James 1 v 2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,3because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.4Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
This Months title is somewhat unusual. I expect that some of you would also class it as irreverent. To be completely honest I also had the same concerns. The thought of angry Christians camping outside my house or attacking me with the hard-backed version of the King James study Bible held very little appeal! But when God led me to Isaiah 49 v 16 NKJV “I have inscribed you on the palm of my hands” my doubts about this title quickly faded. In this verse from Isaiah God reveals that our names are “inscribed “on his person. The word” Inscribed” is defined by The Oxford English Dictionary as “written as a permanent record”. If we are to take that definition as the basis of fact I can only come to one conclusion. God loves tattoos. Tattoos of us.
This Month I really feel compelled to write on God’s love for us. It’s been led on my heart because during times of crisis it is easy to feel isolated, forgotten and abandoned. Very often our situations appear to be so immense that they tower over us, almost cutting us off from everyone and everything. It’s during these deepest times of darkness we feel true loneliness and the emptiness of isolation. Of course, there’s nothing unnatural about these feelings. It’s perfectly normal to experience emotions such as these during challenging times. I myself, have on many occasions, felt the touch of loneliness and shed tears away from the eyes of those who are closest to me. But I have also known the all-consuming power of God which has comforted and sustained me through those difficult days. It has been his presence which has and continues to bring me through. (Isaiah 57 v 15)
Recognizing Gods love and presence is vital during times of difficulty. I would go as far as saying that growth is not possible without this assurance. To not have this disables us. It is crippling and allows our situations and circumstances to take control of our lives. This is contrary to what God desires. He needs full control to change, refine and equip us. Difficult situations are what He uses to do this. (James 1 v 2-4). As Christians, we have a clear choice to make. We can let God change us for the better or we can let our situations change us for the worse (Romans 8 v 28).
Growing up I was incredibly lonely. I can say in all honesty that in my early twenties I never had any close friends. I had acquaintances and work colleagues but no one I could say was a close friend. When I socialized I did it alone. I went to bars alone. I spent evenings at nightclubs alone. I went out for walks alone. I was truly alone.
Loneliness had an incredible impact on my life. It crushed my confidence, my self-esteem and my ability to interact with others. I began to come to the conclusion that I was worthless. If that wasn’t true…..why was I alone? About this time, my life took a nosedive and I started to self-harm. It made me feel better and at that point in my life and I truly believed that’s what I deserved. As I look back in hindsight at that time I clearly see I was not worthless. I was just simply lonely.
Loneliness is incredibly destructive. It crosses the borders of age, sex, ethnicity and it poisons everything it touches. It destroys physical, mental and spiritual well-being. Loneliness is a major cause of suicide. What is suicide? It is an act performed alone….
God Recognizes Loneliness. When God Crested Adam he knew it was “not good for him to be alone” (Genesis 2 v 18). So God created Eve Adams Companion (Genesis 2 v 20 -25). Prior to Jesus Ascending into heaven, he tells his disciples” I will not leave you as orphans” (John 14 v 18). Here he promises his Holy Spirit who he also refers to as “The comforter” (John 14 v 16). God’s desire is that we do not know the pain and destruction of being lonely (Joshua 1 v 5). As we look through the Bible there are countless examples where God draws close to those who love him, sustains and comforts them. Genesis 15 v 1, Daniel 10 v 19, Psalm 23)
If this is true why do we feel lonely? Why is it that during our darkest times we feel so isolated and cut off? Why do we doubt Gods love for us? and why does he seem so distant? Why are we, like the disciples on the Emmaus Road unable to recognize Gods love and presence? (Luke 24 v 15 & 16).
The answer to our question is simple because it lies in the very nature of the problems we face. When crisis strikes our lives we have 2 choices to make. We can hand our situations over to God or we can let our problems consume us (1 Peter 5 v 7). Make no mistake crisis will consume us if we let it. It can become all we think, all we see, all we feel and all we know. Like the disciples on the lake in Galilee we can become cut off and isolated by the crippling storm that has come into our lives (Matthew 14 v 22 – 36). The minute we focus on the storm and ignore the God we should face it with, we become cut off from his love and his presence. If we allow our problems to become bigger than our God we become blind and ineffective. If we choose to join with crisis and not with him, we will face a difficult and lonely road. (Luke 24 v 13 – 35).
Spiritual growth is dependent on us allowing God to change us through circumstance. We submit and allow God to control our circumstances but we must never allow the circumstances to control us. (Romans 8 v 6-8). We will never be “Complete and lacking in nothing” (James 1 v 4) if this is our chosen course of action. If we look to him and not the problems we face we will discover an endless supply of Love that we never thought possible. If we focus on him he has promised to supply us with everything we need to see us through. It is my honest belief that everything in my life good or bad is for my benefit. I’m blessed with the good and I know that God will supply me with everything I need to get through the bad. All I have to do is keep my eyes fixed on him and never allow them to look at the problems that confront me. I don’t just write these words…..writing is easy. I can say in all honesty before God, I live this every single day of my life and he has never failed to supply me with everything I have ever needed. (Philippians 4 v 19).
Acts Chapter 16 v 15 – 40
(Acts 16 v 25- “About midnight Paul & Silas were praying and singing hymns to God and the other prisoners were listening to them”.)
As we sit down and join Paul and Silas in prison we have yet more simple truths to learn from their experience. Their response to the crisis they face is based upon so many different truths I wonder whether the years I have left to me will be sufficient to cover them all! This week’s simple truth is that their response was possible because they knew they knew the assurance of God’s love, in this, most desperate situation. Prayer and praise in times of crisis is impossible without this knowledge. 1 John 4 v 18 says “There is no fear in Love. But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment.” Paul and Silas we able to praise God in this situation because of the perfect love they had for God. So great was this love that they lost all doubt, concern and worry for themselves in the situation they faced. They know what confronts them is not punishment but blessing. They know there is purpose and plan in these circumstances. Their assurance is that this will be of great benefit to themselves and others. They have the unwavering belief that there is great profit to be had chained, in prison, facing certain death. If I could sum up their feelings in these circumstances I would simply say this – “Gods got it”. Why has “God got it?” He’s “Got it ” because he loves them. (Nahum 1 v 7).
Today, if you can’t say “Gods got it” you have to truly ask yourself what you believe. Is God bigger than your problems? Can you believe him for blessings even in the darkest of places? Do you trust him above all others? Are you looking for great profit for yourself and others? Has “ God got it” for you? Or, is your love for him (unlike his love for you) not quite as perfect as you thought?
Perfect love destroys the biggest dictator in the Christian life….our problems. Very often our circumstances dictate how we feel, the mood were in and the faith we have. They determine our prayer life, the time we spend in God’s word and our effectiveness as believers. God desires that we have nothing in our life which controls any part of it…..save himself. Perfect love in God must rule without any form of resistance. It’s only perfect love that releases us of our worries, cares, concerns and gives us the ability to say “Gods got this”. It’s only perfect love that can truly say ” And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8 v 28). It was this perfect love that allowed Paul and Silas to praise God whilst beaten, chained, imprisoned and facing certain death. It was perfect love that said, don’t worry, don’t be anxious for anything……”Gods got this.”
This week I’m going to finish where I started. The problem is how can I write of God’s love for you? What words can I use to describe it? How could I ever do it justice? The truth is….I can’t. There are no words that I can write that could even come close to describing this unrelenting, passionate, all-consuming love that God has for each of us. (Jeremiah 31 v 3). I can only go to John 3 v 16 whose words of simplicity describe this incomprehensible longing he has for each of us. (John 3 v 16) For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life”. These words are simple yet so profound. They cut sharper than any blade. They have become the sword which has cut through many a sinner’s life. They have been the implement that God has used, through his servants, to rescue many souls from a lost eternity. His love for you and me is clearly shown in this simple Verse from John. God emptied heaven of its most precious treasure. He offered him up as a sacrifice to bring you and me to redemption. He watched us reject him (Isaiah 53 v 3), persecute him (John 15 v 20), make him homeless (Luke 9 v 58), betray (Luke 22), mock (Matthew 27 v 27 – 31), torture (Isaiah 53 v 5) and nail him to a cross (Luke 23 v 26 -43). He did this to freely pardon and save us from eternal death. The truth about salvation is simply this. If you would have been the only person on this planet Jesus would still have come and died for you. He would have nailed himself to the cross to pay the price to bring you back to God. That is how much we are loved by Our Father, our redeemer, the creator of the world. (Hebrews 2 v 10).
Why would God do all this and leave you isolated? Why would he leave you alone? Why at your deepest hour of need would he abandon and desert you? Paul the prisoner in Philippi writes later in Romans 8 v 35 these beautiful words ” Who shall separate us from the love of Christ. Shall trouble or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or peril or sword? v36 “No in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who LOVED us”. Paul’s words here are very profound. Our situations are no indication of God’s love for us. They are not a unit of measurement to determine his devotions. Just because we face difficulty it does not imply a lack of love from our Heavenly Father. We must accept that God allows all things for our benefit. He does this, not because he doesn’t love us, but because he does. Regardless of what confronts you today, you have assurance of Gods complete love, complete plan and complete victory. If there’s a wall that you can’t get over, his love supplies you with the ladder you need to scale it. Paul’s words are not written by a man who talked the talk. They are written by one who truly walked the walk.
Today be assured that Gods love is always present. It may not feel that way for you in the crisis that you face. But, you are never alone, abandoned or forgotten. The only person that God has ever truly abandoned was the one he sent to save you. In Matthew 27 v 46 we read the tragic cry of Christ as hung on the cross “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” Jesus spoke these words because he is the only person in the whole of history to have been unloved by God. He is the only person who truly knows what it was to be lonely, abandoned and rejected. When Jesus breathed his last, he really did truly and completely alone. He became unloved so that we may know Gods love. He became rejected that we might be accepted. He became separated from God so that we might become United with him. Today, regardless of your situation, he remains the complete and total proof of Gods everlasting love for you. (John 3 v 16).
Well, it’s coming into the early hours of Wednesday morning and I have to close with the title I began with “Why God loves tattoos”. If we are to truly grasp God love for us understanding your significance to him is essential. He knows you on a deeper physical level than anyone (Jeremiah 1 v 5). His knowledge of you is intimate (psalm 39 v 1). He counts the very hairs on your head (Luke 12 v 7). He never forgets you (Isaiah 49 v 15). He will never leave you (Deuteronomy 31 v 6). He has amazing things for you (Jeremiah 29 v 11). You have access to him 24 hours a day (1 Thessalonian’s 5 v 17). Whatever you face you do it with him at your side (Isaiah 41 v 10). He always has a plan and purpose for you (Proverbs 3 v 5 – 6). He will provide you with joy unlimited (John 15 v 11), comfort (Psalm 23 v 4) and peace (John 14 v 27). He is truly love (1 John 4 v 8). Today you cannot be forgotten because your name is written in the Lambs book of life (Philippians 4 v 3).
Not only do we have the assurance that Gods love has written us into the lamb’s book of life. We have another promise which is also certain. We know, without doubt, God loves tattoos because we are “inscribed on the palm of his hand” (Isaiah 49 v 16). On the hand of the creator of the universe lies your name. It is your certificate of adoption. It is written in the unfading, Irremovable and eternal blood of Jesus Christ. Many Christians will leave this life today. They will be welcomed into heaven by the outstretched hands of God the father. On those outstretched hands they will see your name, which is forever inscribed on the one who has purchased you with heavens greatest treasure.
Only those who know that God loves tattoos can truly “Consider it pure joy when you face trials of various kinds” James 1 v 2.
Isaiah 49 v 16 “I have inscribed you on the palm of my hand”.