09 February 2014

Bible Marking Tutorial Series: Beginner's Marking Challenge

Dear Lissy,

We've completed our Bible marking tutorial series, and now I want to offer a challenge to you:  make a single, focused trip through the Word looking for and marking just your chosen subject. Our great-greats used this method to prepare sermon series centuries ago.  R. A. Torrey first formally mentions it, and it was popular enough during his time that the Thompson Chain Bible was born.  21st century writers like Elizabeth George have endorsed this Bible reading method, too.   It may take as much as a year, but if you commit just one hour per day, at the speed you read it will take 2 months or less.  Really and truly!

1.  Purchase an inexpensive large print Bible.
  • You will only be using this Bible for a couple of months to a year, so it doesn't need to be high quality.
  • Keep an eye out at yard sales, thrift stores, and bookstore clearance sales and purchase large print Bibles in advance.  
2.  Set aside a crayon, colored pencil, or drylighter.  Tie it to the ribbon marker if you're prone to misplacing things.

3.  Choose a broad topic.
  • Women is a great Bible-wide topic with immediate importance.
  • Food, money, music or another area of our physical existence you want to learn more about.
  • Grace, holiness, mercy, or other Bible-wide themes
  • I'm doing a "why" Bible this year (2014).  I highlight in green every portion of Scripture that tells why God did something or why he gave a particular command.  It's a powerful study that reveals the character of God in a new way.  I'm also encouraging myself to consider and meditate on why God included the portion I read each day in His Word.
4.  Choose a reading plan.
  • I'm partial to Professor Horner's reading plan, but it requires a commitment of about an hour a day.  I'm an ornery rig, so I need to be in the Word several times a day to keep an eternal focus.  This plan is ideal for me.  
  • The Slacker's Bible reading plan is another awesome choice for a 20-30 minute commitment.  It is based on reading a portion from each section of the Bible on a different day.  It isn't intended to be completed in a year -- you just pick away on the part of the Bible for that day until you've read the whole thing. 
    • Sunday: The books of poetry
      Monday: The Pentateuch
      Tuesday: O.T. history
      Wednesday: O.T. history (There is a lot of it.)
      Thursday: O.T. prophets
      Friday: N.T. history
      Saturday: N.T. epistles
5.  As you read, mark your theme. 
  • Highlight any direct mentions of your theme. For our example, we'll use mercy/merciful.
  • Mark stories (vertical line down the margin) that demonstrate either the positive or negative aspect of your theme. How did God show Adam and Eve mercy?  Mark the verses that demonstrate God's mercy even though the word "mercy" doesn't appear.  When did God not show mercy and why?  Mark it!
  • If you have a meditation you don't want to forget, jot it in the margins.  *God may choose to show mercy to my children and descendents because of my relationship with Him.
  • When you reach a verse or story that deals with an area that you KNOW you'll want to come back to again and again, put an asterisk in the upper corner of the page where you can just flip through and find it.
  • If you are using the Prof. Horner or Slacker's and Shirker's plan, you'll want to put in cross references as one part of the Bible illuminates another part you've just read.
  • When you are all done, affix a label to the spine that indicates that Bible's theme and place it on your bookcase.  Take it out and refresh your mind on that topic occasionally by reading just the highlighted portions.
  • If you want to go all R. A. Torrey on this study, you'll need to open a file on your computer or grab a journal and write down what you're learning in an organized fashion.  At the end of the study, write up a summary.  This extra step would be ideal, but just the focused reading, highlighting, and review can be very powerful.
Focused reading is one of the simplest plans for making the Word a part of your daily life.  The Bible takes on a new level of excitement when you're on a treasure hunt, but this method doesn't require any special study tools or Bible classes.  Your key word or idea will unlock a hundred secret nooks and crannies throughout the Bible and you'll love the Word as never before.



  1. Thank you for sharing this series. It was encouraging, inspiring and fun to read, and it looks like I need to get a new Bible and cut back on my copious annotations and colouring. I can't wait to get started on this assignment, although the only inexpensive Bibles I can find are tiny-print paperbacks. Would those to be okay to use or would you recommend spending more on a large-print? Thank you once again!

  2. The Word is meant to be read, meditated upon, obeyed, and loved. I'm sharing my personal choices after years of reading, studying, and using the Word. I prefer a few "nightlight" notes and markings that allow me to read the text with fresh eyes each time. Some people love all of the "footprints" from a previous study and have no trouble reading around them. Bottom line: If you love color and notes, and they help you read and obey that portion of the Word, go for it! For those just starting out or those who prefer to read without getting bogged down in study notes, the system I shared here is an option.
    Your young eyes can probably handle tiny print just fine. Try reading a chapter or two holding the Bible at waist height and see how you get on. Liss and I both have astigmatisms and love using large print Bibles for our reading Bibles. They are much easier on the eyes and brain when you read for half an hour or more.
    Hugs and enjoy the rest of your summer!