LISTEN: Urban Christian News Network #535 with Daniella Whyte

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1. According to The Associated Press, Budget cuts at the IRS could delay tax refunds, reduce taxpayer services and hurt enforcement efforts, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said Thursday. Koskinen said, “about half the people who call the IRS for assistance this filing season won’t be able to get through to a person. Once returns are filed, there will be fewer agents to audit them. Everybody’s return will get processed. But people have gotten very used to being able to file their return and quickly getting a refund. This year we may not have the resources, the people to provide refunds as quickly as we have in the past.” Congress cut the IRS budget by $346 million for the budget year that ends in September 2015.

2. According to The Telegraph UK, Russian president Vladimir Putin has lashed out at the Western powers for imposing a new “Berlin Wall” across Europe and warned the Russian people to brace for two years of hardship, admitting that sanctions are doing more damage than originally thought. Putin accused America and Europe of trying to “chain the Russian” bear and tear out its claws. He said, “The issue is not Crimea. We are protecting our sovereignty and our right to exist.” He blamed the outside world for Russia’s travails, even suggesting that the oil price crash “might be” a conspiracy by the US and Saudi Arabia to bring Russia to its knees.

3. According to the BBC, Militants have stormed a remote village in north-eastern Nigeria, killing at least 33 people and kidnapping about 200, a survivor has told the BBC. He said that suspected Boko Haram militants had seized young men, women and children from Gumsuri village. The attack happened on Sunday but news has only just emerged, after survivors reached the city of Maiduguri. Meanwhile, Cameroon’s army says it has killed 116 Nigerian militants who had attacked one of its bases.

4. According to The Associated Press, Pedestrians were filing out of a church Christmas service when a car sped around other vehicles at a red light and plowed into the crowd before hitting another car head-on. Three people were killed, and several more were injured. Redondo Beach police Lt. Shawn Freeman said, Margo Bronstein, 56, was arrested after the crash on suspicion of driving under the influence and vehicular manslaughter. Five children and eight adults, including the suspect and the other driver, suffered injuries including broken bones, abrasions and head trauma.

5. According to The Washington Free Beacon, North Korea dispatched covert commando teams to the United States in the 1990s to attack nuclear power plants and major cities in a conflict, according to a declassified Defense Intelligence Agency report. The DIA report, dated Sept. 13, 2004, reveals that five units of covert commandos were trained for the attacks inside the country. According to the report, the “Reconnaissance Bureau, North Korea, had agents in place to attack American nuclear power plants.” The report indicates that power plants would be targeted for attack “in the event of hostilities between the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea.”

6. According to the Daily Mail, A number of militants have been killed in Islamic State’s very first battle with U.S. ground troops after the extremists attempted to overrun an Iraqi military base. The militants attacked Ein al-Asad military base on Sunday where more than 100 U.S. military support troops are based. Despite launching the surprise attack just after midnight, ISIS’s offensive was swiftly repelled when U.S. troops and F18 jets joined in the skirmish in support of the Iraqi Army. Facing both Iraqi and US troops supported by F18 jets, an unknown number of ISIS attackers were killed during the two hour firefight before being forced to retreat.

7. According to The Associated Press, Pakistani jets and ground forces killed 59 militants in a northwestern tribal region near the Afghan border, the army said Friday, days after Taliban fighters killed 148 people — most of them children — in a school massacre. The violence at a school in Pakistan’s northwest earlier this week stunned people around the country and sparked cries for retribution. In the wake of the violence, the military has struck targets in the Khyber tribal region and approved the death penalty for six convicted terrorists. The military said it had carried out air strikes and ground operations Thursday and Friday in the Khyber agency.

8. According to Christianity Today, YouVersion studies which scriptures 164 million users shared and remembered most this year. Philippians made out well this year. The New Testament letter authored by the Apostle Paul contained 3 of the top 10 Bible verses that were most bookmarked, highlighted, and shared with YouVersion’s Bible app in 2014, according to an end-of-year analysis released today. The No. 1 spot went to Romans 12:2 [“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind….” (NIV)]. But the fourth chapter of Philippians took No. 2 with verse 8, No. 3 with verse 6, and No. 6 with verse 7.

9. According to The Root, Approximately one million people living in the three West African nations most plagued by the Ebola outbreak–Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone–are at risk of going hungry because of major food shortages due to “border closures, quarantines and crop losses,”Al Jazeera reports. Two food-monitoring groups, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Programme, reported these findings on Wednesday. Both agencies said in a joint statement, “The loss of productivity and household income due to Ebola-related deaths and illness as well as people staying away from work, for fear of contagion, is compounding an economic slowdown in the three countries.”

10. According to USA Today, Tragedy struck Australia for the second time this week after eight dead children and a woman suffering from stab wounds were found inside a home in the northern city of Cairns on Friday. Queensland state police said they were called to the home in the Cairns suburb of Manoora on Friday morning after receiving a report of a woman with serious injuries. When police got to the house, they found the bodies of the children inside. The victims range in age from 18 months to 15 years. The incident comes as Australia is still reeling from the shock of a deadly siege in a Sydney cafe earlier this week.

As you go throughout this day, keep this word in mind: Luke 1:76-78 says, “And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven.”

God loves you. He always has and He always will. He loves you so much that the Bible says in John 3:16, “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.” If you don’t know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour, why don’t you get to know Him today. Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died, was buried, and rose by the power of God for you. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Thanks so much for listening. May God bless your day.

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