I remember my grandmother thought it was a disastrous thing to write in a Bible. I also remember seeing other kids write in hymnals and thinking they were going to Hell. Between a rabid fascination with the Bible and classical music training I have gotten both of these ideas out of my system.
Last night I opened up an old study Bible that I carried for a few years. It was during a huge spiritual time for me. I noticed many passage throughout the Bible that had been highlighted or underlined. Some of these were dated, especially psalms and 1 and 2nd Corinthians. It was great to look back and remember why these passages had meant so much to me. I could place myself in my old desk at college up late at night reading these passages over and over. I could see myself in prayer repeating memorized sections from the Psalms. It was great to look back and see where I had been. I have a few other bibles that I can remember when and why I underlined things.
As seminarians and potential ministers, one of the important things that we can’t forget is our own spiritual history. I keep up with friends that help to remind me what I have been saved from, and I love to read my old journals and bible notes to see what I found useful at certain times in life.
So last night, I decided to always date my underlineings. That way I can always remember why things were important to me. I also started a habit last year that I want to share with you, one that benefits me so much in regard to separating study and personal devotion.
When I first started seminary I carried the bible I had used for the last several years. I quickly filled it with more and more notes. At points (especially in an Inductive Bible Study class in Mark) I couldn’t figure out what notes were from 2004 and 2007. What I started doing was carry a “class” bible. This is a bible that I just use for school. I sometimes go to it when I am in personal study or sermon prep, but I make sure it is the bible I carry on a daily basis to class.
The reason I did this was to separate devotional thoughts from textual/form/redaction/historical-critical notes from class. When I am reading Philippians 2, I don’t want to see my notes on the textual variance of the Christ hymn, but instead focus on the mind of Christ and how His descent/ascent is a lifestyle pattern. Their is certainly a cross-over between academic and devotional, but this is a way for me to stay concentrated when I am simply reading my Bible.
I love finding my old notes in various Bibles. When at seminary, it is hard to loose focus about why we are really here. Sadly enough, there are many people that graduate knowing alot about Jesus, but don’t really know him. We have to find practices that will allow us to continually focus on the Triune God and defend them in ways that others don’t understand (like my carrying a “just a class bible”). Don’t loose focus on this, because it could be the worst mistake you could ever make.