One very simple tool that can greatly impact our Bible engagement is keeping a journal each day as you read. This was incredibly impactful to me when I surrendered my life to Christ and began to dig into God’s Word. I still have those little books by my bed, and the notes in them are a treasure to me. This year in reading about some different discipleship strategies, I was exposed to the H.E.A.R. method. This method is very simple, and is a great place to start in deepening your walk with Christ. All you need is a notebook, some paper, or an electronic method (smartphone, computer, etc.) and you are ready to go. Take a look at this guide from our friends at Replicate Ministries:
How do complete a HEAR Journal
The acronym HEAR in HEAR Journal stands for Highlight, Explain, Apply, and Respond. Each of these four steps contributes to creating an atmosphere to hear God speak. After settling on a reading plan and establishing a time for studying God’s Word, you will be ready to H.E.A.R. from God.
For an illustration, let’s assume that you begin your quiet time in the book of 2 Timothy, and today’s reading is the first chapter of the book. Before reading the text, pause to sincerely ask God to speak to you. It may seem trite, but it is absolutely imperative that we seek God’s guidance in order to understand His Word(1 Corinthians 2:12-14). Every time we open our Bibles, we should pray the simple prayer that David prayed: “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law (Word)” (Psalm 119:18).
After praying for the Holy Spirit’s guidance, open your HEAR Journal notebook or journal, and at the top left-hand corner, write the letter H. 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”. Write out the following:
- The name of the book
- The passage of Scripture
- The chapter and verse numbers that especially speak to you
- A title to describe the passage
This practice will make it easier to find the passage when you want to revisit it in the future in your HEAR Journal.
After you have highlighted the passage in your HEAR Journal, write the letter “E” under the previous entry. At this stage, you will EXPLAIN what the text means. By asking some simple questions, with the help of God’s Spirit, you can understand the meaning of a passage or verse. The next chapter will teach you in detail how to understand the meaning of a passage. Until then, here are a few questions to get you started:
- 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 is He intending to communicate through this text?
At this point, you are beginning the process of discovering the specific and personal word that God has for you from His Word. What is important is that you are engaging the text and wrestling with its meaning. After writing a short summary of what you think the text means, in your HEAR Journal, write the letter “A” below the letter “E”. Under the “A”, write the word Apply. This application is the heart of the process. Everything you have done so far culminates under this heading. As you have done before, 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 the application of this verse look like in my life?
- What does this mean to me?
- What is God saying to me?
As you complete your HEAR journal, these questions bridge the gap between the ancient world and your world today. They provide a way for God to speak to you from the specific passage or verse. Answer these questions under the “A”. Challenge yourself to write between two and five sentences about how the text applies to your life.
Finally, below the first three entries in your HEAR Journal, write the letter “R” for Respond. This is the last part of the HEAR Journal. 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 out a prayer to God. For example, you may ask God to help you to be more loving, or to give you a desire to be more generous in your giving. Keep in mind that this is your response to what you have just read.
Notice that all of the words in the HEAR Journal formula are action words: Highlight, Explain, Apply, and Respond. God does not want us to sit back and wait for Him to drop some truth into our laps. Instead of waiting passively, God desires that we actively pursue Him. Jesus said,
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you (Matthew 7:7).
Think of the miracle of the Bible. Over centuries of time, God supernaturally moved upon a number of men in an unusual way that resulted in them writing the exact words of God. God led His people to recognize these divine writings and to distinguish them from everything else that has ever been written. Then God’s people brought these sixty-six books together. The preservation and survival of the Bible are as miraculous as its writing. Then God gave men, beginning with Gutenberg’s printing press, technological knowledge to copy and transmit the Bible so that all people could have it. All because God has something to say to you.
Sample H.E.A.R. Journal Entry (Journal sample taken from Robby Gallaty’s book, Growing Up)
Date: October 2, 2019 | Read: Philippians 4.10-13
H (Highlight) – I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4.13)
E (Explain) – Paul was telling the church at Philippi that he had discovered the secret of contentment. No matter what the situation in Paul’s life, he realized Christ was all he needed, and Christ was the One who strengthened him or helped him persevere through difficult times.
A (Apply) – In my life, I will experience many ups and downs. My contentment is not found in circumstances. Rather, it is based upon my relationship with Christ. Only Jesus gives me the strength I need to be content in every circumstance in life.
R (Respond) – Lord, please help me as I strive to be content in You. Through Your strength, I can make it through any situation I will face today.