It’s hard to chart Christian growth. Sometimes we experience huge, life-changing breakthroughs and then settle into periods of slow, incremental growth. For each of us, the journey toward maturity is as unique as we are.
This can make it hard to recognize how you’ve matured over time. And that’s where Bible journaling can come in handy.
Building an Altar of Remembrance
Like many Old Testament heroes, Abraham had a peculiar habit of building an altar when he had significant encounters with God:
Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.
From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.—Genesis 12:6–9
The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.”
So Abram went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he pitched his tents. There he built an altar to the Lord.—Genesis 13:14–18
These altars helped to remind Abraham of his special relationship with the Lord and the promises he had been given. They also became a touchstone that Abraham could return to when he needed to reconnect with God:
From the Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the Lord.—Genesis 13:3–4
Bible journaling can be a way to create your own altar of remembrance for the promises and transformative interactions you have with God as you study his Word. When you’re actively reading your Bible, you’re keeping a log of who and where you were the last time you encountered this portion of Scripture.
As you come across these notes in the future, you get to re-experience the stuff that jumped out at you in previous readings. Sometimes you’ll be reminded of powerful past insights, and other times you might even be surprised at how immature those insights were. Looking back on previous readings will help you see growth in a new light.
Journaling to Remember
If you want to journal in a way that you can look back on your spiritual growth, keep track of:
1. Insights and impressions: If a verse leads you to an insight that you’ve never realized before, write a note about it. Sometimes those perceptions are gold, and it’s a shame not to document them.
2. Prayers for situations and events: Sometimes a passage of Scripture will remind you of a particular issue or person that needs prayer. Take a moment to pray for that situation and then make a note in your margins. It’s nice to look back on these things that weighed heavy on you and see how God worked them out.
3. Cross references: As you read, you’re going to think of other Scripture that’s relevant and similar. When that occurs, write down the reference and a note about the connection.
4. Dates: As you take notes, make sure that you include dates. These dates will provide a contextual timestamp to your growth. Years from now you might look back on those notes and remember what was happening when you had that insight.
PRO-TIP: For the best Bible journaling experience, make sure you have a Bible with wide margins like the NIV Journal the Word™ Bible or the NIV Beautiful Word™ Bible. It’s difficult to take good notes if you’re trying to write them in small margins or around other notes and references.
Recognizing God’s Work In Our Lives
The Bible is living and active, and the relationship we have with God through our Bible reading can be both informative and transformative. The better we get at documenting our time in the Bible, the more we will recognize God at work in our lives. Start charting your spiritual journey today!