The Address of Hope

by Ron Shank

Board of Directors 2017 (2)Joe Bailey in his book “A View From a Hearse” tells of the day his boy died of cancer. He had returned to the clinic to thank them for their kindness and care of his son. As he spoke to the receptionist, she motioned toward a woman whose son was playing quietly with toys in the waiting area. “He has the same cancer your son had” she said. “Why don’t you go over there and see if you can talk with her.”

Bailey went reluctantly over to sit next to the mother and they whispered just out of hearing of the boy. “It must be hard bringing him for the treatments,” he said, more a statement than a question. “Hard,” she turned with anguish in her eyes. “I die every time I have to bring him in. What makes it worse is that I know it’s not going to stop the cancer and he’s going to die.”

Uncomfortable, Bailey ventured: “Still it is some comfort to know that when that happens there is no more pain and suffering, and they go to a better place.”

With hardness in her voice the lady responded “No”. “When he dies I’m just going to bury him and the cemetery and never see him again.”

Bailey wanted to leave. It was uncomfortable to speak with this woman who obviously had no hope in any way. Then he spoke quietly, “I buried my son just yesterday, and I’ve only come today to thank the doctors and nurses for their kindness. I know what you’re feeling but I also know there is hope; a promise of a better life for my son now.” “How can you believe such a thing?,” she challenged. And then Joe Bailey told her about Jesus and the essence of real HOPE.

The hymn writer tells us:

“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness.                                    I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.                                   His oath, His covenant, His blood support me in the whelming flood.                            When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay.                                 On Christ the solid rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand. All other ground is sinking sand.”

Job 3:15a says, “Though He slays me, yet will I hope in Him.” Now Job was a man who know what it was like to have his whole life fall apart – to lose everything and yet he still had hope. Millions of people are living without hope; I see this firsthand everyday.

And yet I would tell you this truth: THERE IS HOPE!

And this hope is found in God alone and in a relationship with Him.

When I became a Christian I began to memorize scriptures I was taught to memorize the content of the verse and its address – the place it was found. Today, I believe the address of hope is found in John 3:16.

John 3:!6 has been called the greatest verse in the entire Bible – the Gospel in a nutshell. It is one of the first verses learned by children in Sunday School or Vacation Bible School. This verse is often quoted in sermons and it is even hung over guard rails in many football stadiums. It is so familiar to so many that I fear we often quote it or read it without deeply thinking about its meaning and the promise it holds.

John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son (one and only son) that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

It has been summarized in the following way:

  • For God – the greatest One
  • So loved – the greatest degree
  • The world – the greatest amount of people
  • That He gave – the greatest generosity
  • His only begotten Son – the greatest uniqueness
  • That whosoever – the greatest invitation
  • Believeth in Him – the greatest simplicity
  • Should not – the greatest certainty
  • Perish – the greatest possible loss
  • But – the greatest difference
  • Have – the greatest possession
  • Eternal – the greatest length
  • Life – the greatest gift

I would say to you if you know nothing of the Bible start with this verse. If you know everything of the Bible, return to this verse often. This is the Hope Diamond of scripture! If there was ever a verse that could change the world – this would be the one.

I would like to break this verse down and examine the beautiful intricacies found within this verse and also discover the hope that this verse holds for all of mankind. From this one verse we can find at least four truths about the love of God which produces such hope.

WE HAVE HOPE BECAUSE THE LOVE OF GOD IS UNCONDITIONAL

“For God so loved the world.”

  • Because these words are true, it changes everything, doesn’t it? The Greek word for world, kosmos, is defined as all mankind; the total human race. This is the world that God loved. It doesn’t say that God loved all the good guys. Or that God loved all the Jews. Or that God loved all the saints. It says, “For God so loved the WORLD”
  • God’s love clearly isn’t based on our spiritual condition or our goodness. It isn’t based on our behavior or attitude towards him. Rather we see here that God’s love for humankind is universal and unconditional. He loves everyone one. And this is one of the things that sets Him apart from every other god held up by every other world religion.
  • There is no love that can exceed the depth, breadth, length, and height of God’s magnificent love for humankind. Whenever you begin to wonder if His love is sufficient for your problems, know that His love far exceeds any dimensions of the human mind.
  • The word for love used in this verse is a form of “agape” – an unconditional love – a love that is not given because of any excellence or worthiness in its object but a love that is an exercise of divine and deliberate choice.
  • C.S. Lewis has stated that “Christianity uniquely claims that God’s love comes free of charge, no strings attached. No other religion makes that claim.”
  • So we have hope that God’s love for us is unconditional. It is as Philip Yancey once wrote: “There is nothing we can do to make God love us more. There is nothing we can do to make God love us less.”

For God so love the world.

WE CAN HAVE HOPE BECAUSE THE LOVE OF GOD IS SACRIFICIAL AND VALUABLE

“that He gave His one and only Son…”

  • According to a footnote in the English Standard Version of the Bible an alternate translation to the first part of John 3:16 is as follows: “So this is how God so loved the world…” How did God love us? By giving, by serving, by sacrificing.
  • So here we learn something important about the nature of true love – God’s love
  • Some people think they love others because of what those people do for them or how they make them feel. But God shows us true love has nothing to do with what you can do for me, but everything to do with what I can do for you. Love is a deliberate choice!
  • Love – “agape” love is a verb. It has to be tangibly demonstrated. It has to be proven – lived out. The Bible says in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrated (proves) His own love for us in that while we were still in our sin Christ died for us.”
  • The power and passion of God’s love comes across through the length to which God was willing to go for the sake of the world – to give “His one and only Son.” This was not giving out of abundance for Jesus was Gods one and only Son. This is what makes the sacrifice so valuable.
  • That sounds strange to many people. Some say, “I don’t need anything from God. I’ve led a good life. I don’t need God to give His Son for me.” But the Bible tells us, “Everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s standard.” (Romans 2:23). Our sin separates us from God. So if any of us are going to have a real relationship with our Creator, then it’s up to Him to reconcile us. That’s where Jesus’ death comes in. Jesus built the bridge between us and God with an old rugged cross. Jesus gave Himself. God gave Jesus, His Son, to bring salvation to the world through His Son’s death.
  • We have hope because God’s love was sacrificial and valuable.

WE HAVE HOPE BECAUSE GOD’S LOVE IS ACCESSIBLE

“that whoever believes in Him…”

  • The really good news about God’s love is that it is not limited to a select few. It is not available only to those who were born with the right color of skin or on the correct continent. Nor is it difficult to obtain. Jesus calls us to do one thing: believe!
  • Listen to what the Bible says: “Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to be called children of God (John 1:12 NIV)
  • “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe in the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on Him.” (John 3:35 NKJV)
  • “I tell you the truth, whoever believes has eternal life.” (John 6:47 NCV)
  • “Then he brought them out and asked, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ They replied, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.” (Acts 16:31 NLT)
  • “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8 ESV)
  • What Jesus wants us to see is that it’s not because of what I’ve done, but because of who He is. It’s not because of who I am, but because of what He’s already done! And all He asks is for us to put our trust in Him, and Him alone!

WE HAVE HOPE BECAUSE GOD’S LOVE IS BENEFICIAL

“…should not perish but have everlasting life.”

  • God’s only desire in sending His Son was to show you and I His love and to draw us into a love relationship with Himself.
  • Jesus didn’t come into the world in order to rebuke you – He came to rescue you.
  • He didn’t come to criticize you – He came to cleanse you.
  • He didn’t come to punish you – He came to pardon you.
  • He didn’t come to destroy you – He came to deliver you.

The benefit of God’s love which produces hope:

  • Deliverance from coming judgement and punishment. “Perish” depicts death, destruction, total loss and excluded forever from God – giving the thought of total hopelessness.
  • Receiving of everlasting life – eternal life. Everlasting life is not just eternal existence but it is also having Jesus – Christ living in me – speaking of the quality of life now. A growing relationship – a life that is better than any other life that there is. An abundant life Jesus said.

There is HOPE!

John 3:16 is the address of hope. Aren’t you glad that John 3:16 is true?

God did love the world and that means that God loves you.

  • If you were the only person on earth, God would have still sent Jesus to die just for you. That’s how much He loves you.

God did give His Son to die for your sins.

  • The blood He shed on the cross is the only thing that can save you from your sins. Jesus was your substitute who paid the debt and penalty for sin that you deserved to pay.

And God’s salvation is for whosoever-

  • That means anybody. That means young and old; smart and average; educated and not; lower class to upper class; all have sinned and are in need of a savior.

And God’s offer of salvation is by grace through faith alone – not your church, or your religion, or your works, or how much penance you’ve done, or if you’ve been baptized or confirmed.

No, it’s like this: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him, shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

That is the HOPE for you, me and all of humankind.

 

Ron Shank is the Director of Pastoral Care Services at Brook Lane in Hagerstown. He is a graduate of Liberty University. He and his wife, Nancy, reside in Washington County and have two adult children. He is currently serving as the Secretary of the Board of Directors at The Hope Center.

 

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Students Use Music to Inspire Hope

Hopeful Hearts (2)On Saturday, October 21st, some very talented young people took the stage at Bridge of Life Church in downtown Hagerstown for a special fundraiser to benefit The Hope Center.

These young people are all members of Youth For Christ at Barbara Ingram School for the Arts located downtown. Organized by the students in the club, this fundraiser, a first for the group, was designed to use their musical gifts and talents to entertain and inspire the audience while also raising money to help meet the needs of people in the community. Performing various songs like Go Light Your World, Heart of Worship, and It Is Well, the vocalists and instrumentalists put on a beautiful show celebrating the hope and power of our incredible God.

For the finale of the show, our residents, who are a part of our Foundations Life DSC_0075 (2)Recovery program, joined the students on stage to perform Victory in Jesus. What a touching moment to see so many people performing together in different stages of life singing about the victory they’ve each experienced through their relationship with Christ. This is exactly what hope is all about and it was a beautiful reminder that evening.

Following the concert, refreshments were served and the audience could mix and mingle with the students who performed in the show.

We want to thank the students in the Youth For Christ Club at Barbara Ingram School for the Arts for putting together such a wonderful evening of music and hope. These young people have been given a true gift from God and it’s so exciting to see them use their talents to help others. We are so appreciative of their heart to help others and so humbled that we were able to be a part of this event. Thank you to each of these incredible students and to everyone who helped them put on such a wonderful show!

To learn more about all the various programs, services and outreach ministries to our community at The Hope Center please visit http://www.hagerstownhopecenter.com.

To Be, Or Not To Be, A Light?

By Matthew Sargent

Matthew 5:14a “You are the light of the World…”

Matt SargentI was sitting in the break room the other day, with a handful of coworkers, watching the latest news cast of all the turmoil happening here in the US and around the world. Quick and sharp reaction was voiced to the events that are currently unfolding. While listening to everyone’s concerns, it was interesting to note, that the bottom line in everyone’s mind was not on a specific issues or event that was being broadcast, but more about the overall critical state of the world that we live in. One main underlying factor that was voiced by all was… “People in the world seem to be going crazy! Too much hate.”

State of the current culture:

  • We are a society that loves three things: self, money, and pleasure
  • We are a society that is a tinder box ready to explode at the slightest offense
  • Our political climate, alone, is turning families, communities, and people against one another
  • There is a constant stream of negative news fueling our great divisiveness and hate

Simply put, in almost every fabric of our culture today, love for one another is being snuffed out. Being replaced by every form of this self-centered, “what can the world do for me?”, “please don’t offend me, or else!”, attitude! It is getting pretty cold in our world, and it is just as God warned us of what is to come.

A sign of the end times: a world that lacks love 

Mathew 24:10 — “At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other…”

Matthew 24:12 — “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold…”

2 Tim 3:1-5 — “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.”

Rise to your calling: be the light

John 13:34-35 — “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

I John 2:5a — “But if anyone obeys His word, God’s love is truly made complete in Him”

I John 2:6 –“Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.”

I John 2:9 — “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the
darkness.”

I John 4:11-12– “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us.”

I truly believe there is no greater time on earth that we as God’s children need to heed God’s call when Jesus said, “You are the light of the world”. We are living in the “End of the Age” Era, and this dark world that is increasing with hate, so desperately needs to see the light and love of God in the people of God.

It is clearly stated in God’s Word that His light can only be seen in our lives when we love one another. God’s love is so special and unique, it has its own fingerprint. When we love one another unconditionally, the way God loved us through Christ His Son, God Himself is manifested through our lives in which the world can see. That is how they will know that we are followers of Christ, not because of what we say, but what is seen living in and through us.

Our challenge:

It is time that we the children of God become a bonfire of light in this dark world that we live in. It means living a life of love and service as Christ lived, and modeled for us. A life Jesus commanded us to live. It truly is the worlds only hope. That is my challenge and calling every day, is it yours?

Challenge question: 

Is God’s fingerprint seen in your life today? How bright is the light of Christ shining through you?

 

Matthew Sargent is the former director of Extreme Impact Teen Ministries and Foundations Life Recovery Men’s Ministry at The Hope Center. Matt is a graduate of Liberty University with a degree in Pastoral Studies. He currently lives with his wife and four children in Wesley Chapel, Florida

 

Happy Fathers Day!

Celebrating our parents or being celebrated as a parent is a special thing. God gave us the miracle to bring life into the world and the huge responsibility of raising those lives.

Unfortunately sin has a way of damaging and destroying lives which often results in so many broken relationships. But throughout all of our failures and familial problems, God has the opportunity to change lives and bring people back together.

At The Hope Center, Father’s Day is a day of many feelings: sadness, fondness, thankfulness, regret, and hope. Many of the guys who are in our Foundations Life Recovery program and those who’ve been a part of it in the past have had to deal with broken relationships with their parents and even estrangement from their own children.

By the time most of the guys who come to The Hope Center to break their addictions and deadly habits they have already lost everything: their homes, their jobs, and unfortunately, their families. Some of the guys who come are fathers themselves and have lost all contact with their children. Other guys who come have been abandoned by their own fathers and left with a void in their lives. Others have fathers who care so deeply for their sons and hurt as they watch them destroy themselves.

But the purpose of Foundations, the 13-month life rehabilitation program at The Hope Center, is to help these men start a relationship with God and allow Him to create a new man out of the old.

The men who are a part of our program are not just working to break the addictions that have caused so many issues, they’re also striving towards the goal of reconciling with their families and being the father, husband and son God created them to be.

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From L-R: Sonny Shank (Executive Director), Wade, Dominic, Darrell, Justin, Howard and Louis

We talked to a few of our residents about their relationships with their fathers, and for those who are fathers themselves, about their relationships with their own children. Here’s what they had to say:

WADE

Wade joined Foundations in January of this year. He is the father of three daughters and grandfather to seven. For two years, Wade did not have any relationships with his daughters and he, himself, has no relationship with his father. At one point, Wade found himself in a depression that was so deep he became suicidal. One of his daughters, who lives in Maryland, bought him a one-way ticket to Hagerstown and he enrolled in Foundations at the beginning of the year.

Since coming to The Hope Center Wade said his depression is gone, his health is being restored and he has reconnected with his family and now has a good relationship with his daughters. At 54 years old, he feels healthier and more energetic and is able to focus his attention on his relationship with his daughters.

DOMINIC

Dominic is brand new to Foundations, having enrolled at the beginning of June. He is the father of a daughter in Carroll County and has one granddaughter. When talking about Father’s Day, Dominic recalls that he never really had a good relationship with his father who is now passed away.

Dominic came to The Hope Center because he knew he was making poor choices and wanted to get his life right with God. His hope this Father’s Day is to learn and grow so that he can be a better example to his daughter so that she will have a desire to honor him as her father.

DARRELL

Darrell joined Foundations in October of 2016. For Darrell, Father’s Day is a day of celebration and also mourning as he lost both his grandfather and father at an early age in life. His grandfather died when he was seven and then only three years later his father died when he was ten. For a young boy to lose two role models in his life wasn’t easy.

This Father’s Day it’s his desire that through all he’s learning and how he’s growing spiritually in the Foundations program that he will be the man God wants him to be to honor his late father and grandfather.

LOUIS

Louis is in the final stages of his time in our Foundations Life Recovery program. Having enrolled in May of 2016, Louis is a gold level resident and is quickly approaching completion and graduation from the program!

For Louis, Father’s Day as a kid wasn’t ideal because he had a broken relationship with his father because his mother would not allow his dad any visitation. In fact, he didn’t really know much about his dad until he was 12 or 13 years old. At the age of 16, his father was awarded custody of him because he was being physically abused by his mother.

Since then, he and his dad have built a good relationship and he’s learned a lot from his father. His dad is currently 72 years old and is recovering from a stroke but is very happy and thankful that Louis is enrolled in the Foundations program at The Hope Center.

JUSTIN

Justin enrolled in Foundations in mid-April. While his father is still a part of his life he says that he has a broken relationship with him. His father, who doesn’t know the Lord, is dealing with addictions too. Justin says, “I don’t blame my father for my addiction. My choices are my own.” And while Justin is working hard to conquer his addictions and clean up his life, he’s also hopeful that in the process he can rebuild his relationship with his dad.

Since being at The Hope Center, Justin believes that there is hope that God can bring reconciliation to his relationship with his dad because of his own relationship with God.

HOWARD

Howard is a 2013 graduate of Foundations and is now an employee at our Hagerstown Thrift Store.

Thinking back on his life, Howard recalls that his “second” father adopted him when he was 15 years old. But as he got older they went their separate ways for several years. It wasn’t until he enrolled in Foundations in 2012 that he reunited with his father.

While in the 13-month program, his father asked him to come live with him. But Howard, understanding the value of the program and having a deep desire to complete it, told him that he would stay and finish at The Hope Center instead.

Since graduating, Howard has a very close relationship with his dad. They work together in their church, and they are working together to help homeless people. Howard says, “I love my dad and I thank God that we have an excellent relationship.”

This Fathers Day we celebrate the men who were men by acknowledging their addictions and entered our program to start a life lasting change. Please join us in celebrating these guys as they fight the good fight to be the incredible men God already sees.

Continue to pray for the men who are currently enrolled, have graduated or moved on, and for those who will come in the future seeking victory and reconciliation. Your support in all ways has helped to bring these men to Christ, conquered their addictions and restored their families. Thank you for caring and sharing for each precious life who seeks help at The Hope Center

A Sad Goodbye: Leaving a Legacy of Great Faith

Every now and again God sends people into your life who just make an instant impact. Sometimes these people are for the good and other times it’s for the bad.

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When God brought AJ Imbach and his wife, Jayne, to Hagerstown from Oregon, we had no idea how quickly we would love having them around. These two made such an incredible impact on so many, from staff, to guests, to customers, AJ & Jayne were a welcomed pair to The Hope Center family.

AJ was hired to be the manager of our Thrift Stores in Hagerstown & Chambersburg. He brought with him not only experience, but a passion to serve the Lord and a kindness very rarely seen in this world.

AJ Imbach

As soon as AJ started his ministry, he fit right in. And his wife, Jayne, became a fixture at The Hope Center too. She was always volunteering and helping in various ways around the ministry. Her smile and love of people was infectious.

But it wasn’t easy for them to just move across the country. They were leaving family, friends, and a good job in Portland, Oregon. It was very hard for Jayne but she believed, as AJ did, that this was God’s calling and she obeyed.

AJ was a wonderful addition to The Hope Center family. His leadership in our stores was well received by all the staff.  He lead by example and his goal as manager was to create a working environment where the staff could excel in their jobs. He quickly jumped in, coming up with new ideas and creative ways to get shoppers into our stores.

Hag Thrift Store Staff Jan 2014

Approximately a month after he began managing the stores AJ experienced some physical symptoms that he had never felt before and he found a primary care physician who referred him to a neurologist.

After many tests, the neurologist made an initial diagnosis of ALS but referred AJ to Johns Hopkins for a second opinion.

In early January AJ received confirmation from Johns Hopkins that it was ALS. All his doctors agreed that AJ and Jayne should return to their home in Portland, OR where they would have a large support system of family and friends to help Jayne provide the care AJ will need as the disease progresses.

AJ and Jayne felt the call from God to come to Hagerstown, and they struggled with having to make a decision to stay or return to Portland.  AJ called his job here at The Hope Center “my dream job.”  He loved what he was doing and he was loved by our Hope Center family.

Throughout this entire ordeal AJ and Jayne did not waver in their faith and trust in God.  They have returned to Portland and AJ is receiving care from a doctor who specializes in ALS.  AJ believes that God is trustworthy, and he stands on God’s Word that says, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:13

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We are grateful that God allowed our paths to cross and although AJ and Jayne were only here for a short time they touched many lives and their faith and trust in God made a huge impact on everyone they came in contact with.

This situation reminds us that our lives on earth are fleeting, like a vapor in the wind, but the impact of our service to God and the kindness, compassion and joy of following Christ is what will live on.

AJ & Jayne definitely have left a legacy here. Even though they are all the way across the country, their joy & faithfulness is still here as an example to all of us how to trust God through the good times and the bad.

Please join us in praying for both of these amazing people. We, along with every person who has come in contact with AJ & Jayne, don’t understand why this is happening. But God knows. And He cares. And we know that through all of these trials, AJ & Jayne will continue to praise God and impact lives for Him.

AJ & Jayne, thank you so much for your service, but more importantly, your friendship. You both will always be a part of The Hope Center family!