The Power of God’s Word: An Interview with Emeal Zwayne
For several years, my family has been involved in the National Bible Bee, an organization that helps families to memorize the Word of God. Last weekend, at the National Bible Bee finals, I had the opportunity to interview Emeal ‘E.Z.’ Zwayne. Mr. Zwayne hosted this year’s Bible Bee, and he is the president of Living Waters Publications. Today we talk about the power of the Word of God, and the value of memorizing Scripture.
Why do you feel that the Bible Bee is necessary today?
Well unfortunately we’re living in a day and age where the Word of God has been marginalized, and because of that, the impact and power of the Word has been diminished. When we get young people – who are the next generation – to not only memorize the Word of God, but to also internalize it and become doers of it, we’re going to see a revolution break out across the planet. So, this is important because it is investing in the next generation – investing the most powerful resource that could ever be invested in anyone, and that’s the Word of God.
Yes! And for you personally, how have you seen the Bible transform your life?
Before I became a Christian, as a teenager, I remember going to a church with a friend of mine. The pastor said, “Turn in your Bibles to Matthew chapter 17 verse 7.” I don’t remember the exact reference, but I just remember thinking “What in the world is a ‘Matthew,’ and what is that numeric code he just rattled off?” I remember distinctly thinking to myself, I will never learn how to use a Bible. So, now, having pastored a church, having memorized 11 books of the New Testament, having just in the past two years listened to the entire Bible on audio 21 times, I can tell you that the Word of God has radically transformed my life.
I’ve gone from someone who thought, “I’ll never know how to use the Bible,” to being so in love with it, that I’ve memorized it and listened to it and read it many times. It has transformed me in every way. It is through the Word of God that I was born again, and God took me out of a life of being a gang member, of being expelled from two high schools, and attempting to commit suicide in front of my own family. When the Word of God was implanted in my soul, it opened my eyes, transformed me, and by its truth I was redeemed!
That is so encouraging! So what would you say so someone who doesn’t think that the Bible is relevant to them?
Well, I would ask them what their source of authority is in life. And more often than not, when they whittle it down, after they say this, that, and the other, they are ultimately going to conclude that they are the authority in life.
Everyone has an authority, and so my question to them would be, “What is your authority, what do you base your truth on, what is your worldview?” When they give me their world view, I’ll say, “Well, why is that your world view, what do you base that on?” And ultimately, its going to come back to themselves.
I’ll ask them if they’ve ever made a mistake. Sometimes I’ll say, “hey, uh, can you spell the word ‘silk’ for me?” And they say “S-I-L-K.” Then I say, “What do cows drink?” and they say “milk.” I say, “really?!”
I’ll say, “Spell the word shop,” and they say “S-H-O-P.” Then I say, “What do you do when you come to a green light?” and they’ll say “stop.”
And through those silly little examples I’ll show them that they’re not a very valid source of authority, because they’re extremely fallible. Then I tell them that my source of authority is the Word of God, and that it is applicable and relevant to every person, because in the end we’re going to be judged by the truths that are in it. And then I’ll proclaim the gospel to them and encourage them to turn to Christ.
So, what would you say separates Bible memory from Bible reading?
There are so many things in life that we either listen to, or see, or read, and very few things stick in our minds, that we recall and remember. There are certain things that are important to not just listen to, look at, and read, but to also really inscribe on the walls of our mind. Scripture memorization goes beyond just the reading – it goes to that intentional step of saying, “I want to now lock this inside of me.”
One of my greatest joys – having memorized several books of the New Testament – is to be driving down the street, or to be sitting in a doctor’s office, or to be falling asleep in bed, and to recite entire books from the Word of God. It’s accessible, it’s with you wherever you go, and no one can take it away from you.
That’s great. So how would you encourage someone who’s never memorized the bible? What would you give them for encouragement?
I would say, start small. If you make it a goal to memorize one Bible verse over the course of two weeks, (which isn’t unreasonable) then from there you can begin to build. Do it for one year, and begin to memorize one Bible verse, every two weeks, and by the end of that time, you will have memorized nearly 25 or so verses of Scripture over the course of the year. That’s huge. And then the next year, go to a verse a week, that’s 52, and then after that you can start building from there.
If you desire to memorize books, start small, start with the small epistles: Second John, Third John, Jude, Philemon – the one-chapter epistles. Then from there you can look and say, “Oh wow, I’ve memorized altogether four chapters!” Then you can move to an epistle, with multiple chapters, and then from there you can be encouraged.
You know, when I reached 7 books, I thought, “Wow, that’s encouraging, that’s a goal that I attained!” When I reached 9 books, I thought, “That’s one-third of the books of the New Testament!” Now, I’m about to start my 12th book, so I’m close to 14 books. When I hit 14, that’s more than half of the books of the New Testament. So those hallmarks give you an incentive, an encouragement to keep pressing on.
That’s great. Thank you very much!
Alright, God bless you. It was a pleasure, brother.
For more information on the National Bible Bee and family-based Scripture memory, click here.