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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The Heart of Evangelism

by Lynn Harney

Lynn Harney“Sing to the Lord, all the Earth; Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the nations; His wonders among all peoples. For the Lord is great and greatly to be praised; He is also to be feared above all gods.” 1 Chronicles 16:23-25 NKJV

The above verses are a part of the first psalm David sang at the arrival of the ark of God in Jerusalem for the first time. In it I find both the mission and the heart of evangelism. We are told what to proclaim, when to proclaim it, where we should proclaim it, who we should be talking about and why.

What we are to proclaim is “His salvation”, that is the salvation He provided that we were unable to achieve on our own. More to the point, we would not even have come up with such a great plan on our own. The evidence of this is overwhelming, every other option for having a relationship with God is through our own good works. We are told in the New Testament in many ways that it is only through Jesus that we can come to the Father. “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 “There is no other name by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12 “There is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.” 1 Timothy 2:5 Just to name a few. This shows us this is His salvation, His idea on His terms.

Once we receive Christ we are to proclaim His glory and His wonders. Glory, now that is not a word we use in the every day world and we Christians might be at risk of taking it for granted. One of its meanings is to give an accurate opinion of a person or a thing. The Gospel of Jesus Christ, the gift of God, is the most accurate description of God there could ever be. In it we see His love, mercy, holiness, and justice. Hebrews 1 tells us Jesus was “the express image of God” or the exact representation of Him. There is no more wonderful thing in life than that Christ would give His for mine that I could share His.

We are told to proclaim it, from day to day. Our lives are to be a continual proclamation of His salvation. Need I say more?

Where we are told to proclaim it. Among the nations to all the peoples. There are no cultural boundaries, racial or economic divides. It is for all people. Some claim the Gospel to be exclusionary and in one way it is that is, in its means or how one is saved. But who it is for, is everyone who is willing to come, on His terms. So we make the Gospel available to everyone all of the time.

Finally, we are told why. “For the Lord is great, and greatly to be praised; He is also to be feared above all gods.” Once again the character of God becomes the focus. Mans’ need for a savior is not the focus, though implied, by God Himself. When people see what God is really like their need becomes obvious. Isaiah saw the LORD and fell on his face, “Woe is me, I am undone. I am a man of unclean lips.” So our lives should evidence the character of God.

David through this Psalm was rededicating his life focus to the person and work of God so that everyone would know how great is our God. We call ourselves The Hope Center not merely because people’s physical needs can be met but because our wonderous God can be met in their time of need.

 

Lynn Harney is the co-director of Foundations Life Recovery program at The Hope Center. He and his wife, Wanda, served with New Tribes Mission for 22 years among the Manjaku people as church planters in Senegal, Africa. They have four children, a daughter-in-law, and four grandchildren. 

Where is Your Hope?

One of my favorite hymns, On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand, states in the first verse, “My HOPE is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” It states in the third verse, “When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my HOPE and stay.”

The ministry of the HOPE Center at Hagerstown Rescue Mission is reaching out to the many who have nowhere else to turn. They are not aware of the blessed HOPE that is Jesus Christ until they find their way to the Rescue Mission. Lives have been changed through the sharing of the HOPE of the Gospel. (Romans 8:24 & 25)

Hebrews 11:1 states: Now faith is the substance of things HOPED for, the evidence of things to come. As this message of HOPE is given to so many who are down and out and have no place else to turn, the love of God through His Son Jesus gives a whole new perspective. Not only are our sins forgiven, but Titus 2:13 tells us, Looking for that blessed HOPE and glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ. We now know where we will spend eternity, and His return could happen today.

But are believers sharing this HOPE, the good news of our salvation? 1 Peter 3:15 says, But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the HOPE that is in you with meekness and fear.

I praise God for the ministry of the many Rescue Missions founded by my dear Uncle Jim Resh and the HOPE they have given to thousands over the years. As we are living in the end times when the rapture could happen at any moment, believers need to be ready to share the Gospel at every opportunity. We also need to give our support to ministries like The HOPE Center at Hagerstown Rescue Mission.

Lynette Brewer

Written by Lynette Brewer

Lynette Brewer lives in Westminster, Maryland, has been President of the Ladies’ Auxiliary of the Westminster Rescue Mission and has recently become a member of their Board of Directors.

Our Loss is Heaven’s Gain

It is with profound sadness that we are writing this. Our friend, and former Thrift Store manager, AJ Imbach, went home to be with the Lord this past week.

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AJ and his wife, Jayne, were with us only briefly. AJ accepted the call to become the manager of our Hagerstown & Chambersburg stores in the summer of 2013.

He came with fresh ideas and an excitement for this new phase of ministry in his life. He was going to help bring some much needed change to our stores and would have the opportunity to build relationships with the men in our program who work at the stores.

AJ and Jayne were following God’s plan which brought them all the way across the country from Oregon. Both AJ & Jayne were a breathe of fresh air at The Hope Center.

AJ Imbach

Their joy of life and overall positive outlook showed the love of God in them. They were passionate about reaching others for Christ and doing their part to help bring real hope and change to broken and hurting lives.

Unfortunately in early fall AJ was diagnosed with ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. They were hoping to stay at The Hope Center for a while as he dealt with his disease but it progressed much quicker than expected and the doctors suggested they might want to return to Oregon to be with family & friends.

Jayne helped AJ adjust to his condition and worked hard to make him comfortable as his body dealt with ALS. And through it all, both AJ & Jayne remained faithful to the Lord and confident in His will and plan.

AJ left his earthly life surrounded by his family. And as we weep here on earth for our loss, we can only imagine the magnificent celebration in heaven for their gain!

We wish we could see AJ’s big smile again, and we have confidence that we will see it as each of us are welcomed into eternity. We’re sure Jesus greeted AJ with a big ole, “well done”!

AJ & Jayne left a lasting impact on the staff and guests at The Hope Center. Their excitement and joy was contagious and their optimism and confidence in God’s perfect plan was inspiring.

We thank God for the opportunity to have met and worked with these two wonderful people. Our thoughts and prayers are for Jayne and the family & friends in Oregon who are left behind.

While we may not understand God’s plan through all of this, we know that His plan is perfect and greater than our minds can ever understand.

Please pray for Jayne as she begins a new chapter in her life. It’s going to be difficult but we know that she is an amazing woman who has a close and deep relationship with an amazing Savior. Please pray for her healing and her new journey.

And please remember to pray for the thousands of families across this nation who are dealing with loved ones suffering from ALS and other terrible diseases. Life is so precious and so many people are hurting and only God can provide the true peace and hope that we all need.

If you have any questions about AJ & Jayne, please call 301.739.1165, email hagerstownrescue@verizon.net or mail us at P.O. Box 685, Hagerstown, MD 21741.

If you don’t have the peace of Christ in your life and are desperate to experience the joy that AJ had, please contact us immediately so we can talk to you about the greatest relationship you will ever know with Jesus. As long as you’re still breathing, it’s never too late. God doesn’t care about your past, He is ready to change your future. Don’t wait to prepare for eternity.

 

 

Good Friday Reflection

“But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:5-6

Today, Good Friday, is a day of reflection. Today we look at the incredible, painful sacrifice that Jesus endured on our behalf.

We all know that His body was beaten beyond recognition. We all know that He suffered extreme physical pain, even before He was crucified. We all know that His body was so weakened that He couldn’t even continue to carry His cross down the Via Dolorosa.

We know of His fear in the garden. We know of the immense pressure He was going through leading up to the moments of betrayal.

We know of the betrayal of Judas. We know of the betrayal of Peter. We know how His heart hurt knowing His close friends would turn their backs on Him.

But do we know the actual pain of His heart when His Father turned His back? Do we understand the incredible moment in history when God actually turned His back on a human? Imagine Jesus realizing, at that very moment, that God couldn’t look at Him. That God, in righteous justice, had to turn away. Imagine the empty feeling that Jesus felt and had to endure through those minutes. No physical pain could ever be worse. No human taunts could hurt as bad. No betrayal by His closest friends could ever cause such emptiness.

Yet through it all, He persevered and endured physical, emotional and spiritual pain and death for each of us. For me! For you!

It was because of us that Christ was beaten, bruised, killed and abandoned. It was our selfish sin that caused the pain. It was our inability to be reconciled on our own that caused His punishment.

Today is a day of meditation. A day of thanksgiving. A day of prayer. Because of the events of today, two thousand years ago, history changed. Not just the history of man but the history of eternity.

When Christ said, “it is finished”, He meant it. At that moment, all the sins of the past, all the sins of the present, and all the sins of the future were paid in full. At that moment, Christ stormed the gates of Hell. But more importantly, at that moment, God’s wrath towards me and you was fulfilled. And at that moment something new was given to mankind: hope.

You and I will never have to endure the pain of separation from God, if we so choose. We have escaped the curse of humanity. We have been given a free pass to Heaven. And more importantly, we have been given an opportunity to be God’s children. Through the sacrifice, pain and torture of Jesus, we now have hope.

Because God couldn’t look at Jesus on that cross, He can now look at us. When He sees me He doesn’t see me as a person riddled with sin. Sentenced to death. He sees me as redeemed. He sees what Jesus did for me. And He sees a heart that has accepted the payment of Christ. A heart filled with the hope of a promise of eternal life with God. Free from death and pain. Free of the punishment of this wicked world.

Today, in the midst of your daily hustle and bustle, take time to remember the extreme price that Christ paid for you. Think about How he was totally separated from God. Think about the physical, emotional and spiritual pain that He suffered for you.

And remember that today was just the beginning. Three days later Christ emerged victorious. For us. Fully resurrected by God. God no longer turned His back on His Son. Instead, He looked at Him with pride. Jesus paid the ultimate price for us. And He made it possible for us to be heirs of the Kingdom.

Today we celebrate hope. The world was dark and dying without Jesus’ sacrifice. But once He said, “it is finished”, hope was born. And that same hope that was offered to me has been offered to you. It has been offered to the worst of the worst. To the repeat offender. To the most wicked.

Because of Christ’s death and resurrection we have hope of eternal life.  If you have never experienced the hope of Christ, what a better day than Good Friday to do so. If you believe that Jesus was truly God’s Son, sent to die for our sins and if you believe that God raised Him up therefore beating Satan, sin and death, then you need to declare to God, right now, that you believe all these things and you accept Christ’s payment for your life. That from this day forth, you are redeemed thanks to what Christ did for you on Good Friday. Make the choice today to pray, asking for forgiveness and accepting Christ’s awesome gift. There is no better way to celebrate Good Friday!

“Jesus paid it all. All to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain. He washed it white as snow.”