Welcome Ann-Marie Joy Ashley!

Just wanted to let everyone know that Ann-Marie Joy Ashley was born on Saturday, July 26 at 5:14pm. She weighed 6lbs. 12oz. and was 19 1/2 inches long. She has LOTS of brown hair. She's beautiful! And such a blessing! Both her and Amy are doing great. We came home today.

That's all I have time to say right now but I'll give another update (with pictures!) within the next few days.


Thai Spice: Breaking the Curse?

At the corner of Fant St. and Greenville St. there is a little restaurant called Thai Spice. For those who have lived in the Anderson area for a while, you'll probably remember that this building has been the home of numerous restaurants such as Church's Chicken, Pita House, and Phoenix Grill. (I can't recall if any others have come and gone.) When I first noticed that a new restaurant was coming I thought to myself, "That building is cursed. No business ever survives there." Needless to say, I was a bit skeptical when I first saw the sign for Thai Spice. I assumed that it would meet the same sad fate as all the previous restaurants.

A few months ago Amy and I made our first trip to Thai Spice. Although we had heard a number of people talk about how great the food was, we didn't venture to Thai Spice until we were given a $50 gift certificate. Honestly, I was a bit surprised when I walked inside. What had once been a fast food type of setting had now been transformed into something much nicer. New tile, fresh paint, and lovely paintings helped to change the atmosphere. Yet, we were not only impressed by the improved surroundings but also by the food and service. The spring rolls, Pad Thai, and the sauteed broccoli and chicken were all very delicious. The vegetables were fresh and the meats were tender. For drink, Amy had sweet tea and I enjoyed the Thai tea. This drink is a blend of a special tea and cream. It's very sweet and unusual. The tea reminded me of yerba mate.

Since our first night at Thai Spice, Amy and I have enjoyed eating there on numerous occasions. If you haven't been to Thai Spice, I'd encourage you to go for lunch or dinner. I don't think you'll be disappointed. If you don't know what to order I recommend the following: Spring rolls or Crab Ragoon for appetizer; Beef Salad or Pad Thai for the main course; and Thai tea if you don't mind trying something a little different. (They also have a few unique imported beers, plum wine, and the usual drink fare.)

I believe Thai Spice has been around for about a year and it seems to be fairing well in the "cursed building." Maybe Thai Spice has finally broken the curse.


Westminster Shorter Catechism 1

Calvinism and Evangelism

In any discussion that touches on the issue of Calvinism , one will certainly encounter a number of misunderstandings. One such misunderstanding is the belief that Calvinism undercuts evangelism. In the minds of some, a belief in total depravity (total inability), unconditional election, limited atonement (particular redemption), irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints is incompatible with calling sinners to repentance. Yet, nothing could be further from the truth. On the contrary, a proper understanding of the doctrines of grace puts evangelism in a proper focus and should build-up ones zeal for evangelism.

On this past Lord's Day Patrick Miller,Pastor at Redeemer Church (PCA), delivered a sermon that clearly reveals that there is no conflict between Calvinism and evangelism. Please carve out an hour of your day to listen to this sermon. I believe you will be both challenged and encouraged from God's Word. (And please don't be mistaken...the point of the sermon was not to debate over the points of Calvinism...I don't even think he mentions Calvinism!) Rather, Patrick reminds us that we will all come before the Great White Throne of Judgment. And in that Day, let what was said of Abraham also be said of you and I: "And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness" (Genesis 15:6, ESV). Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness! Listen to Sovereign: Before the Throne.

Sovereignty and Stitches

In a post from yesterday, Sovereignty and Hope, I wrote that "God often has other purposes and plans for us." By this statement I wanted to emphasize that God has planned for us to encounter various trials and circumstances that we are not anticipating. Ironically enough, God chose to bring some of these unanticipated events into our lives yesterday So, here's the story.

I came home late yesterday afternoon in order to finish preparing for a youth event that was planned for the evening. While I was upstairs I heard Alora start crying. But this wasn't a normal cry; rather, it was the type of cry that lets you know that something is really wrong. Before I could make it down stairs Amy let me know that Alora has hit her head on the side of the bed. After seeing Alora's head it was clear that she was going to need stiches. After making a call to Dr. Dale, we made our way to his office.

Yet, while on our way to the doctor, our van ran out of gas. Amy and I both responded with lots of laughter. Thankfully I was able to coast the van into the parking lot of a gas station. After Amy got into the drivers seat I pushed the van to the gas pump. (Just in case you're wondering why we ran out of gas, the gas indicator is broken. And yes, pushing a van isn't very easy when you have to do it by yourself.)

When we finally made it to Dr. Dale's, everything went pretty smoothly. Thirty minutes and four stiches later we made our way home in just enought time to cook pizza before the youth arrived.


Sovereignty and Hope

"Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him" (Psalm 115:3, NIV)

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:28-31, NIV)

In the near future a number of changes will be taking place in my life: Amy's going to the hospital on Friday to be induced with our third daughter, unless of course the baby comes sooner; I'll have a full-time work load at seminary beginning in Septemeber; and as always, I'll have plenty of ministry work at Redeemer. (And these are just the things that I think may happen. God often has other purposes and plans for us.) Maybe today is like the calm before the storm. Yet, no matter what the Lord brings into my life I can rest in knowing that He is in control. In my life, the knowledge of God's sovereignty has been the greatest comfort for me. This is to say, an affirmation of God's sovereign and providential workings is much more than an abstract theological committment: it is also a constant source of hope. Isn't it wonderful to know that our Triune God works all things for our good according to his purpose, to praise of His name?


Evangelism and Church Growth, New Testament Style!

We certainly live in an age of information. We can take in and distribute information in so many ways: Internet, television, radio, books, newspapers, etc. I certainly appreciate and utilize all of these communication forms...actually, you and I are enjoying the benefits of the Internet now! There is no doubt that the Church has benefited from these mediums. Yet, we must not forget that the early Church lived in a very different time and place. Big church buildings? Nope. Flashy Internet sites? Not hardly. MP3 sermon audio? No. Big Christian publishing houses? Not even close. In a sermon on Acts 5:12-32, Dr. Derek W.H. Thomas puts it like this:
But there were no buildings. There was no choir. There was nothing to attract them from an external point of view. There was just the blandness of the apostles and other men and women talking about Jesus. That’s all there was. There was no movie, there were no books, there were no pamphlets or tracts; there were no radio stations. As far as we know, there weren’t any great
preachers, although Peter seems now to be turning into a great preacher. It’s all of God, you see. It’s all of God. This is the Lord’s doing. There are no formulas here; there is no methodology of evangelism that you can discern. They’re engaging in witnessing to Jesus, to His life and death and resurrection, and exaltation to the right hand of God. It’s all about Jesus Christ, and they’re talking about Him! And men and women are being drawn to Him!
Although all of our modern communications can be used to the glory of God, we must never forget this truth: As God's people--those called to bear witness in the world--we must remember that our formulas, methods, or mediums are not what will compel the world to turn to our Triune God. Our primary task is to equip our hearts, minds, and lips with the message of Jesus' life, death, resurrection, and reign.

(If you'd like to read or listen to all of Dr. Thomas' sermon, Prison Break, go here.)

Heart Walk

Two years ago our daughter Alora Grace had open-heart surgery in order to correct a heart defect that had been present since birth. Thankfully, the Lord used the doctors and nurses in order to bring her through the surgery safely. This September we will be able to celebrate this blessing as we participate in the 2008 Heart Walk in Charleston, SC. As participants in this walk, we are attempting to raise $500 that will be used for heart disease and stroke research. If you're interested in donating, then you can donate here. Even if you are not able to donate, at least take a few moments to visit Alora's heart website.


Westminster Classic of the Month

Starting this month the Westminster Bookstore will be offering a "Westminster Classic of the Month." Here's the information from an email I received:

Machen, Murray, Stonehouse, Van Til...Bavinck, Vos, Ridderbos—now the library that launched Westminster Theological Seminary can become your own. The books written by Westminster's faculty—and the books they read—helped put Westminster in the forefront of the defense of the orthodox Christian faith.

Over the next several months we offer you a unique opportunity to make those same books a part of your personal library. Each book in the Westminster Classic of the Month series will be offered at a substantial discount for one full month. To inaugurate this series, we present The Infallible Word (below), a symposium by Westminster's founding faculty, at 50% off until August 15.

On His Terms, Not Ours

Have you ever noticed that when Jesus comes into a conversation, hardly anyone wants to say anything negative about Him? When was the last time that you’ve heard someone say something like “Yeah, I hate Jesus.” I do not doubt that there are some people who may feel this way, but in general, most people want to at least talk about Jesus in a positive light. Yet, in order to speak positively about Jesus, people often mold Jesus into an image that is more palatable. Some try to paint a picture in which Jesus emerges as nothing more than a highly-skilled teacher—a good, moral guide. Others describe Him as a wandering poet or a would-be political revolutionary figure. Yet, a very different Jesus is found in the gospel accounts.

In Luke 5:17-26 a story is recounted of a paralyzed man who is brought by his friends to see Jesus. According to Luke, Jesus responds like this:

When Jesus saw their faith, he said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven" (v.20, NIV)
Jesus' statement quickly puts the religious leaders on edge. They found Jesus’ words to be scandalous:
"Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (v.21, NIV)
The religious leaders realized exactly what Jesus' words implied: By claiming to be able to forgive sins, Jesus thereby claimed to be God! Jesus certainly saw Himself as much more than a great teacher, and He wanted others to see that He was more than a man: He was the God-Man...fully God and fully Man! (What a great and glorious mystery!) Luke tells us that Jesus responds to the religious leaders with a few questions of his own:
"Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'?” (vs.22,23, NIV)
Yet, Jesus doesn't just speak bold words to them. He follows His words with a confirming action:
"But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins...." He said to the paralyzed man, "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God (vs.24,25, NIV).
As much as people may want to speak nicely about Jesus as a good teacher or some other image, we must each be willing to take Him on His terms, not ours. Maybe if we see Him as He truly is, then we will be able to respond to Him as we should: with awe and wonder.
Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, "We have seen remarkable things today (v.26, NIV)



Our third child (another girl!) is due on 8-8-08, so we shouldn't have too much more time before she arrives. I'll be really surprised if the baby doesn't come before that time, but we'll just have to wait and see. As you can imagine, we are so excited. One of the cool things about this pregnancy has been watching the excitement build for our oldest daughter Alora. She is ready for her sister to come. Alora has also let us know that she wants to call her sister, "Squirt." I wouldn't be surprised if that nickname hangs around. Of course, Amy and I will call her Anne-Marie Joy, but I guess "Squirt" is a good name too.

From Unclean to Clean

While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy.When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean." Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!" And immediately the leprosy left him. Then Jesus ordered him, "Don't tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them" (Luke 5:12-14, NIV).

Leviticus 13 gives a detailed account of what the priest had to do in order to determine if a person had infectious skin disease. Once it was determined that a person had such a disease, that person became "unclean" and was then an outcast from the community:
The person with such an infectious disease must wear torn clothes, let his hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of his face and cry out, 'Unclean! Unclean!' As long as he has the infection he remains unclean. He must live alone; he must live outside the camp (v.45,46, NIV).
In his gospel account Luke records Jesus' interaction with a man with leprosy. Upon seeing Jesus, the man cries out for Him to make him clean. In response to the man's plea, Jesus does something quite surprising: "he reached out his hand and touched the man." Luke then tells us that the leprosy immediately left the man.

I believe that it is safe to say that the once-leprous-man was never the same after encountering Jesus. In an instant, this man went from being unclean to being clean, from being an outcast to being a welcomed friend, from living alone to living in community. (I can only imagine how sweet his reunion was with family and friends!). This was truly an amazing encounter that resulted in an incredible transformation.

As I read of Jesus' encounter with this man I cannot help but to think of how Jesus has transformed my life. Though I have never been leprous, I was born unclean. Though I have never felt the touch of Jesus' hand or heard the sound of his voice, I have certainly encountered Him. And for all of us who have met Jesus--by faith--I am sure that we can all testify that our lives have never been the same. At one time we were alienated from the Father but now we have been made sons and daughters. We were once dead in sin, but we are now alive in Christ. Or to use the words of the a hymn writer, "I once was lost but now I am found, was blind but now I see."


Canon of the New Testament

Since I'm not taking any classes during the summer, I've had a little more time to read books that have been on my reading list. Currently, I'm half-way through reading Bruce M. Metzger's The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance. In this book Metzger discusses the historical development of the New Testament documents and the way that they came to be recognized as canonical. According to Metzger the canonization of the New Testament was not a quick process in which church councils arbitrarily picked certain books to be part of the canon; rather, the process was long and gradual. Metzger maintains that external pressures such as persecution and heretical teachings (by men such as Marcion, who rejected the Old Testament and much of the New Testament) pushed the church to recognize which documents were authoritative and which ones were not.


Jesus, Israel and the Wilderness

While reading Scripture do you ever have moments where you think "why in the world haven't I seen that before?" I had one of those "aha" moments while reading Luke 4. In case you don't remember, in chapter 4 Luke writes about Jesus' forty days of temptation in the wilderness:
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry (v.1,2, NIV).
Although I've read this passage of Scripture many times before, I never noticed the connection between Jesus' 40 days in the wilderness and Isreal's 40 years in the desert. (Take note of the particular temptations that Luke records.) Israel certainly struggled to follow the LORD faithfully during their time in the wilderness. Israel continually sinned against the LORD. The author of Hebrews writes:
Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief (v.16-19, NIV).
Yet, unlike Israel (and us!), Jesus obeyed the His Father perfectly. He met every temptation with a faith-filled response. Where Israel failed, Jesus prevailed! Let us praise and worship the Father for sending His Son--our perfect high priest:
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:15,16, NIV).