LISTEN: Urban Christian News Network #556

1. According to Religion News Service, On Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday (Jan. 15), just as the civil rights drama “Selma” was nominated for best picture in the Oscar race, one fact of American life was little changed. Sunday morning remains, as King once observed, the most segregated hour in America. And, against a backdrop of increased racial tensions, new research shows that most Americans are OK with that. New polling analysis released by LifeWay Research shows that two in three Americans have never regularly attended a place of worship where they were an ethnic minority. Ed Stetzer, executive director of the Nashville, Tenn.-based research firm said, “People like the idea of diversity. They just don’t like being around different people. Maybe their sense is that church is the space where they don’t have to worry about issues like this. But that could be a problem, because, if you don’t like diversity, you’re really not going to like heaven.”

2. According to VOA News, the European Union is launching new anti-terrorism projects with Muslim countries and increasing its intelligence sharing in the aftermath of deadly attacks in France and violent confrontations in Belgium. EU foreign ministers met Monday in Brussels with the Arab League’s secretary general, Nabil Elaraby. Afterwards, EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini said the EU will be sharing information on suspected terrorists and possible attacks with many countries throughout the Arab world, Africa and Asia. The ministers said they would avoid writing new legislation or initiating a prolonged military presence on the streets of Europe.

3. According to UPI, Americans honored Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday by marching in the streets and dedicating time to public service, and President Barack Obama spent the day volunteering. Activists in New York City and St. Louis, Missouri, took to the streets to demand equal justice for blacks, in response to the police killings of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. Rev. Al Sharpton honored two officers slain in December by placing a wreath on the street where they were killed. Protesters in Oakland, California, appeared outside Mayor Libby Schaaf’s home to request police accountability. The protesters played King’s speeches and chanted “Black lives matter.” President Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and their oldest daughter visited the Boys & Girls Club in Washington, D.C., to volunteer by helping with a literacy project.

4. According to Christianity Today, St. Louis is no longer in an official state of emergency. The news cameras and protestors have trickled away. And many Ferguson residents—including Christians—are determined to rebuild. ONE Ferguson, a new racially diverse community group, has been organized “by residents for residents.” The group is unique in that it comprises Ferguson residents working toward systemic improvement rather than outsiders trying to impose their own solutions. ONE Ferguson sprouted from the many community meetings held in the city of 21,000 since Brown’s death. ONE Ferguson is not a faith-based organization. But many participants are Christians. And there are at least two pastors, a deacon, a worship leader, and a theology teacher on the steering committee. Other pastors have endorsed the group.

5. According to The Washington Post, Lebanon and Israel braced for possible retaliation by Hezbollah for the deaths of six of the group’s fighters in an alleged Israeli raid in Syria, as Iran confirmed that one of its senior military commanders was also killed in the attack. The strike on Sunday, in which Israeli helicopters fired missiles at Hezbollah vehicles traveling in a Syrian-controlled portion of the Golan Heights, sent regional tensions soaring at a critical time, prompting fears of another war such as the one that erupted in 2006 with sudden and unexpected ferocity. What form such retaliation might take — or whether there would be any at all — was the subject of intense speculation as the potential for spillover from Syria’s war took yet another unpredictable twist.

6. According to USA Today, a new CBS poll should make Mitt Romney smile: 59% of Republicans say they’d like to see their 2012 presidential nominee run for the White House again. The findings by CBS come as Romney is being met with skepticism from some donors and potential Republican rivals. In the survey, 26% say they don’t want Romney in the GOP field. The poll also brings good news to Jeb Bush, who would likely compete with Romney for the same support from within the GOP establishment. Half of Republicans say they’d like to see the former Florida governor in the presidential race, while 27% think Bush shouldn’t run.

7. According to the AP, Yemen’s U.S.-backed leadership came under serious threat on Monday as government troops clashed with Shiite rebels near the presidential palace and a key military base in what one official called “a step toward a coup.” The militants seized control of state media in fierce fighting that marked the biggest challenge yet to President Mansour Hadi by the rebels, known as Houthis, who swept down from their northern strongholds last year and captured the capital in September. The violence threatened to undermine efforts by the U.S. and its allies to battle al-Qaida’s Yemeni affiliate, which claimed responsibility for the attack on a Paris satirical magazine this month and which Washington has long viewed as the global network’s most dangerous branch.

8. According to VOA News, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has again denounced the move by the International Criminal Court to launch an inquiry into possible war crimes committed against the Palestinians. In a televised speech Saturday, he called the move “absurd.” Netanyahu said the “ultimate folly” of the decision was that the democracy of Israel, a world leader in fighting terrorism, was being investigated by the ICC. At the same time, he said, “the terrorist criminals of Hamas” will be pressing the charges. He said he would not be surprised if the Islamic State, al-Qaida and Hezbollah followed suit.

9. According to the AP, Israel’s Shin Bet security service says it arrested the first known Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) cell operating inside the country. The intelligence agency said Sunday that the seven cell members belong to the country’s Arab minority. It said they were caught just before executing an attack and were practicing on animals how to behead people.

10. According to USA Today, It took the most unexpected of finishes to set up the finish everyone expected. The Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots will meet in the Super Bowl on Feb. 1, a match-up pretty much everyone has been eyeing since mid-October. As defending champions, the Seahawks have a chance to establish themselves as the NFL’s first dynasty since, well, the Patriots a decade ago, and the accompanying story lines are every bit as colorful as you can imagine. The clutchest young quarterback vs. the old master. The most versatile offense vs. the lethal Legion of Boom. Easygoing Pete Carroll and his free-wheelin’ hipsters vs. dour Bill Belichick and the Bionic Team. Generation Next vs. Aging Veterans hungry for what is perhaps their last chance.

As you go throughout this day, keep this word in mind. James 1:2-3 says, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.”

As always, we want you to know that God loves you. 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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