LISTEN: Urban Christian News Network #543 with Daniella Whyte

1. According to World Bulletin, With an estimated 9,000 killed and nearly 1.5 million displaced, 2014 is considered the bloodiest year of Boko Haram’s five-year insurgency. Underscoring the severity of militant attacks this year, Nigeria Security Network, an NGO specialized in tracking casualties, said over 940 people had been killed in insurgent attacks in November alone. According to the group, May was the bloodiest month, with an estimated death toll of over 4,000 people. At least 17 people were reportedly killed Monday when an explosive device at a popular bus park exploded in Nigeria’s northeastern Gombe State.

2. According to Charisma News, For a record 58th time, Billy Graham has been named as one of the 10 most admired men in the world. Gallup released its annual list on Monday after surveying 805 people throughout the United States and asking, “What [woman/man] that you have heard or read about, living today in any part of the world, do you admire most?” Sharing a spot with former President George W. Bush, Mr. Graham tied for fourth place on this year’s list of most admired men. The 96-year-old evangelist has been among the top 10 every year since 1963 (except 1976, when the survey didn’t happen). He also appeared on the list every year from 1955-1961.

3. According to CBN News, A watchdog group says the Islamic State has killed nearly 2,000 people over the past six months, the majority of them civilians. Reuters cited a recent report by the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which says the jihadists killed about 1,100 civilians in Syria, including 900 members of a Sunni Muslim tribe that fought against them over control of two oil fields. The group also summarily executed journalists, activists, and anyone else who violated Islamic (Sharia) law, often beheading its victims or stoning them to death. According to the watchdog group, the Islamic terrorists have killed an estimated 120 of its own members over the past two months, many of them foreign fighters trying to return to their homes.

4. According to the Los Angeles Times, the Syrian government said Saturday that it would be willing to participate in a Russia-sponsored conference to end its almost four-year-long civil war. The Syrian state news agency said there had been “ongoing discussions” to plan a meeting that would be a prelude to a peace conference in Moscow. It also vowed to continue to combat terrorism “over every part of Syrian soil.” The Syrian government regards the rebellion against its rule as terrorism, and routinely uses that term when discussing the anti-government forces. Russia has been a staunch ally of the government of President Bashar Assad, and is deeply distrusted by his foes, limiting the odds of success of any such conference.

5. According to the Associated Press, a senior commander in Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard has been killed during a battle against the Islamic State extremist group in Iraq. A statement posted on the Guard’s website said Brig. Gen. Hamid Taqavi was “martyred while performing his advisory mission to confront ISIS terrorists in Samarra.” Shiite Iran says it has sent military advisers to assist Syria and Iraq in battling Sunni-led rebels and extremist groups, but has denied sending any combat forces to either country. The Guard said Taqavi was assisting Iraqi troops and Shiite volunteers defending Samarra, a city north of Baghdad which is home to a major Shiite shrine. It did not provide any details on how he was killed but said a funeral procession will be held in Tehran on Monday.

6. According to Reuters, The United States called on Tuesday for the release of U.S. citizens held in Iran, but denied a report that Washington had proposed a prisoner exchange for a former U.S. Marine. A lawyer for Amir Hekmati, an Iranian-American former U.S. Marine jailed in Tehran, was quoted in a report earlier on Tuesday on Iran’s semi-official Tasnim News Agency as saying that the United States had sought his release through a prisoner swap. “Those reports are not accurate,” State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke told a regular news briefing in Washington. “The U.S. government has not proposed a prisoner exchange for Mr. Hekmati. It’s not true. We do, however, call on the Iranian government to release Amir Hekmati immediately, as well as detained U.S. citizens Saeed Abedini and Jason Rezaian, and to assist us in locating Robert Levinson.”

7. According to the Los Angeles Times, Embattled Rep. Michael G. Grimm, who pleaded guilty last week to tax evasion, said he would resign before Congress returned next week. Grimm, 44, had said he would stay in Congress as long as he could, but he reportedly talked with House Speaker John A. Boehner and said Monday night that he would step down. Grimm said in a statement, “After much thought and prayer, I have made the very difficult decision to step down from Congress effective Jan. 5. This decision is made with a heavy heart, as I have enjoyed a very special relationship and closeness with my constituents, whom I care about deeply.” Grimm had been reelected to his Staten Island seat in November, even though he was under indictment. He admitted last week to aiding in the filing of a false tax return, according to court filings.

8. According to Reuters, a woman is critically ill in Hong Kong with the deadly H7N9 strain of bird flu, the first confirmed case in the city this winter. The woman, 68, was admitted to hospital on Thursday after falling ill on Dec. 19. The case has been classified as “imported” after it emerged the woman had recently been in the Longgang district of Shenzhen in mainland China, where the first human case of the deadly H7N9 strain was reported in March 2013. The government is trying to track down friends of the woman who may have been exposed to the virus, the source of which had not been determined.

9. According to ABC 7, An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 3.9 was felt by residents from Santa Monica to Cypress on Tuesday afternoon. The quake hit at 3:26 p.m. PT and was centered 14 miles south-southeast of Rolling Hills. Residents reported feeling shaking in Torrance, Porter Ranch, Valley Village, Hawthorne and Thousand Oaks. ABC7 Eyewitness Chuck Davis says he felt it at the Port of L.A. and thought his office on the pier was going into the water. There were no immediate reports of damage or injury.

10. According to Reuters, a British-based Syrian monitoring organization said on Sunday that the Islamic State militant group has killed 1,878 people in Syria during the past six months, the majority of them civilians. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said ISIS also killed 120 of its own members, most of them foreign fighters trying to return home in the last two months. The militant group has taken vast parts of Iraq and Syria and declared a caliphate in territory under its control in June. Since then it has fought the Syrian and Iraqi governments, other insurgents and Kurdish forces.

As you go throughout this day, keep this word in mind: Isaiah 43:18-19 says, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

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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