Atheist Activist Group Demanding Florida City to Remove Bible From City Hall Chambers by Christian News Network

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PINELLAS PARK, Fla. – A nationally-recognized atheist activist group is demanding that officials with a Florida city remove a 40-year-old Bible from city hall chambers.

The Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) recently sent a letter to officials in Pinellas Park, Florida on behalf of local businessman Randy Heine, who states that the Bible makes him feel uncomfortable when he attends city meetings.

“The Bible must go. It doesn’t belong in a government meeting,” he told Fox13 Tampa Bay. “Every time I speak, it makes me feel awkward.”

According to reports, the Bible was presented to the city in 1975 by the local Kiwanis club and has rested on a desk in the chambers for nearly 40 years since.

Government Relations Administrator Tim Caddell said that local residents have not expressed any grievances about the Bible in the decades that have passed.

“We’ve not had complaints from residents, from people who participated,” he told Bay News9. “We have complaints from groups who come in looking to find something wrong.”

However, FFRF says that the Bible serves as a government endorsement of Christianity, and asserts that such a suggestion is unconstitutional.

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“It’s on display, and that certainly is improper. It shows an endorsement of the Bible as a holy book over other holy books,” Co-founder Annie Laurie Gaylor told reporters. “How would the people of Pinellas Park feel if it was a Quran?”

Therefore, the organization sent a letter to city officials, contending that the Bible must be removed.

“Not only is the city council sending a message of endorsement for Christianity over other religions and nonreligion,” it read, “but display of this King James Bible sends a message of endorsement of one particular Christian sect over all others.”

The letter also takes issues with inserts that are included with city utility bills, which advertise for church events, as well as prayers that precede city hall meetings.

FFRF has sent letters to Pinellas Park in the past, which have heretofore been ignored. However, a review of the correspondence is said to be underway this week.

Reaction to the matter has been mixed.

“I love the Freedom From Religion Foundation! … Help pull this country out of the insanity of superstitious beliefs,” one commenter wrote. “Magical thinking will not improve the human condition.”

“[T]here is nothing about separation of Church and State in the Constitution. The 1st Amendment simply says that the government (federal) will not declare any religion the religion of [the] State. This was due to what England did by making the Church of England the official religion of the country,” another stated. “Religious freedom means you are free to worship and display your worship. You are not supposed to worship behind closed doors!”

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The Christian Life and Character (Day 28) Christians should be content. ”…May I say this again that when Paul said he was content, he actually expressed his willingness to allow the sustaining ability of Jesus Christ rule over his life…”

”Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.’’ Philippians 4:11

Additional reading: 1Tim. 6:6 – 10; Heb. 13:5

This is something I must talk about. I must talk about it because it is a subject we no longer hear in the Church. Ministers have refrained from preaching it because it may add very little to their internally generated revenue. Interestingly, it is a spiritually issue, which touches God’s heart so much. And because it has been neglected over the years, Christians have increasingly become dissatisfied with what they have. We have over the years developed an insatiable hunger for riches and wealth under the guise of prosperity and many have made a shipwreck of their relationships with God.

 

To under God’s mindset on this subject, we must look at it from God’s perspective using the Bible as our standard and guide. Paul writing to the Philippians Church wrote:  Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.’’ At this point, Apostle Paul was held up in prison in Rome. On hearing about this, the Philippians Church, which he raised, sent some provisions to him in prison through the hands of Epaphroditus, one of the pastors in the local Church. Not that Paul was not appreciative of the provisions given to him by members of the Church, rather he expressed that his satisfaction and joy was in Jesus Christ and not in material wealth.

 

See what he said: Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content [autarkes … self complacent, that is, contented].’’ We see Paul in verse 10 express his gratitude towards the Philippians Church for the provisions made available to him. But in the very next verse, which is verse 11, Paul made an instructive statement. Let us take a cue from verse 10: ‘‘How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me.’’ NLT. This statement no doubt expresses the heart of thankfulness—thank you for all your provisions—but— ‘‘For I have always learned to be content with whatever I have.’’

 

Was Paul not in need? He never said he was not in need. He only said he had learned contentment in want and in abundance. ‘‘I know how to live in poverty or prosperity. No matter the situation, I‘ve learned the secret of how to live when I’m full or when I’m hungry, when I have too much or when I have too little.’’(Verse 12 GW.) To have a clearer understanding of this verse, we must first of all know what it means to be content. To be content means to be self complacent. And self complacent itself means to be satisfied. Paul said that in every situation, whether in poverty or prosperity, full or when hungry, he found satisfaction. This satisfaction was not so much in his strength or ability, but more in trust or confidence in God to provide for him and, of course, do all things. Little wonder, he affirmed: ‘‘For I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength.’’  (Verse 13 NLT).

 

This very statement of Paul has been misapplied over the years. When Paul said: ‘‘For I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength,’’ he never said this with regards to achievements as we have been taught over the ages. Paul said this with reference to his total dependence on Jesus Christ to strengthen or enable him go through difficulties of life; be it in scarcity or supply, poverty or prosperity, sickness or in health—I can do all things—I can face all challenges of life depending on Jesus Christ.

 

Contentment is not a subject taught these days in the Church of Jesus Christ. I just cannot remember the last time I heard a preacher preach on this subject in the house of God. What is common in God’s house is prosperity reason being that majority of worshipers will identify with a prosperity message no matter how weak than one on contentment no matter how concise. More so, contentment has become synonymous with poverty and poverty itself has become synonymous with sin while prosperity has practically taken the place of holiness and righteousness. In fact, anyone who is seemingly doing well financially is believed to be doing well in his Christian life. On the other hand, anyone that is not handy may not be doing well in his Christian life.  Against this backdrop, there is a rat race for prosperity in God’s house—no one wants to be left behind—all want to be seen to be doing well. Yet we ignore the basic essentials of the faith; holiness, righteousness, contentment, etc.

 

May I say this again that when Paul said he was content, he actually expressed his willingness to allow the sustaining ability of Jesus Christ rule over his life—a total dependence on Jesus to keep him no matter his status or situation. This was not an expression of one who had given up hope or that of a poor man who had come to terms with his poverty ridden state. Paul was simply saying that he would not allow what he had or did not have to determine his relationship with God. He was also saying that what he had or did not have will not be allowed to be a bench mark of excellence or failure in ministry or his Christian faith.

 

Do you know why Paul was content yet the Church and contentment today are strange bedfellows? This is the simple reason: ‘‘Not only those things; I reckon everything as complete loss for the sake of what is so much more valuable, the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have thrown away everything; I consisder it all as mere garbage, so that I may gain Christ.’’ (Philippians 3:8 GNB.) Paul said that for the sake of Jesus Christ, he considered everything as complete loss, for the sake of Jesus Christ he threw away everything considering them as mere garbage—waste—that he may gain Jesus Christ, whom he described as being more valuable. I do not know how many people in our time can measure up with Paul’s status then as seen in Philippians 3:3 – 6. However, those very things Paul counted as garbage—discarded waste—worthless, are the things the Church today considers as of great value while we make Jesus, whom Paul described as one of value worthless.

 

I have written much in this study, but I must not fail to point out Paul’s admonition to young pastor Timothy: ’’Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great value. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness.’’ (1Timothy 6:6 – 11 NLT.)

 

This also is my admonition to you—do not join the rat race for money—earnestly believe Him for everything. Whatever He provides, appreciate with a grateful heart—learn to be content—avoid the temptation of the get rich quick syndrome, which is prevalent in today Church, then you will find wealth, life and honour (Proverbs 21:21).

 

Meditation: What I have or lack is not a bench mark of excellence in my Christian life. What matters most is my relationship with Jesus Christ who is of greater value than worldly possessions.

Prayer: May the knowledge of You be of greater value to me than the possessions of life. May I count all things that matter to me a complete loss for the joy of knowing You.

Questions: (1) What is contentment and what does it mean to be content? (2) What is of greater value to you in your Christian faith?

The Christian Life and Character (Day 27) Christians should be joyful. ”…is your heart weary? Rejoice—be cheerful in the Lord.”

‘‘Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.’’ Phil. 4:4

Additional Reading: Matt.5:12; Rom. 12:12; 15:13; 1Thess. 5:16

One of the most difficult things to do is to encourage someone who is going through a terrible situation to rejoice in the Lord in the midst of all the obvious. I say this because I am a witness. Not too long ago I experienced such a hard situation that I almost wished I was never created. And in fact, I almost prayed my life to end.

Interestingly, being cast down because of life challenges, depressed or having the feeling of rejection or failure never moves God to act on our behalf. What moves God is when even in the midst of grief, depression, rejection, failure, hunger, taste, lack, persecutions, tribulations and trials; we rejoice. For this is pleasing and acceptable to God.

Apostle Paul could not have admonished us to rejoice always in the Lord even in bad situations if he as a person never experienced this. Thus, we must do a background check to know what propelled him to encourage us to rejoice at all times.

The Book of Philippians, which of course is Paul’s letter to the Church in Philippi, which he established in AD 51 during his second missionary journey, is considered the most beautiful of all his letters. According to theologians, this letter is one full of warmth, compassion, love, tenderness, etc. But interestingly, it is believed that Paul wrote this letter during his first imprisonment in Rome in AD 61. I do not know how many prisoners today will encourage their friends and loved ones to rejoice in every circumstance of life because they are also rejoicing in their situation as prisoners. I once visited the maximum prison in Kirikiri, Nigeria. This gave me a firsthand encounter with what prisoners go through. At the end of my visit, practically every prisoner asked for help in one form or the other. And, of course, I felt great compassion for them but I knew that it was practically impossible to meet all their needs. I would have been too shocked if any of those prisoners had encouraged me to be strong because he too was strong.

First of all, having established that he was held up in prison and that in fact his imprisonment in Rome had only helped in advancing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the extent that even the guards had come to the knowledge of the LORD, he then went on to say…’’and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.’’ (Philippians 1:18). I have never in my life seen or heard anyone say such a thing as this, though under lock and key. It is, therefore, not surprising that he in the midst of all could also tell others to rejoice. Why? You may ask. He could be bold about it because he also rejoiced in his bad situation.

But what did he really mean when he asked the Church in Philippi to rejoice always? ‘‘Rejoice [chairo … a primary verb; to be cheerful, i.e. calmly happy or well off; impersonally especially as salutation (on meeting or parting), be well:— farewell, be glad, God speed, greeting, hail, joy, joyfully, rejoice] in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.’’

Although this is also a form of greeting or salutation, he simply charged the Church to be cheerful, happy or glad. Read these: ‘‘Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice.’’ (NLT). ‘‘Always be glad because of the Lord! I will say it again: Be glad.’’ (CEV). ‘‘Be glad in the Lord at all times: again I say, Be glad.’’ (BBE). ‘‘May you always be joyful in your union with the Lord, I say it again: rejoice!’’ (GNB).
Having established what it means to rejoice, the next question is: how can a born again child of God who is faced with tough challenges of life be cheerful, happy or glad in that very situation? If we are to be happy always as charged by Apostle Paul, we must of necessity be in continuous fellowship or relationship with God—at all times. If you are in constant fellowship with God you will be happy always. The Good News Bible version of this very verse gives a clearer understanding into this: ‘‘May you always be joyful in your union with the Lord, I say it again: rejoice!’’ Union as used here denotes a relationship. And any relationship with God can only be achieved through the Holy Spirit who is our Comforter, Helper and Guide.
Therefore, if I am in constant relationship with God with the Holy Spirit as my Helper and Comforter, I will no doubt have the assurances of peace and see every reason to rejoice even in the darkest situation as the Holy Spirit Himself will fill our hearts with gladness and joy overflowing.

So, is your heart weary? Rejoice—be cheerful in the Lord. Are you downcast? Sing a song and be filled with gladness that comes through the Holy Spirit. Are you being persecuted in the office, by your friends and loved ones because of your testimony for Jesus Christ? You need to read this: ‘‘Be happy and glad, for a great reward is kept for you in heaven. This is how the prophets who lived before you were persecuted.’’ (Matt.5:12 GNB). Or are you about giving up because of life difficulties? Hear this: ‘‘Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times.’’ (Rom. 12:12 GNB).

Meditation: How is my fellowship with God?

Prayer: Even as I desire to be in constant fellowship with You, I pray for strength through the Holy Spirit.

Question: Is it possible for a Christian to rejoice in all situations? Have you had reason to rejoice in times of pain, sorrow and need? Do explain.

 

Is Evangelism REALLY Necessary?

In his recently popular article Why Evangelism Is Hard, But Necessary (Pastors.com), Greg Stier addressed five common barriers to sharing the gospel:

1)      It grates against social norms

2)      It leads to awkward moments

3)      It heightens our fear of rejection

4)      It triggers Satanic attacks

5)      It makes us realize how much we don’t know

The strength of the article lay in the way it honestly deals with the hurdles that many Christians face on a personal level when explaining the gospel. While most readers will likely resonate with the obstacles presented, perhaps not every reader will be motivated to action. The reasons Stier presented in the article that make evangelism necessary are right, biblical, and good. However, they come across as being a step removed from the individual reader:

1)      “Evangelism, along with prayer, is the primary tool through which God’s kingdom advances on this earth.” (Yes, but doesn’t this assume every Christian has dealt with his lack of enthusiasm for the advancement of God’s kingdom? Practically speaking, that often fluctuates from day to day in the lives of many believers.)

2)      “People hang in the balance between heaven and hell. If we really care about them, we’ll do whatever it takes to get the message of Jesus to them…” (Again, doesn’t this assume that every Christian has dealt with his lack of concern for the lives of those who don’t know Christ?)

Perhaps a clearer, more direct piece leading Christian readers to see the necessity of their own role in evangelism is one by a lesser-known writer, Timothy Beougher: Must Every Christian Evangelize? (9Marks Journal, Fall 2013)

In it, Beougher answers two common objections to evangelism based on misguided theology rather than feelings and practical experience:

1.       The Great Commission was only given to the apostles and therefore does not apply to us today.

2.       Since only some people have the “gift of evangelism,” not everyone is obligated to witness.

Beougher then details four reasons why every Christian needs to evangelize:

1.       The commands to witness are given to all followers of Christ

2.       The example of “ordinary believers” in the early church

3.       The stewardship the gospel imposes on us

4.       The “work of ministry” in Ephesians 4

Yes, evangelism is REALLY necessary. And every Christian is called to the task. As Timothy Beougher concludes his article: “Some people run from the idea of evangelism because they assume it means they must be obnoxious and pushy. There are many approaches to sharing the gospel. The only fixed method is the message: telling others about the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
 

Alex Crain is the editor of Christianity.com

 

The Christian Life and Character (Day 26) Christians should love. ”… If I greet only those who greet me, I have not the love of God in me…”

‘‘Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.’’ 1John 4:7
Additional reading: Gal. 5:22; Col. 3:14; 1Thess. 4:9

I do this study today with so many burdens in my heart. My heart desire is that we all come to the fullness of maturity in God. If we do, we will have a clearer picture of who God is and what it means to love for God is love and no one can love except such a person has God.

I must quickly say too that the world’s view of love is at complete variance with God’s view of love. This difference is like that between January and December—very wide. While the world views love from the individual perspective — me, God talks about others—sacrificial and unconditional—without expecting anything in return.

The redemption of man from sin is on this stand point of love—unconditional sacrifice: ‘‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’’ (John 3:16). Even a kindergarten kid knows this verse of scripture but not many actually understand it.

This verse not only tells us about God’s love for the world but it goes further to express the degree of God’s love for the world, which made Him to give up His Only Son. We all love, but to what degree is your love? Does your love for someone have a limit or condition attached to it?

‘‘For God so [houto — in this way (referring to what precedes or follows):- after that, after (in) this manner, as even (so), for all that, like (-wise) no more, on this, fashion (-wise), so (in like manner), thus, what] loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’’

To what degree, way, fashion or how much did God love the world? God loved the world to the extent of giving up His Only begotten Son to die the most shameful and gruesome death that He may have sin filled man back to Himself. ‘‘God loved the world this way: He gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not die but have eternal life.’’ (GW). ‘‘This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.’’ (MSG)

If you noticed, there are no conditions or strings attached to God’s love for man. He started the whole process for our good—without expecting any sort of refund —just believe. This is the kind of love we as God’s children are expected to demonstrate—unconditional love—as God loves.

We need to read yet another scripture to clearly understand God’s love for mankind and why we should love like Him. ‘‘But God commendeth his love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.’’ (Rom. 5:8). Man was neck deep in sin; even then, God saw so much good reason to sacrifice His Only Son. God commendeth—exhibited, demonstrated, showed His love without expected anything except faith in Him. ‘‘Christ died for us while we were still sinners. This demonstrates God’s love for us.’’ (GW). ‘‘But God has shown us how much he loves us—it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us!’’ (GNB).

The question is, how, when, where, to whom, on what basis and why do you love? Do you show love to those whom you feel can do same to you in return? Do you love when it is convenient? Or do you have a yardstick or standard measure to determine when to love? God love us unconditionally—when we were lost and hopeless—as sinners. It was at this point He demonstrated His love to us. And we are called to love like Him: ‘‘Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.’’

If I will offer help to those whom I feel can do same to me in return when am in need, yet turn my back against those in need because I cannot get anything from them, then I am not born of God and His love is not in me. If I greet only those who greet me, I have not the love of God in me. In fact I am as the unbeliever. If I love only when it is convenient to do so, when those in need would have met my standard, I cannot say that I know God. God is love and there is no condition about His love—He loved us while we were still sinning—at a time we had fallen short of His glorious standard.

If we say that we are children of God, then, let us begin to demonstrate the God inherent character in us—let us love as He loves.

Meditation: if I say I am a child of God, do I love like Him? Is my perspective of love in line with God’s perspective?

Prayer: I wish to love like You; strengthen and help me by the Spirit to do this.

Question: What was your perspective of love before this study? How has this study helped you to understand God’s perspective of love?

 

 

The Christian Life and Character (Day 25) Christians are to be merciful. ‘‘Give to everyone who asks you for something. When someone takes something that is yours, don’t ask for it back…”

 

‘‘Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.’’ Matt. 5:7

Additional reading: Luke 6:36; Rom. 12:8; Jas. 3:17

It is very interesting and instructive to know that obedience to God’s words or commands attracts huge blessings. Little wonder, Jesus never stopped emphasizing this as He took the people through His Sermon on the Mount. The truth of the matter is; whatever character we exhibit as Christians, comes with either a blessing or its exact opposite.

In this matter, Jesus said: ‘‘Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.’’ In short, He said that if any believer shows mercy, that believer will get mercy in return. However, what does it mean to be merciful?

‘‘Blessed are the merciful [eleemon … compassionate (actively)]: for they shall obtain mercy.’’ To get this clearer, we also need to know what exactly it means to show compassion or be compassionate. To have compassion means to show sympathy for the suffering of others, often including desire to help. The crux of the matter here is; every Christian should make it a lifestyle to show compassion—have sympathy for the suffering of others—be willing to help those in need. Anyone who does this should be rest assured that he will have compassion waiting for him at his doorpost. Please read this: ‘‘You’re blessed when you care. At the point of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.’’ (MSG.)

This translation of the Bible has brought out a very crucial issue. Do Christians really care about the needy? How much of our time and resources have we devoted to help those in needs? Do we overlook our physical responsibilities in the name of rendering service to God?

This attribute of Christians as required by our Master is one major standard for judgement as pointed out by Jesus Christ in Matthew 25. The picture drawn here is that of judgement and reward of all people at the end of this age. On that day according to Scriptures, everyone will be rewarded or punished according to the measure of mercy—compassion—help—kindness shown or not shown to those in needs.

Jesus said that on that day, He would gather the peoples of the earth together before Him and separate them—the sheep, i.e. the obedient ones on His right and the goats, i.e. the disobedient and stubborn ones to His left. Having done this, the Kingdom will then be given to the sheep while the goats will be cast out.

Why will He do that or what will be His standard of measure? Now hear Him: ‘‘When I was hungry, you gave me something to eat, and when I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink. When I was a stranger, you welcomed me, and when I was naked, you gave me clothes to wear. When I was sick, you took care of me, and when I was in jail, you visited me.’’ (Vv. 35 – 36 CEV.) In total shock, those who had done God’s will, will demand to know when they showed so much care and compassion to Jesus Christ. Jesus will simply say, ‘‘Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it to me.’’ (V. 40) On the contrary, the goats will simply be cast out for not showing compassion to the needy.

This event pictures the state of the Church today. Most of our giving is directed not at individuals but more at Church projects and functions with the mindset that such funds will be better appreciated by God. If we give and the pastor in charge takes notice of you, be rest assured that you will be recognised. But this is not the kind of giving that pleases God. The giving that pleases Him is that which Jesus described above and the one the LORD sees in secret.

Assuming you meet a needy stranger on your way to Church on a Sunday morning and there in your pocket or purse is an amount you have kept aside for offering. Will you insist on taking that money to Church to put in the offering box or you will spare it on account of that stranger? Please be honest.

The book of Matthew records 6 instances where the word compassion was used. Four directly involved Jesus showing compassion—pity or sympathy on the hungry, sick, etc, and 2 involving a master and his servant. The book of Mark records 5 while Luke records 3. For any Christian to be able to affect lives, he must be as Jesus was while on earth—demonstrate compassion—that feeling of pity or sympathy towards the needy that makes one gives his heart out.

This passage will help us understand God’s view point on this: ‘‘If we say we love God, but hate others, we are liars. For we cannot love God, whom we have not seen, if we do not love others, whom we have seen.’’ (1John 4:20 GNB.) If this passage is true, it makes no sense (human or spiritual) saying one is keeping a certain amount of money to take to Church as offering while a brother or a total stranger is in need. Jesus will say on the last day that as long as we kept that money from that needy person, we kept it from Him, even though it was put in the offering box.

Therefore, for us to obtain mercy (compassion) in the sight of God and man, we must show ourselves to be merciful (compassionate). This is my evidence: ‘‘…Give to others, and you will receive. You will be given much. It will be poured into your hands—more than you can hold. You will be given so much that it will spill into your lap. The way you give to others is the way God will give to you.’’ (Luke 6: 38 ERV.)

This passage has been used severally to encourage believers to give to God. Sadly though, this passage has no bearing with giving to God directly. It simply talks about giving to those in needs (as many people as possible), and then God will in turn give His blessings beyond measure. This is actually the indirect way to give God.

When the Church of Jesus Christ comes to recognise that there is great gain in giving, and not only in giving directly to God as we may think, but in giving to those in needs, our attitude about giving to others will change because when we give to those that need, we are actually giving to God as Jesus said. This kind of giving, no doubt stares up heaven.

This is the conclusion: ‘‘Give to everyone who asks you for something. When someone takes something that is yours, don’t ask for it back. Do for others what you want them to do for you. If you love only those who love you, should you get any special praise for doing that? No, even sinners love those who love them!’’ (Luke 6: 30 – 32 ERV.)

Meditation: How do I give? Do I need to change my attitude towards giving?
Prayer: I thought I was giving but now I realise that I was not giving. Guide me along Your path in this matter that I may do Your will.
Question: (1.) Who is a merciful Christian? (2.) What is God’s perspective of giving?

Some 300 Bibles seized over ‘Allah’ controversy, a move Malaysian priest calls “unlawful and unconstitutional”…ASIA NEWS

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In the State of Selangor, the authorities raid a Christian centre and seize hundreds of copies of the sacred text. Fr Lawrence Andrew calls the action “wrong” and contrary to the nation’s values. Sources tell AsiaNews that Catholics are being pressured to drop the case and that religious freedom is being progressively restricted.

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews) – The raid in the State of Selangor that led to the seizure of hundreds of Bibles and the arrest of two Christian leaders, later released on bail, is “deeply wrong and unlawful”. Local government officials “have no authority to enter a Christian centre” and carry out acts that are visibly contrary to the constitution of Malaysia, said Fr Lawrence Andrew, editor of the Catholic weekly Herald, as he reacted to further abuses against the religious minority, already struggling in a controversial court case involving the use of the word “Allah” in reference to the Christian God.

 

Speaking to AsiaNews, the priest noted the constitution says that every religious group is “free to practice its religion and manage its own affairs” without outside “interference”, as was the case yesterday. Indeed, the controversy over ‘Allah’ is a source of problems for the nation.

 

Yesterday, Malaysian authorities seized 321 Bibles from the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) in Selangor, because they used the word Allah for the Christian God.

 

The raid is a direct result of a court decision last October to give Muslims “exclusive” use of the word use ‘Allah’ and ban its use by Christians. Most Muslims are ethnic Malay.

 

The dispute is still before the Federal Court, and a new hearing is scheduled for 24 February when judges will have to decide whether to allow the Catholic Church to appeal.

 

Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein said that the controversy and court cases should end for the greater good of the country. In his view, Christian objection to the court’s decision is sowing “hatred and division” and could cause “further clashes.” Islamist leaders agree with the minister and have called on Christians to respect his request; otherwise things could get out of hand.

 

United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) leaders are also threatening to carry out widespread protests in all the churches of the State during Sunday services if “the unlawful use” of the word Allah continues.

 

Anonymous sources with great knowledge of local politics told AsiaNews that political interests might be behind the hard-line stance taken by the prime minister and the government, such as winning the support of extremist voters following unpopular moves like lower subsidies and higher petrol, electricity and sugar prices.

 

“What is happening today already happened in 2010, when churches and Christian places of worship came under violent attacks,” the source said. “Even then, UMNO was behind the violence as a way to influence the court decision. They are causing unrest to show that it is necessary to end the dispute and put everything to rest by denying Catholics the right to appeal.” Sadly, in Malaysia, “Religious freedom is being gradually restricted,” he said.

 

The recent anti-Christian raid follows a controversial decision by the Court of Appeal in October banning the Catholic weekly Herald from using the word “Allah” for the Christian God.

 

Following the ruling, some officials at the Ministry of Interior seized 2,000 copies of the magazine published by the Archdiocese at Kuala Lumpur’s Kota Kinabalu Airport in, Sabah state, justifying the action by the need to check whether the publication complied with the court order against “unlawful uses of the word Allah”.

 

The controversy broke out initially in 2008, when the government threatened to revoke the weekly’s permission to publish. The paper is the country’s main Catholic publication. In response, Church leaders sued the government for breaching constitutional rights.

 

In 2009, the High Court ruled in favour of Catholics. The judgment however sent shockwaves among Muslims, angering many who consider the word ‘llah’ exclusively Islamic. A wave of violence swept the country, with churches and other Christian places of worship targeted. To stem extremism, the government decided to appeal.

 

In Malaysia, a mostly Muslim nation (60 per cent) of more than 28 million, Christians are the third largest religious group after Buddhists with more than 2.6 million members.

 

A Latin-Malay dictionary published 400 year ago shows that ‘Allah’ was used in the Bible from the start to refer to God in the local language.