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More articles by Laura J. Bagby
 
THE GREAT COMMISSION

Vonette Bright: Faithful to God's Vision

By Laura J. Bagby
CBN.com Producer

CBN.com"The Bible is the greatest treasure you will ever own …. As a believer for fifty-six years, I have tested God's Word and found it true. In more than five decades I have not encountered one situation in which I have not been able to turn to God's Word for comfort, wisdom, guidance, joy, and blessing. At eighty-one years of age, I would rather have the Bible on my shelf and in my heart than any other book written in history because it contains the message of God."

--- the late Dr. Bill Bright

How many of us can honestly say along with the former Campus Crusade for Christ president and co-founder that we value God and His Word above all other endeavors? That's a tall order that we often fail, claiming that the Bible is difficult to read, that we are too busy, or that we just don't know how to apply it to our daily lives. Up until now, many of us haven't found a resource that simplifies the Bible.

But this year, the Bright Media Foundation brings readers Discover the Book God Wrote (Tyndale House Publishers, 2004), one of the final works completed by Dr. Bright before his death at the age 81 on July 19, 2003. The book is written to acquaint seekers and reacquaint Christian readers to the joys of digging through God's Word and getting to know the Lord.

Recently, I talked with Vonette Bright, Dr. Bright's faithful wife of 54 years, by telephone to discuss this book, the first in what is termed the 'Legacy Series'. I also wanted to find out how we could pray for Vonette and her family as she continues to honor the work of this godly man who authored more than 100 books and booklets in his lifetime, and as she seeks to follow God's vision for the future.

What is the purpose of this 'Legacy Series'?

VONETTE BRIGHT: It is actually to introduce the Bible. Bill has written a book on discovering God, discovering His character, and this has led people to really get into the Bible. Today it seems that there is so much confusion about who God is.

I know. Isn't that weird?

VONETTE BRIGHT: Yes, it is. Of course, it is because we have ridiculed the whole aspect of truth. As people are looking for God, they are looking for truth, and as they are looking for truth, they are looking for God, but there are so many people today who do not own a Bible, who have not given any attention to the Bible. I think that with all that is happening in our world today, and with the Passion film, I think it has caused people to have much more curiosity, so Discover the Book God Wrote is really to teach people to gain confidence in the Bible and then how to study it for themselves and how to apply it to their lives and to see how practical it is, but how really informative and how instructive and what a blessing it can be to our lives.

When I was reading through the passages of Dr. Bright's book, I thought, even as Christians, there are certain things that we might not know, like, for instance, one of the quotes I read was 'Every spiritual truth that is in the Bible is first established in Genesis.' That is true. Even Christians forget that.

VONETTE BRIGHT: We do forget. There is just a lot of information to retain! Then I think with the Spirit of God working in our lives, He reveals different things to us at different times. Haven't you found it true that many times you read a passage that has been a favorite of yours for years and years, and all of a sudden you read it, and here is a new insight? That is what is so exciting about the Word of God.

Some Christians might say, 'I want to study my Bible. I have the 365-day plan.' But they never get through that plan. For some reason, they think that the Bible is dry and dull. Obviously, your husband knew it was 'living and active'.

VONETTE BRIGHT: That is really true as we recognize that it is God's textbook to mankind. It is this book that tells us how to relate to God, it tells us how to relate to each other, it tells us how to relate to family -- women to women, men to men, women and men, fathers and children, mothers and children, parents and children. This book tells us so much of the truth we should be applying every day and with such excitement. So many people look at biblical truth as being binding and legalistic and unhappy, but if you want to know real liberty, just apply the Word of God to your life.

How can we do that?

VONETTE BRIGHT: First of all, we need to know what we should believe. That was one of Bill's concerns, and he even starts out the book with that. He gives background about who wrote it and why it is trustworthy, what its message is, what it promises. Then he gives us insights on how to understand the Bible, how the Bible can guide my life, how I can unlock the Bible's meaning, how I can apply Bible study principles. Here he gives things that are very simple to apply for the person who is just starting out. Then for the person who has studied the Bible for years and years, it still has some creative ideas that can be applied.

It doesn't have to get old and get dry. I find that the excited Christian is the one who studies the Word and picks out that which he can apply daily to his life and finds opportunities to share it with someone else. It is always fresh and it is always alive. If we just read it as a dry book hoping, 'Well, I had my Bible study today, so it will be a better day for me,' and it might be, but to make application of it and to have truth to pass on to someone else, it really keeps us enthusiastic and excited about what God is giving us for the day.

My understanding, too, is that we don't necessarily have to spend hours on end to do that.

VONETTE BRIGHT: I think our time alone daily with the Lord is to meet God, and if we take the time to meet with Him, sometimes that can be done in five minutes, sometimes it takes an hour, sometimes it takes two or three hours, but it is usually in relationship to the time that we have or the time that we could take. The more we know, the more I think we want to know. And I find the more time that I spend, it is so much more profitable than any other way I could be spending my time that I find I love it more and more.

It sounds like those who fall in love with Jesus are the ones who are reading their Bibles more.

VONETTE BRIGHT: I believe that is true. It is like you don't see the necessity of brushing your teeth as a child, but your mother keeps you at it, and pretty soon it doesn't feel very good if you don't brush your teeth. It only takes about 30 days to get addicted to the Word. If you can establish a habit for 30 days in a row, it is possible to continue that habit, but it is also a commitment. If there is something that you don't understand, look for the place of that which you do understand and begin to get some materials that will help. Read it with the aspect of getting to know God.

Here again, in part three of the book, What is the Bible about? -- our powerful Creator, our perfect Judge, our loving Savior, our responding to God. And the fourth part, How does the Bible change my life? That is what people really want to know: What is it going to do for me personally? How does the Bible strengthen my faith? How does the Bible connect me to God's power? How does the Bible help me to live a holy life? How does the Bible help me to love God?

We have found that applying the Scriptures to our daily lives is so important, and the study gives us such background in lots of different ways -- the history of the world, the history of nations, the history of the actions of men. It is just full of history; it is full of poetry; it's the best kind of literature. I think it was Noah Webster who said, 'If I had to choose between a college education and the knowledge of the Bible, I would choose the knowledge of the Bible,' because it is just such a rich and wonderful book. So Bill has written this book to help people to understand it and to make it practical in their lives.

What is the most important thing people can take away from reading this book? Is it that God loves them and wants to have a relationship with them?

VONETTE BRIGHT: I can't think of any better reason to know Him, but I think they take away the practical knowledge of what the Bible is all about and how to study it and how to make it a real part of their lives. Applying it, they will see their lives change, and they will gain strength to be able to help others who are really searching and looking, the godly wisdom that comes from God's Word, and that wisdom is so available to us.

The Bible never gets old. It is timely; it is able to be applied to every situation that we are facing, even today. There is such an argument about what truth is. The Bible has always been the textbook to go back to. It has always been God's Word that has lasted through the centuries, it has been borne out as truth, and it is truth that we can apply to our lives, bank on it, and find that it really is real.

I have been writing a novel series. The whole reason to do this is because sometimes people won't read the Bible, but they will read a novel. [Editor's Note: The series is called the 'Sister Circle' series and is co-authored with Nancy Moser. The first book is called The Sister Circle, the second is called 'Round the Corner, the third is called Undivided Heart, and a fourth one is due in 2005].

In The Sister Circle, we start out with a person who has gone to church some, but all of a sudden her husband dies. In desperation, she turns to God. It has been such fun doing this series, walking through this character and others applying the Word of God. Of course, it is a fiction book, but at the same time, it helps me to see the difference that the Word of God gives and the wisdom He gives in hoping and dealing with situations.

The reason why The Sister Circle was brought up is a staff member had given the book to a friend of hers that never read the Bible. That caused her to want to see what the Bible had to say, so she began to read it, never having picked it up, never really interested in it. She came to my friend after a couple of weeks and said, 'As I read The Sister Circle book, I am now reading the Bible. I read it every day.' She said, 'I didn't know that the Bible had so much to say about so many subjects. This is a practical book!' If you are looking for particular answers to questions, they are available. The questions can be answered.

What is your vision now as you carry on the legacy of Dr. Bright?

VONETTE BRIGHT: I am eager to see that all of his knowledge and wisdom is preserved and is able to be put in a form to be kept culturally relevant through the years. My husband found that he was most blessed by people's writings of the past, that these were principles that he applied in his life from the insight that they gave to the Word of God, people like George Mueller and Andrew Murray, and a wonderful devotional book by Oswald Chambers, just these classics of years past.

I think Bill Bright's [writings] will be right up there with the best. I am very eager to get them in a form that will be able to be used. We have about 15 more books and projects that he had done everything that he felt he needed to do so that someone else could edit the material and put it in a form that would be useable.

Our sons are both in the ministry, and they are very interested in keeping their father's legacy alive. And, of course, their works are very interesting. Our son Brad has just finished his book, which is a companion to his dad's, called God is the Issue. What really is the point is your view of God that makes the difference. For Christians, we need to be able to define a biblical worldview. Bill has said over and over again that a person's view of God affects everything in their whole life. As you think about it, it determines the kind of person we are going to marry, it determines the kind of entertainment we are going to allow to come into our home, it determines the education we are going to give to our children, and it determines who we are going to vote for. Everything is determined, basically, by our view of God, yet so many people don't know what they believe about God and they don't know God. So let's get to know Him.

Do you have any closing thoughts?

VONETTE BRIGHT: This book includes not only the answers to these questions but has practical helps for the beginning student or the seasoned reader of God's Word. It's going to meet the needs of everybody.

We will be keeping you in our prayers. How can we pray for you?

VONETTE BRIGHT: I pray that my life will be always pleasing to God, that God will keep me mentally alert, that He will keep me healthy, and that I am always doing that which is going to honor Him most. He has given me a good life, and I am rejoicing because I know that Bill is rejoicing.

The verse of Scripture I believe is appropriate for everybody to know I hadn't seen until the year 2000, when we learned that Bill definitely had a terminal disease [pulmonary fibrosis]. I asked God to prepare my heart because I just was not ready to think of Bill leaving. I was reading one of my favorite chapters in the Bible in my regular devotional reading as I was reading through the Bible, and I came to John 14. Here in the 28th verse, in a context that I had never seen, were the words of Jesus when He says, 'If you really love me, you will be very happy for me that I am going to be with My Father, who is in heaven.'

I took that as my signal that I was to be very happy for Bill Bright, that he was going to be seeing Jesus, he would be seeing Him face to face, he would be spending time with Him, he would be knowing the glories of heaven. And I rejoice because I know that he is rejoicing. When he was so ill, and people would come and say, 'How are you feeling, Bill? How are you?' with a big smile he would always say, 'I am rejoicing!' I knew he was in pain. I knew he was uncomfortable. It was a struggle to breathe. He couldn't get enough oxygen. But he was rejoicing. He really did it right.

In his last words, he said, 'For decades, my greatest joy has been from being in the presence and serving the Lord.' Then he adds, 'alongside Vonette,' which, of course, might be nice to know. But then he says as he was writing to people at the last -- in fact, this is in the introduction to Discover the Book God Wrote, 'Today, I am experiencing God face to face in ways so magnificent they cannot be described in words, for no eye has seen, nor ear has heard, nor mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him,' taken from 1 Corinthians 2:9. So because I know he is rejoicing, anytime I have a tendency to be low, I begin to think, God is rejoicing in heaven, and it won't be too long before I am there to rejoice with him.

Thank you for sharing that with me.

VONETTE BRIGHT: Bless you, Dear.


Discover the Real Jesus, the second in the 'Legacy Series', is slated for sometime this fall. The series will also include the Discover God Study Bible, scheduled to release in 2006.

Dr. Bright was the founder and president of Campus Crusade for Christ, author of the well-known evangelism tool The Four Spiritual Laws, and commissioner of the JESUS film, a feature-length documentary on the life of Christ. Dr. Bill Bright was 81 at the time of his death, July 19, 2003, and has authored more than 100 books and booklets in his lifetime. Dr. Bright and Vonette Bright were married for 54 years and have two children: Zachary, a pastor in California; and Brad, an author and staff member at Campus Crusade for Christ. Campus Crusade for Christ continues under the leadership of Steve Douglass.

Visit Campus Crusade online

Read an excerpt of Dr. Bright's book

Purchase Discover the Book God Wrote

Visit Tyndale House Publishers online

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