People of the Book


Two readers share Bible memory stories

The value of knowing Scripture, the inspired Word of God, is beyond measure. Scripture plays—or should play—an important role in our lives. It was their study of the Word of God that sparked a renewal movement among a group of Mennonite families living in southern Russia almost 150 years ago. This regeneration gave birth to the Mennonite Brethren Church and this group of “brethren” came to be known as “people of the Book.” Commitment to studying and obeying the Bible is at the heart of who we Mennonite Brethren are.

The Bible, a core value of our denomination, was the focus of the July 2008 issue of the Christian Leader. We included an article written by Tim Geddert, professor of New Testament at MB Biblical Seminary, in which he encouraged people to memorize lengthy passages of Scripture. At the end of his article, Geddert invited readers to share their Scripture memory experiences with other CL readers.

Geddert also offered to share his memorization method, and a number of readers took him up on this offer. Their e-mails often included brief stories of the way in which Scripture memory has positively impacted their spiritual growth. One person shared that he plans to memorize the entire New Testament—that’s 7,957 verses! A pastor who found Geddert’s article on the U.S. Conference Web site said that he would like to initiate a Scripture memory program in the church he pastors and asked for Geddert’s method.

After reviewing the method, one person writes, “This is a very different approach to memorizing the biblical text than any I have used before. I am very intrigued…. I'm looking forward to experimenting with your method.”

The response to Geddert’s Scripture memory challenge prompts us to revisit the subject of Scripture memory this month. Geddert’s Scripture memory method is outlined on page 18 and we offer two readers’ testimonies to the value of knowing God’s Word “by heart.” We hope these articles will again remind us to make Bible reading and memorizing a priority in 2009. —Connie Faber, CL editor

By heart

By Sharon J. Weaver

As a child, I was encouraged to memorize Bible verses. Standing away from their context, these verses were still valuable reference points of God’s standards and character. They helped develop my foundation because I accepted them as truth. I was able to make some connections between them and my young life.

Later, as an active member of Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship at a state university, the leadership group decided to memorize the book of James. The support of the group motivated me to try that big project. I began working, a verse or two at a time, during my lunch break. Seated at my little carrel in the library basement, I ate my packed lunch with an open Bible. Soon I knew the first section and was discovering that it was a great way to get close and personal with God’s ways.

Reviewing the passage, I would catch my mistakes or try to remember the next part. The process sparked questions in my mind. Why is that word used? Why doesn’t it say it this way? What’s the connection between that part and the next part? It was taking me to a deeper level of understanding. And it was fun to discover those insights on my own!

Since then, I’ve chosen certain chapters and books to put to memory. When I take a special interest in a passage and I’m drawn to learn more, memorization is a wonderful tool to take me further. Many methods of Bible study are available for that same purpose, but learning Scripture by memory is a simple way to get started without any complicated preparation. Instead of finding guides and digging up the ideas of others, I just start with what I have. You can’t beat direct contact with God’s Word!

Now when I’m out on a walk in God’s beautiful world, I can spontaneously lift my voice in praise with an entire Psalm. Or I love to review passages just to focus my mind and continue to soak up the riches that I have yet to discover in those familiar words that I know “by heart.”

Sharon J. Weaver attends Hesston (Kan.) MB Church where she helps to lead a women’s Bible study. She and her husband, Carl, have two children and are currently “empty nesters.” Early in their marriage, the Weavers lived in Mexico and Mozambique where Carl was a missionary pilot. The couple currently has an aviation business. 

A channel for God's word

By Vernon E. Janzen

My experience with memorized Scripture began when I was a child and memorized Bible verses in Sunday school. After receiving Christ as Savior and Lord at age 14, my friend Ron Kliewer, who discipled me, encouraged me to memorize passages. Also, in a class at Immanuel High School, the teacher required us to memorize a number of verses. I was introduced to the Navigators in my later teen years and completed their topical memory system together with my wife, Genevieve. In fact, we used to share and discuss the verses we memorized on our dates.

But in 1975, while pastoring Neighborhood Church in Visalia, Calif., our Lord inspired me with the challenge of memorizing the 111 verses of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7. Then the Lord led me to develop this passage into a dramatized presentation. I presented this for the first time as a Sunday morning worship message in 1975. Since then I have been invited to do this presentation 128 times in churches, schools, camps and for tour groups and service and community groups. When presenting memorized Scripture, a wonderful benefit is that I never have to worry about whether I say the right thing, because I am merely being a channel for God’s Word, which is always right.

While serving as Tabor College president from 1980-1987, our Lord again challenged me to memorize another passage: the 155 verses of Ephesians. I do not take any credit or honor for this memorization because it is entirely realized through the guidance and energizing of the Holy Spirit. The Ephesians presentation has also been done a number of times in churches and schools.

Then while serving on the pastoral staff of Mennonite Brethren congregations in Lodi and Visalia, Calif., the Lord enabled me to memorize Mark’s Gospel. The memorized dramatization of these 678 verses has also been presented a number of times.

I find the following to be major benefits of having a memory bank of Scripture passages.

  1. God’s Word is available at any time for the Holy Spirit to use in my life for worship, thanksgiving, conviction, witness and clarification of the truth.

  2. Awareness and sharing of memorized Scripture enhances fellowship and relational connecting with God and people.

  3. God’s Word is available for thought, reflection and prayer at any time—while driving, walking or engaging in other physical exercise, during awake times in bed, while waiting for appointments or events and while traveling.

  4. Memorized Scripture deepens a realization of who God is, who people are and who I am.

  5. Having Scripture memorized makes it easier to apply God’s teaching to real life and has an energizing and empowering effect to understand and do his will. It has a transforming dynamic.

  6. Memorized Scripture is invaluable in remembering insights, events and experiences that have become associated with Bible passages.

Vernon E. Janzen, a retired Mennonite Brethren pastor and former president of Tabor College, lives in Reedley, Calif. 

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