As a pastor, I’ve found that many people simply won’t read the Bible because they’re afraid of its size. It’s so massive and foreign, what hope can a new Christian have to understand it? With Crossway’s ESV Illuminated Scripture Journal, one can easily respond to that concern, “Get behind me, Satan.” (That’s a Bible reference that you’ll soon understand if you pull out the thin, portable journal titled, “Matthew.”)
The journals make reading and meditation on the actual text of Scripture a breeze. Issued in booklet form, they’re compact and convenient for travel, with each page spread featuring the biblical text on the left and a lightly dotted grid for notes on the right. We all know how pens tend to Tokyo drift without guidance, right? It’s a simple concept, but genius in effect. Numerous times, I’ve caught my wife attempting to sneak a journal out of my collection for herself.
Based on a recent survey, Crossway created a helpful infographic showing the amount of time required to read through the entire Bible. According to their results, it only takes about eighteen hours total to read the New Testament from beginning to end. By comparison, readers have to set aside upwards of fifty-nine hours to complete the Harry Potter series. Clearly, most of us have the time, we just lack the ability to see it.
Say you’re waiting for a friend at a local coffee shop or killing time before boarding a flight. You could open up the Galatians journal and read it in its entirety in only twenty minutes. You’d probably even have time left over to jot down some quick notes and pray over what you learned.
Beautiful and Versatile
Along with their convenience, the journals are beautiful. Renowned artist Dana Tamamachi hand-drew the gold-inked illustrations featured on the cover and interior pages, and her work is stunning. It “belongs all over Instagram”—an actual quote from my wife. But the artwork does not distract from a deep reading of the words inside. Instead, illustrations are dispersed just enough to create a reflective and engaging experience for readers.
While the journals make for great personal use, that’s not their only potential. I’ve considered using them for my own sermon preparation so that I am forced to reckon with God’s Word to me before considering God’s Word to his people. Preachers should never forget the importance of preaching the gospel to ourselves before preaching to our hearers. I’ve also thought about preaching from a journal in the pulpit. With the space provided on the right-hand side, I could write a sermon outline or scribble necessary notes to assist me while in other teaching settings. My wife wants to take a journal with her to her Bible study group. And we’ve already considered how the individual journals could be gifted book-by-book as an easy way of encouraging Christians to continue engaging the Bible with heartfelt devotion.
Just as a knife has many uses—cutting, chopping, poking, peeling—so do the Scripture Journals. How sweet would it be to have a record of your own handwritten notes through every book of the Bible reflecting years of sitting under God’s preached word? This set makes it possible without the fear of losing church bulletins or missing pages.
The only complaint I have about the Illuminated Scripture Journal is that its beauty made me feel as though my sloppy handwriting would ruin it. Like fine china, I was tempted to keep it stored somewhere safe only to bring it out every so often. Those artsy types, and especially those who can draw straight lines without a ruler, will have no such issue. If you’re looking for an elegant Christmas gift, order a set of these New Testament journals to place under that bright, shining tree.