FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Bible Bee 2019

with Hannah Leary, Seth Ross | April 19, 2019
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Hannah Leary, former winner and co-host of the National Bible Bee Competition and National Bible Bee Game Show, joins 12-year-old Seth Ross, the Chairman's Oratory Award winner in 2018, to talk about the excitement and challenge of the competition, as well as the personal benefit of Bible memorization.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

    • National Bible Bee website
    • Thank you to our Legacy Partners, our regular donors, who make this show possible!
  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Hannah Leary joins 12-year-old Seth Ross to talk about the excitement and challenge of the competition, as well as the personal benefit of Bible memorization.

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Bible Bee 2019

With Hannah Leary, Seth Ross
April 19, 2019
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Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, April 19th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll meet Seth Ross today, along with Hannah Leary, as we hear about the importance of Bible memory and about the National Bible Bee. Stay with us.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. Have you guys heard my Bible memory stories?

Ann: No.

Bob: Okay.

Dave: I think we’re about to, Bob. This should be fun!

Ann: I know!

Bob: When Mary Ann and I were dating––I’ll never forget this––we were sitting, side by side, listening to a speaker. We were at a Bible study, and the speaker was talking about our relationship with Christ. He says, “God’s given us the Holy Spirit––it’s like an engagement ring––we’re sealed with the Spirit.” When he said that, he didn’t use a Scripture verse or anything; he just said, “…we’re sealed with the Spirit.” I watched my girlfriend, who I was sitting next to––Mary Ann––I watched her turn in her Bible to Ephesians 1.

Dave: Yes; I know right where it is, Bob—

Bob: Do you?

Dave: —1:13.

Bob: And she’s got it underlined in her Bible. I’m thinking to myself, “Wait; he didn’t say where that was and she knew where it was!”

Ann: Were you impressed?

Bob: I was impressed and intimidated, simultaneously.

Ann: Oh! Okay!

Bob: I think I asked her later—I said, “How did you know where that verse was?” She said: “Well, when I was a freshman at the University of Arkansas, the church I was going to––they gave us Bible memory verses. We had this package of verses that we would memorize, and I memorized it.” And I thought, “You memorized Bible verses?” I mean, this was––

Ann: Oh, this was new for you!

Bob: This was brand new; right?

Dave: Wow!

Ann: Okay.

Bob: I thought, “Well, that’s pretty interesting.” Later, we’re dating––this is a few years later––and she comes to me and she says, “What do you think about us memorizing some Scripture together?” I said, “That would be great.” I said it because we were dating; right?—[Laughter]—not because I thought it was great––but she’s––it, obviously, matters to her.

Ann: But you’re winning her––you’re wooing her.

Bob: That’s right. “That would be great!” I said, “Did you have some verses in mind?” She said, “I was thinking we could memorize, like, maybe a whole chapter.” [Laughter] And I went, “Wow!” Of course, I’m thinking: “Are you out of your mind?!—a whole chapter of the Bible?!” [Laughter]

Dave: This––this was a test to see––

Bob: I think you’re right.

Dave: ––if you were really going to pursue her.

Bob: I said: “Wow! Did you have a chapter in mind?” She said, “I was thinking Philippians 2.”

Dave and Ann: Yes.

Bob: I think I said, “Oh, that’s a good one.” I was thinking, “Philippians––is that New Testament or Old Testament?” [Laughter] I’m so––but I said, “Oh yes, that would be a good one.” So we started off, together, memorizing Philippians, Chapter 2.

I was never—I mean, this was never anything that I was like good at—

Ann: Yes.

Bob: —sitting down and memorizing Bible verses. I thought: “You know, if you need them, they’re there [in the Bible]. Go find them. Why would you memorize them?”

Ann: Oh.

Bob: Well, we got to Philippians 2, verse 3; and for whatever reason, it memorized quick.

Dave: Yes.

Bob: The verse is: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself.” That verse locked in; and it was locking in because God was saying: “You need to know that verse. That verse is going to serve you well throughout your whole lifetime.” And it has! It’s been one of those things that’s marked my life.

The reason I’m talking about Scripture memory is because we’ve got people here who would put you and me––all of us––

Bob and Ann: ––to shame!

Bob: ––when it comes to this because these guys are involved with the National Bible Bee. Let me introduce them: Hannah Leary is here from the Bible Bee––welcome back, Hannah.

Hannah: Thank you so much for having me.

Bob: And Seth Ross is joining us as well. This is your first time to be on FamilyLife Today to talk about the Bible Bee; right Seth?

Seth: Yes!

Bob: Tell everybody, Seth––how old are you and where are you from?

Seth: I’m 12 and from Mission Viejo, California.

Bob: You’ve been involved in the Bible Bee for—

Seth: —three years.

Bob: Okay; alright. We’re going to dive into this; but just in case our listeners don’t know––because you guys [Dave and Ann]––had you heard of the Bible Bee before we—

Dave: No; I had never heard of it.

Ann: No; I’ve heard of the Spelling Bee, but not the Bible Bee.

Bob: That’s a little bit of how this whole thing got started. In fact, Hannah, you can probably tell the story better than I can. There was a man in Texas, who watched kids getting a lot of money for memorizing spelling words; and he thought, “Why are we wasting our time on spelling words?”—right?

Hannah: Exactly; yes. It’s funded by the Shelby Kennedy Foundation. It was inspired by a young 23-year-old girl, who had a love for Scripture memory. A Texas gentleman was at her funeral––she died of cancer at the age of 23 years old. He was sitting there, at her funeral, and just was thinking: “Wow. We need to pass on her legacy through inspiring kids to memorize Scripture.”

This idea came to him––he loved competition––he loved watching the Spelling Bee and he’s like, “What if we could incentivize kids to learn verses and memorize Scripture? And what if we could make it a competition, where it’s a fun way to incentivize kids to get into the Word of God?” And that’s exactly what he did. The competition started in 2009, and it’s been going ever since.

Bob: I was just at the tenth anniversary of the Bible Bee––back in December of 2018––and got to watch competitors from both the Primary Division, then the Junior Division and then the Senior Division––there are three divisions of the kids. These kids––I mean, the first time you’re there, and you’re watching these kids just recite––

Ann: And it’s not just one verse, I’m assuming.

Bob: No! They’re reciting chapters.

Ann: Wow!

Bob: They’re reciting extended portions of Scripture from memory. The experience of being in the audience––two-fold––first of all, you’re amazed at these kids and what they’ve learned. Secondly, you are washed with the Word over and over again––I mean, you’re just hearing Scripture recited over and over again––and that’s powerful. Then, you’ve got the experience of recognizing that this is not just a competition but these kids’ lives are being molded and shaped by what they’ve spent their time in.

Dave: Yes.

Hannah: Yes.

Bob: You were a competitor in Year One of the Bible Bee.

Hannah: Yes; when I was 12 years old––2009––I signed up for the competition. I had been involved in spelling bees and geography bees in the past, and I saw this ad for the National Bible Bee. I was like: “Mom! Dad! Don’t you think we can get involved with this?” I love competition––I was not good at spelling––but I was involved in spelling bees. [Laughter] But this is something I could get really excited about.

We signed up that first year, when I was 12 years old––qualified for the national competition—and I just kept doing it. It was something that was addicting––I wanted to come back and do more. I competed from the time I was 12 until I won, when I was 17—so six years of my life I devoted to memorizing and studying Scripture. I couldn’t be more grateful.

Bob: How many verses––do you know how many you’ve memorized?

Hannah: A lot! [Laughter] Between––like I said, it’s addicting and the more––once you start, you just get a hunger and a thirst for the Word of God. The Bible Bee starts with a summer study and the National Competition ends in the fall. In the off-season––what I would do––in fact, after that first year, I noticed that I had a bunch of Ephesians 1 memorized; and a little bit of Ephesians 2; and a big portion of Ephesians 3; and a little bit of Ephesians 4––and I’m like, “I might as well memorize the whole book!”

Ann: Wow!

Hannah: So I went ahead––in the off-season—and memorized the whole Book of Ephesians. Then, I was like: “Oh! I could do that with Philippians!” And I ended up––not just that year—but throughout the years of my competing in the National Bible Bee, I memorized 12 books of the Bible.

Dave: Really?!

Ann: That is phenomenal! I think so many of us have that aspiration, but for you––I love the word, “addicted,” to memorizing Scripture. That’s not something you hear very often, and this would be a good addiction; because I’m guessing, as you’ve memorized it, it’s gone into your mind; it drops into your heart.

Hannah: Exactly.

Ann: Has that happened to you?

Hannah: Exactly. I think I realize that––I’m 21 right now––and I think I realize that, more and more, as I continue to grow older and move into adulthood. You notice it, when you’re in middle school and high school, and you’re making some life decisions; and you’re just seeking God’s will for your life. As I’ve moved into adulthood, I just realized, even more, what an amazing treasure that is and what an amazing foundation that is for the rest of my life; you know.

Bob: Seth, you’re in the Junior Division. For last year, do you know how many verses you had to memorize to get ready?

Seth: Approximately 844––then, there’s also the books studies.

Bob:Approximately” 844; yes.

Dave: “Approximately”; yes.

Ann: Wow!

Bob: That’s right––give or take a verse––and then, book studies. What are the book studies?

Seth: Each year, the summer study gives you a book to study, along with a Discovery Journal. Then, after the summer study, the top 120 contestants in each of the 3 divisions are chosen. Then, you have another book to study.

This year, it was James for the summer study. We went through all four chapters in the Discovery Journal as well as memorizing one passage from each chapter in James. Then, also, some other cross references around the Scriptures––so one passage for each passage in James.

Then, Philippians—we had the entire book to study, but there was no Discovery Journal for when you do it for the National Competition; so you have to study it yourself. The really nice thing about it is that the contestants actually help each other. They make Quizlet sets and post those on Quizlet. Then, we can all get the Quizlet sets and study from those; and that helps us too.

Bob: Okay; so we’re in the off-season right now.

Seth: Yes.

Bob: Are you working on something right now?

Seth: Um, yes! We do it in different languages also.

Dave: Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Wait! What? [Laughter] You just burst my whole little bubble there. Are you serious?!

Bob: Yes; Dave thought he might be able to do this––

Ann: Yes! Now he’s given up hope.

Bob: ––until you said different languages.

Dave: Are you talking like Hebrew, Greek? What are you talking about?

Seth: Yes; so for Bible Bee, we have Hebrew and Greek words in the off season; and during Bible Bee, I also enjoy doing it in certain verses in Hebrew, and Spanish, and Greek.

Bob: What’s your verse in Hebrew?

Seth: Psalm 37:5—

Bob: Okay.

Seth: —גֹּול עַל־יְהוָה דַּרְכֶּךָ וּבְטַח עָלָיו וְהוּא יַעֲשֶֽׂה׃

Bob: Look at there!

Dave: What did you say in English? [Laughter]

Seth: Psalm 37:5: “Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and He shall bring it to pass.”

Bob: There we go!

Ann: Yes.

Bob: How did you get into this in the first place? Was it your parents or was it you, who said, “I want to be in the Bible Bee.”

Seth: Bible Bee––someone from Awana® told us about it. They’re like: “Hey! Let’s go check it out!”—sort of both me and my parents. They were like, “Oh, this seems fun!” And then, we started with it; and they’re like: “Yes! Let’s keep doing this!”

Bob: What is so exciting about it? Why do you love it?

Seth: Fun, fellowship, and just learning God’s Word. God loves us and He gave us His Word so that we can enjoy it! It’s not just a book of the rules that we must follow or we get zapped or stuck in the time loop or something––but it’s things that actually help us to enjoy our lives. If God made us––and He made the world––then He really ought to be the Person who knows how to live best, what do with our lives best—our bodies, the world, the earth––how to take care of everything best.

That’s what He does in His Word––He gives us that manual for life; so that we can understand life, understand Him, and really, truly enjoy life to the fullest.

Bob: Could I just say, again?––12.

Dave: Yes; 12 years old!

Ann: Wow!

Bob: Hannah, Seth was awarded with an award at this year’s Bible Bee. Tell us about that award.

Hannah: Seth won the Chairman’s Oratory Award at this year’s National Competition. That award is given to one competitor, who proclaims God’s Word with passion, with excitement, with enthusiasm––and like you said, not just rote memory––but proclaims it as if he knows what he’s saying and really does it with passion. This year, we were so excited that Seth won that award. He got up there—so excited to then explain why he loves it, and why he loves memorizing Scripture, and what that means to him.

Bob: And when he started doing that, we just had church right then!

Dave: Yes!

Ann: No kidding!

Bob: I’m telling you!—he just started preaching.

Ann: Yes.

Bob: And everybody was like: “You go! C’mon!” It was great!

Ann: Wow! Yes!

Bob: It was a great moment.

Ann: I think there are probably a lot of listeners that are thinking: “Oh! I would love my kids to memorize the Word of God, but they have no interest.” Maybe––like, how do we go about this? Do you have any advice for them?

Seth: Yes! So that’s one of the great things about God’s Word. You don’t have to force kids to play video games.

Ann: That’s true.

Seth: Wonder: “Why is that?” It’s like video games are designed to make you want to play them. The great thing is—God’s Word can do the same thing. If you just spend time in God’s Word––and also, sometimes, if you look at the more interesting passages––and when you start reading the exciting passages—maybe, you’ll glide into some of the more doctrinal passages that focus on that.

God’s Word says––it’s for “reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto every good work.” So God’s Word has something for everyone. That treasure shows you how to find wisdom, which is more precious than rubies. Then, as you learn more of it, it really becomes a part of you––and then, when things pop up, you can say: “Wait a second! I know a Scripture for that.” Then, you just get into it, and into it more, and more, and more; and you really start enjoying it.

Like they say: “If you pretend that you’re happy, you’ll eventually be happy,” “If you start getting into God’s Word, you’ll eventually love it.”

Ann: How do you go about memorizing Scripture? What does that look like to you, Hannah?

Hannah: Often––having memorized so much in my middle school and high school years––you’re like: “Oh, I’m good to go. I don’t need to––I’ve memorized as much as I need to.” Sometimes, you can use that excuse. I’m convicted every year, when I go back to the National Bible Bee, and I moderate the competition. I watch contestants like Seth come up—and like Bob said—just be washed by the Word and, once again, convicted of how I need that daily in my life.

It’s not rocket science––it’s just the discipline to just, every day, get into the Word of God. And repetition and––

Ann: Do you write it? Do you listen to it?

Hannah: Sometimes, I will write it—especially, when I’m studying specifically––but I will write it and then I just speak it over, and over, and over, and over again. Oftentimes, when I’m on my way to work, I’ll––before I get out of my car, I’ll just pull it up on my phone; and I’ll recite whatever I’m trying to learn that day. Having those specific times to do it, whether it’s right before bed, when I wake up, or when I’m getting out of the car.

Having an accountability partner––our family loves to memorize Scripture/our church loves to memorize Scripture together; so having those people to memorize with you is always super, super helpful.

That’s one of the great things about the National Bible Bee. You can hear our story––Seth—and I think: “Wow; I could never do that. I could never memorize that much Scripture; I could never do books of the Bible or get up on stage in front of hundreds of people and quote word-perfectly”; but the National Bible Bee doesn’t start there. It starts with the summer study, and we’re in the registration period for that right now.

The summer study goes from the beginning of June to the end of August. It’s a great starting place for families to get into the Word of God together. You don’t have to know how to memorize. You don’t have to have all this knowledge, coming into it––and if you do have some experience, that’s great as well. It’s a great place for kids of all ages—family units/communities—there’s host groups across the country that you can join. It’s a great starting point.

There’s a Discovery Journal, like Seth mentioned. It’s an eight-week study that takes you through a specific portion of Scripture, and there’s 14 memory verses. Our family hosts a local group. We had a family, who had not done a ton of memory––Scripture memory––in the past. When they signed up, their son was seven years old, which is the beginning age for the Primary Division. He was super-excited to participate, and he ended up memorizing all 14 passages that summer.

He was so excited; his family was so excited! One of the best things about it––at the end of the summer––we have a Proclaim Day, in which the kids can recite the Scriptures and just have a celebration of what they’ve learned throughout the summer. He recited his verses––he was so excited about it! One of the really cool things about it was his younger sister––who was probably three of four at the time––wasn’t competing/wasn’t part of the study—but obviously, was around her brother as he was learning these verses; and she could recite them as well.

Ann: That’s amazing!

Hannah: That’s one of the best things about the National Bible Bee, because it brings families together around the Word of God.

Bob: There are churches that take this on as kind of a summer family activity, where different families in the church say, “Let’s do this and make this a part of what we’re doing for our summer.” As you think about what you’re headed into this summer, you’re probably thinking about: “Okay; do we have our vacation time set?” “Where are we going?” “What week are you going to take off?” “Are the kids doing camp?” “What about swimming lessons?” or whatever you’ve got in your summer mix of things.

But if you said: “You know what?––take eight weeks and just have a project, where as a family, you’re working on memorizing verses of Scripture.” You get to the end of the summer; and you’ll have great memories of sailing, or swimming, or whatever your family is doing on vacation––but you’ve got something, now, that’s more than just great memories––you’ve got something that’s a foundation for a lifetime. You’ll watch––some of your kids, who will get really excited about this, and when the summer is over, they’re like, “Can we do more?”

Dave: The greatest thing is the Word of God is life-changing. I mean, you two know it.

I remember back to my first months of committing my life to Christ––one of the first things my discipler/my mentor told me––I was in college––is: “You need to become a man of the Word.” I was like, “What do you mean?” You know, I honestly didn’t know one Bible verse in the entire Bible.

He showed me what Scripture memorization looked like. I can remember the first verse I ever memorized––Psalm 119:6. I had little 3x5 cards in my car/on my mirror––it was like the Word of God is your foundation with Christ––and literally, it’s life-changing.

Hannah: Yes.

Dave: So to hear what you guys are doing––

Ann: It’s inspiring!

Dave: Yes! Way to go!

Bob: We want to point people––on our website at––to the National Bible Bee. You can go there to get information about the summer study, about the competition, about how it all works. Again, what Hannah said––I think this is so important, Hannah––you [in the radio audience] may be looking and going: “Our kids would think Moses is one of the 12 disciples too”—right?—[Laughter]—“They’re never going to be like Seth and like you.” That’s fine! Doing a summer study together, as a family, is still going to be a rich, rewarding experience for you.

If you’ve got a competitor out of that––that emerges—and you go, “There’s a competitor here,” then you can nurture that, and put fertilizer around that, and watch it grow. But this is being intentional and purposeful, as a family, to make sure that the spiritual foundation of your family is what’s important.

Thank you, guys, for being with us. Seth, you’re going to compete again next year; right?

Seth: Yes!

Bob: So you’re going to be in the summer study. You’re going to start learning––you don’t have your packet yet of what you’re starting to learn; right?

Seth: Not yet.

Bob: But as soon as you get it––

Seth: Yes.

Bob: ––you go to town like, a couple hours a day?

Seth: The summer study––that’s the neat thing about it––only takes one hour a day; and then, if you want to prepare for the qualifying test also, there’s the Explorer section to help you get ready for that. As the competition goes on, you will need to spend more time with it. Go through, see what you need to do to get oriented, and then it’ll be much easier the second time.

Bob: Look, Seth can be your coach if you’re needing help––

Ann: I would not want to be in competition with him. [Laughter]

Dave: Think of this––three hours of Fortnight or three hours of being in the Word; you pick.

Bob: Exactly; good point.

Dave: They both have consequences.

Hannah: Even three minutes! You know, that’s the thing about the summer study––you might not even memorize all 14 passages. Some people––14 is a lot.

Bob: Yes.

Dave: Yes.

Hannah: But one verse memorized is better than nothing. Just starting small and taking that first step––

Dave: Good word.

Hannah: ––it’s going to reap eternal rewards.

Bob: Guys, thanks again. Thanks for being with us today.

Hannah: Thank you so much.

Bob: For more information about the National Bible Bee, go to––the information is available there. The competition will be in November, but the summer study starts in early June. Again, all the information is available, online, at; or if you have questions and want to call us, our number is 1-800-FL-TODAY—1-800-358-6329—1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

You know, we’ve got the President of FamilyLife®, David Robbins, right here with us. Did you do a lot of Scripture memory when you were growing up?

David: You know, I did do some Awana––

Bob: Yes.

David: ––growing up, so there was a baseline.

Bob: Give me a verse––what do you remember from Awana?

David: Candidly, at the table, John 3:16 is the first verse coming to mind. [Laughter] That feels like such a cop-out!

Bob: That is a cop-out, but we’ll take it anyway.

David: There you go! [Laughter]

Bob: You do think Scripture memory is important?

David: I do recall things in moments. I know the Spirit prompts me in certain situations or in certain decision points to things that I go, “I have not thought of that verse in forever!” but because it was imbedded, at one point, the Spirit makes it come alive. I think that’s the benefit of Scripture memory. I just think: “What an encouragement––listening to these kids today! There’s something so inspiring––and also convicting, if I’m honest––about hearing these young people speak the Word of God with such clarity and passion.

It reminds me of a John Stott quote––he said, “A man who loves his wife will love her letters and her photographs, because they speak to him of her; so if we love the Lord Jesus, we shall love the Bible because it speaks to us of Him.”

There’s two questions I ask myself and I invite us all to ask ourselves—one: “What am I doing to fan into flame my love for the Word of God today?” And two: “Am I encouraging and equipping my kids, or my grandkids, and others that God has put in my path to fall more in love with the living and active Word of God?”

Bob: Did you get the Timothy trophy––in Awana?

David: I never won it. [Laughter]

Bob: Busted—right here on national radio.

David: Yes. Busted; right. There it is!

Bob: Thank you, David.

This weekend, of course, is Easter weekend. I hope you and your family are able to worship together in your local church.

We want to, again, say, “Thank you,” to those of you who make FamilyLife Today possible––those of you who are regular donors to this ministry/those of you who are Legacy Partners. Your support of what we’re doing, here, at FamilyLife is what makes all of this possible. You’re actually investing in your friends, your neighbors––people all around the world—who are receiving practical biblical help and hope through this daily radio program. On behalf of them, “Thanks for making FamilyLife Today possible.”

I hope you have a great weekend, and I hope you can join us back on Monday when we’re going to meet a couple, whose marriage almost ended in the first six months because of infidelity. We’ll hear what brought the turnaround that has them still celebrating marriage together, more than two decades later. We’ll meet Ron and Jody Zappia Monday. I hope you can be with us for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. Have a great Easter weekend. He is Risen! We will see you Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas. A Cru® Ministry. Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.


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