LISTEN: Urban Christian News Network #541 with Daniella Whyte

1. According to the Associated Press, Activists say Syrian air raids on two northern towns held by the militant Islamic State group have killed more than 50 people in two days. Rami Abdurrahman of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Friday that several airstrikes on the towns of al-Bab and neighboring Qabasin killed at least 53 people, including seven children. The strikes occurred Thursday. The Syrian government has been heavily bombing areas held by rebels and ISIS. Rights groups accuse government forces of using bombs that cannot be precisely targeted, causing high civilian casualties.

2. According to The New York Times, The Food and Drug Administration announced Tuesday that it would scrap a decades-old lifetime prohibition on blood donation by gay and bisexual men, a major stride toward ending what many had seen as a national policy of discrimination. However, the agency will continue to ban men who have had sex with a man in the last year, saying the barrier is necessary to keep the blood supply safe, a move that frustrated rights groups that were pushing for the ban to be removed entirely.

3. According to the Associated Press, Syrian state-run TV said Saturday that the government is prepared to take part in peace talks hosted by Russia next month, but the unnamed foreign ministry official it cited suggested the scope of the negotiations would be limited to “preliminary” talks meant to pave the way for a conference held in Syria itself. The official was quoted as saying the government was “ready to participate in preparatory, advisory meetings in Moscow” that would “answer the aspirations of Syrians to find an exit from the crisis.”

4. According to USA Today, North Korea hurled a racist insult at President Obama Saturday and accused the U.S. of engineering the country’s recent Internet disruption, while continuing to deny launching a cyberattack on Sony Pictures in response to the comedy The Interview. The film, which depicts the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un by two American journalists, outraged North Korea and prior to its release Sony Pictures fell victim to a crippling cyberattack exposing private e-mails and releasing potentially blockbuster films to pirating sites.

5. According to Christian Today, While many celebrated Christmas cozy at home with family and friends, Pastor Farshid Fathi celebrated the birth of Christ away from his loved ones in a prison cell in Iran. Fathi, who has now been four years behind bars, was arrested and detained in Tehran’s Evin Prison in December 2010 for leading a network of underground evangelical house churches. He was later on found guilty of ‘acting against national security’ and sentenced to six years in prison. But according to Miles Windsor, a London-based public affairs strategist who works on behalf of persecuted Christians in the Middle East, Fathi was convicted simply for being Christian in an Islamic country.

6. According to Lebanon Daily News, President Judge John Tylwalk has rejected an appeal from Arthur “A.B.” Schirmer, the former Methodist pastor who was sentenced by Tylwalk in September to 20 to 40 years in state prison for murdering his first wife, Jewel, in 1999. In his 23-page order, Tylwalk rejected all four arguments presented and ordered that his order and opinion be transmitted to Pennsylvania Superior Court for its review. Schirmer, 66, entered a no-contest plea to third-degree murder, which carries a minimum term of between six and 20 years under state sentencing guidelines. He is also serving a life sentence after being found guilty by a Monroe County jury in 2012 for staging a car crash in Pocono Township to cover up the death of his second wife, Betty Jean, in 2008.

7. According to Reuters, the US-led campaign against ISIS included 10 air strikes in Syria on Wednesday and seven in Iraq. Eight of the strikes in Syria were centered around the contested border town of Kobani near the Turkish border. Two other strikes hit a crude oil collection point and an Islamic State weapons stockpile near Raqqa. The strikes in Iraq targeted Islamic State units and property in four towns.

8. According to AFP, Islamists killed at least 22 soldiers on Thursday after a surprise attack in which they used speedboats in a failed bid to seize some of Libya’s main oil terminals. The fighting came as pro-government forces lost ground to Islamist militias in the eastern city of Benghazi, where jihadists beheaded six people and killed 14 others. The militiamen belonging to the Libya Dawn militant group, launched the attack on Al-Sidra port by firing rockets from speedboats, setting an oil tank on fire. Soldiers damaged three of the vessels before clashes in which the militants were eventually repelled.

9. According to Action 4 News, A person claiming to be a member of a cartel said they have kidnapped a border agent and threatened the agent’s life, according to police. Border Patrol is making contact with all personnel in the Rio Grande Valley sector at this time. They have now confirmed that all agents working the day of the threat have been accounted for. Now, they are working to verify all those off-duty at the time of the threat are safe.

10. According to UPI, an intelligence-sharing pact, targeting North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, has been agreed upon by South Korea and Japan. The two countries, which have never before had such an agreement, will join the United States in a trilateral deal. The formal signing occurs Monday, and the agreement will allow the three parties to respond more quickly to North Korean provocation. The United States has separate intelligence-sharing pacts with the two countries.

As you go throughout this day, keep this word in mind: Psalm 103:1-2 says, “Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits.”

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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