Saturday, February 26, 2011

Personal Meditation Wide Margin

Wide-margin Bibles have a vast number of uses and provide and encourage a means of responding to God's word as we should. We should be not just hearers of the word but doers. Our response to God's word should be obedience. When it comes to words, specifically vocabulary, there are a few kinds of knowledge. Primarily there is recognition. You find a word familiar, you recognize its appearance or sound. A higher level of knowledge of a word is understanding the actual meaning, the denotation or dictionary definition of that word. You understand the theoretical definition of the word. An even higher level of recognition is understanding the connotation or flavor of the word in actual use. But the highest level of understanding, and the real test of understanding a word and verifying a word as part of your vocabulary is real, actual use of that word in writing and conversation. Only after you have used the word, can it truly be counted as part of your understanding in spite of an unapplied knowledge of the word's meaning.

In the same way, we gain knowledge of the Word of God by our relationship with it: by hearing, understanding, believing and obeying. At least two of those actions are conscious responses and all of them require interaction. By first hearing or reading the Word we gain recognition. By meditation and the revelation of the Holy Spirit we gain understanding of the Word and through hearing and confession we gain and exercise our belief in the Word, which is followed by our obedience of the Word. Within that meditation and revelation process, comes study, application and conscious response from our heart, soul, mind and spirit. This response is given outlet through confession with our mouth or with writing, or even within a mental or spiritual dialogue.

A wide margin Bible encourages this response by providing space for notes: for a written response from the heart, mind and spirit. This response is documented and digested in close proximity to the text, which, in ideal circumstances, helps keep our meditation on the text while not overpowering it with our own internalizing of the text.

While this may sound highly intellectual, it is often a highly spiritual process, and though the intellect must be engaged at some level, it is far preferrable to have the heart and spirit highly engaged as we react to the Anointing teaching us through the Word. Personal study notes on interpretation probably are the most common uses of wide margin Bibles, and I use my own everyday ESV wide-margin for taking notes on interpretation, paraphrasing and general notes on understanding the meaning and application of the text. However, I am blessed to be the recipient of multiple wide margin Bibles through gifts (both Christmas and my Birthday were times of being blessed with wide margin Bibles) and I have the opportunity to vary the use of my wide-margins and use different approaches with different editions.

I received a beautiful Calfskin Notetaker's Bible from Local Church Publishers , which I'm using as a personal meditation and journaling Bible. You can find an excellent review of this phenomenal edition at Studies in Scripture, let me simply say I would highly recommend the edition, it may be the finest KJV I've ever handled, it may be the finest wide margin I've ever handled. Rather than taking straightforward notes on interpretation and reading through specific books, I'm using this KJV to document moments when I was specifically impacted by a verse or passage or when I God directly spoke to me through the Word, whether in rebuke or encouragement.

The notes are my personal and often intimate responses to the voice of the LORD in scripture. I write them as prayers to God and engage the scripture as dialogue spoken directly to me. They include confession of sin, confession of faith, supplication and petition, thanksgiving and praise. In addition I added a practice of a dear friend and mentor who dates the each note so that in years to come each revelation has a tag to show God's faithfulness and my own maturing process over time. These notes create an Ebenezer that documents the promise and voice of the Holy Spirit.

Judges 3 1Now these are the nations which the LORD left, to prove Israel by them, even as many of Israel as had not known all the wars of Canaan; 2Only that the generations of the children of Israel might know, to teach them war, at the least such as before knew nothing thereof; 3Namely, five lords of the Philistines, and all the Canaanites, and the Sidonians, and the Hivites that dwelt in mount Lebanon, from mount Baalhermon unto the entering in of Hamath. 4And they were to prove Israel by them, to know whether they would hearken unto the commandments of the LORD, which he commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses.
O Lord, I thank you for my weaknesses & frailties. Though I've entered the promised land & the life of Jesus,  you have left enemies in this world & in my flesh to teach me war. Spiritual warfare draws me to you in humility & holds me close to you for strength. O Lord I thank you for my mental & emotional weakness--It leads me to You. 1-25-11

I often tell people that my relationship with God is a product of my weakness. God reached out to me and saved me from mental illness, deep sin and spiritual oppression. He healed me completely, supernaturally and without question. I have found a difference, however, between mental and emotional illness and weakness. God heals disease, but often the weakness and sensitivity that we strive against, God leaves us with in order to keep us as dependant children. In the same way that we must rely on God for a daily walk in holiness, we must rely on Him for a daily walk in spiritual, emotional and mental health. God leaves some of us with greater weaknesses in these areas than others, but in all these things I can feel the Master's hand, and I find my own strength decreasing as I make room for God's strength in my life. I am weak, but He is strong.

The fantastic amount of space will afford detailed prayers over every verse and a highly personal and timely response to scripture. Often these notes will be highly subjective in their application and highly "spiritualizing" in their interpretation, but these are not interpretative notes, but applicative notes. These are notes about how the Holy Spirit applied scripture to my heart at a specific point in time. In many ways this is journaling my experience with scripture. I do not take notes in this Bible everyday, but wait for moments when a scripture becomes a poignant part of my transformation experience and walk with Jesus. My hope is that this Bible will last a lifetime and will  hold a lifetime of experiences with the Holy Spirit and the living Word.


  1. Excellent article! Thanks for the kind words and the links. I noticed your Note-taker's has one ribbon and the grain looks slightly different from mine. Is yours the Executive model? I'm just wondering if they've changed it since I got mine. I've been coloring in mine (as I read inductively), but I haven't written in the margins yet because I've been working on ideas of how to go about it. I really like what you've done here. The Note-taker's is perfect for this. Thanks for posting this article.


  2. This is the executive model, but it does seem to have changed a bit. I gave one to a friend about 6 months ago and though the grain variation is slight, the stitching looks a little different and the print looks darker in mine. I'm extremely happy with mine.

  3. Actually, my edition does have two ribbons, the one is tucked in a page in the pictures.