to – as with Galatians 5:1 – is the freedom from striving to obey the Law to obtain righteousness. But just because we’re no longer under the constraints of the Law doesn’t mean we can go out and sin at will, or indulge the flesh by doing whatever we feel like doing. That’s antinomianism. Instead we’re to use our freedom from the Law as an opportunity to deny self and serve others.


4.
if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14

I’ve written at length on this verse in my article Is 2 Chronicles 7:14 God’s Promise to American Christians Today? The short answer is “no,” it is not about America. Although there’s plenty that Christians can learn from this verse, it is a promise to Israel, as the surrounding context clearly indicates.


5.
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
John 8:36

Even adding just two verses (34-35) to this one gives us enough context to help us understand that Jesus is talking about being freed from slavery to sin through the salvation only He can provide – the salvation that is about to cost Him the agony of scourging and death on a cross. It is appalling that this verse – spoken by our Lord Himself, about the earth-shattering, awe-provoking amazingness that is the forgiveness of sins by the grace of God in Christ – should be so lowered and sullied as to try to make it refer to American freedom.


6.
Live as people who are free,
not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil,
but living as servants of God.
1 Peter 2:16

The context of this verse is similar to Galatians 5:13 (#3 above), but it adds a couple of extra facets. If you read verses 9-17 of 1 Peter 2, you’ll notice the same instruction to live as people who have been set free in Christ and to use that freedom in Christ to serve others. Why? “…So that when [the Gentiles] speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God… For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.” (12,15) When we use our freedom in Christ to serve and do good, it is a testimony of the gospel to the lost. This passage also exhorts us to be subject to our government and our political leaders. And if you know anything about the first century Roman Empire, you know its Christian citizens (Peter’s audience) knew nothing of the political freedoms American Christians experience.


7.
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord
the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!
Psalm 33:12

In the immediate context and application of this verse, “nation” and “the people” is referring to Israel. Examining verses 10, 16, and 17 alongside verse 12, it’s a safe assumption that the psalmist had observed some part of Israel’s history that included war against neighboring nations. And, certainly, any Old Testament Scripture referring to the people God “has chosen as His heritage” could only be speaking of Israel. America didn’t even exist at that time, nor has God, at any point in Scripture, said that America is His chosen people or His heritage. If you want to think of a New Testament “nation” or “people” God has blessed and chosen as His “heritage,” that would be the church- the worldwide body of born again believers. While, ostensibly, any nation whose God is the Lord would be blessed, we have only to look back at Old Testament history to see how unlikely it would be for America’s God to be the Lord. Israel was God’s chosen people and heritage. They were “the nation whose God is the Lord”- literally. They were a theocracy – under the direct rule of God Himself – yet they rejected Him in favor of earthly kings and repeated cycles of idol worship. And we think America is capable of becoming “one nation under God”?


8.
And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property
and each of you shall return to his clan.
Leviticus 25:10

It’s pretty easy to see why only the phrase “proclaim liberty throughout the land” is lifted out of this verse. It is obviously talking about Israel’s Year of Jubilee which has never been practiced in America because we are not, and never have been, under the Mosaic Covenant. Even Israel doesn’t observe the Year of Jubilee any more. The use of this verse is simply a case of someone looking for a Scripture to attach to a patriotic meme, doing a concordance search for the word “liberty,” and whittling away everything in the verse that is obviously un-American.


9.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
Luke 4:18

Except for the fact that this verse includes the word “liberty” or “free,” depending on your translation, it’s incomprehensible to me that anyone would see this as a verse to use in the celebration of Independence Day. This verse doesn’t even make any sense when applied to America. It’s not about a country, it’s about a person: Jesus. Jesus spoke these words. He’s quoting Isaiah 61:1-2, which is a prophecy of the Messiah to come. If you read a mere three more verses of Luke 4, you’ll see in verse 21 that Jesus says, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Meaning what? Jesus is saying, “You know that Messiah you’ve been waiting on for centuries, Israel? I’m it. I’m here.” And the liberty or freedom He’s talking about? Once again, it’s freedom from sin and freedom from the Law. Because that’s what Jesus came to give us.


10.
Out of my distress I called on the Lord;
the Lord answered me and set me free.
Psalm 118:5 

Nope, this one isn’t about American political freedom either. A couple of things to notice: first, this is clearly set in the context of Israel’s Old Testament history, as verses 2-3, with their references to “Israel” and “Aaron”, indicate. Next, look at the personal pronouns, not only in verse 5, but also in verses 6-7: “I,” “me,” “my.” This verse is not about America being set free from England, or even about Israel being set free from one of its enemies. This is a descriptive passage about an individual – the psalmist – being in some sort of distressing situation, and God answering his prayer for deliverance. Have you ever prayed that God would deliver you from a difficult time in your life? If He did, do you think that unique situation is applicable to anyone else, much less an entire country? This passage is kind of the same thing. The psalmist is sharing something God did for him, not commenting on politics or even assuring other individuals that God will do the same for them.


Memorial Day Bonus:
Greater love has no one than this,
that someone lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13

Memorial Day is a solemn and precious day to honor those who have laid down their lives for our freedom as Americans. Every male member of my immediate family has served or is serving in the military, and I know just how blessed I am that they have all returned safe and sound. It takes a special kind of person to make the ultimate sacrifice for his country, and I certainly don’t want to take anything away from that. But as meaningful as that is, it can’t – and shouldn’t – compare to Christ laying down His life to make sinners His friends. And that’s what this verse is about. For twelve verses, Jesus has talked to His disciples about abiding in Him because He loves them so much. In verse 13, He talks about the proof of His love for them: He’s about to give His life as the atoning sacrifice for their sin. He wants them to love each other the same way – that for Christ’s sake, in Christ’s name – they would be willing to die for the sake of the gospel. Eleven of the twelve of them would go on to do so. When we use this verse in reference to Memorial Day – as deeply consequential as that day is – it tarnishes the infinitely more important sacrifice of Christ by comparing a mere man’s offering of his life for temporal, earthly freedom, to God’s offering of His sinless Son to purchase for eternity the redemption of sinful rebels.

I’m proud and grateful to be an American. I’m thankful for this nation and the freedoms we have as citizens. But for everyone who’s a citizen of the Kingdom of God, our loyalty and reverence must lie with Him first and must surpass all other loyalties – to family, to friends, and even to country. That means we reverence God’s holy Word by being good students of it and handling it correctly, by preserving and standing up for its meaning and intentions, and by refusing to manipulate it for our own lesser purposes- even such a noble purpose as patriotism.


Photo Credits
The references below are for the purpose of photo credits only. I have not examined most of these sites and do not endorse any which contradict my beliefs as cited in the Statement of Faith and Welcome tabs at the top of this page.

1. https://www.facebook.com/Prov31Ministries/photos/a.390955286960.162138.99550061960/10154692176801961/?type=1&theater
2. https://stjosephslanc.com/july-5-2015-the-fourteenth-sunday-in-ordinary-time/
3. https://www.facebook.com/ConcernedWomenforAmerica/photos/a.119423980992.123545.77903485992/10155305900670993/?type=3&theater
5. https://twitter.com/robertjeffress/status/746696996208074752
6. http://dailybiblememe.com/tag/1-peter-216/
7. http://simplylkj.blogspot.com/2016/07/happy-4th-of-july.html
8. http://redbubble.com/i/poster/Motivational-Bible-Quote-Liberty-People-4th-of-July-by-mairabay/50664737.LVTDI
9. http://www.klove.com/
10. http://bibleversestogo.com/products/psalm-118-5-freedom
Memorial Day Bonus: http://unitetheusa.org/id165.html

Discernment, False Teachers

Is She a False Teacher? 7 Steps to Figuring it Out on Your Own

Originally published July 22, 2016

“What are your thoughts about  _____?
Is she doctrinally sound? Is she a false teacher?”

That’s probably the number one question I’m asked by readers. It gives me so much joy each time I receive that question because it’s encouraging to hear from Christian women who don’t want to be led astray and want to worship Christ in spirit and in truth.

I’m delighted to answer readers’ questions about various teachers (You can find information about many of today’s best known evangelical personalities and ministries under my “Popular False Teachers & Unbiblical Trends” tab at the top of this page.) but, unfortunately, my answers often take a while. I’ve never heard of many of the teachers I’m asked about, and, even with the ones I’m familiar with, in order to give a fair and biblically accurate answer, I have to research each of them. That frequently takes at least several days of work. The less famous the teacher is, the less information there is out there about her, and the longer it takes. And that weighs on me because I know a lot of you, when you write to me about a certain teacher, need answers now.

It also weighs on me because I don’t want you to just take my word for things. I am a fallible, sinful human being. I get things wrong. I miss things. I make mistakes. Also, I’m not going to be around forever (well, not on this planet anyway!)

For these reasons, and because the ability to vet the personalities and teachers you follow is an important spiritual skill every Christian should hone and teach others, I want you to be able to research these people for yourself. “Teach a (wo)man to fish…” and all that, you know. Here are the seven steps I take to discover whether or not a teacher is doctrinally sound.

1. Know your Bible

This. is. not. optional. Get a trustworthy translation (read: not The Message, The Voice, a Joyce Meyer Study Bible, etc.) and study it forwards, backwards, and upside down if you have to. Find, join, and faithfully attend (also not optional) a doctrinally sound church that will immerse you in the depths of God’s Word through its preaching and teaching. Listen to good sermon podcasts or an audio Bible during the week. Memorize Scripture. Learn good hermeneutics. Every Christian should be doing these things by default anyway, and one by-product of knowing your Bible is that when you see or hear a statement by a teacher, you often won’t have to do a lick of research to determine whether or not you’re being taught biblical truth. The Scriptures will already be in your heart and mind for comparison.

2. Pray

One of the things I ask of God during my regular prayer time is that He would protect me from being deceived by false teachers, that He would continue to grow me in wisdom and discernment, and that He would develop the mind of Christ in me. It’s also a good idea to pray for wisdom and discernment, and for trustworthy information, before researching a teacher.

3. Know your criteria

One of the arguments I frequently hear when warning people away from a false teacher is “But every teacher makes mistakes!” (see #7 here) Of course every teacher makes mistakes in her teaching, and every teacher sins. A sin or a mistake doesn’t qualify someone as a false teacher. What you’re looking for is repentance and correction.

A trustworthy, biblical teacher teaches sound biblical doctrine and avoids known sin nearly without exception. When those exceptions occur and someone brings it to her attention, she listens, is teachable, repents, and corrects her error (Apollos is a great biblical example of this). False teachers, on the other hand, unrepentantly persist in sin or teaching false doctrine despite biblical correction. Often, they exhibit complete unteachability (as do their followers), deriding those biblically calling them to account as haters, divisive, slanderers, scoffers, jealous, etc.

When I research a teacher, I examine three fundamental areas of her life and teaching: a) Does she currently and unrepentantly preach to men? (Or, if the teacher is male: Does he allow women to preach to mixed audiences from his pulpit or in his stead? Is his wife co-pastor of the church? Are there any women on his church’s staff in pastoral positions?) b) Does she endorse and/or partner with known false teachers or ministries? c) Does the doctrine she teaches and practices line up with Scripture? These aren’t the only things that make someone a false teacher, but they’re three of the most prominent and important.

4. Criteria a: Women teaching men

This is a scriptural litmus test that can help give you a quick answer as to whether you should be following a certain teacher or not. The Bible tells us that women are not to preach to, teach the Bible to, or exercise authority over men in the gathered body of believers. Not in the four walls of a church, not on a simulcast, not at a Christian conference. Period. (Click here for more information.)

And it’s not a so-called secondary issue, either. It’s a sin. A preacher or teacher who unrepentantly disobeys this Scripture is no different from one who disobeys Scripture by viewing pornography, embezzling church funds, or teaching that homosexuality or abortion are OK. Scripture is Scripture. It’s all inspired by God the Holy Spirit. There aren’t any instructions to the church that it’s OK with God if you twist their context, brush them aside, or disobey them. If a female teacher currently and unrepentantly preaches to men or a male teacher allows women to do so in his church or ministry, that’s not a teacher you should be following.

Furthermore, a woman preaching to men is itself false doctrine. When a woman preaches to men, her behavior is teaching the false doctrine that it’s perfectly fine to disobey Scripture if you want to. That if you don’t like a certain command of Scripture, it’s OK to just ignore it. If your pastor stepped into the pulpit Sunday morning and said in words that it’s OK to disobey or ignore Scripture’s commands, your church would run him out of town on a rail, and rightly so. There’s no difference between your pastor saying it in words and a woman acting it out with her behavior.

Finally, women teaching men and women teaching false doctrine are highly correlated. I have researched scores of women teachers. Every single one of them who unrepentantly teaches men also teaches false doctrine in some other aspect of her theology (usually progressivism, Word of Faith {prosperity gospel} or New Apostolic Reformation). In other words, if a woman teaches men, you can just about take it to the bank that she also teaches additional false doctrine.

How to find out if the teacher is disobeying Scripture in this area?

Check YouTube and Vimeo for videos of the female teacher speaking at various events. Are men clearly present in the audience?

Consider the events the female teacher speaks at. Does she speak exclusively at events for women, or does she also speak at co-ed events?

Examine the speaking engagement calendar on the female teacher’s web site. Is she scheduled to speak at Anytown Baptist Church at 11:00 a.m. on a Sunday? She’s probably giving the sermon that morning. (Some female teachers purposely leave these preaching engagements off their events calendars and social media to avoid biblical rebuke.)

For (male) preachers / pastors, check the sermon archives and the “meet our staff” sections of the church web site. Are women serving on staff as “pastors” or in positions of authority over men? Do the sermon archives feature female speakers who have preached to the whole congregation?

5. Criteria b: Partnering with false teachers

Scripture is abundantly clear that we are to have nothing to do with false teachers. Nothing. John tells us that even to greet them is to take part in their wicked works. To publicly praise, point people to, or partner with false teachers is even worse.

Finding out if the teacher you’re researching praises or partners with false teachers is another biblical litmus test that can help quickly determine whether you should be following her or not.

The easiest way to do this is with an internet search engine. Type the name of the teacher you’re researching into the search bar followed by the names of at least a few well known false teachers or ministries (for example: Jane Smith Joel Osteen). You may wish to try names like Joel Osteen, T.D. Jakes, Andy Stanley, Joyce Meyer, Beth Moore, Christine Caine, Hillsong, Bethel, IF: Gathering, Proverbs 31 Ministries, etc.

Examine the results. Are there a lot of connections between the teacher you’re researching and known false teachers? Does she frequently and favorably quote, comment on, or re-post false teachers on her social media pages? Does she make a habit of sharing the stage with or appearing alongside false teachers at conferences and other events? Do false teachers praise her, invite her to speak at their churches and conferences, or write endorsements of her materials?

Birds of a feather flock together. If you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas. Bad company corrupts good morals. It’s all true. A teacher who frequently, favorably, and unrepentantly associates herself with false teachers should be avoided.

6. Criteria c: Biblical doctrine

If a teacher has failed criteria a and/or b, that’s sufficient. You should not be receiving teaching from that person. Those two criteria will quickly weed out about 90% of false teachers out there today. However, “passing” both criteria a & b, while a fair indicator that you’re probably dealing with a doctrinally sound teacher, is not sufficient. A teacher can operate biblically in those two areas and still teach or practice unbiblical doctrine. You must examine the doctrine and practices of the teacher you’re considering following to see if they’re biblical, and that can take some time and energy.

Does the teacher have a statement of faith or “what I believe” section of her web site? Examine it. Are all of the tenets biblical and backed up with chapter and verse Scripture? Are the tenets specific, detailed, and clear cut as opposed to general and nebulous? A solid statement of faith can be helpful, but keep in mind that a significant number of churches and ministries have perfectly biblical statements of faith “on paper” yet do not faithfully adhere to to those principles in teaching and practice.

Ask doctrinally sound, trustworthy friends if they’re familiar with the teacher’s doctrine. There are also many theologically solid Facebook groups you can join and ask your fellow members their impressions of various teachers. There are a lot of Christians out there who have read a lot of books and listened to a lot of teaching. They can be very helpful resources.

What do reputable, doctrinally sound teachers and ministries have to say about the teacher, her teachings, or the Scripture or doctrine in question? I regularly use and highly recommend the following sites:

Fighting for the Faith (now on YouTube)
Justin Peters
Berean Research
Christian Answers for the New Age (Marcia publishes most actively on Facebook)
CARM
Wretched
Got Questions
Grace to You
Apprising Ministries (This site is now dormant, but the archives can be helpful, especially if you’re looking for older information.)

Here’s what you should be looking for in preaching and teaching. Read the person’s materials or listen to her teaching. Take notes. When the teacher makes an assertion, ask yourself, “Where, in context, does the Bible say that?” When the teacher cites a passage of Scripture, look it up and see if she’s using it in context. Does the teacher primarily use one reliable translation of the Bible when teaching, or does she skip around through various translations and paraphrases while teaching to make sure the verses use certain words that fit with the theme or idea she’s teaching? Does she engage in gimmickry or does she simply teach the Word? Is the centerpiece of her teaching a correctly exegeted passage of Scripture, or does her teaching revolve around a story, movie, prop, idea, theme, topic, or illustration that comes from outside of Scripture? Does she frequently allegorize Scripture? Does she make every Scripture about you, your hopes and dreams, your experiences? Does she spend more time correctly handling and teaching Scripture or telling stories, jokes, and illustrations? These are all things to watch and listen for. If a teacher consistently mishandles, misunderstands, or misapplies Scripture, she’s not a teacher you should be following.

7. Check the date

When you’re researching a teacher, check the date on the evidence you’re examining. Is it old or fairly current? We all grow and mature over the years in our walk with the Lord. Are you seeing red flags in the teacher’s older materials? Try to find out if she has repented and corrected those unbiblical teachings or behaviors. If so, and she’s currently teaching and behaving in a way that lines up with Scripture, forgive her. It is not fair or biblical to hold past sin against someone when she has repented and Christ has forgiven her. She, and her recent materials, should only be avoided if she is currently and unrepentantly teaching and/or practicing false doctrine.


Before receiving teaching from anyone, it’s important that we examine that teacher’s doctrine and practices in light of Scripture. God commends the Bereans for receiving Paul’s word with eagerness, yet examining the Scriptures to see if what he was teaching them lined up with the Bible. May we be as vigilant and noble as they in our quest to know Christ and His word.

Bible, Bible Study, Church

Throwback Thursday ~ Context Message Me

Originally published December 3, 2013

Yesterday, I saw several friends and organizations re-posting this article (and others like it) on Facebook. The gist of the article is about teaching the Gettysburg Address to students in a “stand alone” sort of way without teaching that it has anything to do with the Civil War.  

As a teacher myself, this seems utterly ridiculous to me. How can students grasp the full meaning, depth, and impact of the Gettysburg Address without knowing the history and events that led up to it, who wrote and delivered it, the people to whom it was delivered, and why it was delivered?

Yes, a few things can be gleaned merely from the text itself, but is that all we want our students to learn about the Gettysburg Address? Are we satisfied for them to merely skim the surface of this document and leave with a superficial (and likely, incorrect) understanding of it, or do we want them to dig in and learn all they can about it?

And then it hit me: What many of us would not abide in the classroom, we embrace in the sanctuary.

What many of us would not abide in the classroom, we embrace in the sanctuary.

Week after week, many Christians sit under pastors and Bible teachers who fail to preach and teach God’s word in context. A verse from one book is thrown in here, a half verse from another passage, there, like so many sprinkles on top of an ice cream sundae.

No mention is made of the historical (pre-Exile or post-Exile?) or cultural (Was this written to Jews or Gentiles?) context of the passage.

Prescriptive (thou shalt/shalt not do X) passages are conflated with descriptive (here’s what happened to this particular guy) passages, leading to confusion over law, grace, and precisely what it is that God wants from us.

Promises that were never meant for 21st century Christians (because they were written only to a specific person/people at a specific time) are ripped away from their intended audience and plastered, bait and switch style, onto you and me. (I’ve always wondered why Jeremiah 29:11 is preached as applying to today’s Christians, but verses such as Jeremiah 29:17-19 are not.)

Pastors and teachers treat individual Bible verses and brief passages as “stand alone” items rather than showing how they fit into the immediate context of the surrounding passage and book, while simultaneously neglecting to show how those Bible tidbits fit into the broader, complete story of the gospel revealed across both Testaments.

Pastors and Bible teachers, myself included (and, believe me, I’ve failed many times in this area, too) are to care for those who sit under our teaching by doing our best to handle God’s word correctly (2 Timothy 2:15) and by preaching and teaching, as Paul put it, “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:26-27). May we as teachers not merely skim the surface of God’s word, but proclaim the Truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth. And may our hearers demand nothing less.

Bible Study, Mailbag

The Mailbag: What Is the Verse Mapping Method of Bible Study?

Originally published June 19, 2017

What is the “verse mapping” method of Bible study? Do you recommend it? A friend was asking about it and she is a big follower of Proverbs 31 Ministries, which was a red flag for me.

This is an excellent question, because there are lots of different Bible study methods out there, some good, some not. And you want to make sure you’re using a method that will help you correctly understand the text so you can grow in your faith.

I had never heard of verse mapping either, so I did what I usually do when I’ve never heard of something but want to know what it is- I Googled it. And several red flags popped up for me too.

The first hit I got was this article written by someone who thinks Beth Moore is an exemplary Bible teacher and that The Message is a reliable translation. She linked to an article on verse mapping at Proverbs 31, whose author says we need to “listen to God’s voice“. The Proverbs 31 article linked to another blogger – “the one who taught us how to verse map” – who recommended closing your eyes, letting your Bible fall open and pointing to a random verse as one way to choose a verse to map.

The rest of the first two pages of search results all seemed to be from Christian women’s blogs, none of whom I was familiar with. That’s not to say there’s necessarily anything wrong with those women or their blogs, I’m just saying I didn’t see any well known, doctrinally sound ministries recommending verse mapping in the most popular Google results.

I get the impression from these articles that verse mapping methodology can be a bit fluid. The first blogger used a journal and made copious notes (her method appeared to me to be more akin to inductive Bible study). The other two used an index card and wrote very few notes. So it would seem there’s no one set way to do verse mapping, but the general idea is to pick a Bible verse and dissect it (in various ways, depending on which method of verse mapping you’re using) as your daily Bible study format.

Separating the method itself away from the taint of false teachers, some of the recommended techniques in verse mapping are solid and could be very helpful, such as using commentaries, looking words up in the original Greek or Hebrew, writing down what is happening in the verse, and looking at the immediate context of the verse. These are all good principles of biblical hermeneutics, and if you use them as part of a systematic study of a book of the Bible or as part of a study on a biblical topic, your understanding of God’s word will be greatly aided.

The problem is, a) using it as your sole form of Bible study isn’t going to teach you all that studying longer passages of the Bible will, and b) those aforementioned good techniques are mixed in with some bad techniques, so you have to be discerning enough to tell which is which. And, chances are, if you’re discerning enough to do that, you’re probably a good student of the Bible who’s already using the good techniques of verse mapping, so you don’t really need it.

The bad techniques?

1. Choosing random verses to dissect
There’s more to the context of a verse than just the couple of verses that immediately precede and follow it. There’s how the verse fits into its chapter, book, testament, and the overall narrative of Scripture. If you skip through Scripture picking out a verse here and a verse there to analyze you’re going to misunderstand those verses because you’re not going to know the larger context they fit into in their own immediate story and the story arc of redemption. Can you imagine studying any other piece of literature – a Shakespearean sonnet, the Declaration of Independence, a medical journal article – this way, picking out a random sentence or two here and there? Of course not. Then why would we study the Bible this way?

2. Personalizing the verse
One of the techniques verse mapping recommends is to cross out all general referents (you, they, we, etc.) and replace them with your own name. Do not do this.

First and foremost this exhibits utter disdain for the God of the universe who wrote the Bible. If He wanted your name to be in Scripture, it would already be there. You don’t get to change, even temporarily, what He wrote, and to think it’s OK to do so is arrogant and irreverent. These are the very words of God Himself- do you really dare to change them?

Second, it’s an extremely self-centered way to look at Scripture. The Bible isn’t about you and it wasn’t written to you. When those words were penned, there were real, live people – just as important as you – on the other end, and none of them were you because you hadn’t been born yet.

Third, doing this will almost certainly give you a wrong understanding of the verse. “You” doesn’t always mean you personally, Buttercup. Sometimes “you” means Israel. Sometimes “you” means the church. Sometimes “you” means Amos or Cain or Judas or Philemon. Sometimes “you” means God. Sometimes “you” even means Satan. And sticking your name in for one of these “you’s” is going to lead you away from a correct understanding of Scripture, not toward it.

3. Focus on anything that jumps out at you
Again, this is a very self-centered way to look at Scripture. Just because something jumps out at you doesn’t mean it’s the main point of the verse or that it has significant spiritual import. Certainly, if there’s a word in the verse that you don’t understand you should look it up. Or, if you find some concept in the verse interesting, go ahead and search out the cross-references for clarity. But don’t assume that word you’ve looked up or that concept you find interesting is the meaning of the verse just because it happened to catch your attention. When we study the Bible, we search for what God meant by that verse.

4. Find verses that minister to you
Now I ask you, if you follow that guideline, how often are you going to pick verses out of Leviticus that have nothing to do with your life today? When will you pick verses that step on your toes and convict you of sin? Will you ever examine hard verses that take a lot of historical and cultural understanding? At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this is a self-centered way to look at Scripture. Yes, the Bible can bring us comfort and reassurance, but the Bible isn’t a bottle of aspirin. You don’t just pop a couple of verses whenever you have a headache. The Bible isn’t there to minister to you. It’s there to equip you to minister to God, the church, your family, the lost. There’s a reason God wants pastors to preach the whole counsel of God – we need all of God’s word, even the parts that don’t “minister” to us.

In conclusion, I would not recommend verse mapping as a whole the way it is presented in the aforementioned articles, but some of the individual techniques I noted can be helpful as part of your regular, systematic study of Scripture.

If you need a little help learning how to study your Bible using good study habits, click the Bible Studies tab at the top of this page.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Christian women, Parenting

Throwback Tuesday ~ Avoiding the Creepers: Six Ways to Raise a Biblically Strong Woman

Originally published May 15, 2015

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. 
2 Timothy 3:1-7

If someone were to ask you, “What kind of person do you want to raise your daughter to be?” how would you answer? Caring? Independent? Loyal? Kind?

I’m betting none of us would answer “weak,” “burdened with sins,” “easily led astray by her passions,” or “unable to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.” Yet in these last days in which we find ourselves, that’s exactly what many good-hearted Christian mothers with nothing but the best of intentions are raising their daughters to be. It’s not that they want their daughters to grow up to be spiritually weak or led astray by sin or unbiblical teaching, it’s just that they lack the skills and tools necessary for properly training their daughters in the Scriptures and godliness.

Maybe you’re one of those moms. You want to train your daughter to be a wise, godly, discerning woman, but you’re not quite sure how. Hey, we all have those areas of our lives that we need a little help with. As an older mom myself, maybe I can lend a hand.

My daughter is almost twenty, and while she’s nowhere near perfect, by the grace of God, she is a godly young lady. Looking back, there are many things my husband and I did wrong as parents. But God, in His mercy, covered our failures and saw all of us through as He taught us through His word how to raise a biblically strong woman.

6 Ways to Raise a Biblically Strong Woman

1. Set an example.

Our daughters learn by watching us. Faithfully study your Bible, pray, attend church, obey God’s word, submit to your husband, repent and ask forgiveness when you sin, and serve others and your church together.

2. Learn, and teach your daughter, good hermeneutics.

Hermeneutics is just a fancy word for rightly handling God’s word. Use a reliable Bible translation. Understand Scripture in its immediate and overall context. What was the author’s intended meaning, his audience, genre, and culture? Point your daughter to Christ as you study God’s word together.

3. Find a doctrinally sound church, join it, and attend faithfully as a family.

Study God’s word and compare everything that’s preached and taught to Scripture (in context). Does your church’s teaching line up? Then be committed to attending every single week, not just when you feel like it or when there’s nothing better to do. Instill in your daughter a love for, and a commitment to, the church.

4. Fight the fluff.

Unfortunately, many of the most popular preachers, teachers, and Christian authors (including women’s Bible study authors) teach and write things that may sound good and make us feel good, but are in direct conflict with Scripture. These are the very people Paul was speaking of in 2 Timothy 3. Teach your daughter to follow only trustworthy teachers whose theology is in line with Scripture.

5. Bring prayer and Scripture into every situation.

She can’t find her favorite doll? Kids picking on her at school? She wants to wear clothes that barely cover her? Discuss what the Bible say about these things. Pray together about them. Lead your daughter into prayer and Scripture as part of daily life, and it will teach her that God is to have authority over every aspect of our lives and that we are to obey Him in all things.

6. Teach her how to share the gospel.

If you’re not sure how to properly present the gospel to someone, learn. You can’t lead your daughter to Christ if you can’t share the gospel with her. If your daughter is already saved, make sure she knows how to share the gospel correctly. The Great Commission was the last instruction Christ gave us before leaving earth, and we are all to be about the business of carrying it out until He returns.

The 2 Timothy passage at the beginning of this article is our commission to guard our households against ungodly ways and people – even those who may falsely call themselves Christians – who might creep in and steal our daughters’ hearts and minds away from Christ. He has charged us to train them in godliness, and we must faithfully answer His call to raise wise, discerning, and biblically strong women of God.

What advice would you offer moms who want to raise
biblically strong women?


This article was originally published at Kaylene Yoder’s Blog.

And for all you boy moms, be sure to check out…

Six Ways to Raise a Godly Man