Today my mom let me know that Lifeway Christian bookstore is offering a Bible journaling workshop, which they advertised as "a unique way of spending time in the Word through studying and memorizing scripture." Understandably, my mom assumed a Bible journaling workshop would teach students of the Word to journal about what they learn from the Bible. "Bible journaling" should look like the picture below, right?
Take a minute, go on Google Images and look up "Bible journaling" for a second. And then cry sad tears about what you find.
Because this is what women (and Christian bookstores) are calling "Bible study" nowadays: plucking out a verse (or even a song lyric!) and doodling it not just in the margin but literally on top of scripture, oftentimes with opaque paint that actually covers the text!
A lot of these artists are really good at what they do...I'm a fan of calligraphy and word art, and I'm quite jealous of the creative skill of these women. There is so much value in meditating on scripture, even if it's only a verse. But were they really so deep in their study of the phrase "be still” that they couldn’t find a sketchbook or even a piece of paper? Did they really need to cover up the words of the Bible? Is this empowering women to be theologians with robust faith?
The thing is, having the actual Bible as the background for your word art is just so very photogenic. Lifeway even recommends using the hashtag #noteworthytruth to “show us your journaling.” A quick search of #noteworthytruth shows you exactly how many notes are being taken on truth using this method of “Bible study”: zero. And much of this “truth” might consist of a phrase such as “I am an artist” or “from firm roots grow beautiful leaves.” I’m not seeing how legitimate Bible study would propel a person to cover up the words of the Bible to paint pretty flowers and inspirational phrases not even found in the Bible.
How could we have possibly made Bible study so much about us? And how could Christian retailers in good conscience feed this horrific trend? Is it really because they are more motivated by the profit from the sale of markers, paints, and wide-margin Bibles than by equipping women to be students of the Word? (I sent Lifeway an angry email about this.)
I think the vanity of Bible journaling is a metaphor for how mankind has always tried to use God as a stepping-stool to get what we want. And that’s convicting for me, to be honest. Though I might not smear acrylic paint all over my Bible so I can post a cute picture for Instagram, I certainly struggle with touting my Bible knowledge or subtly letting others know when I do something good. All of us in different ways abuse God’s Word for our own selfish means; that started in the garden of Eden. So maybe the yucky parts of Bible journaling aren’t so much of a recent trend after all.
But there is certainly great news. Yes, God sees our sinful self-centeredness, He hates it, and He will punish it. Romans 1:18 says, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” But this same Judge whose Word is not taken lightly is also the Justifier (Romans 3:26) who sent His Son to take that punishment for those who would believe. He rose again and we can have new and free life in Him.
Here’s some more good news: the reason "Bible journaling" is so ugly is because it sells the artist and the viewers terribly short of the beauty of true Bible study. Women who would rather paint over scripture than read it not only miss the heart of God, but they miss out on the richness of enjoying God through His Word.
In Isaiah 66:2, He says “But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.”
The joy of committing to scripture and uncovering deep layers of truth about God, speaking and singing to God about that truth, and excitedly talking with others about that truth…it’s incomparably thrilling.
Yes, studying the Bible is thrilling.
I’ve heard a pastor compare reading the Bible to “taking your vitamins”; it’s good for you but you're not always going to be excited about it. And I suppose that’s true some of the time; even as I write this I’m in a little bit of a funk with my Bible reading. But that problem is with me, not with God's Word. God's Word is always a feast; sometimes our bellies are just too full of junk food to notice.
In His presence is fullness of joy, and how could we know Him better than reading what He has so beautifully inspired people to write about Him?
Enjoy the feast of the Word, my friend! If your Bible-study career thus far has been limited to devotional books, random flipping, or even a heavy reliance on commentaries, I can't encourage you enough to sit with the Bible (just the Bible!), ask the Holy Spirit to give you understanding and joy, and behold your God through His Word.
And sure, make some lovely art about it. :)
Christians: Let's Study the Bible for Ourselves
Ten Years in the Word: How the Bible Shaped Me
The Real Reason We Don't Read Our Bibles
Our Obsession with "She"
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My name is Hope.
I'm 25, married to a former skater dude, and raising little people ages 5, 3, 1, and not-yet-born. I like lime green and sarsaparilla, and I wear my Crocs until they melt. (Florida problems.)
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Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today