Journaling has fallen on hard times in our era of often underdeveloped thoughts, hot takes, and social media-fueled shallowness. But for the honest individual willing to go back to even a generation or two removed from our own, its disciplines and delights were broadly participated in and prioritized. The American teacher Julia Cameron asserts, “Writing is medicine. It is an appropriate antidote to injury. It is an appropriate companion for any difficult change.” This same practice holds great potential in our healing and help through constructive personal time with God. I personally realized the significance of daily journal entries about 6 years ago and it has revolutionized my rhythms and reflections in more ways than I can articulate to this day! The lion’s share of those entries will never see the light of day in the public forum but have made a huge difference in what is going on between by my soul and the Savior.

We are grateful that our small groups at North Life are thriving in ways that are generating significantly intensifying hunger for and humble application of God’s Word like never before! Several church leaders have recently asked me the “why” and the “how.” There are other components too involved to list here, but the epicenter of it all is the process we have refined for reading through the Bible and journaling together, a key discipline that has revolutionized the personal and corporate processing of God’s Word in our ministry. (We each typically share one of our daily “HEAR” journal entries each week with the group.)


After praying for the Holy Spirit’s guidance, open your notebook or journal and write the letter H at the top left-hand corner. This exercise will remind you to read with a purpose. In the course of your reading, one or two verses will usually stand out and speak to you. After reading the passage of Scripture, highlight each verse that speaks to you by copying it under the letter H.

Record the following:

The name of the book

The passage of Scripture

The chapter and verses that especially speak to you

A title to describe the passage


After you have highlighted the passage, write the letter E under the previous entry. Now you will explain what the text means. By asking some simple questions, with the help of God’s Spirit and online resources listed below, you can understand the meaning of a passage or verse.

Here are a few questions you can ask of any text:

Why was this written?

To whom was it originally written?

How does it fit with the verses before and after it?

Why did the Holy Spirit include this passage in the book?

What does He intend to communicate through this text?


After writing a brief summary of what you think the text means, write the letter A. This application is the heart of the process. Everything you have done so far culminates under this heading.

Answer a series of questions to uncover the significance of these verses to you personally, questions like:

How can this help me?

What does this mean today?

What would an application of this look like in my life?

What does this mean to me?

What is God saying to me?


Finally, below the first three entries, write the letter R for respond. Your response to the passage may take on many forms. You may write a call to action. You may describe how you will be different because of what God has said to you through His Word. You may indicate what you are going to do because of what you have learned. You may respond by writing a prayer to God (This has been the most common response at our church). For example, you may ask God to help you to be more loving or to increase your desire to give more generously to others. Keep in mind that this is your response to what you have just read.

The specific reading plan you choose to use can be from a multitude of options. We have chosen to use Lifeway’s 260 plans of reading through all of the New Testament in one year and select reading from the Old Testament in one year by reading one chapter for five days of every week. (This weekly goal of only five sereadings gives some margin for error or days off instead of aiming to read every day of the year…which will not happen and tempts many to feel like they “have fallen off the wagon” in way that discouraging them from resuming.)

It is incredible to watch our people-especially our men who rarely read or write much otherwise-journaling in God’s Word and how it is revolutionizing their relationship with Him! As A.K. Chesterton put it, “Thoughts disentangle themselves over the lips and through the fingertips.” We are finding this to be so true as we write out individually and then speak out corporately on what the Spirit of God is giving us from the Bible! If our ministry can be of any specific help in constructing this in to your personal devotions or local church context, please don’t hesitate to reach out!

Here is a related article on God Time Hacks.

This method originates in Replicate: How to Create a Culture of Disciple-Making Right Where You Are, Robert Gallaty/Chris Swain.

Photo by Ioana Ye on Unsplash