Matt invites his men’s Bible study group to dive into Scripture in a colorful way. Armed with a pack of colored markers, he prints out the day’s Bible reading and invites participants to circle verbs, underline names, draw arrows between repeating phrases, highlight details, and make notes in the margins before discussing the passage.
My friend, Christian—a member of Matt’s Bible study group, remembers feeling hesitant at first:
“Here I am with a group of guys who have nicknamed themselves ‘Manbeverages & Bibles’ and now rainbow markers are strewn all over the table where we’re meeting. It’s starting to feel like a Pinterest party.
But 15 minutes into the study, the Bible started coming alive in a whole new way,” Christian says. “Each of us started noticing details, phrases, patterns—God began speaking through the Scripture to each of us in a personal way.”
Christian’s story stuck in my mind. What had Matt discovered? Would a pack of colored markers really make that big of a difference in studying the Scripture?
The #LentChallenge is the perfect opportunity to find out. This year Lent begins on Wednesday, February 18.
Two years ago, we read through the entire Bible in 40 days. Last year, we read through the New Testament. This year, we’re inviting you to read through the Gospels in 40 days in order to prepare our hearts for Easter.
The #LentChallenge will require you to read 2-3 chapters of the Bible each day. And I’m challenging you to ask one question each day as you read:
What do you most need to read that you least want to hear?
Let’s move beyond our preconceived notions and ask the Holy Spirit to speak the words we most need to hear. Even if they’re hard to hear.
I’ve decided to riff on Matt’s idea and develop the following Color Method to reading.
Verbs are circled in red. Highlighting the activity of people and God.
Names are underlined in green. Additional mentions receive an extra underline.
Timing is circled in blue. Noting when, then, and after exposes God’s blueprint.
Numbers are circled in orange. Numerals often have Biblical significance.
The Holy Spirit, angels, the prophetic are marked in light blue. A steady presence.
Observations are scribbled in turquoise. Comments, insights, humorous notes.
Doodles appear in a variety of colors. Doodling allows the soul to reflect.
Now, marking this much in my bible would create a color fiasco, so I followed Matt’s lead and went to www.biblegateway.com. I searched for the day’s readings, selected a translation, removed verse references, and printed.
This allowed me to have the Scripture printed, without numbers, and begin to mark up with lots of margins and rooms for notes.
If you’d like the book of Matthew ready to mark up without verse numbers, click here. (MARK, LUKE, JOHN <–available if you click those links).
I’ve been discovering that Matt’s color method is genius. Phrases are coming alive. Imagery is popping off the page. Details are catching my eye (and heart).
Along the way, I’m allowing my inner doodler out. I draw like a 4-year-old. But as I draw, it provides time for the words, the phrases to sink deeper into my soul than just skimming would.
Doodling slows my pacing.
Doodling helps me recognize repeat words, phrases, and emphasis.
Doodling allows me to see patterns in the way God words, the way Jesus teaches.
Let me warn you! The Color Method slows reading considerably.
The daily reading for the #LentChallenge normally takes only 15 minutes. Adding the Color Method can turn it into more than an hour—you’ll end up reading through the passage several times over.
But maybe one day, or one day a week, it’s worth trying. Let your inner doodler shine.
If you do, here are a few tips:
1. I always begin with circling the verbs in red, because you’ll find more verbs than another colorful word.
2. Within a given story, I’ll add an extra underline each time a person’s name is mentioned. For example, each time Joseph’s name is mentioned in Matthew 1, it receives an additional underline. This allows the prominence of someone to emerge within a story. This becomes particularly interesting when you start to see how often the Heavenly Father is mentioned throughout certain portions of the Gospels.
3. Often on top of a number in Scripture, I write the actual numeral. Interesting to see which numbers keep popping up—when and where.
4. I scribble lots of notes as I’m reading on the side.
5. I place question marks around confusing passages. During Lent, we’re joyful and grateful to have New Testament professor Craig Blomberg answering questions—yours and mine. So I’m collecting questions as I read. You’ll want to collect them to and send them to: firstname.lastname@example.org or leave them a comment on our weekly blog posts. We’ll be doing a Q&A post once a week with Dr. Blomberg.
6. At the end of my doodle marking time, I reread the entire day’s text and then ask the question:
What do I most need to read but least want to hear?
Then I consider how I can respond in an active way that day. Sometimes it’s through prayer or repentance, giving or reaching out to someone. But I always ask God how I can be both a hearer and doer of the day’s reading.
This is just the method I’ve been using. Feel free to riff on this or develop your own. Try it one day a week or every day. This is just one more tool to help the Scripture come alive and trick men’s groups into having Pinterest parties. Thanks Matt!
Lent starts THIS WEDNESDAY. Download the FREE #LentChallenge Gospel Reading Guide, here. Subscribe via the YouVersion app, here.