4 Reasons to Mark Your Bible

It took me years to write in my Bible without looking over my shoulder. 

I learned as a child that the Bible was too complex and profound for a layperson to understand. The average churchgoer in my congregation didn’t carry a Bible, because she didn’t own one. Only church leaders were allowed to read from the over-sized white Bible that occupied the hallowed place at the front of our church. 

When I was six, two ladies from the Primitive Methodist church down the street knocked on my door. Thanking my mother for allowing me to attend Vacation Bible School, they presented me with a black, gold-edged Bible with my name written inside. It was a solemn moment. 

For twelve years, my Bible was the only Bible in our house. Once, when I was 13, I made a New Year’s resolution to read it from cover to cover, one chapter a day. I felt quite scandalous, reading a book I’d been warned was too complex, but by January 4, I had lost interest. I returned my Bible to its place on the shelf where it sat until I was 16. 

Fancying myself a poet and spending hours sitting on the shores of Narragansett Bay composing long poems about unrequited love, I discovered the poetic books of the Bible. I admired the beauty of its simile and metaphor, puzzled over its subliminal messages, but again quickly lost interest. 

When I was 18 years old, I fell in love, and that changed everything. When I surrendered my life to Christ, I pulled my Bible down from the shelf again. Only this time I wasn’t reading to keep a New Year’s resolution or plumb the depths of ancient literature. I was reading to learn about Jesus, the Lover of my soul. 

Hungry to discover everything I could about my new found faith, I bought a Billy Graham discipleship book from a thrift store and began looking up verses. 

Friends gave me my first leather Bible. Unlike the black, cardboard-covered treasure from my childhood, this beauty had a burgundy leather cover with my name embossed in the corner. I carried it to church three times a week and read the stories behind the legends I’d thus far only heard about. Moses, Samson, and Jonah came alive, and I couldn’t get enough. 

One night in Bible study, I noticed a man underlining verses and making notes in the margin of his Bible. Another woman pulled out a yellow highlighter and began to mark her copy of the Scriptures. I was horrified. 

Flashbacks to my early childhood, combined with my teachers’ warnings about not writing in schoolbooks convinced me I was witnessing not only disrespect, but desecration. 

As soon as Bible study ended, I cornered a friend. “Why are they writing in their Bibles?” I asked. “Isn’t that WRONG?” 

She explained that people write in their Bibles for many reasons—to mark special verses, to record notes from a memorable sermon, or to isolate promises they want to remember. Reassured, I began to think about writing in my Bible. 

It seemed appropriate, I thought, to underline the verses that directed me into a relationship with God, six verses from the book of Romans, traditionally called The Roman Road*. It was frightening and exhilarating, all at the same time. 

After those first verses, I underlined precious promises I wanted to remember. I scribbled sermon notes in the margins. I dated special passages. Instead of a museum piece, I now had a living record of my spiritual journey. 

In the 34 years since then, I’ve owned several Bibles. I’ve worn the covers off paperback versions and rubbed the leather smooth on others. My current copy, a leather-bound John MacArthur One Year Study Bible is a treasure. 

Just yesterday I came across verses in Jeremiah and a note in the margin claiming a promise God gave me for one of my children. Dated 2010, the promise has since been gloriously fulfilled. In the book of Mark, I recorded a prayer asking for mercy on behalf of a loved one. In Ezekiel, I underlined God’s insight into a difficult family situation. Notes on almost every page record God’s faithfulness to me and stand as an indisputable testimony of the dynamic nature of God’s living Word. 

Do mark your Bible? Why or why not? What note is most special to you? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment below and join the conversation. 

*The Romans Road contains the following verses that explain salvation: Romans 3:23 Romans 3:10-18 Romans 6:23 Romans 5:8 Romans 10:9 Romans 10:13 Romans 5:1 Romans 8:1 Romans 8:38-39

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I suspect there are quite a few busy women on your Christmas list. Friends, co-workers, fellow church members, and your children's teachers, coaches, and babysitters, just to name a few. If you'd like to give them a gift that will draw them closer to the Lord, encourage them to spend time in God's Word, and think biblically, Hungry for God ... Starving for Time, Five-Minute Devotions for Busy Women is the gift you're looking for. 

And what about those special women in your life that may not have a relationship with the Lord? In the last devotion in the book, I share what it means to have a relationship with Jesus Christ. Giving someone you care about a copy of HFG is not just passing along spiritual encouragement, it's a gentle, winsome way to share the gospel.

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  1. I write on mine. I can't remember all the great things pastor says if I don't. I also write and highlight during my personal reading time. What note is most special? Hmm... Luke 7:44-47 - "much was forgiven = much love" - because without those verses, the enemy mocks me when I labor: "Trying to earn your salvation? You'll never be good enough..." With those verses, I can shut him up: "I already know I will never be good enough. I don't have to be. Jesus was good enough. I'm as justified and loved today as I will ever be--all the way. I will enjoy my labor not because I'm trying to earn something. I will enjoy it because much was forgiven = I feel much love." Thanks for the great posts always!

    1. John 14:15 is another good verse to combat the enemy's taunt of "Trying to earn your salvation?" It says, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." If your labor is not an effort to earn something but an effort to keep His commandments because you love Him - this is not legalism. The enemy has no grounds for accusation. God loves us always. He does expect us to listen to Him and obey, though. Our obedience is out of love and trust in the One who knows all things!

    2. Amen, Patricia, God's word is the most effective way to silence Satan, but if we haven't marked those powerful verses, we can't find them when we need them most! Thanks for chiming in!

  2. I, too, mark my bible. I realize that I am learning. There is so much to learn from the Bible, I am sure I will study it my whole life and still be learning. When I was learning something important in school, my teachers encouraged me to underline and highlight to help me remember. That's why I started marking my bible (as well as keeping a journal of questions and answers and another of God's grace to me). I need to remember. These are like the Israelites pillars of stones to me. Reminders of what God has done for me!

    1. Yes! Exactly! As students of the Word, we can use the same study tactics on the most important life textbook of all. Your comment is so encouraging today.

  3. "A living record of my spiritual journey"..... I write all the time in my bible. In fact I record things in the back of my bible...and in the front...and have also put dates for things. I will have to remember to put those dates INSIDE the pages
    of the bible also.
    Years back - when my father passed away my pastor asked to see his bible. I asked him why. He said he wanted to see if there was something special in that bible that he could use at the funeral service. So...remember...whatever you write in your bible may someday also impact the next reader of your bible. The notes you pen in bible ...are not always for your eyes only!

    1. Linda, I did the same thing when my husband's family asked me to eulogized my mother-in-law. In her Bible was a beautiful legacy of faith events, promises, and truth. It made a challenging task much easier. Her Bible told the story!