Embracing the Hope of Easter in These Uncertain Times

by John Miller

JohnMiller (2)Easter is a time to embrace our need and celebrate God’s provision! Our need is to be forgiven of sin, God’s provision was to give us the Savior Who would not only offer us pardon by His death on the cross but also Victorious Life by His resurrection from the dead! Jesus Christ is God’s answer to our “virus” of sin.

During these uncertain days of COVID-19, we’re reminded about how fragile life is and how mortal we are. One little microscopic life form has brought planet earth to a standstill. By a simple inhale in the wrong place at the wrong time, we can become the next victim. Hearts are anxious and lives are in upheaval because of this invasion of what has been called “the invisible enemy”. Our prayers go out to all who are affected by this in any way, some more than others. And we applaud all who are on the front lines working to provide healthcare and supplies to hospitals, stores, postal services, feeding programs such as The Hope Center, banks, and every facet of service that is engaged in this war.

As bad as this pandemic is, sin is much worse than any coronavirus. COVID-19 can take a life, but sin can take a soul. The enemy of our souls invaded the human race all the way back in the Garden of Eden. Sin entered our spiritual lungs and began to suffocate the Life of God out of our lives. Mankind no longer breathed the fresh Presence of God. Over the years, old testament sacrifices were made that served as foreshadows of a future Sacrifice on a hill called Calvary but could not take away sin or provide us with a new nature. Jesus is the “Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world” and implants within us a new nature by being born-again, born spiritually.

When Jesus died on the cross as the perfect, sinless “Lamb of God” He did so to provide atonement. The word “atonement” can be better understood as “at” “one” “ment”. God and man had become divided through sin (much like social distancing). God and man could not enjoy the fellowship they once had due to the “sin virus”, so distance was put between us until Jesus came to live a perfect life for us and then offer His life as a sacrifice, much like a blood transfusion, to give us life and restore us to “at” “one” “ment” with God = Atonement! His sacrifice is enough for a full payment of our sins!

But, that’s not the end. When Jesus said “It is finished” while hanging on the cross, it was only getting started! Did God accept Jesus’ offering as a sufficient remedy for our sin virus? During the old testament days, when God wanted to show that He had accepted a person’s offering, He’d raise it up by some spectacular fashion, such as with Cain & Abel in Genesis 4, Gideon in Judges 6, and Elijah in 1 Kings 18. It wasn’t enough just to offer a sacrifice. Would God accept it? Was it good enough?

If God saw that Jesus’ offering was sufficient, then He will raise Him up! Romans 1:4 tells us in no uncertain terms that “Jesus was declared to be the Son of God with power, by the resurrection from the dead.” God raised up Jesus to say to the world: “YES! JESUS IS ENOUGH! MY SON DID IT. I ACCEPT HIS SACRIFICE IN PLACE OF YOURS!” Had Jesus only died on the cross without a resurrection, then we’d have to conclude that God did not see it as sufficient, but HE DID! And He proved it!

You see friends, we deserved to die on that old rugged cross! We do not deserve to go to Heaven. But if we will simply place our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, all is forgiven. Jesus Christ is the only remedy for this sin-virus that runs rampant in the human race. Just as COVID-19 has invaded the planet, sin has invaded the human race. The only vaccine is Jesus. And to accept Him as Savior means so much more than just getting a “vaccination” or “ticket to Heaven”. It’s about relationship.

Do you know Jesus as your personal Savior? Has there been a time in your life when you know you were born-again and that you and God have been restored to “at” “one” “ment” through the Atonement of Jesus?

If not, why not today? Right there, call on Jesus to rescue you from the virus of sin that threatens to take your soul. Turn from sin and look to Jesus in full repentance from sin and open arms to receive Him into your life.

We’d like to encourage you in your faith, especially if you just asked Jesus into your life. Will you let us know? Contact The Hope Center to let them know about your decision to follow Jesus!

HAPPY RESURRECTION DAY! JESUS IS ALIVE!

To talk to someone at The Hope Center please call us at 301.739.1165 or email us at info@hagerstownhopecenter.com. Learn more about The Hope Center, our response to COVID-19, and all the programs & services we offer the community free of charge by visiting http://www.hagerstownhopecenter.com.

John & Melissa Miller are familiar faces around The Hope Center. As former pastor at Faith Christian Fellowship, John & Melissa would help with evening chapel services and have both ministered in various ways to our residents and guests at The Hope Center in the past. Currently they are the V.P. of Operations/Missionaries for Churches in Missions. To learn more about the Millers go to http://www.johnandmelissamiller.com or visit http://www.churchesinmissions.org.

Once Upon a Time…

Good Friday 1I love a good story. I mean, we all do, right? Stories entertain us. They ignite our imagination or pull at our heart strings. They encourage us or motivate us. They teach us lessons or bring the past to life. We all love a good tale as old as time. The excitement of that ‘once upon a time’ and the contentment of ‘happily ever after’.

A good story is what we all need now. It’s what we’re all longing for. An escape from the reality of this pandemic. A way to shelter ourselves from the death and fear surrounding us. A story to put our mind and heart at ease and remind us that things will be ok again.

As a kid in church I loved when my Sunday School teacher would use the felt board to tell Bible stories. I secretly always wanted to own one so I could tell the stories myself. Those visuals helped to bring those stories to life and live inside our minds.

But also as a child in church there was another medium used to tell stories: songs. We all remember Father Abraham and Deep and Wide. Classics in Sunday Schools across the country. But for me, there was one song as a kid that I’ve always loved. I can’t sing it for you as you read this but I’m sure you’re familiar with it too and your brain will instantly jump right back into this song and you might even bust out loud singing. It goes like this:

“I heard an old, old story, how a Savior came from glory

how He gave His life on Calvary to save a wretch like me

I heard about His groaning, of His precious blood’s atoning

then I repented of my sins and won the victory

Oh victory in Jesus, my Savior forever

He sought me and bought me with His redeeming blood

He loved me ‘ere I knew Him and all my love is due Him

He plunged me to victory beneath the cleansing flood.”

What a story! So powerful, so encouraging, so timely. And that’s another thing about a successful story — timing.

We tell stories to help in situations. A story isn’t only as good as its content or subject matter but as when the story is told and how it will change the person or group who hears the story.

And that’s what makes this all so significant. In the darkest time of this pandemic comes Easter. The most powerful, life-altering, history changing, good vs evil story known to humankind. Easter! In our most challenging days arrives the most encouraging story.

It’s got darkness and despair. A world falling apart and desperate for help. It’s got loneliness and heartache. Bad decisions and bad motives. It’s got fear and death. And it’s got an ending to end all stories.

This timing didn’t surprise God. It’s a message for us. It’s a reminder that He is still here even when we feel so isolated and scared. It’s His story of hope. It’s His story of victory. It’s His story of love. And it’s His story of our ‘happily ever after’.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed with the news and images we see and hear constantly. It’s easy to be unnerved by closed businesses and empty parks. It’s understandable to feel alone. Imagine the disciples and family watching as Jesus was paraded down the road broken, humiliated, carrying His cross. Imagine as they watched Him hang on that cross desperate for air. Imagine as they watched Him breathe His last breath. Imagine the fear they felt as the stone was rolled in front of that tomb.

I imagine that you, like the rest of us, are experiencing the same types of feelings now.

In fact this morning was especially hard on me. There’s only so much of the darkness and evil in the world that I can take before the feeling of hopelessness takes over. But in that minute when my desperate heart cried out to God to intervene He put a song on my lips. “I heard an old, old story…”

Victory in Jesus! If that isn’t the ‘happily ever after’ the world needs now then I don’t know what else to say. In the darkest point in our lives, is a holiday celebrating the most powerful and victorious story ever told!

God knows our fear and our pain — He’s gone through it. God knows our loneliness — He’s been there. God knows our heartache as loved ones die — He’s experienced it. And God knows the hope of victory — because He’s already won it.

Sure, this Easter is gonna be strange and different for us but in no way is COVID-19 changing the message of hope. In no way is the virus rewriting the ending of the story. In no way does the fallen world win.

There’s victory in Jesus! And now more than ever the world needs to hear this story…now. This is the story of life. The story of victory. The story of HOPE.

May you and your family have a safe and HAPPY EASTER!

 

Here’s to a Wonderful 2019!

We’re just hours away from not only a new year but a brand new decade! And with this new year comes another chance to celebrate a milestone: 65 years of The Hope Center at Hagerstown Rescue Mission! We’re so excited to celebrate another year of God’s miraculous work in Hagerstown and surrounding communities. We have some exciting changes in the works and 2020 is the perfect year to kick off a major project that will bless the lives of so many in the decades to come.

But before we jump into 2020,  we want to take the opportunity to thank God for all His continued blessings and faithfulness to this ministry and all the amazing things He did and provided in 2019. Each year He continues to amaze us and reminds us that we aren’t in this fight alone. We are truly blessed to have a God who loves us and cares so deeply for this ministry and the people we help each day of the year.

God shows His faithfulness in many ways but one of those ways is with the continued support of people like you. We want to thank each of you for partnering with us to bring the hope of God’s Word to so many people in many different ways. From our daily soup line, to our overnight homeless shelter, to the men in our rehabilitation/life recovery program, to all the precious children who’ve attended a Wildside Youth event, God has done amazing things in 2019 and each of you have been a part of this story.

We look forward to all the great things that God has planned for 2020 and beyond! As we mentioned, 2020 is a big year as we celebrate 65 years of continued hope for our community. But we do have some big news coming that we’ll be sharing with you in the near future. Until then, please continue to help us as we fight the good fight to bring healing to the broken, food to the hungry, shelter to the homeless, and love to all of God’s people.

To learn more about our programs and services, how to get involved, how to give, or how you can get help, please go to http://www.hagerstownhopecenter.com.

And don’t forget to make plans to join us in April for our annual Rock the Run 5K: Pirates vs Princess! We kicked off this race back in 2015 to celebrate our 60th anniversary and here we are still going strong! The 5K is on Saturday, April 25th at Fairgrounds Park in Hagerstown. And we’re proud to announce that our Rock the Run 5K: Pirates vs Princess is once again sponsored by our good friends at Martin’s Famous Pastry Shoppe in Chambersburg. As you plan your New Year’s parties don’t forget to pick up some of their delicious potato rolls! To learn more about our upcoming 5K please visit http://www.rocktherunhagerstown.com.

So as we bid farewell to 2019, join us as we take a quick look back at all the beautiful faces who were a part of our amazing year. From staff, to guests, to volunteers, these smiling faces are what it’s all about! Thank you for helping us have another miraculous year of hope in Hagerstown!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

 

“The Best Gravy You’ve Ever Had!”

Another year hosting our Great Hagerstown Thanksgiving Feast is in the books!

Our annual holiday celebration, which is one of the oldest and longest continually running community Thanksgiving meal in the city, was another success as people from all over the area joined us to volunteer or enjoy the feast as guests.

Our kitchen was busy days before the feast preparing various dishes for the buffet including the roast turkey and our famous (and delicious) stuffing.

But as the sun rose on Thanksgiving our kitchen crew knew exactly what to do: prepare the best Thanksgiving buffet in town!

And they sure did! The feast this year was absolutely delicious. From the amazing stuffing made by Dorcas Black to the “best gravy you’ve ever had” by Diane Ellis, our guests, staff and volunteers sure did have a great spread to enjoy on Thanksgiving.

But before the meal was served , our guests were treated to a great message by Matt Sargent who was the former director of our Foundations Life Recovery program. Matt had a little fun with the crowd by presenting them with a plated preview of the Thanksgiving feast which turned out to be the meal Snoopy served to Charlie Brown. But then he came clean and presented everyone with an actual plate of the delicious food they were about to enjoy. He brought it all together to remind each of us that God has great things for our lives and that we shouldn’t just settle for the “Snoopy meal” of life when God is busy working to provide us with an amazing “Thanksgiving feast” in life.

Once the message was concluded and the meal was prayed over, our guests were eager to hit up the buffet line! Everyone enjoyed all the wonderful food and most had no problem going back for seconds.

We are so thankful for all of our volunteers and staff who helped to make this Thanksgiving successful. There are so many people who work behind the scenes in preparation to the feast, and so many wonderful volunteers who give up their holiday to serve others. We are beyond grateful for everyone who played a role in our Great Hagerstown Thanksgiving Feast. There are many names we’d like to mention – but more on that at a later time.

Our Great Hagerstown Thanksgiving Feast is a chance for us to celebrate all that we’ve been given throughout the year and to come together to give thanks to God for His continued blessings and faithfulness in our lives and at The Hope Center.

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to come together to collectively give thanks to our great God. But we are always in a spirit of gratitude to God for all He does at The Hope Center throughout the year. From the men in our Foundations Life Recovery program whose lives have been changed and freed from the dangerous addictions and abuses that have caused so much physical, emotional, and spiritual pain, to the families who receive clothing assistance, to the kids who are learning and growing spiritually at Wildside Youth, to being able to provide safe overnight housing to homeless men and feeding thousands of hungry people each year, God continues to wow us with all His blessings and continued faithfulness to this ministry and our call to reach the least, the last, and the lost for Him.

And we can see God at work each and every day because of the faithful and generous people in our community who have partnered with us to keep our doors open for almost 65 years. And not only do we keep our doors open – we don’t charge our neighbors in need a dime to receive services. And even more amazing is that we receive no tax money from the government. Each day operating is a miracle because God continues to send all the right people to help provide all of our needs. And we can’t thank Him enough for each of you.

Each of you are having a profound impact on our community and in individuals lives whether you totally realize it or not. Every time you drop off a bag of clothing, buy a can of coffee, donate financially, volunteer an evening, you are helping to fight the good fight and bring HOPE back to thousands of people.

So thank you for your compassion and dedication to The Hope Center. Each life is precious and we are using the resources that you help to give to remind each person who comes to The Hope Center that they are important, they valuable, and they are loved – by a great God and His incredible people.

This Thanksgiving, and every Thanksgiving, we are so genuinely thankful for you! You’re making a difference. So again, thank you. We hope God blesses you this Christmas season.

 

 

“Here in the Power of Christ I’ll Stand”

Good Friday 1

“There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ”
-from the song, In Christ Alone

What a powerful thought for what should be a dark day in human history. This day thousands of years ago was to be sin’s greatest triumph. Instead, it turned into our greatest hope.

As Jesus uttered the words, “It is finished”, it was. Death was finished. Evil was defeated. Hopelessness was destroyed.

The tears and fears of that day were quickly replaced by the glorious victory of Christ’s resurrection on Sunday. And from that day forward, each new sunrise is a promise of hope and love from a God who suffered tremendously so that we could know how valuable we are to Him.

We are not in this alone. We don’t suffer by ourselves. In Christ is all of our hurt, abandonment, abuse, fear, pain, and sadness. Jesus felt it all as He hung on that cross. And He paid it all as He rose from the grave.

Today, or any day, as you’re struggling with whatever pain or hardship you have please remember that you are not alone. Please remember that God suffered for you and feels your pain. And that no matter how dark today is personally, the sun will always rise again. The darkness of Hell wants you to forget that Jesus already won. Satan wants you to feel all your regret and sin. But Christ already dealt with that for you. The darkness will not last because it’s already lost. There is HOPE for today because He lives.

“No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
Til He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.”
– from the song, In Christ Alone

IMG_4189Join us tonight at 7pm at the Trinity Center to celebrate the HOPE of Easter as Maranatha Brethren Church presents an Easter musical and dinner. For more info or to talk to someone about what Jesus did on Easter weekend please call 301.739.1165 or email info@hagerstownhopecenter.com.

Have a safe and glorious Easter weekend!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day from all of us at The Hope Center! We celebrated today with our Soup Line guests who got special themed treats and a few of our lucky guests went home with some Valentine’s prizes!

Soup Line is our daily free lunch for anyone and everyone in the community. We serve our community meals, like Soup Line, every day of the year including all holidays and during inclement weather.

Soup Line is one of the important parts of our food ministry and a huge part of our goal to end hunger in Hagerstown and surrounding areas and to make sure no one is food insecure – ever.

And thanks to generous people like you who financially sponsor us and donate food all year long, we are able to feed more people than ever. Which is why we are moving ahead with a refurbishment and expansion of our food services area at The Hope Center. In the next coming months we’ll be revealing the plans for an expanded dining room and kitchen to help accommodate the growing number of guests for meals, and a much larger pantry to house all the food that is donated and used for daily meals and our food bag program.

So as we celebrate this day of love, we want to express our love to you for supporting us and partnering with us to feed the hungry in our community! Thank you so much and we love each of you for your kind, caring spirit! Happy Valentine’s Day!

Santa Surprises our Soup Line Guests!

Christmas came and went in a flurry of activity. There’s always so much going on during the holiday season but it’s always worth it all.

Even though Christmas is now a thing of the past, that doesn’t mean we can’t talk about all the fun we had – like when Santa made a surprise visit to our Soup Line!

On December 20th, our Soup Line guests were a part of our surprise Christmas celebration. In addition to delicious holiday themed food and treats, our Soup Line guests were randomly chosen for Christmas prizes. But the favorite part for everyone was when our friend, Santa, stopped by to help spread Christmas cheer.

We love celebrating with our community guests who come to our Soup Line each day. Occasionally we host parties celebrating various holidays and other themed events.

Our Soup Line is free for anyone and everyone and takes place every day of the year including holidays and during inclement weather. Our Soup Line is a very important part of our ministry as we are dedicated to combating hunger and making sure everyone in our community has food to eat.

In fact, we are in the beginning stages of a total expansion and refurbishment of our kitchen, dining room, and food pantry. We’ll be moving forward in 2019 to raise funds and begin the expansion project so that we can have enough room to meet the rising numbers of guests coming for meals.

You can be a part of making sure we end hunger in Hagerstown. By hosting food drives, donating meals, and sponsoring our food services campaign, you will help us continue to make sure no one, young or old, is ever food insecure.

Learn more about Soup Line and our food services programs by visiting http://www.hagerstownhopecenter.com/food-programs

 

Our Residents Enjoy a Christmas Party With the CMA!

This past weekend the Christian Motorcycle Association hosted a Christmas dinner for the men who are enrolled in our Foundations Life Recovery program.

The CMA had a delicious meal prepared for our residents as well as performing Christmas songs, reading the Christmas story from Luke and then giving each resident a Christmas gift bag.

And in addition to all the festivities Santa stopped by to celebrate with our residents!

We’re so thankful for the CMA coming every year to host a Christmas celebration for our residents. The guys in the program are enrolled for 13-months while they work through recovering from the various addictions and issues that have caused them to lose so much. Events like this are so important to our residents who are often estranged from their family and loved ones so these types of activities and investment in their lives show a loving community who is cheering for their success.

We want to thank the CMA again for showing so much support to our life recovery program and for caring for each of these wonderful men who are walking down a difficult but healthy path. And to each of you who’ve donated, volunteered, and prayed – thank you. Each one of you is helping not just to provide housing or food for people in need but also making an investment in the life of these men who are battling addictions. Thank you for partnering with us to restore the lives of so many and show them the love of God. Merry Christmas!

Greencastle Youth Group Share Christmas Love…And Cookies

We were so excited to have the youth group from St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church in Greencastle stop by to serve lunch to our residents and community guests on December 9th!

This was the first time the youth from the church served at The Hope Center and we hope it’s not the last. They served a delicious meal of homemade soup and sandwiches and even made homemade Christmas cookies for everyone.

The youth group at St. Mark the Evangelist meets a few times a month where the students, grades 8th – 12th, learn about their faith or partake in service projects, like serving at The Hope Center, and fun activities geared for them.

We love seeing young people serving their community. The future success of helping people depends on young people getting involved and actively participating in being the hands and feet of Christ in our community. A big thank you to Vicky, youth ministry coordinator, the parents who helped, and most importantly, the students who gave part of their weekend serving others!

For more information on St. Mark the Evangelist please visit http://www.stmarkstlukeparish.org

Maranatha Brethren Makes the Holidays Happy With a Christmas Prayer

Last Friday our residents and guests were treated to a holiday performance and dinner hosted by the choir from Maranatha Brethren Church.

Every Christmas the choir from Maranatha performs their seasonal cantata in the Trinity Center for anyone and everyone in the community. This year the choir performed, ‘A Christmas Prayer’. Our guests enjoyed listening to Christmas music and were reminded about the true meaning and purpose of Christmas. The crowd enjoyed hearing a full choir plus various soloists perform as the Trinity Center was filled with Christmas spirit.

Following the performance the choir from Maranatha was joined by others from the church to serve a free dinner to everyone in attendance.

It was another bitterly cold night in Hagerstown but that didn’t stop people from coming out to hear the choir sing. We had over 100 people spend the evening celebrating the birth of Jesus with us!

We are so thankful for all the support and love that Maranatha has given our ministry and residents & guests over the years. Their Christmas cantata performance has become one of our new Christmas traditions and we are so thankful for the choir coming to perform and serve the community.

If you were unable to join us last Friday then why not stop by Maranatha Brethren Church this Sunday evening (12/16) for the full Christmas cantata, ‘A Christmas Prayer’, being performed by the choir in their church. For more information on the cantata performance please call 301.733.1717. Maranatha Brethren Church is located at 19835 Scott Hill Dr. just off of Jefferson Blvd. in Hagerstown.

To learn more about Maranatha Brethren Church please visit http://www.maranathagbc.net