“Where You Go, God Is” (Scholar’s Compass Transitions Series Summer 2017, Post 2)

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We’re delighted to start summer with a new Scholar’s Compass series. Scholar’s Compass is our ongoing online devotional for academics. In it, we ask authors to write about how their academic vocations and their lives as followers of Christ fit together in a simple format: A quote from Scripture or a Christian author, a reflection, a question to think about, and a prayer. Since we launched the series in 2014, Scholar’s Compass has been one of our most widely read features. You can browse the whole series here. Today new ESN author Christian Brady continues his Scholar’s Compass series on transitions. You can read the first post here


Reflection

I grew up in a great church with a wonderful, expository preacher. As I recall the stories he used to tell, at one time in his life Dr. Richard Halverson was a hobo and performed on vaudeville. He certainly would often end evening services with the lights down low and scat singing so he clearly had some of the performer in him. His preaching was sound and grew out of the biblical text. I think it is from this background that my interest in exegesis emerged and why all of my academic research has been based upon how people (and specifically the rabbis of late antiquity) interpreted the Bible.

“Big H” as we called him rarely preached about systematic theology and, although it is a Presbyterian church (then PCUSA and today it is EPC) I had no real conception of what Calvinism was until I got to college. Which is about the time I began attending Episcopal churches. Yet such teaching was there, implicitly. Recently my mother reminded me of the benediction that Dr. Halverson often used and I now find is quite widely shared and beloved on the internet.

You go nowhere by accident. Wherever you go, God is sending you. Wherever you are, God has put you there. God has a purpose in your being there. Christ lives in you and has something he wants to do through you where you are. Believe this and go in the grace and love and power of Jesus Christ.
— Rev. Dr. Richard Halverson

I remember this benediction well and hearing it again made me realize both the solid foundation I had been blessed to receive in the church of my youth, but also how much I have grown in my own faith.

While I appreciate and understand how these words encourage and strengthen us, I no longer believe them to be true. In any given day, decision, or action we have various options and choices that we make and I do not believe that God “micromanages” them, making each decision for us, while allowing us to feel like it is our “discerning God’s will.”

I do, on the other hand, believe that wherever we go, God is there, is present with us, and will use us if we are open to his Spirit.

This may seem like a splitting of hairs or heresy to some, depending upon your view of the sovereignty of God. I see a distinction that is greatly encouraging and empowering. On the one hand, the sovereignty of God is extended as he allows us freedom in this world, to make decisions in keeping (or not) with the guidance he has offered to us in Scripture. On the other, it is the grace of God that is present with us no matter where we are or what decisions we have made.

I had, for example, a number of choices for college. In the end I went to Cornell University and I honestly cannot tell you if that was the right decision or not. My knowledge of Scripture could not tell me whether it was better to go to American University, Cornell, or Kenyon College. Scripture did, however, guide and direct me to seek God, to find and be a part of Christian fellowship, and to share the Gospel where ever I was. Cornell was not an easy time for me, in fact, it was often very difficult. But I certainly felt God’s presence through the many wonderful friends and mentors I found, particularly through our InterVarsity chapter.

There is no doubt that at times God will intervene, directing us to a specific place and time and for a specific purpose, as he did with Joseph. But the story of Jonah makes it clear that there is no where that we can go where God is not. That is of great encouragement to me and I hope to you.

Prayer

with deep gratitude and affection to Big H and in loving memory

You go nowhere that God is not. Wherever you go, God is there and waiting for you. Wherever you are, God is ready to comfort and support you. God is ready to use you, so open your heart to his Spirit. Christ lives in you and has something he wants to do through you where you are. Believe this and go in the grace and love and power of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Questions

1. What is a time in the past when you experienced God’s presence deeply?

2. Where are you experiencing God’s presence today?

3. Where would you like to experience God’s presence more?


Image courtesy of skeeze at Pixabay.com

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Christian Brady

Christian M. M. Brady is a scholar of ancient Hebrew and Jewish literature and an academic administrator. His academic research focuses upon the interpretation of the Bible in antiquity, especially the ancient rabbinic commentaries of the books of Lamentations and Ruth known as “Targum.” He has also written extensively on the topic of suffering and grace. Brady is an associate professor of Jewish Studies and Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies and was dean of the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State University from 2006-2016. Prior to that he was director of the Honors Program (2003-2006) and the Jewish Studies Program (1998-2003) at Tulane University. He is an ordained priest in the Episcopal Church.

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