Bible Journaling:5 Ways To Start
Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart”. It’s an immensely powerful passage. This also poses the question of how does one bring the Word of God into one’s life?
Reading the Bible is important, but as soon as one stops reading, it is soon forgotten. While memorization is also a good practice, it mostly commits the words to memory and not much else. There has to be another way to take in the Word of God which enables one to meditate on it, to understand it, and to respond to it. This is where Bible Journaling comes into the picture.
What is Bible Journaling?
Bible Journaling is a revitalized way of taking in the Word of God. It is done by reading the Bible in a devotional way then putting time in to responding to the Word of God. This also has a creative aspect to it. This is shown in people who read the Word of God and respond by colorful, yet meaningful images drawn into the margins of their Bibles.
Most grandparents or seniors would own a well-loved Bible. The kind that is dog-eared from all the reading, has little handwritten notes in the margins, has highlights or underlines on some passages, and has prayer requests too. Since their time, there has been a change to more artistic and meaningful ways of responding to the Word of God.
Bible Journaling Ideas:
To do Bible Journaling, it is not necessarily required that one should be artistic. Since this is a personal process, there’s a wide array methods, techniques, or approaches that one can do. It would just depend on one’s relationship with the Lord and how one would like to express it on paper.
There are two main aspects of Bible journaling. One is related to the location or positioning. The other is related to the content or how it would be done.
When it comes to location, it varies from person to person. Some just like to do it on the margins hence the popularity of wide-margin Bibles. Some people aren’t comfortable with covering the Word of God. Doing Bible journaling on the margin can lead to a wide range of possibilities. One can experiment with stickers, washi tape, and maybe die-cuts.
Another method is working over the text which gives one more surface area to work with. This means that the art or design is transparent. It can be achieved by using light mediums such as colored pencils, watercolors, or highlighters. It’s also important to use light colors when going over the text.
Some may also opt to go all over the pages. Some treat their Bible journals as art journals. Any way of creative worship is fine. No one should be condemned for the way they love and worship the Lord.
There are people who can’t bring themselves to mark or write on their Bible and that’s completely fine. An alternative would be to have a notebook for it. Many use composition notebooks, spiral notebooks, ring binders, of hymnals.
When it comes to content, it also varies from person to person. Journaling has changed in terms of how and what a person journals. One form is in prayers. One could write prayer or write down a prayers list. Some even like to echo God’s promises back to Him by way of journaling.
If someone is trying to study or understand a verse or passage, one can also rewrite the Scripture. Some enjoy doing a form of calligraphy or typography on the margins of their Bibles or on bookmarks. It helps them focus and meditate on the meaning of it while rewriting.
Some also like to incorporate their Bible study notes or sermon notes. It also livens one’s notes and makes it more enjoyable to read. For example, if one had notes about Jericho, one could include a map of Jericho. Some might even add stickers to it.
For the more musical in nature, some people like to use lyrics in their creative worship. Sometimes the lyrics of a worship song might be the best words to use in response to God’s Word. Those can be added to the Bible’s margins and when one goes back to it, they can read it or sing it to the Lord.
Lastly, for the more visual, drawings. There are so many people who are visual learners which makes drawing a better way to understand and react to God’s message. Creating illustrations can be a special form of worship.
Some things to note are the materials one uses, especially if one chooses to write or draw directly onto the Bible. It may be wise to test materials on separate sheets of paper to avoid any ink bleeding through the paper. One more thing to note is that perfection is irrelevant in Bible journaling. It shouldn’t keep one from connecting to God as it is an expression of one’s relationship with God and how one worships Him.
Is Bible Journaling Disrespectful?
Sometimes when discussing Bible study with new members of the faith, they’re often shocked at the idea that someone would write in their Bible. They see the words “Holy Bible” and want to treat it as such. They worry that writing or marking the Bible is in some way disrespectful or wrong.
The Word of God is immensely valuable to Christians, but the Bible isn’t something to be worshipped. The goal is to interact with it in a way that it gets inside of one to transform and shape one. If writing in your Bible will help the person achieve it, then that person should go right ahead.
For years, people would consider Bible journaling as a cross between devotional reading and study. People would write down notes, underlines, and highlights where they were touched, or enlightened by the Scripture. These notations could be little mementos, prayers, or anything that might aid the reader in remembering the effect a verse had on them.
This kind of discipline will help remind one of how the Spirit moved in them last time they studied this passage, but it also becomes a long-term testimony of one’s spiritual growth. It can be immensely fulfilling to look back at those notes over the years and recognize how God has transformed someone over time.
In the past, Bibles were hand copied and they were always full of beautiful typography and illustrations. A beautiful example of this is the Gutenberg Bible which was filled with rubrics that had hand-drawn and colored text and illumined with hand-drawn embellishments. This movement brings us back to a time when creative expressions were considered a worshipful manner of responding to the Word of God.
While there is nothing wrong with Bible journaling, one might need to keep a couple of things in mind. This is to ensure that nothing get misinterpreted or replaced. It is also important to remember the value of the Bible.
The first thing to remember is that any artistic expression should complement and not replace actual Bible Study. It is not that artistic expression has no place in personal worship. On the contrary, creating art can be as worshipful as writing a hymn. As long as it comes from a heart full of love for God and a mind full of the truth of His Word.
However, artistic expression is not an alternative for studying the Word of God. Spending half an hour drawing out and coloring in a visual representation of Mathew 5:14 is not equivalent to spending half an hour reading, praying about, and thinking about what it means for one to live their life as the “light of the world.”
There is a place for creativity anywhere. If God has blessed someone with that, it should be used, valued, and shard. In line with this, one’s time in the Word is about taking in God’s truth and learning how to apply it in one’s life. It is important to keep in mind that one’s artistic expression is the result of what one spends time reading, learning, and praying about.
The second concern it to remember that the Word is one’s focus, and not their creativity. As the Bible is not the medium for one’s artistic message, the Bible is the message. The fundamental danger in the exercise of Bible journaling is that the Bible might become a portfolio of one’s art.
It important to remember that the Bible is God’s Holy Word. John Piper once said that “God wrote a book. That reality blows me away every time I stop to think about it. Pages and pages of God. His thoughts, His words, His heart. Right there, just a few inches away.”
God has a powerful impact on everyone’s hearts by His Word. It would be of concern if the words of God become less important to one’s own self-expression. A genuine concern is neglecting an entire page because the art didn’t turn out good on that page.
Another concern would be if the pages of His everlasting Word would become as temporary and disposable as a normal sketchpad. It makes God’s Word more disposable to the person when His Word is supposed to stay with them through their lifetime.
Some might be more excited to share their creation with others than their experience with the Word of God; some might even spend less of their time reading His Words and more time spent with the overall aesthetic of their work. It is of vital importance that one doesn’t let the Bible become an obscure and secondary part of one’s creative output.
It is better to focus on reading the truth of the Scripture and journal or draw something with the goal that in doing it will aid one to reflect on and to internalize it. It should also be done in a way that does not obscure the text, but instead highlights and draws attention to its truth.
One should always be reminded that one is interacting with God’s eternal Word and that Reverence is suitable. It is better to spend more time in getting into God’s Word and letting the journaling become an articulation and reminder of what one has learned from the passages.
Another thing to be mindful about is that shallow study will not produce strong faith. Bible journaling doesn’t necessarily equal to shallow Bible study. However, this way of understanding Scripture has a very real risk of becoming shallow.
Journaling in one’s Bible has the potential of being great way for one to get more from the study of the Word. If one loses the sight on what one’s primary purpose is, one can easily be distracted with the artistic focus instead. It would be somehow frowned upon to spend a good majority of one’s time in the Word but more focused on artistic expression.
It is important to be wary of the incredibly imminent risk of letting the opportunity for deep intimacy with God and His Word to simply become an occasion get creative and to relax. But does it mean that one should not write, sketch, or even color in the extra-wide margins of one’s journaling Bible? No, it does not mean that. As Colossians 3:16 says, it is a good way to “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you”.
While a few are justifiably bothered that Bible journaling might damage their Bibles, there is an even greater concern which is that it might interfere with one’s understanding of the Bible. To help prevent this, it is advisable for one to use of Bible journaling as a part of one’s regular Bible study to keep the above concerns at bay. Even good things can become a hindrance to one’s spiritual growth when not used appropriately.