LISTEN: Urban Christian News Network #536 with Daniella Whyte

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1. According to The Associated Press, North Korea on Saturday proposed a joint investigation with the U.S. into the hacking attack against Sony Pictures Entertainment, warning of “serious” consequences if Washington rejects a probe that it believes will prove Pyongyang had nothing to do with the cyberattack. The proposal was seen as a typical ploy by the North to try to show that it is sincere, even though it likely knows the U.S. would never accept its offer for a joint investigation. U.S. officials blame North Korea for the hacking, citing the tools used in the Sony attack and previous hacks linked to the North, and have vowed a response. The break-in resulted in the disclosure of tens of thousands of confidential Sony emails and business files, and escalated to terrorist threats that caused Sony to cancel the Christmas Day release of the movie “The Interview.” The comedy is about a plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

2. According to the Associated Press, U.S. officials said on Thursday that two senior Islamic State group leaders were killed in U.S. and coalition airstrikes in northern Iraq over the last week as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel approved new orders for several hundred troops to deploy to Iraq to train Iraqi forces. Words of the deaths came after Hagel signed orders Wednesday for the first group of U.S. troops to go to Iraq as part of the administration’s recent decision to deploy 1,500 more American forces to the country. The troops are to advise and train Iraqi forces. The top U.S. commander for the mission in Iraq and Syria said Thursday the next wave of American troops will begin moving into Iraq in a couple of weeks, and cautioned that it will take at least three years to build the capabilities of the Iraqi military.

3. According to Christianity Today, A plan to convert 5,000 Indian Christians and Muslims to Hinduism on Christmas Day has been canceled by local officials. But organizers insist the conversions are merely postponed, and plan to protest Christmas baptisms at churches instead. The ultimate aim of the Hindu nationalist group, affiliated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), is to make sure that Christianity and Islam “cease to exist” in India, reports the Washington Post. Debates over coerced religious conversions stymied India’s parliament this month, reports World Watch Monitor (WWM). “Religious conversion is a matter of personal choice and the law permits it,” said Abhishek Prakash, the district magistrate of Aligarh where the conversions were to take place, according to the Times of India. “However, if certain groups deliberately try to provoke communal sentiments by misusing this provision, then we will certainly not allow this to take place.” The RSS has made calls for a single-faith country and is behind many of recent attacks against Christians, claim religious freedom watchdogs.

4. According to Israel Today, in Gaza, there is no serious reconstruction and certainly no disarmament. Instead, the Hamas-ruled enclave is gearing up for its next war against Israel. Three months after Operation Protective Edge, the Palestinian media has been full of reports about how the people in Gaza continue to suffer and how Hamas does nothing to help, preferring instead to invest its time and money in new rockets and terror tunnels. Earlier this week, Hamas forces proudly marched through Gaza City with large missiles and aerial drones, a clear message that the group intends to strike Israel even harder next time, even to the detriment of its own population.

5. According to International Business Times, An Indiana church that fired its gay choir director will shut down at the end of the year. David Mantor, pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Alexandria, cites declining membership and financial troubles as the cause — not the fact that 80 percent of its members left after Adam Fraley was fired. Fraley, who attended the church with his partner for six years, also served as its choir director. When Mantor was hired, Fraley said the new pastor felt “uncomfortable” with him in the leadership position. He was told he couldn’t keep his position because of his sexual orientation. According to United Methodist Church doctrine, gays are welcome but “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals” can’t “serve” the church.

6. According to the Times of Israel, the Palestinians submitted a draft United Nations Security Council resolution on Thursday that requested a 12-month deadline to reach a peace deal with Israel and designated the end of 2017 as the final date for completing an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The text said that a “just, lasting and comprehensive peace solution that brings an end to the Israeli occupation” and “fulfills the vision” of a Palestinian state should be reached no later than 12 months after the adoption of the resolution. It also defined a series of parameters for the negotiated solution, including a phased Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian territories according to a time-frame “not to exceed the end of 2017.”

7. According to The Hill, African-Americans are less likely to see benefits under ObamaCare compared to other racial groups, according to research released Tuesday. While Hispanics, American Indians and Alaska natives have seen “dramatic” increases in healthcare coverage over the last year, obtaining coverage has been tougher for black Americans, largely because they disproportionately live in states that have not expanded Medicaid, according to an extensive 65-page report by The Urban Institute, a nonprofit research group. Most of the states that have not adopted a central ObamaCare provision that helps low-income people qualify for Medicaid have Republican legislatures or governors.

8. According to Jewish News Service, Iran and the Palestinian terror group Hamas have mended their political and military ties, which were strained by differences over the Syrian civil war. A senior Hamas leader said, “I believe that bilateral relations between us and the Islamic Republic of Iran are back on track.” Last week, a Hamas delegation reportedly visited Iran as the sides sought to reach understanding. Saudi Arabia, Iran’s regional foe, expressed anger over Hamas’s rapprochement with Iran, calling on Hamas to suspend any contacts with Tehran.

9. According to Fox News, Some witnesses speaking under oath before a grand jury investigating the shooting death of an unarmed black teen by a white officer told lies, St. Louis Prosecutor Robert McCulloch said Friday. “Clearly some were not telling the truth,” he said in an interview on KTRS 550. This was the first interview McCulloch has given since the grand jury decided not to indict Ferguson officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. “Early on I decided that anyone who claimed to have witnessed anything would be presented to the grand jury,” McCulloch said. He added that he would’ve been criticized no matter his decision.

10. According to CNN, the mosquito-borne Chikungunya (chik-un-GOON-ya) virus has long been diagnosed in travelers returning from countries in Asia and Africa, where the disease is widespread. But in December 2013, the first people infected by mosquitoes local to the region were reported on the Caribbean island of Saint Martin. All countries in Central America have now reported local transmission of the disease, and the United States had 11 confirmed cases of local infection this year as of December 12, all in Florida. There also have been 1,900 imported cases across the United States in returning travelers. The name of the disease means “bending over in pain.” It has no treatment or vaccine. And it has infected more than 1 million people — 155 of them fatally — since spreading to the Americas one year ago.

As you go throughout this day, keep this word in mind: Luke 2:13-14 says, “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.'”

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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