In The Beginning
The Bible is made up of sixty-six books overall, but it is actually one book that tells one unfolding story. The message that permeates every verse, of every chapter, of every book is the story of Jesus Christ. That story begins with:
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)
My story must begin the same way. In the beginning God created the environment for our family to be saved. He created a series of events, places, people, and sermons. All leading the way to the time and place picked out very specifically in which He would manifest Himself in our lives.
Oh, I know I could say that circumstance and coincidence happened over and over in our history but that would be a lie. To the casual observer my Grandma Green moved to the San Francisco Peninsula from Springfield, Missouri in 1933 because her dad got a job painting the Golden Gate Bridge. After all I suppose careers move people around all the time. Often as we go through life we make decisions, and moves, and life changes that we assume are our own choosing but we in our small world often miss the unseen guiding hand of a God who is weaving His own plan, a bigger plan, an eternal plan.
My Grandpa Green made his way out to the San Francisco Bay Area from Louisiana in 1942 with his wife Irene. He had been working on the railroad but came west looking for work. He ended up as a dockworker. I’m sure he could not have imagined the plan that God was putting together for his life. Often God ‘s plan is put in place by moving people, families, even whole nations in order for His plan to come together.
I think of Alexander the Great who spread the Greek language around the world by his conquests. To the average onlooker especially those who have been through war would see just another war, another nation invading someone else, or perhaps a leader thirsty for power. To broaden our perspective to the larger eternal plan the conquests of Alexander were much more than just another war, or a power hungry leader. His spreading of the Greek language just before the birth of Christ enabled the spread of the Gospel easily throughout the known world.
We see another great example in the Pharaoh who was in power during the events of Exodus. His rise to power at that exact time in history was more than mere circumstance or family heritage. God even said it in Exodus 9:16:
“And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth.”
So the purpose in this very king rising to the throne was for the release of the children of Israel. Let’s move to a modern example. We can look during the last century at the rise of Adolph Hitler in Germany. As terrible as the events of the holocaust were they served to bring about the establishment of the State of Israel. God worked through these events and brought this man to power at just the right time in history to bring about His purposes for His people.
We could even look to the death of Jesus Christ Himself. It was no coincidence that Pontius Pilate was over that region of the Roman Empire at that exact moment in history. So often we fail to see the weaving of God in our lives but much of the moving of people and families lends to God preparing for His plans to take place.
My grandmother as a teenage girl lived down the street from my grandfather who was married to someone else at the time. The reader must keep in mind there was a fourteen year age difference between them. She even babysat his sons Jerry and Terry when they were eight and three years old never thinking she would become their stepmother.
Over time as grandma grew up she went off and got married. She had her first daughter Sharon but ended up in an abusive marriage and was eventually divorced. Grandpa got divorced in 1946 and around 1950 they began dating each other. Grandpa spent three years proposing marriage but grandma spent three years keeping him waiting until they finally wed in 1953. Now to imagine for a minute that his move to the Bay Area, and her families move to the Bay Area, and their living down the street from each other is all just circumstance and coincidence would be to ignore the working of God.
Our lives even when we are unsaved are not subject to circumstance. God had an eternal plan but before landmarks could ever be set the players on the stage of life had to be moved around and moved into place to accomplish the plan for their lives. None of it was by accident. This thought gives me great peace to know that if their lives were being guided and prodded by the Lord then surely my life as well is being guided on an eternal path to accomplish an ultimate end.
My dad was born in Fontana, California. For those of you who are fuzzy on geography that is about 400 miles from where he lived in Mountain View, California when he met my mom. I see in that side of my family as well a pattern of God moving them to the places He wanted them to be to work His plan for their lives.
What brought him across the State you may ask? In August of 1970 his family came to northern California for a job at United Technology Company. As the old story goes a job for my Grandpa Garland moved them into a specific place. We can once again look at the situation whether a transfer or a job offer or whatever else may have transpired it can be said that without the knowledge of those involved God was working out a plan but first he had to move people into specific places.
Stop for a moment and examine your own family history. Why are you where your at? If your mom and dad came from different parts of the nation and found each other then what brought them to that place?
We can see in most of our lives that this is true. The fact that it is true does not explain how or why it is. What moved this person here or there?
How did Bob and Sue both end up in the place they were at the moment they were to find one another? At this point we can turn to the Bible for the answer. Paul was preaching in Athens and while there he said:
God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us.” (Acts 17:24-27)
He had been observing the various idols and gods of Athens before he started preaching then he started by pointing out that the true God does not dwell in temples made by hands, and He is not worshiped with men’s hands meaning the statues and idols that were made and worshiped were nothing but false gods because the one true God did not need the work of men’s hands to be worshiped.
In fact the one true God did not need anything from man. It is He who gives to all life, breath, and all things. Everything we have in this world was given to us by God and we are accountable to Him for how we steward these things. Finances, houses, cars, children, jobs, education, clothes, friends, and the list could be endless. All we have comes from God and He requires nothing of us. There is nothing we could conceive to give God that He doesn’t already have or could not create by the Word of His mouth.
He then declares that God created from one man (Adam) all the nations of mankind. He has determined the times before appointed this means He has our days numbered before we are even conceived in the womb. He had the total years of my life numbered before my grandparents even moved to the part of the country where they would meet each other.
Before my dad lived in the same community as my mom, God had already worked it out. David put it this way:
“Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.” (Psalm 139:16)
God told the prophet Jeremiah that He knew him even before he was conceived in the womb and He had ordained him as a prophet even before he was born.
“Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5)
Getting back to Paul’s sermon, he goes on to say that God determined the bounds of our habitation. That is a reference to the geographical location in which we live in this world. God determined it and He did it in the hope that we may feel our way toward Him and find Him. This was the eternal plan for my family. Find Him we did, but not without His help.
The main point I want you to see is that God is the main player in this game of life and we can rest assured that in all things good and bad He is weaving a pattern according to His own marvelous plan. I’m sure divorce was not easy for either of my grandparents but in the sorrow of those times God was weaving a better plan. Corrie Ten Boom who was a holocaust survivor and Christian evangelist used a poem to tell her story and it goes like this:
“My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.
Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.
Not ‘til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned
He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.”
(Benjamin Malachi Franklin)
It would be a disservice to mention some of the lessons from my fathers if I left out the back story of how my family came to Christ. It would be like following the story of the Exodus without hearing the stories in Genesis that led to the nation of Israel in the first place. We read in the Scriptures:
“Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, To The Unknown God. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.” (Acts 17:22-23)
I want to reminisce in this book and to encourage, but the story of my fathers, of my family is a story of the sovereignty, love, compassion, and gentle guiding of God. It is Him that I declare unto you. I want you to know the God we know. To trust Him, love Him, and follow Him as we do and as my fathers did. My grandparents would be disappointed and I would do you a disservice to not show you how we came to believe in the God of the Bible and through that faith my fathers would lay the landmarks that I look to today.
“Lessons From My Fathers” can be purchased in paperback or ebook through http://www.rickgarland.com