If you don’t already do so, I want to encourage you to keep a journal—a good one, a nice one—for personal Bible study. Here’s why:
Why Keep a Journal
- I keep a journal to keep a record of how God speaks to me through God’s Word. By “God’s Word,” I’m referring specifically to the Bible. Of course, God’s voice is not confined to our engagement with the Bible, but to be sure, God’s guidance, expectations, encouragement, and insight may be discerned through our reading of the Bible. Therefore, why not keep a record of God’s messages to us?
- Studies suggest that we retain only ten percent of what we read—just ten percent! That said, if God gives us life-changing, significant, meaningful insight through our reading of the Bible, we really should preserve it in a journal.
- Keeping a journal makes it possible to revisit insights you may have forgotten in your reading of the Bible.
- Keeping a journal affords you the opportunity to revisit how and what God has spoken to you over time.
- Keeping a journal provides an opportunity to track your evolution as a reader and interpreter of God’s Word.
- Keeping a journal provides an intimate space for you and God. When I revisit journal entries from the past, I’m reminded of God’s faithfulness, greatness, and love.
Suggestions for How to Keep a Journal
I really don’t think there is a right or wrong way to keep a journal when you read the Bible, but I do have suggestions. When I read the Bible, I see myself as a detective looking for God’s message to me in that moment.
- In a nutshell, when I read the Bible, I write what strikes me in the text.
- As I read a text, I jot down observations about that text.
- I interrogate the text. For example, when did Solomon find time to sleep? Did Jesus just say that? Why is Paul so upset? Why is Jonah whining so much? Why did only one leper return to Jesus?
- I attempt to apply and relate my observations to my own life.
- I consider the relevance of such observations for our day.
- I note repeated terms, phrases, or patterns—anything that hits me.
- I search for behaviors to imitate or avoid in the text.
- I consider what the text is compelling me to do, think, or believe.
- I ponder what the text suggests about humanity.
- I ponder what the text communicates about God.