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Tattoos: What Does the Bible Say? – Life, Hope & Truth05.01.19

In Leviticus 19:28 God says, You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you: I am the LORD. Some commentators say the statement forbidding tattoos only refers to pagan customs for the dead. For example, the writers of the Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary believe that there is nothing morally wrong with tattooing, but that these practices then, and also now in some places, were parts of heathen ritual (vol. 1, 1994, p. 150).

Other commentators disagree. The Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament, for example, says in reference to this verse, The prohibition of tattooing had no reference to idolatrous usages, but was intended to inculcate upon the Israelites a proper reverence for Gods creation. The Jewish understanding of this command is that the prohibition against all forms of tattooing regardless of their intent, should be maintained (, Tattooing in Jewish Law).

To gain a more complete perspective, lets consider how other passages and principles relate to this subject. Our Creator tells us: Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am the LORD your God (Leviticus 20:7). Consecrate means to be purified and set apart from the worldas clean and holy people in service to God. Tattooing has a very long history among the pagan cultures of the world, for different reasons at different times. But God called His chosen nation to come out from the world and be different in many ways.

Tattoos may be more accepted today, but it was not until the late 20th century that tattoos gained great popularity in the United States. Prior to that, tattoos were seen mostly on military men, criminals, bikers or other tough people.

Peer pressure has played a major role in tattoos through history. Whether due to identification with a tribe, pagan god, military group, prison group or gang, sports figures, entertainment icons or circle of friends, people often get tattooed for identity and acceptance. But God tells His called-out people, Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the worldthe lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of lifeis not of the Father, but is of the world (1 John 2:15-16).

Some argue that a tattoo is merely an adornment like jewelry. But jewelry can be quickly removed or changed; a tattoo cannot. Many have been tattooed (often under the influence of alcohol and peer pressure) later to regret it. Not surprisingly, tattoo removal is now a big business. But attempted removal is expensive, uncomfortable and not always successful; and scarring or skin variations often remain.

Tattooing also carries health risks, including allergic skin reactions (even years after getting the tattoo), bacterial infections, granulomas, scar tissue (keloids) and blood-borne diseases (including hepatitis B, hepatitis C, tetanus and HIV). The Mayo Clinic (a highly respected medical center in the United States) has documented these potential health problems connected with tattoos. Due to permanence and risk factors, most U.S. states either prohibit or require parental approval of the procedure for minors.

But even if tattooing continues to gain wider acceptance, is that proof of acceptance in Gods eyes?Despite increasing popularity, tattoos have far from unanimous approval. Many employers still do not want to see tattoos on their employees and representatives due to a negative stigma or image. In the professional world tattoos are still considered by many to be unprofessional and could keep an applicant out of some career opportunities.

But even if tattooing continues to gain wider acceptance, is that proof of acceptance in Gods eyes? Consider these passages:

Fashioned in Gods own image, our bodies are precious gifts from God. Refraining from unnecessary cuttings or marking them with tattoos shows respect for our bodies and our Creator.

As noted earlier, commentators are divided over whether the prohibitions against cuttings in your flesh for the dead and tattooing any marks on you as recorded in Leviticus 19:28 are applicable today. Some mistakenly dismiss this passage because it is in the Old Testament and they wrongly think that all laws of the Old Testament have been replaced with new laws. Others say it only applies to pagan practices for the dead; and therefore, it doesnt apply to Christians who want a tattoo as body adornment or as a symbol of their Christian faith.

In response to these claims, it is important to remember that the instructions given to ancient Israel also apply to us today. Psalm 119:160 says, The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever. Throughout His earthly ministry, Jesus upheld Gods law as revealed through the prophets in the Old Testament (Matthew 5:17-19; John 17:17).

Paul wrote: All Scripture [not just the New Testament] is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Concerning ungodly conduct (part of the context of Leviticus 19:28), God also makes it clear that He does not approve of His people using pagan customs to worship Him (Deuteronomy 12:29-31). This is why members of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, do not observe Christmas and Easter. Instead, we observe the holy days commanded by God (see Biblical Festivals: Does God Want Us to Celebrate Them? Why?). The belief that humans are free to incorporate pagan practices into Christianity is misguided thinking. God takes a dim view of human attempts to Christianize practices rooted in the non-Christian world.

Even if the reference to tattoos in Leviticus 19:28 is directed solely to the way pagans mourned for the dead (something that cannot be definitely proven), the above-noted scriptures make it clear that avoiding tattoos is the preferable choice for Christians. In order to please God, we must walklive our livesin faith (2 Corinthians 5:7; Hebrews 11:6) that we are following His commands because whatever is not from faith is sin (Romans 14:23).

Rather than following the customs and practices of the society around us, we are to be representatives of the coming Kingdom of Godand of Christ Himself. And do not be conformed to this world (Romans 12:2). Therefore Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you (2 Corinthians 6:17).

Based upon the evidence from Gods Word and these principles, we believe a Christian should not get a tattoo. If a Christian already has one, it is his or her decision whether to leave it alone, cover it up or have it removed.

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666: The Number of the Beast – Life, Hope & Truth05.01.19

In Revelation 13, the apostle John recorded a vision he had been given of two beasts that would arise during the end times before Christs return. The first beast represents a powerful civil leader who will have authority over every tribe, tongue, and nation (verse 7).

In this vision, John foresaw a dragon, Satan, giving the beast this position of authority (verse 2) and all the world following this leader and his practice of worshipping the dragon (verses 3-4). All those whose names are not written in the Book of Life will worship this human leader (verses 4, 8).

In this same vision, John saw a second beast arise from the earth and support the first beast. This second beast will be a religious leader who will use miraculous powers to deceive mankind (verses 13-14) and will cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed (verse 15).

In other passages of the Bible, the individual representing this second beast is called the man of sin (2 Thessalonians 2:3), the Antichrist (1 John 2:18) and the false prophet (Revelation 16:13; Revelation 19:20). For a more complete explanation of this religious leaders names and role, see Antichrist.

Causing people to worship the image of the beast (Revelation 13:15) is a strange-sounding phrase in our modern world. What it means is to authenticate another power by causing people to respect it. Bible commentaries, including Adam Clarkes Commentary on the Bible and Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible, proposed an explanation nearly two centuries ago, citing the fulfillment of this act in the way the head of the Catholic Church, the pope, forced people to accept the restoration of the Roman Empire under Charlemagne.

In the future, this religious leader that John saw in vision will likewise force people upon threat of death to respect the civil government that will rule the world. One way this religious leader will enforce compliance is to control the worlds economy.

As John noted in his vision, this future religious leader causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name (verses 16-17). The mark or name of the beast will identify these individuals as ones who support this satanic power. To understand what the mark of the beast is, be sure to read the article Mark of the Beast.

Now that weve reviewed the context of Revelation 13, we can turn our attention to verse 18, which says, Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.

As we previously noted, people will be required to have the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name in order to buy or sell (verse 17). Putting verses 17 and 18 together, we see that the number 666 identifies the beast, that it is a mans name who is also called the beast and that it will authorize people to make economic transactions.

So what does the number 666 mean? How does one calculate this number?

Albert Barnes in his notes on Revelation 13:18, explains that Greek letters had numerical values. Several names, including Lateinos, the Latin, Neron Caesar, Diocles Augustus (Dioclesian), C.F. Julianus Caesar Atheus (the Apostate), Luther, Romanus and Roman, add up to 666.

Although there are other possibilities, Barnes went on to state, It is remarkable how many of the most obvious solutions refer to Rome and the papacy. It is also interesting to note that Irenaeus, an early church writer of the second century, suggested that the number was a reference to the Latin [i.e. Roman] Empire (Adam Clarkes Commentary on the Bible, Revelation 13:18).

Given these explanations, lets see if the Bible gives any indications that this will be a revival of the Roman Empire.

Through a dream given to King Nebuchadnezzar, God revealed that there would be four great world-ruling empires from that time (Daniel 2:31-43). History has shown these to be the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek and Roman Empires.

Later, Daniel was shown a vision of four beasts, which also represented these four world-ruling empires. As for the fourth beast, it had ten horns (Daniel 7:7). The horn is a symbol of power, and is frequently so used as an emblem or symbol in Daniel (Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible, Daniel 7:7-8).

Daniel then wrote: I was considering the horns, and there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there, in this horn, were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words (verse 8).

The horns represented kingdoms that through history would be part of the Roman Empire and the little horn represented a religious power. In vision, Daniel saw this religious leader making war against the saints, and prevailing against them until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom (verses 21-22).

What we learn from the preceding verses is that this fourth beast, which history has shown to be the Roman Empire, will have multiple revivals and that a final appearance of this empire and its religious leader will be in existence at Christs return.

The final form of this empire will be comprised of ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast and will give their power and authority to the beast (Revelation 17:12-13). They will then fight against Christ when He returns to establish the Kingdom of God here on earth (verse 14).

When the beast power arises at the end of this age, the most important thing you can do is remain close to God. In order to be saved, you will need a love of the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:10) and faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8). Just being able to properly calculate the number of the beast and therefore understand the meaning of 666 will not save you. To assist you in developing your relationship with God, be sure to study the articles in the Change section of this website.

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Armor of God: Shield of Faith – Life, Hope & Truth05.01.19

The Roman shield, or scutum, was a central part of the soldiers defense. The scutum was rectangular in shape and rounded on the ends. It was typically made from two sheets of wood that were glued together, then covered with canvas and leather. The canvas and leather could be doused with water to protect against flaming arrows.

The shield weighed about 22 pounds and was roughly 37 to 42 inches high and 27 to 33 inches across. A metal piece ran across the center of the shield, so it could also be used as a weapon to punch or push forward.

Paul, in his analogy of the Christian armament, says that above all the shield of faith should be raised!

To see why faith is so important, we must first understand what faith is. The author of Hebrews describes it as the realization of something we cant see:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony (Hebrews 11:1-2).

The word faith in the New Testament is translated from the Greek word pistis, defined by Vines Complete Expository Dictionary as firm belief. Faith is an unshakable belief in the promises of God.

For more information on faith, please refer to the article What Is Faith? on this website.

The apostle Paul specifically mentions that the shield of faith is needed to defend against the attacks of Satan (the fiery darts of the wicked one). Satan is able to attack in any area where we are weak.

Notice Pauls statement in Ephesians 6:11: Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

Indeed, Satan is a wily adversary. He approached Eve in the Garden of Eden by tempting her with fruit that was pleasant to the eyes and by telling her it would bring wisdom. So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate (Genesis 3:6).

Paul warned the church at Corinth about Satans deviceshis methods of taking advantage of us if we fail to forgive one another:

Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices (2 Corinthians 2:10-11).

In fact, just like a Roman soldier in battle was confronted by the arrows or fiery darts of the enemy, we, too, can be attacked at any time and at any angle by the wiles of Satan. The shield of faith is the armor God has given us to defend against those attacks.

A shield, whether it be physical or spiritual, can only be effective when it is raised. This requires an ongoing state of preparedness and patience on our part.The apostle Peter paints a vivid picture of how we must humble ourselves and hold up the shield of faith against Satan:

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you (1 Peter 5:6-10).

When Paul listed the spiritual armaments in Ephesians 6, he emphasized faith, saying that above all we need to raise the shield. By examining some of the attributes and spiritual benefits of faith, we can begin to understand and value its importance.

As human beings, we all sin: For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The penalty for sin is death: For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23). What we, as humans, earn is a death penalty because we all have sinned. Through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, it is possible to be given the unearned gift of eternal life.

This justification of our sins before God requires faith on our part: Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God (Romans 5:1-2).

For more information about the role of grace in our lives, please refer to the article titled What Is Grace? on this website.

Christians are admonished to overcome evil, rather than giving in to or being overwhelmed by evil. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).

The elements of spiritual armor listed in Ephesians 6 are for the purpose of defending ourselves against evil and the attacks of Satan. The shield of faith actually allows us not only to defend ourselves, but to overcome evil:

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the worldour faith (1 John 5:4). Our faith in God and the promises He has made can be strengthened when we consider the example of Jesus Christ, who overcame the forces of temptation He faced. He admonished His disciples to bear this in mind as He faced His crucifixion: These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

Good things happen when we please God. Consider these two passages about the blessings God desires to give to those who live their lives in a way that is pleasing to Him: When a mans ways please the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him (Proverbs 16:7). Also Luke 12:32: Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Fathers good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

Hebrews 11, often referred to as the Faith Chapter, gives many biblical examples of people who were faithful to God. In Hebrews 11:6, we see how vital and rewarding it is to please Him with our faith: But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

The Roman soldiers of Pauls day were sometimes subject to a virtual shower of arrows that rained down on them from above. For example, when laying siege to a walled city or a fortified hill, they had to advance while arrows were launched from above them. As a protection to enable them to advance, they used a formation known as the testudo, or tortoise formation.

The tortoise formation involved banding together in order to raise shields against arrows coming from any direction. The soldiers formed a tight square. Those in the front raised their shields in front of them. Those on the sides faced to the side and raised their shields. Similarly, those in the back faced the back and raised their shields. Those in the middle raised their shields overhead to protect against arrows flying in from above. In this way, no part of the band of soldiers was left exposed.

The Greek historian Plutarch described the testudo as follows:

But the full-armed infantry, facing round, received the light troops within; and those in the first rank knelt on one knee, holding their shields before them, the next rank holding theirs over the first, and so again others over these, much like the tiling of a house, or the rows of seats in a theater, the whole affording sure defense against arrows, which glance upon them without doing any harm (Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans, chapter 60).

The apostle Paul spoke of the need for the Body of Christ to be joined together, helping each other, much like the band of soldiers who raised their shields to defend each other: From whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love (Ephesians 4:16).

A shield, whether it be physical or spiritual, can only be effective when it is raised. This requires an ongoing state of preparedness and patience on our part.

Jesus raised the question, in the context of patient endurance through difficulties and trials, of whether He would even find faith on the earth when He returns. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:7-8).

To truly be faithful, our unshakable belief in the promises of God must be enduring. The shield cannot remain effective if it is lowered. To personalize Jesus question: When the Son of Man comes, will your shield of faith be raised?

Learn more about faith and the other aspects of spiritual growth and conversion in our free booklet Change Your Life!

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Armor of God: Sword of the Spirit – Life, Hope & Truth05.01.19

The first five elements of the Christian armor are defensive piecesarmament the Christian can use to defend against spiritual attack. Why would an offensive weapon be listed with the other pieces of armor? What use should a Christian make of it?

The sword used by Roman soldiers was known as a gladius; and in the hands of a skilled man, it was a fearsome weapon. In fact, it became known as the sword that conquered the world. It was sharpened on both sides, making it lethal against an unarmored foe. The point was also sharpened, enabling it to pierce armor.

An infantryman in the Roman legions would also go into battle with a dagger, a few spears and possibly a few darts. But the gladius was the only offensive weapon listed by Paul, and it was the main weapon in the soldiers arsenal.

Paul defines the sword of the Spirit as the word of God (Ephesians 6:17). This isnt the only place where Gods Word (the Bible) is described as a sword. The author of Hebrews also makes reference to it: For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account (Hebrews 4:12-13).

The Word of God is even sharper than the gladius! It is capable of piercing to the deepest levels of ones heart and attitude, and it is also a tool of discernment in the hands of the skilled user.

This gives rise to two questions:

1. Is the sword of the Spirit only for use as an offensive weapon?

2. Who or what is the foe against which the sword is to be used?

While the gladius was the primary offensive weapon available to a legionnaire, it was also invaluable for defense, being used to parry and deflect attacks by an opponent. So also is the Word of God valuable in defending against spiritual attack.

Jesus Christ Himself demonstrated how valuable it is to be grounded in the words of the Bible when He was attacked by Satan during a time of extreme physical weakness due to His fasting.

Notice the example in Matthew 4:

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread (verses 1-3).

Satan knew full well that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, but he prefaces each of his attacks by saying, If You are the Son of God (emphasis added throughout). He wanted to pull Christ away from His dependence upon the Father and the realization that He was there to do the Fathers will. Each time Jesus used the Scriptures to defend against and refute Satans ploys.

But He answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (verse 4). This is a quote from Deuteronomy 8:3, and it shows where Jesus Christs priorities truly were.

Satan continued the attack: Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: He shall give the angels charge over you, and, In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone (verses 5-6).

This is an incomplete quote from Psalm 91:11-12. Satan leaves out a very important thought. Heres verse 11 with the missing part in italics: For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways (Psalm 91:11). The idea being conveyed is that God will send angels for protection when its needed, not that you should throw yourself from great heights just to see if God will save you.

Jesus saw through this tactic and answered Satan: It is written again, You shall not tempt the LORD your God (Matthew 4:7; quoted from Deuteronomy 6:16).

Satan made one final attempt: Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me (Matthew 4:8-9). Satan places all the cards on the table. The point of all these attacks was to have Jesus worship Satan instead of God. Again, the final answer in the next verse comes from Scripture:

Then Jesus said to him, Away with you, Satan! For it is written, You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve (verse 10; quoted from Deuteronomy 6:13).

This was the end (on this occasion) of Satans efforts to unseat Christ as the ruler of the world to come. In each case, Jesus skillfully used a thorough knowledge of the Scripture to parry and deflect the attacks.

What a masterful example of how to use the sword of the Spiritthe Word of God!

We have seen, from the example of Jesus Christ, that the enemy of the Christian is Satan the devil, as he tries to separate us from our God (see also 1 Peter 5:8-9).

A more refined question might be: What do we attack with the sword? How is it used as an offensive weapon?

The apostle Paul used a military analogy when he talked about the Christian fight. He described thoughts and attitudes that we must defeat, just as a soldier would use his weapons to defeat the enemy.

We are to use the Word of God to discern those thoughts and attitudes that are contrary to Gods way and use that sword to bring those attitudes and thoughts into captivity. That is the Christian battle, and that is how we use the offensive weapon in our armor.For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

We are to use the Word of God to discern those thoughts and attitudes that are contrary to Gods way and use that sword to bring those attitudes and thoughts into captivity. That is the Christian battle, and that is how we use the offensive weapon in our armor.

Roman soldiers could not be sent into battle without having extensive training in the use of the gladius. They were first trained using shields made of wicker and swords made of wood. These items were typically about twice the weight of the normal swords and shields. The thought was that if the trainee could use these heavier items skillfully, he would be at an advantage when using the real weapons, which were much lighter by comparison.

After training extensively with the wooden weapons, the soldiers were then paired against each other for further training in combat techniques and moves. The importance of the training was reflected in the food rations given by the Romans. Instructors often received double rations. Trainees who didnt achieve desired levels of skill were given inferior rations until their training evaluations improved.

As Christians, we also must train and be skillful in the use of the sword. The author of Hebrews tells us that we must become gradually more knowledgeable and skilled in the Word of God, until we are able to use it to discern good from evil.

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil (Hebrews 5:12-14).

This level of skillthis proficiency with the Word of Godcomes by reason of use. We have to be familiar with the Bible, and we must have our spiritual senses sharpened by it in order to make full use of this piece of armament God has given us!

The desire to become knowledgeable in Gods Wordskilled in the use of the swordhas to come from within. Do you see how valuable it is, and do you desire to have a high level of skill?

Notice the attitude shown by the psalmist when it came to Gods Word:

I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Your word. I have not departed from Your judgments, for You Yourself have taught me. How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through Your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way (Psalm 119:101-104).

This is the attitude and approach to Gods Word that can make a skilled spiritual warrior. The training and skill levels are up to you!

For further helpful information on this topic, read the article Dont Be Ignorant of Satans Devices and the articles in our section on The Practical and Priceless Benefits of Bible Study.

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Daniel 6: Daniel in the Lions Den – Life, Hope & Truth05.01.19

The kings obvious anguish was in stark contrast to the barely hidden glee of his trusted officials. Upon the advice of these men, King Darius had rashly issued a decree forbidding anyone from making petitions to any god or man for thirty days (Daniel 6:6-9) except him. The penalty for disobedience was to be a horrifying death in a den of ravenous lions! And now Daniel, his most gifted officer, had been charged with flagrantly violating this irrevocable law.

Reading through the sixth chapter of Daniel leaves Bible students with a vivid picture of an impetuous king manipulated by advisers to destroy a man of God. As we progress through the story, we first see the envy of the kings advisers, then the folly of the king, followed by the peril to Daniel and the anguish of the king. Finally, we see Gods deliverance of Daniel and His judgment on Daniels adversaries.

Most people in the Western world have a passing familiarity with this story, a perennial favorite in collections of Bible stories taught to children. However, most people dont fully grasp the meaning of this confrontation between one of Gods beloved servants (Daniel 9:23) and his enemies.

The first step in understanding the story is to come to appreciate the historical and cultural context of the conflict. Daniel and many of his fellow Jews were no longer living in the Promised Land, but in Babylon. The Babylonian Empire had crushed all its enemies, including the Egyptian Pharaoh Neco II at Carchemish in 605 B.C. This critical battle opened the door to Babylonian dominance over Judah. Daniel, probably as a teenager, was among the first residents of Jerusalem to be deported to Babylon.

Living in the Promised Land had been an essential element of the covenant between the children of Israel and their God. The land itself was more than a home, more than a gift from God. It was a symbol of His power and authority. When Babylon took the Jews into captivity, some of them may well have been in shock that their God had not prevailed. The God who parted the waters of the Red Sea, using those same waters to drown the pride of Egyptian power, had not delivered Jerusalem from Nebuchadnezzars armies! How could that be?

Of course, Israels and Judahs prophets had warned that God would withdraw His protection from His people if they continued to ignore His laws. As far back in their history as Moses, the warning had been in front of the nation (Deuteronomy 28). Yet the children of Israel stubbornly persisted in their sins. The people of Judah went into captivity not because God was powerless before the armies of Babylon, but because of their sins.

The questions of exile are a fundamental part of the book of Daniel, as noted by Gleason Archer (The Expositors Bible Commentary, 1985, Vol. 7, p. 4): Indeed, it was essential for him [God] to prove by his miraculous acts that he had allowed his people to go into captivity in 587 B.C., not through weakness, but rather to maintain his integrity as a holy God, who carries out his covenant promises both for good and for ill according to the response of his people. So the whole narrative in Daniel relates a series of contests between false gods of human invention and the one true sovereign Lord and Creator of heaven and earth (emphasis added).

God is holy and righteous, and He will not be mocked (Galatians 6:7). He does not permit ongoing sinfulness to continue forever. Eventually, rebellion against God brings consequences. But even for those Jews who understood, exile brought with it questions. How could they serve God without a temple? How could they be the covenant people while separated from the Promised Land?

The book of Daniel reveals the answers through the positive examples of Daniel and his companions, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego. Through a series of trials of their faith, they remained loyal to the true God.

We see the first challenge in the first chapter. Daniel and his friends refused to eat and drink anything that would defile them (Daniel 1:8, 11-12). The foods they were initially given to eat may have been unclean or filled with fat, making them unfit for someone who obeys Gods laws (Leviticus 11; Deuteronomy 14; Leviticus 7:23). Daniel and his friends prevailed through the favor of God. Other challenges that followed include the interpretation of dreams (chapters 2 and 4), the golden image and fiery furnace (chapter 3) and the handwriting on the wall (chapter 5).

In each case, the servants of God prevailed over kings, idol-worshippers and magicians. And that brings us to chapter 6. (This books accounts of men disputing Gods superiority here conclude with Daniel being thrown in the lions den. Unlike the narrative accounts in the first half of Daniel, chapters 7 through 12 contain visions and prophecies.)

Daniel had already served with distinction in the administrations of the Babylonian kings Nebuchadnezzar (chapters 1-4) and Belshazzar (chapter 5) when the Medo-Persian Empire conquered Babylon. In chapter 6, Daniel now starts serving King Darius, a leader some historians believe had previously served as one of the generals of Cyrus, the Persian emperor.

As a viceroy for Cyrus, Darius enlisted the help of Babylonian nobles to govern the conquered territory. Cyrus was renowned for creating an empire that drew on the talents of subjugated people. Satraps, or governors, ruled over provinces with a great deal of autonomy in this remarkable system.

At this point in his life (539 B.C.), Daniel was a prominent elder statesman close to 80 years old. Darius called upon him to be one of three governors over the satraps. Because of Daniels skill and integrity, though, Darius decided to promote him to a position above the other governors (Daniel 6:3).

It may have been this plan that set in motion the events of chapter 6. Envy was undoubtedly a major motivation for the plot to disgrace or destroy Daniel, but it is just as likely that Daniels honesty prevented these men from illicit revenue through bribery, fraud and misappropriation of funds. To Daniels credit, his enemies could find no fault that would discredit him.

They had observed, however, Daniels unswerving dedication to God. They schemed to manipulate circumstances such that Daniels dedication would appear to be disloyalty to the king. These governors and counselors then approached Darius (verse 6).

Most English-language versions of the Bible fail to convey the dramatic scene in all its energy. The King James Version and American Standard Version each speak of the group as assembled together to the king. The English Standard Version words it came by agreement to the king. The New King James Version, however, captures the force of the action, using the words thronged before the king.

Significantly, this chapter sets up a test of faith based on prayer itself. We must have faith to believe that God hears our prayers and that He answers us (Hebrews 11:1, 6). In Daniels case, though, the very act of kneeling before God was a test of his faith.This focus on wording may seem like a small point, but understanding the atmosphere in the royal court helps to explain the kings rash decision. These men did not merely petition the king as calm government officials. They presented an aura of urgency through emotion, perhaps suggesting the possibility of disloyalty among the newly conquered people of Babylon. What could make more sense than a test of loyalty to the king crafted as a ban on petitions to any other man or god?

Significantly, this chapter sets up a test of faith based on prayer itself. We must have faith to believe that God hears our prayers and that He answers us (Hebrews 11:1, 6). In Daniels case, though, the very act of kneeling before God was a test of his faith.

Verse 10 of Daniel 6 tells us that, when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he knelt and prayed as he always had. Daniel knew the type of men who shared governmental authority with him. He knew they would be watching. He knew they had set a trap. But Daniel also knew the God he served!

This verse also points out another important aspect of Daniels prayerhe faced Jerusalem. Praying toward the temple in Jerusalem had long been customary among the people of God (Psalm 5:7), but Daniel may have had more in mind. Although he was a captive in exile in Babylon, he was undoubtedly quite familiar with Solomons prayer at the dedication of the temple four centuries earlier.

Solomon had anticipated a time when Gods people might be carried away captive, so he specifically asked that God look with mercy on them when they repented, praying toward the temple (1 Kings 8:46-53). God later appeared to Solomon, telling him that He had heard his prayer (1 Kings 9:3).

The crucial act of faith in chapter 6, however, is prayer. Daniel prays toward Jerusalem, a city leveled by the Babylonians, and he prays toward a temple that no longer stands. Daniels actions clearly show that it was not the Promised Land, nor was it the city of Jerusalem, nor even the existence of a temple of God that was vital to the faith of Israel. His prayer demonstrates that what really matters is wholehearted dedication to God Himself. That is the core of real faith, and a fitting response to enemies who defy the true God and persecute His people!

One of the most important elements of the story is the law of the Medes and Persians. Three times in the chapter we read that this law, once issued, could not be changed (verses 8, 12, 15). Even the king was powerless to change his own laws. What we read in chapter 6 is different from the preceding five chapters. Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar were Babylonian kings, not Persian. As such, they were free from such constraints.

This provision may seem strange to modern readers, but there were valid and practical reasons for the Medes and Persians to adopt such an attitude toward law. First, the inability to change a law after issuing it would impel the king to be more deliberate in considering legislation before enacting it. Second, the legal framework of society would be more stable.

Perhaps the reason that is most relevant to Daniel 6, though, is one that has more to do with manipulation of laws to achieve ones purpose than stable government. Daniels enemies used this established concept of Persian law to entrap Daniel and outmaneuver the king, who was actually fond of Daniel and wanted to save him (Daniel 6:14-15).

Even though the king was compelled to have Daniel thrown into the lions den, God miraculously spared Daniels life. As Daniel told the king the next morning, My God sent His angel and shut the lions mouths, so that they have not hurt me (verse 22).

Daniels enemies did not prevail against this servant of God. We should also note that only the true God has unchangeable laws, purposes and promises: So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it (Isaiah 55:11).

To learn more about Gods plan for humanitya plan that is surely being carried out just as God has promisedsee the articles in the section Plan of Salvation.

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Inspirational Bible Verses – Life, Hope & Truth05.01.19

The apostle Paul wrote that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God (2 Timothy 3:16, emphasis added throughout). The Greek word translated inspiration literally means God-breathed. The Eternal Creator God actively worked through human authors to produce the Holy Bible.

God inspired it to be recorded for our benefit, for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Since God inspired the entire Bible, it can be challenging to choose just 50 inspirational Bible verses. Passages can be inspirational in many different ways. They can be awe-inspiring. They can be reassuring. They can be encouraging or motivational.

Here are 50 inspirational Bible verses that are meaningful and memorable.

Many biblical passages remind us of Gods awesome power and glory.

God also gives powerful reassurance to those who turn to Him for strength and comfort.

See our article Encouraging Bible Verses for more than 50 encouraging passages throughout the Bible.

The Bible is designed to help those God is calling have a better lifenow and forever. It does this by showing us the purpose of our lives and motivating us to change our lives for the better. Change is not easy, but changing to please God is worth it! It will pay off with contentment, joy and peace of mind now, and with a mind-boggling eternal inheritance as children of God!

Here are some verses that can inspire and motivate us to change:

For more about making the changes that please God, see our section on Christian Conversion.

For daily inspiration and teaching from the Bible, see the Daily Bible Verse Blog. You can also subscribe to this blog to receive these short Bible studies daily by email.

Obviously these 50 verses only scratch the surface of the inspiration we can find in the Bible. What are your favorite inspirational Bible verses? Share them with us at!

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37 Encouraging Bible Verses About Gods Strength – Life …05.01.19

Psalm 27:1

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Read more about this verse.

Psalm 37:39

But the salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; He is their strength in time of trouble.

Psalm 138:3

In the day when I cried out, You answered me, and made me bold with strength in my soul.

Matthew 19:26

But Jesus looked at them and said to them, With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.

2 Corinthians 4:16

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.

Philippians 4:13

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

2 Timothy 1:7

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

Psalm 8:2

Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have ordained strength, because of Your enemies, that You may silence the enemy and the avenger. Read more about this verse.

Psalm 18:1-2

I will love You, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Read more about this verse.

Psalm 18:32

It is God who arms me with strength, and makes my way perfect.

Psalm 19:14

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.

Psalm 22:19

But You, O LORD, do not be far from Me; O My Strength, hasten to help Me!

Psalm 28:7-8

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song I will praise Him. The LORD is their strength, and He is the saving refuge of His anointed.

Psalm 29:11

The LORD will give strength to His people; the LORD will bless His people with peace.

Psalm 46:1

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Read more about this verse.

Psalm 54:1

Save me, O God, by Your name, and vindicate me by Your strength.

Psalm 65:6

Who established the mountains by His strength, being clothed with power.

Psalm 71:16

I will go in the strength of the Lord GOD; I will make mention of Your righteousness, of Yours only.

Psalm 73:26

My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Psalm 118:14

The LORD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation.

Exodus 15:2

The LORD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation; He is my God, and I will praise Him; my fathers God, and I will exalt Him.

2 Samuel 22:3

The God of my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; my Savior, You save me from violence.

1 Chronicles 16:11

Seek the LORD and His strength; seek His face evermore!

1 Chronicles 29:12

Both riches and honor come from You, and You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; in Your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.

Nehemiah 8:10

Then he said to them, Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength. Read more about this verse.

Isaiah 12:2

Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; For YAH, the LORD, is my strength and song; He also has become my salvation.

Isaiah 25:4

For You have been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat; for the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall.

Isaiah 40:29, 31

He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

Isaiah 41:10

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.

Jeremiah 32:17

Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You.

Habakkuk 3:19

The LORD God is my strength; He will make my feet like deers feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills.

Zechariah 4:6

Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the LORD of hosts.

Acts 1:8

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

Ephesians 3:16

That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man.

Ephesians 3:20-21

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be the glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Ephesians 6:10

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Read more about this verse.

2 Thessalonians 3:3

But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one. Read more about this verse.

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What Are the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?05.01.19

First of all, Apocalypse is actually a reference to the book of Revelation (the last book of the Bible). The Greek word for disclosure or revelation is apokalupsis, spelled apocalypse in English. Because this term has taken on a modern popular meaning beyond its original definition, Revelation is used instead for the name of the book.

So the four horsemen of the Apocalypse are actually the four horsemen of Revelation.

The four horsemen appear only in Revelation chapter 6. Some additional context is needed to understand their identity and meaning. This book is JesusChrists revelation to His servants (Revelation 1:1), showing major events that will take place prior to His return to the earth. These events are written under seven distinct seals of a single scroll, which only Christ Himself can open to reveal their contents (see Revelation 5).

The first six seals are all opened in Revelation 6. The seventh seal is opened in chapter 8 and continues to the end of the book. The seventh seal represents the Day of the Lord and is actually the main theme of the book. The Day of the Lord is the time of Christs intervention in this world to wrest control from Satans dominion and from the rebellious human rulers under him and to establish the Kingdom of God here on earth. So the first six seals are all preliminary events that will lead up to the Day of the Lord.

With this context in mind, we now look at Revelation 6 where we find six seals disclosing events that will lead up to the end of this world. The first four seals are also the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. These horsemen represent events that have been ongoing since this prophecy was given and that will intensify in the end times, before the climactic return of Jesus Christ.

Since Christ is the One opening these seals and revealing what will happen in this world prior to His return, is there anywhere else in the Bible that He discloses these events? In fact, He did so shortly before His death in a section known as the Olivet Prophecy (given on the Mount of Olives), recorded in the Gospelsof Matthew (chapter 24), Mark (chapter 13) and Luke (chapter 21).

Seeing what Christ said in this prophecy helps us identify what each of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse represents.

In Matthew 24:3 Christs disciples asked, Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age? In the comparison chart below, notice how Christs answer lines up exactly with what He gave years later in the book of Revelation through the apostle John.

:5 For many will come in My name, saying, I am the Christ, and will deceive many.

:2 White horse and rider with a bow.

Religious deception would be the first major trend to develop after Christs departure from earthi.e., falsely representing Christ, which would deceive many. (In Revelation 19:11-15 we see Christ on a white horse, but with a sword, not a bow.)

:6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. But the end is not yet.

:7a For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.

:3-4 Red horse and rider with a sword, taking peace from the earth and causing people to kill one another.

Wars have continued around the world since Christ left the earth. But warfare between great nations and kingdoms (including world wars, which began in the 20th century) will increase in the end time.

:7b And there will be famines,

:5-6 Black horse and rider with scales to weigh scarce food supplies.

Famines will increase around the world as the end draws near. Famines are caused by both droughts and wars.

:7c pestilences,

:7-8 Pale horse (literally chloros, a pale green color) and rider named Death.

Pestilence (disease on a large scale, i.e., epidemics and pandemics) increases around the world. Wars and famines contribute to pestilence.

An important point to realize is that once each seal is opened, it remains open! In other words, each seal is added to the seals previously opened and taking their toll, and they all greatly intensify as the end of this world draws near.

Notice the enormous effect of these first four seals (horsemen) in Revelation 6:8: And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth. This indicates that the first four seals will ultimately result in a death toll of one-fourth the earths population. This summary statement also adds something else that will contribute to the death tollbeasts of the earth, which kill as carriers of pestilence and as ravenous predators.

The first four seals are clearly already open in our day now, and the four horsemen of the Apocalypse have been riding through the years, taking their toll on populations. But many other prophecies in the Bible show that their destruction will multiply greatly as the next sealthe fifth seal or Great Tribulationis about to open. Christ reveals that this world is about to undergo great devastation due to the rebellion of humanity against our Creator.

But the good news is that a wonderful, bright new world will begin after the terrible storm is over. Near the end of the seventh seal, Jesus Christ Himself will return to this earth and begin to reignalong with His resurrected saintsin power and righteousness, establishing the true utopia of Gods Kingdom here on earth.

For assistance in fulfilling Christs command towatch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man (Luke 21:36), subscribe to theLife, Hope & Truth Weekly Newsletter, which contains our World Watch Weekly section.Its free and comes directly to your email inbox each week. And we also encourage you to read more about what the Bible says about End-TimeProphecy.

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How to Put on the Armor of God – Life, Hope & Truth05.01.19

What is the armor of God?

Ephesians 6:14-17 lists six pieces of the armor of God:

God provides these six aspects of the Christian life, plus prayer (verse 18), to strengthen and protect us and ultimately help us to triumph in our spiritual battles. Each piece is essential, and the Bible tells us how to put them on and use them effectively.

The Bible tells us we are in a war, and our adversary, Satan the devil, is bent on destroying us. The apostle Paul warns us to beware of Satans devices and tactics (2 Corinthians 2:11).

Paul addressed this in Ephesians 6:10-20 where he talks about putting on the whole armor of God. Ephesians was one of Pauls letters written from prison. During Pauls time in prison he obviously became well acquainted with the armor worn and carried by his captors in the Roman army. Following Isaiahs lead (Isaiah 59:17), Paul drew a powerful comparison between a soldiers armor and the spiritual armor of God.

Paul wrote: Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might (verse 10).

You see, we dont have to be discouraged by Satans devices or by his power and stealth. We arent in this battle alone. We have access to the greatest power in the universe!

Verse 11 continues: Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

This is a comprehensive defense strategy, and we have to pay attention to all parts of this armor God offers. But if we do, we will be able to withstand Satans attacks.

(This article originally appeared in our bimonthly Discern magazine, which covers issues like this regularly. Wed be happy to give you a free subscription to Discern. Digital subscriptions are available worldwide; print subscriptions are currently available in the United States, Canada and much of Europe.)

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places (verse 12).

The Bible describes unseen spiritual battles, such as the titanic battle at the end of the age that the apostle John witnessed: And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was any place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world (Revelation 12:7-9).

All this is happening behind the scenes in the spiritual world, but it has great influence over the physical world. Satan and the demons are invisible, and he is a master of camouflage. He is able to convince people that he doesnt exist, and he is able to sway society and suggest wrong thoughts to us without our even realizing he is there.

Paul continued in Ephesians 6:13: Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

What does he mean, to stand? He was emphasizing that with Gods help, we will be able to hold the line, to not retreat, to not give up an inch of Gods territory.

Now Paul starts to list the individual elements of this spiritual armor.The Bible also tells us how to put on the armor of God. Here is how you can use each piece of armor to fight against the powers of Satan.

A belt was the first piece of equipment put on, and it secures all the other pieces of our armor. Wearing the belt showed that the soldier was ready for action, since he would only loosen his belt when he went off duty.

Truth should surround us like a belt. Knowing Gods truth is the surefire antidote to Satans lies and deception. And to be truly ready for the battle, we must be completely truthful ourselves in our inner being, like our Creator.

Next, Paul tells us to put on the breastplate of righteousness.

Without righteousness, we leave ourselves open to Satans attacks. To be righteous is first of all to repent and be forgiven of our sins, and then to do what is right in Gods eyes. Psalm 119:172 tells us that Gods commandments are righteousness. So to be righteous is to obey Gods laws of love.

Isaiah 59:17 says that God Himself puts on righteousness as a breastplate! This may be part of what inspired Paul to use this analogy. Isaiah 59 starts by explaining that your iniquities have separated you from your God (verse 2). Iniquity is the opposite of righteousness, so when we give in to sin without repenting, we are removing our breastplate and leaving ourselves open to more of Satans attacks.

Shoes might not be the most exciting piece of armor, but the Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary highlights their importance:

The military successes both of Alexander the Great and of Julius Caesar were due in large measure to their armies being well shod and thus able to undertake long marches at incredible speed over rough terrain.

The word preparation, denoting readiness, reminds us that we are to be eager to preach the gospel of peace. The Church of God is sent to announce the good news of Gods Kingdom, which will spread His way of peace around the whole world. Having our spiritual shoes on, we will be ready to spread the news to others.

Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible tells us that the sandals of the Roman soldier often were fitted with nails, or armed with spikes, to make the hold firm in the ground. Gods good news and our missionour marching ordersto preach it serve as our firm foundation.

When our faith in Gods power and love is strong, it is impossible for Satan to break through our shield and land a blow. Faith means more than just believing that God exists, of course. It includes a firm belief that everything God does is truly for our good. Also, faith is the absolute conviction that God will always do what He has promised (Romans 4:18-21).

Faith protects us in many ways. Think about Daniel in the lions den. Faith was like a force field to protect Daniel from those vicious teeth! And Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Negowere protected from the fiery furnace! Faith is powerful and protects us not only from those physical dangers, but from the spiritual temptations and dangers.

The shield of faith is not just for personal protection. The Roman soldiers had a strategy of joining their shields together. If we join our shieldsthat is, strengthen each other with our faith, building up and serving as we are ablewe will be able to take on any challenge.

We can receive tremendous hope and comfort by focusing on the incredible sacrifice Jesus Christ gave to save us and the wonderful Kingdom that is the goal of our salvation. This hope protects our minds from the discouragement and despair in this world.

The sword of the Spirit, like the Roman gladius, can also help us to conquer all our enemies, including that most difficult one, our entrenched human weaknesses. Hebrews 4:12 explains: For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Remember how Jesus used the Word of God to defeat Satan (Matthew 4:1-10)? Christ used scripture quotes three times. He brought to mind the scriptures that dealt with the situation, that showed what He should do and that strengthened His resolve. And so should we.

Our sword wont stay sharp on its own. We must continually sharpen it with regular and focused Bible study.

Paul ends this section encouraging us to pray fervently for ourselves, for each other and for the work of the Church.

Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saintsand for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak (Ephesians 6:18-20).

The Church, and each of us individually, moves forward on our knees. Praying reminds us of the battle, reminds us of the source of our strength and defense, and reminds God that we are fully committed to following Him as obedient and faithful soldiers. Prayer and Bible study are the most powerful tools for combating Satans weapons.

When we put on this whole armor of God, we will be prepared for Satans attempts to attack us with pride, envy, lust for forbidden pleasures, itching ears, disappointment, discouragement, doubt or divisionor any other tricks he may use.

There is so much more we can learn from this powerful list of defenses God makes available to us. Hopefully, this article has whetted your appetite to study this important subject in more detail. Make it a goal to study the armor of God in greater depth.

Remember, were at war. Lets be alert to Satans devices, and lets put on the whole armor of God!

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Who Gets a Game of Thrones Tattoo? – The New York Times04.28.19

LONDON Last Wednesday, Rebecca Gosnell, 24, stood outside the Circle, a tattoo parlor in London, waiting to get her first tattoo. It was going to be of a sword, called Needle, from the hit television series Game of Thrones.

In the show, that sword belongs to Arya Stark, a young woman trying to make her place in a mans world, not unlike Gosnell herself. But there was also a simpler reason she had decided to get it done: Its free, she said.

Gosnell was one of about 30 people, mainly women in their 20s, in a line to get Game of Thrones tattoos, offered as part of a promotion by NOW TV, a British streaming service. The show, a fantasy epic produced by HBO, is in its final season.

[Check out our guide to Game of Thrones.]

NOW TVs offer sounded like a desperate bid to get some media coverage, and maybe sell a few subscriptions. There have been many headline-grabbing stunts recently that a cynic could roll their eyes at: Fender, the guitar maker, for instance, introduced a range of Game of Thrones instruments this month. (Yours starting at just $25,000.)

Yet many standing in line for the free tattoos spoke passionately about how Game of Thrones had inspired them, and it was hard to be cynical about that.

Theres so many characters in the show who are underdogs, and they get really badly treated by life and people, so they have to rise up, Gosnell said. She had been bullied herself, and was coming out of a bad breakup, she added. Looking at the sword tattoo would empower her, she said.

Even the oldest fans in the line a married couple, both called Shane Horrell and both 43, (Its hell for us at airports, one joked) said the shows characters meant a lot to them. One of the Shane Horrells was getting a tattoo of a dragon that Daenerys Targaryen rides in the show.

Daenerys, shes come from nowhere to where she is now, Horrell said. Shes been through so much. Thats inspiring.

Thats one reason Im getting it, he added. Oh, and because dragons are cool.

Game of Thrones tattoos are nothing new, according to Lauren Winzer, an Australian tattoo artist who designed them for the NOW TV promotion, and had flown out for the event. Visitors to the Circle could choose from 16 of her designs, including phrases like Winter is Coming written in Gothic script and a picture of the shows famous Iron Throne. Over 6,000 people applied for 50 slots, a NOW TV spokeswoman said.

In Sydney, Australia, where Winzer is based, many fans at first wanted tattoos of the direwolves, she said, animals in the show that bond with and defend some characters. She even tattooed one on Sophie Turner, one of the lead actors in Game of Thrones, with the phrase The Pack Survives underneath. (I was kind of stressed doing that, as I was like, This is your show, Winzer said.)

Its just getting something you love and relate to, Winzer replied, when asked why people wanted Game of Thrones tattoos. I mean, Ive got Simpsons, Addams Family, tattoos.

Recently, fans were getting more obscure ones, so they stood out, she added. In London, she tattooed one fan with a door that had the phrase Hold the Door written on it, she said, a reference to a climactic scene from Game of Thrones season six.

Around the corner from the NOW TV promotion, in another parlor called Gypsy Stables, Cesar Pimenta was preparing to ink an image of a leopard onto a customer who appeared to have little space left for new additions. Pimenta said hed seen people getting Game of Thrones tattoos for years, but he had only done three himself.

I did two dragons on someones hands, and then I did this crest from the show of a dead man on a cross, he said. It looks like a guy getting tortured. Wasnt that too dark a symbol to tattoo on someone? Its cool, so why not? Pimenta said.

Pimenta was not as obsessed with Game of Thrones as some of his customers, he said, but he did get fans obsession with wolves, an animal he said he felt a special bond with.

Its one of the few animals with spiritualism, he said. I lived in Finland before and listening to the wolves at night, howling in the forest, is a beautiful feeling. It gives you this kind of magical touch to your soul, he added.

Back at the Circle, the parlors five chairs were occupied, and a steady trickle of Game of Thrones fans emerged from the basement with their new, free, tattoos. (None were of wolves. They were mostly dragons.)

In the line outside, Johnny Hargis, 23, on vacation from the United States, where he worked at Disneyland, said he wanted to get the sigil, the royal symbol of Daenerys Targaryen, on his arm. In the show, Hargis explained, Daenerys Targaryen sets slaves free, and wants to crush the oppressive system of the monarchy.

That speaks to me a lot, he said.

He added, however, that he was not against Britains queen. Daenerys Targaryen wasnt against monarchies, just oppression in general, he said. Fighting injustice is really inspiring.

Ashleigh Quelch, 25, a maintenance engineer in the auto industry, came up from the basement with a new seven-pointed star on her wrist. She had chosen a subtle tattoo, she said, so it wasnt obviously connected to the show. I appreciate people having images of movies and bands and things, but its a bit obvious, she said. This is classy.

Why did she think people were so obsessed with the series? Its just a massive soap opera a soap opera with dragons, she said, and viewers could identify with the characters. But it was also because it was simple escape.

I read something interesting the other day, Quelch said: That we were born 100 years too late to explore the earth, and 100 years too early to explore space. We are in this boring middle bit. So we have Game of Thrones instead.

See the rest here:
Who Gets a Game of Thrones Tattoo? – The New York Times

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