So you want to get stronger and healthier? That’s a terrific goal to have at your age. It can set you up with a great basis for your health for years to come. It can make you fall in love with working out, to the point where you are almost addicted to this healthy habit.
Organizing and scheduling your workouts, also known as programming, is an important part of meeting your goals. It’s important to have a good routine to get you started and also covers all the bases.
Here’s a basic program you should almost always use: warm-up, workout, cool down. That’s pretty basic. It’s extremely common to not do one or two of those steps, but it is important to do all three. This is a tried and true system to make sure you see real gains. This basic system—warm-up, workout, cool down—can lead to real strength and power.
Being healthy is a way of life. If you’re going to work out, then you need to commit to a routine. Hitting it hard every day is the only way to success. Set the goal of seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. No days off. Anything other than that is weakness.
Naturally, I am talking about Bible study.
For the past three or four years, I’ve used the following formula for my Bible study, and I think it may be useful to you as well.
Warm-up: 10-15 MINUTES—Open Your Bible
When I was on the dig in Jerusalem, we worked closely with an archaeologist who supervised an area under Dr. Eilat Mazar. He might have been an agnostic, but was probably closer to an atheist. However, as a native Israeli, he had learned Hebrew as his first language. One day he asked a group of us (this is a paraphrase), “When you read the Bible in English, is it good? As in, how it is written? Because in Hebrew it is amazing. You can’t help but read it and say, ‘This is excellent.’”
The Bible is a good book. It is God’s Word that He gave directly to man. It is something that we should dig into. It can be very easy to flip open a magazine or booklet without actually opening the Bible.
In this “warm-up” section, it’s best to get the blood flowing and get ready for the main workout. In a gym workout, this may involve establishing proper motion patterns, or expanding the lungs. A lot of the time, it is devoted to establishing the right mental approach to the main workout. If you’re going to do a barbell workout, you may grab an unloaded barbell and run through some basic squats and presses with it. Nice and slow. Get your mind focused on the proper form. Don’t think about anything else but making sure the barbell is moving in the most efficient way possible.
Since the main workout is Bible study, it’s best to go ahead and get the Bible out. Better yet, go ahead and open it. Better yet, go ahead and read some of it. Better yet, go ahead and write some of it out. You read that correctly. For 10 to 15 minutes, just write out scriptures by hand. The Bible is pretty clear that that is what kings and queens should do (Deuteronomy 17:18).
Full disclosure: My scripture notebook is not linear. I did start in Genesis, but I haven’t gone straight through the books of the Bible. There’s most of Genesis and Exodus, and large swaths of Deuteronomy. When Pastor General Gerald Flurry talked about the importance of Hebrews, I wrote out large portions of Hebrews. Around the spring holy days, I write out sections of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). There are five to six chapters’ worth of Job in there as well. I also typed out the entire book of Proverbs, but more on that later.
“Writing out scriptures” can sound like an assignment where you just want to put ink on paper as fast as possible. That’s not the point. This is 10 minutes to read scriptures directly out of the Bible in context. We tend not to do that very often. There’s a good reason for that: The Bible is put together mostly like a jigsaw puzzle, and sermons and sermonettes are usually organized on a topic rather than a set of scriptures. However, we have had recent Bible studies that have taken us straight through books of the Bible. It can be helpful to examine the Bible in this fashion.
If one of the scriptures confuses you, maybe you can look up another translation, or use a dictionary or concordance to see what some of those words mean. On any given day during this warm-up time, I’ve written 20 verses and I’ve written three. It’s not a race. Don’t be afraid to stop and study a verse or two. Writing by hand (yes, by hand) takes time. You may have to glance back at one verse three or four or five times to get the wording right. That is excellent. Our brains tend to have too many things running through them at one time anyway. Focus on the Bible to start your Bible study.
It doesn’t do any good to write them out if you don’t have a clue what verses mean. Often I’ll write little notes next to verses that I just wrote out. Usually this is from looking up a word in the Hebrew or Greek or maybe remembering something Mr. Armstrong or Mr. Flurry said about that verse.
Another option is to create flashcards to memorize different foundational scriptures. I started out doing this and still do so occasionally. The problem I discovered is that it’s too easy to just look at the flashcards and not open the Bible.
This first 10 to 15 minutes is meant to get you into the mindset (as a gym warm-up would) to be eager to tackle the main part of your session. You’re limbered up and ready. You’ve established a mental separation from whatever you were doing before and your Bible study. By the end of 10 to 15 minutes of writing out scriptures, you shouldn’t be thinking too much about the TV show you watched last night. You’re ready for the main event:
Workout: 25-40 MINUTES—Get Lit
Literature, I mean. This is the core of your study. It’s probably what first springs to mind when you hear the phrase “Bible study.” You’re warmed up now. You’re already thinking about God’s Word, so you are prepared to be trained by the experts. Get a piece of Church literature and study it. This time period may get you through a chapter, or it might only be a few pages. Don’t skip around if at all possible. Study the book or booklet during this stage every day until you are through it. You’ve got your Bible and notebook out. Make notes. Dig in. Half an hour a day will get you through a lot of our booklets very quickly. The books will take longer, but it will still surprise you how many you can read if you are consistent.
Your warm-up was nice and got your mind going, but now you are getting into the meat (no pun intended) of the workout. Your Bible is already out (and open!). Your pen or pencil is out. You’ve got a notebook. You are prepped for some specific instruction.
In the gym, this kind of workout would be where you are aiming to put in the most effort. It’s going to yield the biggest results. Heavy lifts, big sprints, long-distance runs. It takes effort, but it also is the most rewarding. It’s this section that is actively driving you toward your spiritual goals.
These books and booklets deliver ideas, concepts, doctrines and prophecies that God has given to his apostles for us to study. They are distilled in a way to help us make big spiritual gains. It’s spiritual heavy lifting. Make sure you are following along and keeping your mind alert. There are a lot of resources in the TE to help make the most of this kind of study. Don’t just read through the book or booklet—study it.
You may also be surprised at how often concepts, scriptures or ideas are similar to the ones you just wrote out in your warm-up. Funny how that happens.
Cool Down: 5-10 MINUTES—ImPROVe Yourself
Simply put: get to know the Proverbs. Proverbs is a book especially aimed at young people. It is a book of wisdom. Mr. Flurry has defined wisdom as what bridges the gap between knowing what is right and actually living and acting the way that is right. We will not survive without wisdom. There are too many traps in our world.
This really is like the “cool-down” of your workout. A good gym workout will build your muscles, but without some time to cool down to help limber you back up, you may find it a little harder to go about your day-to-day activities. The cool down helps you not be too stiff, it helps you to translate your workout into good motions in your everyday life.
Finishing up with the Proverbs should have a similar effect. You can use the wisdom from the Proverbs to take appropriate actions as you do your routine.
As far as how many individual proverbs to look at, I recommend one to five. It’s easy to go through the proverbs too quickly. I also highly recommend having a lexicon or other translations handy.
I recommend writing these down as well, but write them down with some space between them so you can rewrite them in your own words or with your own examples. I’ve used a computer for this part for the past few years so it is easier to go back and insert text where needed. What I have right now is a personal translation (I spent a lot of time in Strong’s Concordance and looking at different translations) of the whole book and personal notes on about half the book of Proverbs. There have been many times when this 10 minutes turned into 20.
There are the basics of this daily workout. Committing to this program seven days a week is actually easier than you may think.
There are exceptions to a routine like this. When a new booklet or magazine comes out, it’s best to spend some time directly with that new literature. I may write out scriptures for a few minutes, or write out scriptures relevant to the topic of the book (like when the Hebrews booklet came out). When a new Royal Vision comes out, I try to study that exclusively until I’ve completed it.
You may start with this routine and then add or subtract ideas from it. Try this method for a week or so. You may be surprised at how often you go overtime. “It’s already been 15/35/10 minutes, but I’ll just finish this section” will become a common refrain. You all know someone who is addicted to fitness. They are just itching to get into the gym or on to the track. It’s the thing they look forward to the most. You can easily become addicted to Bible study the same way.
That’s the programming for your daily workout: Warm-up, workout, cool down. Get strong.