Bible Study in a Snap

I recently taught a class at church that started with a session on Bible study. One of the class members came back the following week asking about the SNAP Bible study plan. I didn’t have such a thing, but I did have the TRIP plan, which I borrowed and customized from the Mount Carmel Ministries Daily Texts. That plan proved to be the one he was looking for. It wasn’t the first Bible study method I ever used, but it has been one of the more enduring approaches. It all began with the little book called Daily Texts and two daily verses from the Bible.

I have used Daily Texts for more than ten years. When I started using them, I was eager to have a daily time for prayer and Bible study, but I could not see how I was going to work it in. I had just started a new job with long hours and a lot of travel. The normal stresses associated with settling in to a new job were multiplied in this one, and I was in a real quandary. I felt the need of daily time with God more than ever, and I simultaneously felt that I had less time than ever to give to that purpose. The Daily Texts were the answer for me.

The beauty of Daily Texts is that the Bible verses for each day are printed in the book itself. One verse from the Old Testament, one verse from the New Testament, and a prayer. There is a great deal more to this little book, which is printed annually, but I could start with the two verses and the prayer. I thought I could surely give the Lord five minutes at the start of each day, and that is how I began.

It wasn’t the first time I ever tried to have a quiet time. Over many years, starting in college, I had tried. I always failed, because I always started with some comprehensive plan that was hard to learn and took a lot of time. It might be a book with lessons for each day, or it might be a guide for reading the Bible in a certain amount of time, or it might be a set of questions to use with some fixed number of verses or some scheduled reading each day. I always started with the I best of intentions, but it wouldn’t be long before the time requirement seemed impossible, I fell behind, and suddenly, it felt like finals week with a lot of catching up to do. Any runner could have told me that you don’t start by running a marathon, but I thought it was all or nothing. I failed again and again, and every few years I tried again with the same result: failure.

In late 2000, when I started my new job, I committed to a plan that seemed doable on any day. Five minutes. Read the verses. Pray the prayer. Think about what was on that page. That was all. My motivation was more than a simple desire to be more spiritual. My real reason was fear. I had read a lot of books and magazine articles about the way a marriage can be stressed by travel. Since I was five years into my second marriage, I did not want it to fail, and I felt that I needed to nourish my faith in order to sustain my marriage while I traveled every week to distant worksites.

I developed the habit of setting my Bible and my copy of Daily Texts on a table beside a comfortable chair each evening before I went to bed. In my travels, I always had some sort of chair and table in my room, and eventually, I made it a habit to set those items on that table when I unpacked for the week. It became a part of my routine.

Each morning, I started coffee as soon as I got up. I got ready for work, and the last thing before I headed out the door was my five-minute routine. I learned soon that this was a bad idea. By the time I was ready to leave, I was rushing around, and it was hard to sit down and quiet down. The Lord did not have my full attention.

I made a small change that had a big impact. I made my quiet time the first thing – well, the first thing after coffee. I confess to being a coffeeholic. I get out of bed thinking about my first cup of coffee. I started sipping my coffee while sitting in the chair I had designated for my quiet time. It was early, and it was very quiet. The day stretched out before me as if it were endless. I could take five minutes to read and think about those verses and then read the prayer. I set my coffee cup down and began to read.

This small change in my routine was quite fruitful. I started wondering what it was that actually linked the verses. Sometimes I found a link; sometimes not. Regardless, I gave the verses more attention and asked myself how they might actually have meaning for my day. I prayed the written prayer, and then I prayed for strength for the day.

Soon I made another small change. When I was ready to begin reading the verses, I bowed my head and prayed, “Holy Spirit, come and be my teacher.” I read the verses more attentively, and sometimes I looked up the context. I began to see a link between the verses more frequently, and more often than not, I saw a link between their teaching and my daily life. One day I noticed that my five minutes had become fifteen, yet it seemed that I was still getting things done and getting to work on time.

This is how it began, and this approach worked for most of a year before I made any major change. I didn’t want to change anything that was working. I committed to this brief time, and I stuck with it. For me, it was like summiting Everest. By the end of the year, I was ending every day’s session with a thank-you prayer for the courage to stick with it.

In future posts I will share more about my quest for quiet time. I still haven’t told you how to study the Bible with the TRIP plan, so watch for the next installment.