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An Act of Grace

An Act of Grace

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Last week’s news included a knife attack in Paris, 20 deaths in Iraqi protests, unrest in Hong Kong, hurricanes in the Atlantic, a shooting at a retirement community, and the list goes on. But one news story really caught my attention. In the US, there have been a number of police shootings that have involved white policemen and black individuals. This week there was an article about an off-duty cop, Amber Guyger, who had just finished a double shift, when she entered her apartment building on the wrong floor. She went to the apartment directly above her own where a black man, Botham Jean, was seated watching TV. She mistook him for an intruder in her apartment and proceeded to shoot him. It was really his own apartment.  This week she was sentenced to ten years in jail for murder.

What was so astonishing about the case was that the man’s 18-year old brother, Brandt Jean, told the court that despite what his family had lost, if Guyger was truly sorry for what she had done, then he forgave her. He also said that his main desire was not that she serve time in prison, but that she give her life to Christ. Not only did he speak these amazing words, but he then asked to give her a hug, during which time Amber wept at the thought that he would forgive her. You see, Brandt Jean is a Christian, so he  understands what forgiveness and grace are all about. And he doesn’t just understand it. He walked it out in this very visible example of forgiveness and grace. 

Not everyone was inspired by Jean’s actions. Many felt that Guyger did not get what she deserved, which could have been many more years in prison. They also felt that society is wrongfully using the willingness of the black community to forgive. In a way, I can understand their reactions, for it is very hard to get past what is viewed as an unfair consequence for a wrong that has been committed. I’m not saying that she didn’t deserve jail time and that she deserved grace and mercy. That’s why grace is defined as getting what we DON’T deserve, and mercy is not getting what we DO deserve. In this case, Brandt Jean offered forgiveness to his brother’s killer – something that she DOESN’T deserve. He also showed mercy by not wanting retaliation against her by desiring a super long jail sentence, which could be what she did deserve.

For me, this was a very profound example of how we have been forgiven by God who could just as easily have sentenced us to death for our sinful acts. Instead, he treated us with mercy and grace. I am super impressed that this 18-year old could have such a powerful understanding of these deep concepts. May we learn from this simple, yet rather difficult, act of compassion during a most horrific time in their lives.

Because of His Faithfulness,
Sharon C. Brobst, Ed.D.
Director

(Click here to see a video of Brandt’s statement)

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That’s the Point!

That’s the Point!

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One day I noticed a post from a friend on Facebook. It was the picture that you see above – “Actually, He will give you more than you can handle.” The first comment about it was “My mother always told me that God wouldn’t give me more than I could handle.” So which is it?

Without even knowing it, we interpret what we see and learn through our own cultural lens. In the United States, and especially in the northeast where I grew up, independence and self-sufficiency are qualities that are valued. So, when we read a verse like John 15:5 that says, “apart from me you can do nothing,” we tend to manipulate it to fit with what we already believe. We change it to be a half-truth. It’s kind of like, “God helps those who help themselves.” Did you think that this is in the Bible? No, it isn’t. Again, this is the very opposite of what the Bible says. In Romans 5:8, the Apostle Paul reminds us that it was “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Not while we were doing our best or helping ourselves. This is the ultimate example of God’s undeserved love and grace.

So, what about God giving us more than we can handle? If that is true, it sure doesn’t sound fair. Again, the Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth saying, “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” Paul says that his troubles were so extreme and far beyond our ability to endure, that he thought he would die. This isn’t a man saying, “I’ve got this.” This is someone who couldn’t do what he was being called to do alone. But Paul knew that God was with him and that God who was able to raise Jesus Christ from the dead was in control of the situation. Paul may not have understood or even liked everything that was happening to him, but he had faith in God who has a perfect plan.

So, does God give us more than we can handle? He sure does! Why? So that His power can be seen at work in us and to grow us to become more like His Son, Jesus Christ. Again, the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth telling them that He begged God to take away what he calls “a thorn in my flesh” and God responded with “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Trusting God isn’t easy. But the more we get to know Him, the more we can trust Him, realizing that He has the ultimate good in mind. So even if we don’t always understand the circumstances of our lives, we can place our trust in the Almighty, Sovereign God who loves us more than we could ever imagine. That’s the point!

Because of His Faithfulness,

Sharon Brobst, Director

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Happiness or Joy?

Happiness or Joy?

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This morning when I opened my email, there was an article called, “We’re Getting ‘Happy’ Wrong.” The author, Aytekin Tank, went on to explain why even if you win a million euros, the happiness and excitement that came with winning will quickly fade. He said that being happy is not about reaching a milestone, because our tendency is to adapt to the new normal and then that becomes “the baseline against which further events are judged.” We can wear ourselves out constantly striving for “success” or “happiness.” Tank’s solution is for us to find a new measuring stick that we use to define happiness. His advice was simple: “Here’s the new yardstick: Become aware of what you’re good at and what you like doing, then go do it.” Sounds simple enough. But is it true?

The one thing Tank seems to get right is when he advised us to embrace the process, flipping “our focus from fleeting, external factors to internal ones.” By this he means that as we learn to overcome things we grow in character, thus “becoming the versions of ourselves we want to be as we chase after the things we want to do.” This kind of sounds right, but what he is still missing is that as long as the focus remains on us and what we want and what we do well, we will continue to find happiness only for a time until the situation changes.

The Bible views things from a completely different point of view. In the book of James 1:12 it says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” How is that possible? When our eyes are focused on what God wants to do in our lives, then we know that “the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Similar to what Tank said about focusing on character growth, if we keep our eyes focused on God and what HE wants and our purpose in life, trusting that God is in control and has a purpose for everything, then we can remain in His joy.

Elisabeth Elliot is a Christian author and speaker who became well known when her young husband, Jim Elliot, was killed while attempting to make missionary contact with the Auca tribe in eastern Ecuador back in 1956. After his death, she returned as a missionary to the very people who killed her husband. Elisabeth learned the meaning of joy in spite of one’s situation. She said, “The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances.” Circumstances change, but true joy in Christ is eternal. (CompellingTruth.org). That is the difference between eternal joy and temporary happiness.

Because of His Faithfulness,
Sharon C. Brobst, Ed.D.
Director

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Happiness or Joy?

Captured by Bandits

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I have been given the privilege of chairing an accreditation team for ACSI, our accrediting body. This week I have been in Tirana, Albania, at a sister school called GDQ International Christian School. When I first saw the name of their school, I became curious. What did GDQ stand for? I learned that the school is named after an Albanian evangelist, Gjerasim D. Qiriaz, who lived during the late 1800s and is known for founding the first Albanian school for girls.

I ordered a book about his life called, “Captured by Brigands,” so that I could learn more about him before I travelled to Albania. He only lived for 35 years, and during his lifetime he accomplished so much for God. The book focuses on his time of captivity when he was 26. Gjerasim was on a missionary journey when he was captured by a group of violent bandits who thought that they could get a huge ransom for his return. They did not realize that he was not a wealthy man and that they would get nothing from his family.

When he was first taken, he began to realize that the outcome did not look good and that he would probably not make it out alive. The book quotes him as saying, “I mourned not so much for my life as for my work. Just then I had begun to labour for my people, and day by day my desire to preach the Words of Life to them was growing. Why, then, has God put me into the hands of these brigands? My heart longed for neither riches nor for any other thing pleasing to the flesh. I had only one thing in mind—the spreading of light among my countrymen. Why then should God forget me?”

I have a feeling that if I were in his situation, I probably would have the same doubts and questions that he had. He felt that he was doing good things for God, and yet it appeared that God had forgotten him, allowing him to suffer a horrible fate at the hands of the bandits. But then he recalled that he saw a beautiful flower sticking up through an inch of snow. This sight reminded him of the verses in Matthew where we are told that if God cares for the flowers of the field that are only alive for a day, how much more so does God care for us, His children? The passage ends with the words, “O ye of little faith.”

These five words challenged Gjerasim to cling to his faith knowing that we serve an Almighty God that would work out His purposes in Gjerasim’s life, not in spite of this situation, but because of this situation. We know that Gjerasim made it out of his time of captivity and went on to do great things for His Lord.

If this story intrigues you, I encourage you to read more about the life of “GDQ.” Let us all be reminded of God’s Words of encouragement that are found in Matthew 6: 28-34. Do not worry about tomorrow. God is in control!

Because of His Faithfulness,
Sharon C. Brobst, Ed.D.
Director

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Happiness or Joy?

Showing Favoritism

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One of the reasons that I love riding the U-bahn each day is because of all the different people that I get to see. I find people incredibly interesting, and oftentimes quite funny. One day this summer, a lady boarded my train, and I immediately did a double-take. You see, this person was rather flamboyant. She was dressed up so that when she walked into the train, all eyes were on her. She had this huge hairstyle, most probably a wig, tons of make-up, crazy stockings, a short skirt. You get the picture. She definitely didn’t fit in the commuter setting of the train.

I sat there quietly watching her, and then we both exited the train at the same station. Instead of heading toward the stairs, she walked to the side, so I thought that maybe she was meeting someone there. That’s not what she did. She fumbled through her huge bag to find some money, and then she bent over and gave it to the beggar on the floor.

I must admit that I hadn’t looked upon her favorably. She was an oddity to me. I hadn’t even noticed the beggar sitting quietly to the side, but she did. And she did not hesitate to go and share what she had with this man. I left the station feeling disappointed in myself. Why is it so easy to get a bad impression of someone just because they are different? Why do we form our impression of people by what we initially see? Why do we even think negatively about someone because they are different than we are?

This week in chapel, Mr. Totten, our school chaplain, challenged us all to look around us and to determine together that we will seek to support each other. ICSV now has students from 67 different countries! We are an incredibly diverse group of people. Mr. Totten challenged us to not view those who are different than ourselves in a negative way. He reminded us of the passage in the Bible where the Apostle James asks us to think how we would act if a rich man came into our church service or meeting and then a poor man came in who was wearing filthy clothes. Would our first thought be to treat the rich man well, giving him the best seat in the house, while telling the poor guy to sit over there on the floor? Is that not what I was doing when I immediately thought that person on my train was weird? Not as good as me? But that day in the subway station, who showed love to our neighbor? The lady with the big hair and strange make-up did. I was very humbled that day.

May we use this year as a time when we can show the world what it is like for such different people to come together in love and support of each other. May we never judge others because of our first impression of them. Instead, let us accept and honor those who are different, for that is pleasing to the Lord.

Because of His Faithfulness,
Sharon C. Brobst, Ed.D.
Director

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Happiness or Joy?

IMAGINE!

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Welcome back! We have missed you this summer and are excited to finish our first week back at school already! As you walked around the school, I hope that you noticed the different places that the facilities team worked on this summer. Doesn’t it look nice? Also, did you see the new quotes that pertain to this year’s theme and the updated pictures from last year? I hope that you noticed our new banner in the reception area with this year’s theme – IMAGINE!

Last year a phrase from an old hymn jumped out at me. I had not really noticed it before. The hymn is “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty,” and the line said, “Ponder anew what the Almighty can do.” What does ponder mean? Think about it deeply and carefully. Dwell on it. Chew it over. Turn it over in your mind again and again. I got to thinking about how I view God. Do I put Him in a box and limit what I think He is capable of doing or will do for us? Do I fall before Him in awe and reverence? Do I have a respect for Him that is mixed with fear and wonder?

When we were able to purchase the property next door, God got my attention. That was a God thing! There was no way humanly possible that ICSV could outbid an investor, and yet God influenced the owner to show favor on us. God stepped in and showed just how powerful He is. Our God is awesome!

My desire this year is that we not forget about how God has proven Himself faithful to ICSV over the years and that we will stand in awe of just how almighty He is! Our year’s verse comes from a letter that the Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians. He reminded them that “God is able to do far more than we could ever ask for or IMAGINE.” This year, let us not limit God. Let us not box Him in because of our own limited understanding. Let’s grow in our understanding of this God whom we serve.

I can’t wait to see what God is going to do in and through us this year! Won’t you join me and just IMAGINE!

Because of His Faithfulness,
Sharon C. Brobst, Director

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