Introduction to the New Testament: Application and Interpretation

Here are a few general guidelines that I find helpful in Bible study, especially in the New Testament:

1. Read and interpret the Bible in light of the Jesus Christ.

2. Read a variety of translations, comparatively.

3. Give appropriate attention to literary genre.

4. Observe the progressive revelation we are given in scripture and in life.

5. Begin discerning between descriptive and prescriptive texts.

6. Avoid “prooftexting.”

7. Appreciate the importance of word studies, historical chronology, and biblical geography.

8. Discern the texts that are for local application and the texts that are for universal application.

9. Live by the light you are given and more light will come.

10. Respect the insights and opinions of others.

Dollars and Sense: God’s Economic Plan for All Seasons

Christian stewardship is a spiritual and practical discipline…a management responsibility which applies to every facet of life. As believers and worshippers, we are accountable to God for how we exercise that managerial responsibility over all of our resources, especially our time, our spiritual gifts, our opportunities, and our finances.

In recent weeks on Wednesday evenings, I have been sharing a series of life application messages about Ethics for the 21st Century. This past Wednesday evening, we focused on Dollars and Sense: God’s Economic Plan for All Seasons. Although economic trends in Florida were adversely affected by the sequential series of devastating storms in 2004-2005, the negative trends in Florida have been compounded by nationwide trends indicating higher unemployment, a depressed housing market, and higher fuel costs. Recession conditions exist in Florida and around the nation. And although we do not know how long the recession conditions will last, we do know that God’s economic guidelines are good for all seasons, including seasons of feasting and seasons of famine.

God’s plan for economics begins by calling us to a positive and proactive attitude toward working, managing, and giving. The prophet Malachi probably has the most emphatic words to say about giving: Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it Malachi 3:8-10 NIV0.

In his book, Full Disclosure: Everything the Bible Says about Financial Giving, Dave Bell writes that “Stewardship is not just an opportunity to enter into God’s service but an opportunity for God to enter into you.” I believe that for those who dare to practice biblical stewardship, giving becomes a fun part of our management responsibility. Paul gives us a vivid description of a believer’s attitude toward God’s economic plan when he writes, Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver ( II Corinthians 9:7 NIV).

Herb Mather, author of Don’t Shoot the Horse (Until You Know How to Drive the Tractor), contends that “The vertical relationship to God and the horizontal relationship to neighbor come together in the act of giving.” In other words, that cheerful spirit of managing and appropriating our resources for kingdom purposes cultivates within us a passion for mission and ministry.

Here is a brief summary of the life application points we discussed last Wednesday evening:
*Understand that all resources are a trust from God.
*Prioritize your tithes and offerings.
*Do your work with integrity.
*Provide for your family through a carefully managed budget.
*Be ethical and honest in all transactions.
*Limit credit liability and strive to eliminate debt.
*Invest in the future through a savings plan.

As you put God’s economic plan into practice, you may discover that plan provides spiritual and tangible stability for all seasons.

Clyde Bizzell: A Man Who Walked Humbly with God

Last Saturday morning, April 5, in Louisville, Kentucky, a dear servant of God went to his eternal home. Rev. Clyde Bizzell, who served as associate minister at First Baptist Pensacola from 1954-1978, is fondly remembered as one of the most influential ministers in our church’s history. As we give thanks for Rev. Bizzell’s life and ministry, I have asked a few of those who knew Clyde to share some of their treasured memories of this spiritual giant:

In contrasting the personalities of Pleitz, Bizzell, and Royal, it has come to mind that I never saw Clyde get mad, never saw him lift anything much heavier than the pocket notebook he carried around to write visitors names… yet he was one of the strongest men I ever knew. – Barry Royal

One of the things I admired about Clyde was that he had absolutely no agenda of his own. His sole and only concern was the will of the Lord. Everyone had a good laugh when he locked his keys in his car in the church parking lot with the engine running. He was a man who truly walked humbly with God. – T. A. Shell

Clyde was the person who seemed to know everyone at FBCP and know what was going on any and all the time. He and Dr. Pleitz were the first people to our house when my father died. Clyde helped me to work through what I wanted to study in seminary and was very instrumental in helping me to get to my first place of service after seminary, First Baptist Church in Crestview, Florida. – Don Minton

Clyde was the real rock. He was the stabilizer. He made the church run smoothly. He knew every person and he knew every event and what was needed and he knew every nook and cranny of the church. He could recite the calendar for weeks to come and enhanced the churches’ effectiveness beyond measure. All preachers should be so fortunate as ours was in having a “Clyde.” – Toni Clevenger

Clyde Bizzell was a dedicated Christian minister with a heart for people. He served with an unselfish spirit and an humble demeanor. His ministry reminded us of the Lord Jesus that he served. -Alton Butler

Clyde was one of the most dedicated, genuine and hard working servants on this earth, but his office (or cubby as it was) was the most organized mess you’d ever seen. Clyde was the stabilizing factor always maintaining order and could pinch-hit to fill any need at FBC (except singing we didn’t let him sing). The FBC doors were never opened without Clyde’s presence and the only vacations he had were church trips for the most part. – Scott Bell

Clyde Bizzell was truly a servant. Even though I was only in middle school when he left Pensacola for Park Cities he had a profound impact on my life and ministry. When I was a student at Southern and he was in Louisville visiting his sister we would get together for a meal and fellowship. My first day on the job at FBC, Hartwell, GA — I got a phone call and heard that distinctive voice, “Charlie, my friend, best wishes to you on your new ministry.” I don’t think I am the only FBCP crew that went into the ministry that got letters, calls, and encouragement from Bro. Clyde. He was a Modern Day Barnabas. The naming of the Pleitz Chapel is appropriate as well as the ROC bearing Paul Royal’s name, however the “naming rights” for Clyde Bizzell at FBCP are imprinted in the lives and hearts of all those he touched with Christ’s love. – Charlie Wilson

In September 1977 I was elected Chairman of Deacons at FBC. A few days later Dr. Pleitz announced that he was accepting the pastorate at Park Cities in Dallas. Needless to say I was overwhelmed with the thought of him leaving and the responsibilities I had as Chairman. I was looking forward to working under his leadership the year I was Chairman. This was not to be. I believe God places individuals in our paths at just the right time to lead and guide us as we work for Him. Clyde Bizzell was that man for me. Clyde became my mentor that year as we planned and led FBC in a year without a Pastor. We decided that we would not recommend an Interim, but would hear the great preachers in the SBC that year. Clyde knew most of them personally or knew about them. He arranged for them to be here from Sunday to Sunday. Clyde and I met each evening after I got off work and discussed and planned the work of the Church. Although we missed Dr Pleitz and his leadership we were able to make progress. I don ‘t know how I would have functioned as Chairman without the friendship and assistance of Clyde Bizzell. I also remember that Clyde loved banna pudding. Many ladies in the Church knew that and would bring him a bowl. When he finished he would return the empty bowl with a lb of banna’s and a box of vanilla wafers. The implication was clear: “that was good, make me another one.” Clyde was a gaint of a man and will be missed. I thank God for the memories.
– Charles Griffin

Clyde was a great example of one who worked tirelessly to follow God’s calling in his life while at the same time being an example of what it means to truly live life abundantly. Very few have influenced my life as he did. I thank God for Clyde and for his great Godly example. – Nix Daniel

I was a “young” person during Mr. Bizzell’s ministry here at FBCP. As I look back on that time what I can say about Mr. Bizzell’s ministry is he was the absolute best #2 man any Pastor or church could have. Dr. Pleitz and Mr. Royal were the faces of our church and congregation and Mr. Bizzell was the guy that held everything together and put feet too many of the visions that those two had. He was the quite behind the scenes guy making it happen and was very comfortable in his role.
– Kemp Wilson

My memory has lost most of the past, and I am having trouble with the present. The Deacon’s did not have a rotation system at that time. I was on the Building and Grounds committee and spent much time with Clyde on everything from dust on the pews to Sanctuary temperature. The war was over, the community was growing and so was F.B.C.P. Our staff was small and so many of the tasks were handled by church volunteers. We had no position called “Minister”, except the Pastor. Dr. Nathan Brooks was now our Pastor. The membership was growing. Dr. Brooks knew a young man at a church in Louisiana that could be a good fit for F.B.C.P. Clyde came to serve as Director of Education. (I do not think that he ever saw the last 2 pages of the description of his job, he just did it.) As the church attendance and membership grew, so did the responsibilities of Clyde. He was very adequate for everything He was asked to do. With the arrival of Dr. Pleitz and Paul Royal, the three of them made the All-Star team of Church Ministers. – Joe Ladner

It gives me pause again to celebrate Clyde Bizzell’s wonderful life of service and friendship to so many, of which I am just one grateful heart. I recall so fondly how faithful he was as a partner at Park Cities when I first arrived, prior to his retirement after a few years. He knew all the secret stories, all the best restaurants, and all the ways to get things done in that church. But his imprint is large at FBC Pensacola, of course, and I know that he remembered those years with Dr. Pleitz as some of his favorite years in ministry. – Allen Walworth

Mr. Bizzell was the consummate servant of Christ. He embodied the concept of “servant leadership” long before it became popular. He modeled for us all how a minister should stake his claim of God’s love on a person in need. And, what a generous man! How many of us were treated to a meal at the Boarding House by Clyde Bizzell? God has called one of his most dedicated saints home. – Charlie Johnson

Bizzell was my right hand. From day one he was indispensable to my work in Pensacola. I felt something was missing in my ministry in Dallas until I persuaded him to move. Everywhere he served, the people loved Clyde dearly. What a man! What a friend! – Jim Pleitz

The Birds and Bees of the 21st Century

On Wednesday evenings during our Midweek Worship Gathering we are discussing Ethics for the 21st Century. We began on March 26 with the topic “You Only Die Once: A Christian Ethic About the End of Life.” On April 16, we will continue the series as we talk about “Using Dollars and Sense: God’s Plan for the Economy.” On April 23, we plan to talk about “Sleeping with the Enemy: Sexual Morality in the 21st Century.” And on April 30 we will ask, “Is God’s Favorite Color Green?” as we think about our Christian responsibility for the environment.

Tonight we are discussing bioethics and genetics under the topic “The Birds and Bees of the 21st Century.” Let’s begin by considering a text from Genesis 1:26-30 as translated in The Message God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the cattle, And, yes, earth itself, and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.” God created human beings; he created them godlike, Reflecting God’s nature. He created them male and female. God blessed them: “Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge! Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air, for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth.” Then God said, “I’ve given you every sort of seed-bearing plant on Earth And every kind of fruit-bearing tree, given them to you for food. To all animals and all birds, everything that moves and breathes, I give whatever grows out of the ground for food.” And there it was.

What are the ethical issues related to procreation and genetics?

1. Gene Therapy: Inserting corrected versions of defective genes to make them function properly.

2. Germline Therapy: Inserting corrected versions of defective genes into sperm or eggs so that these genetic modifications are passed on to one’s offspring.

3. In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF): A technique used to help infertile couples conceive. Sperm and eggs are mixed together in a Petri dish and the resulting embryo is implanted into the woman to complete development.

4. Sex Selection: Using techniques such as pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to determine the sex of an embryo conceived via IVF. Only those embryos with the desired sex are implanted in the woman to complete development.

5. Designer Babies: Using PGD to determine the presence of absence of certain genes in embryos conceived via IVF. Only those embryos with the desired genes are implanted into the woman to complete development.

6. Sperm, Egg and Embryo Banking: Freezing donated eggs, sperm or fertilized embryos in liquid nitrogen for later use.

7. Nuclear Tranfer: Removing the nucleus from one egg and inserting it into another egg. This technology can be used to ‘rejuvenate’ older eggs or potentially to create fertilized embryos by fusing two nuclei together in a single egg without the need for a sperm.

8. Reproductive Cloning: A type of nuclear transfer, where the nucleus from a body cell is injected into an egg that has had its nucleus removed. This cell can then develop into an embryo and be implanted into the woman to complete development. Babies produced by this technology would be genetically identical to the person from whom the cell nucleus was taken.

9. Embryo cloning: Similar to reproductive cloning, but cells are extracted from the resulting embryo and used for research purposes. The embryo is not allowed to complete development.

10. Embryonic Stem Cell Therapy: Cells are extracted from cloned embryos and grown in culture in the lab to create a line of cells. These cells can then be injected into patients to cure disease by regenerating damaged cells, tissues or organs.

Who does it effect? Everyone of us. At some point in the not too distant future, many of these issues will effect our friends and our families.

What are the ethical considerations?
1. Creation of living cells (genes, cells, and tissues) vs creating a human life.
2. Curative vs consumerist.
3. Common good vs personal interests.
4. Spiritual vs secular
5. Personal autonomy vs corporate ownership.

As a community of faith, we are somewhat behind the curve in being prepared to deal with such issues. However, it is unthinkable that we leave this conversation to those in our world who have no faith-based frame of reference. Let’s begin the conversation. Let’s search the scriptures. Let’s pray for spiritual discernment.

Reaching Those on the Far Side

We have an opportunity to creatively and proactively share the good news of Jesus with those who live on the far side of life. Who are those we think of as living on the far side of life? And how do we share the good news with them? This Sunday we will look at the description of the early church in Acts 2:36-42 as we explore ways of Reaching Those on the Far Side.

On Sunday evening we will meet at six o’clock in the sanctuary as we continue our Introduction to the New Testament and zero in on the Pauline Correspondence. During our evening gathering, we will also celebrate the baptism of new believers and new members.

For the past several months we have been praying for God’s leadership as we have searched for a Minister of Students. On Wednesday, April 9, during our Midweek Worship Gathering, we will introduce our prospective Minister of Students and his spouse. You will hear a report from our interview team, a team composed of students and teachers from our middle school, high school, and college departments. Then some of our students will join me in interviewing the candidate. Afterward, we will vote on a recommendation to call this candidate to be our new Minister of Students. Continue to pray for God’s guidance as we prepare for these strategic moments of decision-making.

Join us as we gather for worship and Bible study this Sunday. You may discover nourishing Food for the Soul.