What’s In Your Bible: Make It Messy

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Bible Highlighting

What’s In Your Bible?
Go Ahead, Make A Mess in Your Bible

By Beth Demme

Do you remember when you were in school and you first started using highlighters? At first, it was hard to know what to highlight, right? Eventually, you learned to be judicious and careful with your highlighter. You learned to highlight the snippets that would be meaningful to you when you returned later to review the material.

This is true of my Bible highlighting as well. There was a season when I wanted to highlight everything, but eventually (with practice!) I learned how to highlight snippets that were especially meaningful or felt theologically important.

Some people develop a system and always stick to it. One teacher says to circle the verbs in red, underline names in green, circle the numbers in orange, and mark references to angels in blue. That is such a neat idea! However, it’s not one I’ve been able to implement successfully. For one thing, this kind of system makes me hesitant to pick up my Bible if I don’t have all my colors with me. Also, I get bogged down speculating what I will do if a named angel is taking a numbered action. The system isn’t broken, it just doesn’t work for me.

I’m more random in how and when I highlight or make a note. Remember, I think highlighting in my Bible is okay because I use my Bible as a tool. It’s okay to dig in, make notes, and ask questions. In fact, I think it’s important for Christians to do this.

Digging into the Bible has changed how I understand myself, my world, and my God. Sometimes digging in is messy.

When I put out an invitation and asked you to send me pictures of your Bible, I found out that I’m not alone. Lots of us like getting messy in our Bibles.

Bible Highlighting

Melissa e-mailed me a photo of her Bible, noting that she is part of the Yellow Crayon Club. It’s easy to see why:


Her notes are about how the church should be a beacon of hope and how trials build perseverance. She’s highlighted passages about accepting one another and relying on the God of hope.

When she flips through her Bible, these passages will stand out to her.

The Holy Spirit might even use these yellow crayon moments to speak to her, again and again, on the issue of church, hope, trial, and perseverance.

A pastor friend of mine, Dennis Lewis, could also be in the yellow crayon club.

Dennis (2) Dennis (1)

He’s highlighted John 15:12-13:

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Also, verse 16:

And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.

As someone who has worshiped with Dennis, worked for Dennis, and been friends with Dennis, I can tell you he embodies these verses. He is one of those pastors who really conveys the love of God when he preaches. Many pastors talk about the love of God, but Dennis conveys it. When he tells me “God loves you, Beth,” I really believe it.

Dennis’s highlights show me part of the reason he is able to convey this message so effectively.

He knows it isn’t his message, it’s the message he’s been appointed to deliver. He is a conduit for God’s love.

Finally, this Bible belongs to a friend I made on Twitter, Yinka Akinwale.

Yinka lives in Africa. We don’t live on the same continent, but we share a love of boiled peanuts, the Relevant Podcast, and, apparently, messy Bibles.

yinka_1  yinka_3  yinka_2

Look at some of the verses he has highlighted:

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring your remembrance all things that I said to you. (John 14:26, NKJV)

Honor the Lord with your possessions. (Proverbs 3:9)

She [Wisdom] is a tree of life to those who take hold of her. And happy are all who retain her. (Proverbs 3:18)

When Yinka flips through these pages, he’ll be reminded the Holy Spirit is with him, possessions have a purpose, and wisdom is life-giving.

It’s okay that highlighting in our Bibles sometimes makes the pages look messy. When we dig in, things can get messy.

Digging in also leads to buried treasure. When we find that treasure, we can highlight it so it will be easier to find the next time we come to the page.

Next week we’ll look at taking notes in our Bibles. I’ll share some more photos from my Bible. If you have a photo to share, send it to me at beth@demme.com.

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