This new blog http://www.bibleandcoffee.blogspot.com is one I'm involved in with a few friends - we're scattered over the world and this is a way of replacing the occasional meetings and chats about the Bible.
Tea drinkers are welcome as long as they keep their habit quiet ;o)
Its a place for theological/biblical discussion - sharing thoughts, airing questions and general chat about the Bible over a coffee. Come along if you want to.
Anyway - today I saw a car that fulfilled all our requirements (Ines hates automatics, which is the majority of the market here; we both prefer petrol to diesel and I wanted a hatchback). Obviously we also wanted a car that didn't belong to a credit company and wouldn't fall over in 10 weeks. (Start the stopwatches now).
A Toyota Corolla sufficed. It was lot 114 so I had a while to wait; I almost got carried away with a great bargain on an unsuitable car and it was only the imagined look on Ines' face as I explained that I'd bought two cars rather than just one that prevented me from sticking my hand in the air: there is no exaggeration here!).
Finally it came: the auctioneer boomed out "Who'll start me at $6000?" ("not me!" I thought and prayed) finally someone put him out of his misery at $3000: but rather than quieten down he became more animated: I stepped in as the other's stopped. I knew my limit. Then the car reached my limit. The auctioneer enticed me and I was enticed. I stepped beyond the line I promised myself I wouldn't cross - just a little - and secured us the car of our desires.
It struck me how like sin an auction is - waiting for the right moment, weighing up the costs and the benefits and finally being enticed to transgress...
I don't mean we've sinned in buying that car - not at all - but it reminded me of the process that often goes on in my heart.
We're thankful to God for keeping us aware of His glory and goodness over the last week. It seems like a lot longer. Please pray with us that the lessons of the last seven days will not be easily or quickly lost or forgotten, and that in the days ahead the weightiness of His Glory will keep us anchored in Heavenly wealth rather than earthly gain.
Whilst in the caravan and with few visible possessions I mused a lot about the loss of all things - learned hard lessons about holding loosely to the value of material wealth and learned to rejoice in the freedom of possessing little. It is not an easy lesson to learn - but this week seems to have tested how easy it is to forget!
In the frustration with people I became short sighted - the loss of the car seemed hugely important: I got angry and I got churlish with God. The prayer was something like this: "it is not fair - I don't mind losing the big things, I don't mind having left friends and family because that was for gospel reasons - but this, this is so petty, insignificant and unnecessary: why would you do this to us? Surely we deserve better than this..."
At this point I saw that my heart had promoted me once again to the winning position in 'Andy Idol': I wanted to worship at the altar of my own comfort and appease my anger at inconvenience. It is not that God punished us because of this (no, that would be to believe an inverted prosperity gospel!) but simply in the circumstances my heart's true colours were made plain to me (and I fear the rest of you in the blog post below).
One good friend (by God's Sovereign grace) reminded me via email of two passages to Scripture that came to mind Tuesday evening shortly after the car was driven away, but these Scriptures were driven away from my mind by my idolatrous self-pity.
"you cheerfully accepted the plundering of your possessions, knowing that you yourselves possessed something better and more lasting. " Hebrews 10.34
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust+ consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal." Mathew 6.19
In moving into our house, beginning to feel more settled and filling it with the things that make everyday life possible - you know what? - I began to look to the things that we were acquiring (the very things that rust, mould and rot away - especially in the heat and humidity of Auckland!) for security. How stupid is that?
The answer to that question - is 'totally and incredibly': in Christ we posses something of far greater worth and of an eternally more lasting nature.
Remember Jesus - I should tattoo it on my fore head in mirror language so it's there everytime I look at myself. Remember Jesus - giving up the riches of heaven for the sake of saving sinners like us and making us saints. Remember Jesus - who chose the cross and its shame looking to the joy of possessing the inheritance of the saints for all eternity. Remember Jesus - who having given us himself will not stinge or scrape in the provision of all else that we need.
This is a PS - but as we were facing the loss of the car there were other saints facing bigger battles more faithfully: check out http://desiringgod.org/library/fresh_words/2006/021506.html
OK - so I have spoken to lots of people this morning about the car:
The Police: 'it is not a crime to sell a car that does not belong to you as long as you're the registered owener. This is not fraud, it's a civil matter - you need to speak to the Disputes Tribunal'
The Disputes Tribunal: "We're currently booked up till May but you could submit a claim as long as you know where the other party is - oh, you don't, sorry we can't help"
The Credit company - who took the car: "We can not discuss this with you, we have no legal obligations toward you, you bought the car illegally and we advise you to speak to a lawyer"
The Citizens advice beaureu: "there is a meeting with a lawyer available on Saturday morning, but the law is not on your side: you should have known to check the credit history on the car"
The government agency who deals with car registrations (2nd call - most helpful): "What's happened to you is awful, we'll de-register you are the owner so you don't have to pay for any fines that might be incurred by anyone using the car"
I've even tried to trace the guy we bought the car from - he's evaporated and can't be found.
Frustrated, a bit depresed, and well and truly taught a lesson and trying to build up the strength to look for a car. Please pray that God's glory would be seen by our eyes and in our lives.
OK - so twice in one day is a bit much but you will NEVER believe what has just happened.
We just settled the kids in bed and were finishing off with end of day stuff, ready to head upstairs and a knock came at the door. It was a lovely bloke who asked to speak to me; which he did with great grace and patience and explained that the car sitting on our driveway mostly belongs to a credit company and that the people who sold it to us did not have the legal right to do so. He reposessed the car... we closed the door and laughed: nothing much else to do!
SO - we don't have a car at the moment. Well, we have the use of a car till the weekend and that is a real provision (its a car we've been 'looking after' for the last month).
Pray we'll keep our sense of humour about this and pray that this will all get sorted out to the glory of God!
PS - happy valentines day!
Today is Ruben's 10th birthday (although with the difference between GMT and New Zealand should we be celebrating it tomorrow?!?!). And its a big deal - not just for him, but for us.
I'm now old enough to have a child whose age hits double figures - a decade! Sorry, pretty pathetic, but his birthday is one of the indellible milestones. It helps me see how far we've travelled, what we've done and how we've grown in the last a10 years.
The answers to those are - very far, much of value and a huge amount.
It is all too easy to look back with a human-centric perspective and to think about us but by far the most important set of questions is about God's work in and through us over the last decade. There are in truth many regrets, things that could have been done, many things that should not have been done, lots of things that could have been done better... the list goes on. We repent of the failures and rebellions and move on. Under grace there are great stories to tell and great praise to be given to The LORD; stories of big and small victories in our own lives, of opportunities to give and receive hospitality, of belonging to churches, of working with colleagues, of giving and receiving Biblical encouragement, of building gospel centred friendships, of grace in dark times and wisdom in joy, of confident steps of faith and uncertain steps in weakness leading working out in God's active guidance in our lives.
I'm grateful for all these things. I am grateful too for Ruben himself, I have learned much in being his dad - much about myself, about parenting and life in general but also about the sufficiency of God and the provision of unconditional love of the Father through Jesus Christ. I am profoundly and deeply proud of my eldest son (no less so of the other two!) but on his 10th birthday I want to speak of him. He is growing into a fine young man - he has his father's temper (blame it on the Irish genes as well as sin) and his mother's love of order; he's keen to understand Scripture and live with integrity, injustice gets his goat and he loves all things technological. He is also developing a keen sense of the ironic and uses it to be cheeky and funny. He drives me mad at times and makes me laugh more often - I am delighted at the person he is growing into.