Scott Kedersha Ministry/Leadership

Two of my favorite spiritual disciplines are reading the Bible and journaling. A few years ago a friend introduced me to the Journaling Bible. My daily use of a journaling bible has been a life-changing discipline for me.

Instead of simply reading the Bible and either forgetting what I read or journaling in a separate journal, the Journaling Bible has allowed me to capture my thoughts and prayers directly in my Bible. In this post, I want to share with you five unique ways I, and some friends of mine, use their journaling Bible.

It’s a new year which provides a great time to start a new life-transforming habit.

What is a Journaling Bible and Which One Should I use?

The best way for me to explain this is to show you what one looks like. Here’s a picture from the one I’m using right now. In addition, you can see more pictures/samples on Crossway’s website.

You have several great options. I’ve used both the NIV Journaling Bible and the ESV Journaling Bible. ESV has a ton of options, but I prefer the single column version instead of the double column. You can spend a little bit of money (~$25) or a lot (~$100 for ESV Leather Bound), depending on your personal preference or gift choice.

Here are five unique ways you can use a journaling bible.

1. Taking Sermon Notes: The Journaling Bible provides ample room for sermon notes/outlines as pastors teach through various passages. For instance, our teaching pastors are currently teaching through the book of Acts. For each sermon, I date the passage, underline highlights in the text, and outline the main points in the margins.

2. Personal Takeaways During Quiet Times: As I read through the Bible on my own, I write in the margins my personal applications, questions, or prayers. The Journaling Bible provides more than enough space to record my takeaways.

3. Exercise Your Creative Muscle: I’m not super creative or artistic, but I know several friends who use the margins to draw images from the passage in the margins using colored pens or pencils.

4. Wedding Guest Book: As a marriage pastor, I get to attend and officiate my fair share of weddings. I’ve seen several couples use this idea, and I love it. Guests can sign their names and write a note to the bride and groom next to their favorite passage in the Bible. They can also write out a prayer for the newlyweds next to a passage of their choosing.

5. As a Gift to Pass on to Your Children: This is my personal favorite on the list. I’ve done this for two of my sons and plan on doing the same for the other two in the next few years. There are several ways to do this, but here is how I do it:

  • I pick one of my children to focus on for one calendar year and use a new journaling Bible for the year. I write a note to my son on the inside cover of the Bible on January 1.
  • As I read through the Scriptures that year, I journal thoughts, prayers, and highlights through the year in the margins of the Bible. I pray for all my boys often, but during this year I pray a little more often for this specific child.
  • I went through a guided reading plan during the year so it helped keep me on track during my bible reading. One year I read through the entire Bible on Join the Journey and the following year I read through the four gospels.
  • I also include highlights from their year in the margins. For instance, I include important dates for the year— the first day of school, accomplishments in sports or school, or something of high character I saw them do on a particular date.
  • On December 31, I write another letter, telling them how I’ve seen them grow in the year and how my affection for them has grown as I’ve prayed more intentionally for them for 365 days.
  • I’ve chosen to give them their bible during their senior year in high school or as a high school graduation gift. There’s no right or wrong way to do this—it’s simply the decision I made.
    • Other friends have done something similar and chose to give them their Bible when their child turned 13.
  • Another similar idea is to have one journaling bible going for each of your children and journal in it over the years, not just during one calendar year.
  • One friend has done this for five of his children so far and has done something different for each one. For one of his children, he slowed way down and read commentaries along the way. He included personal thoughts and prayers as well as commentary from other books he read.
    • He also includes a letter to his child at the beginning and end of each book of the Bible.
  • Another friend gifts them the Bible for Christmas. He commits to spending one hour/day praying specifically for his child in the next year. He then gifted the Bible to his child one year later, filled with notes, prayers, and lessons learned.
    • We spend so much money and time thinking through Christmas gifts. I’d much rather give the gift of lessons learned and 365 hours of prayer and journaling to someone I love.

What if I don’t know how to journal or what to say?

1. Check out Donald Whitney’s book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. This is one of my favorite books I’ve ever read. He includes a great chapter on journaling.

2. Michael Hyatt has put together some great resources on journaling. He uses a daily template of seven questions I’d encourage you to check out.

3. Desiring God Article: Journal as a Pathway to Joy, by David Mathis

4. My good friend (and co-worker) Jeff Parker created a great journal (my personal favorite) and has some excellent resources on his blog about journaling.

So there you go. I’m sure there are many other excellent ways to use a journaling bible, but I hope this gets you thinking. I’ve loved using mine the last few years and look forward to gifting one to each of my children in the future. The bottom line is that the journaling bible helps me to not just read something and forget it. The process of reading God’s Word and journaling helps me to apply what I read. I don’t want to be the guy from James who walks away and doesn’t apply what he’s learned (James 1:22-25).

Your Turn:

  • Have you ever used a journaling Bible?
  • Do you journal what you’re learning in the Word? What works best for you?
  • Have you ever tried to journal using an app or something like the Day One Journal?

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