LISTEN: Urban Christian News Network Report #555 with Daniella Whyte

1. According to BCNN1, In a gathering both celebratory and sobering, pastors from across the nation concluded “The Reconciled Church: Healing the Racial Divide” forum with a public event at the Potter’s House in Dallas, TX. Bishop Harry Jackson, one of the nation’s most prominent African-American pastors who spearheaded the gathering, said he was inspired to call together over 75 pastors and Christian leaders while talking to a minister from Ferguson, MO, who lamented that the ‘church has the solution’ for America’s racial problems, yet no one is listening. At the opening of the service, which took place after a day of closed-door, discussion, Jackson said, ‘The racial problem is too big for one church, one city… but nothing is too big for Jesus. God is able to heal America from her cancer of racism.’ He shared that the leaders had outlined “seven bridges” that would guide churches to reach out into their communities and work to overcome racial tensions, disenfranchisement, lack of opportunity, and lack of education. (Those seven bridges are outlined at http://www.TheReconciledChurch.org.) Several of the pastors who attended the forum spoke at the evening service sharing their thoughts and a joint call to action with the audience as well as with those watching online and on television. The meeting concluded with a communion ceremony. For more about “The Reconciled Church” and what your church can do, visit: http://www.TheReconciledChurch.org.

2. According to WXIA-TV, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is defending his decision to terminate the city’s fire chief following the publication of a controversial book. Mayor Reed’s office released an investigative report Tuesday from the city’s Law Department into the publication of the book by now-former Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran The 30-day report says that Cochran did not have the authority to publish the book, which is required by the city’s code of ordinances. The report also says Cochran distributed the book to at least nine subordinates at work. According to the report, at least three of those who received the book said it had been given to them unsolicited. The report describes a consensus among employees interviewed in conjunction with the investigation that publication of the book undermined Cochran’s ability to lead the fire department.

3. According to Army Times, The U.S. will send about 400 troops to train the moderate Syrian opposition, defense officials confirmed Thursday night. The training is expected to begin in early spring, and the trainers will work out of sites in Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar, said Cmdr. Elissa Smith, a Defense Department spokeswoman. Smith did not have information on which services would be providing the trainers, but she said the number of trainers could fluctuate based on course load, course requirements and other variables. In addition to the 400 trainers, enablers will be needed to support them. Coalition partners also are expected to contribute forces to the training effort, according to Defense One, which first reported the number of U.S. trainers expected to deploy.

4. According to Reuters, Oklahoma put to death convicted murderer and rapist Charles Warner on Thursday, its first execution since a faulty lethal injection last April sparked widespread criticism and led the state to draw up new protocols for its death chamber. At nearly the same time, Florida executed Johnny Kormondy, 42, for the fatal 1993 shooting of Pensacola banker Gary McAdams and the rape of his wife, according to the state Department of Corrections.Both executions had been delayed as the U.S. Supreme Court considered appeals concerning secrecy surrounding the source of the lethal injection cocktail and what is in the mix.

5. According to the New York Times, Two Italian women abducted by Islamist militants while doing aid work in northern Syria last year have been freed and are en route home, Italy’s government announced Thursday. The women, Greta Ramelli and Vanessa Marzullo, believed to have been seized in July or August by the Nusra Front, an affiliate of Al Qaeda, were among a number of Westerners in Syria who have been abducted by the Nusra Front and the Islamic State militant group. The Islamic State has beheaded at least five Western captives, including three Americans.It was not immediately clear why Ms. Ramelli and Ms. Marzullo were released or precisely how they were returning home. Italian news media said the women, believed to be in their 20s, were in Turkey and would fly to Italy on Friday.

6. According to WNCN, Duke University has canceled its plans to have a Muslim prayer announcement broadcast from Duke Chapel’s belltower on Friday afternoons. The university announced its plans to facilitate a weekly call to prayer; but on Thursday, Duke officials acknowledged the decision resulted in unintended backlash. A Duke official told WNCN the school changed its mind after it was “presented with some significant and credible concerns about safety and security.” The initial plan was to broadcast a weekly call to prayer from the chapel’s bell tower starting Jan. 16. The prayer service would then take place in the chapel basement. The university said it will instead welcome members of the Muslim community to gather on the quadrangle outside the chapel, before moving to its regular location in the chapel basement.

7. According to the Associated Press, The Obama administration is putting a large dent in the U.S. embargo against Cuba as of Friday, significantly loosening restrictions on American trade and investment. The new rules also open up the communist island to greater American travel and allow U.S. citizens to start bringing home small amounts of Cuban cigars after more than a half-century ban. Thursday’s announcement of new Treasury and Commerce Department regulations are the next step in President Barack Obama’s plan to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba. They come three days after U.S. officials confirmed the release of 53 political prisoners Cuba had promised to free.

8. According to Israel National News, Iraq on Wednesday donated $28 million to the Arab League as part of its contribution to support the Palestinian Authority (PA), an Iraqi official said, according to the Ma’an news agency. Iraq’s representative to the Arab League, Diya al-Dabbas, said that the payment highlights Iraq’s commitment to the “Palestinian cause.” He condemned Israel’s decision to freeze PA tax funds, a decision which came after the PA applied to join the International Criminal Court, and called on Arab countries to use their economic and financial weight to support the Palestinians.

9. According to Business Insider, The Rev. Al Sharpton was left fuming mad after the Oscars revealed its all-white list of nominees for this year’s Oscar awards on Thursday. Sharpton, a critic of the lack of diversity in Hollywood, announced he was holding an “emergency meeting” next week to address the issue. The prestigious awards ceremony was widely criticized after its nominees for best actor, best actress, and best director were all white. In the past two decades this has happened only one other time, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Sharpton praised the Oscars for nominating the civil-rights film “Selma” for best picture, but said it was “ironic” because the film is based on Dr. Martin Luther King’s marches.

10. According to Ynet News, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah warned that “Hezbollah is ready and prepared for a confrontation in the Galilee and beyond the Galilee,” during an interview that will be broadcast on the Lebanese Al Mayadeen network on Thursday night. Nasrallah said, “We are prepared for all that a war with Israel necessitates.” In the past, Nasrallah has threatened that his fighters “will conquer the Galilee.” In the interview, the leader of Hezbollah says, “Every attack against Syria will not be left without a response from the axis of resistance (Hezbollah, Iran, and Syria). We have weapons that can bring us a victory against any type of Israeli aggression. Hezbollah’s fighting ability was not harmed and if Israel relies on such, it is making a huge mistake. Israel is looking for a quick and decisive victory in every future war and this is impossible.”

As you go throughout this day, keep this word in mind: Galatians 5:16 says, “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”

Lionel Willard said, “Worry is a total waste of time. It doesn’t change anything. All is does it steal your joy and keep you very busy doing nothing.”

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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