Can I be honest with you? Other than minimal highlights and notes, I absolutely hate writing in my Bible. I own a Bible I’d like to use for years down the road and eventually pass on to my children; but, I don’t want it cluttered with random notes and highlights. My preference is to keep my primary Bible readable and distraction free. Yet, I still want the freedom to mark up my Bible and make notes as I study God’s Word. It’s for this reason that I’m excited about the ESV Scripture Journals from Crossway. These booklets balance my desire to keep my primary Bible clean, while maintaining my ability to make notes and markings.
This week we’re taking a look at these journals and how you might use them in your Bible study. And keep reading for your chance to win your own set of New Testament Scripture Journals.
What are the ESV Scripture Journals?
Before we discuss how to use the ESV Scripture Journals, let’s first explain what they are. Here is how Crossway describes the journals on their website:
ESV Scripture Journals pair the entirety of individual books of the New Testament with lightly lined blank pages opposite each page of the biblical text, allowing readers to take extended notes or record insights and prayers directly beside corresponding passages of Scripture.
In other words, what you get are portable versions of the Bible text, with each book (or group of smaller books) broken out into its own volume. Each volume measures 5.75 x 8 inches, making it the ideal size for tossing into a bag or purse.
Layout & Details
The layout of the ESV Scripture Journals are perfect for note taking and Bible study.
When you open one of the journals, the first thing you notice is its layout. On the lefthand page is the ESV Bible text in a beautiful 11.75 point font, which is quite readable. The text is presented in a single-column paragraph format. It is void of cross-references and footnotes for distraction-free studying. Additionally, the page features wide margins, which are perfect for taking notes and marking up the text. On the facing righthand side is a full lightly ruled blank page for taking notes.
In terms of quality, the journals are quite durable and feel like they can take a beating. The pages are thick, opaque, cream-colored paper, which are perfect for either pen or pencil. You can expect minimal bleed through with pens when taking notes. The binding is also optimal for taking notes as it lays flat, so you don’t have to worry about it closing itself when you move away from the journal.
Additionally, when you purchase an entire New Testament set, it comes in a sturdy case for both displaying and protecting the volumes.The layout of the ESV Scripture Journals are perfect for note taking and Bible study. Click To Tweet
Ways to Use the ESV Scripture Journals
When you purchase a single ESV Scripture Journal it comes with a sleeve, and on the back it lists a few ways you can use it. Let’s take a look at these, as well as a couple other ways you can use them.
One way to use a Scripture Journal is to take notes as your pastor preaches through a book of the Bible. If you attend a church where your pastor preaches expository sermons through books of the Bible, this is a great way to make use of these journals. You can carry this journal in lieu of a notebook (and even your Bible), and take all your notes without worry.
That said, the usefulness of the journal for sermon notes varies based on a couple factors. First, if your pastor goes verse-by-verse, instead of covering large portions of Scripture at a time, you may quickly find yourself running out of room in the journal. Likewise, if you take lengthy notes, you will encounter the same problem of running out of space. Yet, if your notes are minimal, you should not have any issue.
Prayers & Journaling
In a previous Bible study tip we talked about the spiritual discipline of journaling. As its title suggests, the ESV Scripture Journals are a great way to journal and write your thoughts as you work through a book of the Bible. You can mark up the Bible text, highlight key passages, write down your insights, as well as any thoughts or application you take away from your studies. When you’re done with the book, you’ll have a complete record of your time studying a given book of the Bible.
Additionally, you can write out quick prayers as you study. One of the best ways to enhance your prayer life is to use the Word of God and pray it back to God. What better way to do that than writing out prayers as you study a given passage. Or, you can write down items you need to pray for as you study. The possibilities for using the Scripture Journal for prayer are endless.
If we want to be like the Psalmist and hide God’s Word in our hearts (Psalm 119:11), then we need to make scripture memory a priority. The Scripture Journal is a great tool for memorizing Bible verses. In my opinion, it’s one of its better uses.
When you read through a book of the Bible, there are usually a handful of verses you want to memorize. With a Scripture Journal you can mark or highlight the verse in the Bible text, and then use the lined note page to write the passage over & over again until you’ve memorized it. Writing is one of the best ways to retain information, making the journal perfect for such a task.
Small Group & Family Worship
The ESV Scripture Journals are also perfect in a group setting. If your small group or family is working its way through a book of the Bible, use a journal to write down your thoughts and takeaways.
In a small group setting you can write down your thoughts before, during, and after meeting in the journal. When you write them beforehand, you have notes and insights you can share during the small group study. During the meeting you can write down key insights shared by others. Finally, you can recap your time and thoughts from small group in the same journal.
You can do similar in a family worship setting. When you provide each member of your family with a Scripture Journal, they can write down their thoughts as the family reads through God’s Word together. This is something I plan to do with my family.
One-on-One Bible Reading
Another group setting where the ESV Scripture Journals are useful is when you’re reading through the Bible with a friend, particularly a new believer. In this way, the Scripture Journal keeps the Bible from becoming overwhelming as you focus on a single book. For example, imagine walking a new believer through the gospel of John using one of these journals. You can prepare notes & thoughts beforehand that you want to highlight and share during your meeting with your friend. At the same time, your friend can use the journaling space to write down questions they have before your next meeting.
The Scripture Journal proves useful in this scenario because you can keep your notes separate from your normal Bible study notes. Additionally, you can use a new journal when reading with someone new without the need to hide or discard notes that may be specific to someone else.ESV Scripture Journals are great for one-on-one Bible reading & discipleship settings. Click To Tweet
Personal Bible Study Notes
Of all the ways to use the ESV Scripture Journals, I prefer using them for my personal Bible study notes. The goal with this method is explaining the meaning of the text in your own words. The emphasis isn’t on personal application and insight, although that certainly makes its way into your notes. When you use the journal this way, you’re essentially creating a personal commentary on a book of the Bible.
I like this method because it gives you something tangible to look back on as you revisit the book in the future. The journal allows you to see your growth and understanding of the text over the years as you examine your notes.
Sermon preparation is another excellent use for the Scripture Journal. The study of a passage for preaching usually produces many messy notes and scribbles, especially in one’s Bible. A Scripture Journal is the perfect place to craft your thoughts as you wrestle with the text. Markup the Bible text, scribble notes in the margin, begin outlining the sermon in the notes section, and so on.
I used to do something similar in Evernote and other note taking apps, but the ESV Scripture Journals make the process even easier.
My Thoughts on the ESV Scripture Journals
On the surface, the ESV Scripture Journals appear to be overly simplistic. But, their simplicity is their beauty. The Bible text with a facing page for journaling is pure genius. Its uses are as plentiful as there are people who will use it.
I appreciate the fact that I can use it as a means of doing in-depth Bible study without fear of writing all over my expensive Bibles. I can make notes and markings to my heart’s content. It’s the perfect companion to my Bible. And that’s just for personal use. I can also see myself using the journals in many other applications, such as the ones listed above. It’s ideal in a family worship setting, and I also can see myself using them as I disciple other men.
I can’t say enough good things about these journals. I truly believe they are a great way to keep your Bible notes organized. Plus, when used with the proper writing utensil (pencil or archival ink), these journals will make for a great family heirloom where your loved ones can learn from your insights into God’s Word.With the right utensil, the ESV Scripture Journals can become a great family heirloom archiving your growth in the faith. Click To Tweet
Give Scripture Journaling a Try
If you’re at all interested in the ESV Scripture Journals, I encourage you to give them a try. You can buy a single volume for $5.99 and get started for what you’d spend on lunch or a trip to Starbucks. And if you find them useful, you can purchase an entire New Testament set for $99.99 (or cheaper if you find a good deal).
Weekly Study Prompts
This week, meditate and journal on the following passages:
- Monday – Matthew 24:32-51
- Tuesday – John 17
- Wednesday – Matthew 26:47-27:31
- Thursday – Matthew 27:32-66; Luke 23:26-56
- Friday – John 19
- Memory Verses: Luke 23:34; John 17:3