This is the Urban Christian News podcast. Here are the top stories you need to know about today.
According to a Gallup Poll released Monday, those who attend church frequently were the only group of Americans that did not see the state of their mental health decline in 2020. The results of Gallup’s November Health and Healthcare survey, conducted annually since 2001, reveal that the share of Americans who classify their mental health as “excellent” has reached an all-time low of 34%. The share of Americans who describe their mental health as “excellent/good” has also reached a record low of 76%. Nearly every demographic subgroup saw the state of their mental health decrease from 2019 to 2020. However, among Americans who attend religious services weekly, 46% classified their mental health as excellent. That figure is an increase from the 42% who saw their mental health as excellent in 2019. Those who attended church services weekly were also the group of Americans with the highest share of people who rated their mental health as excellent in 2020. Americans who made more than $100,000 a year came in a close second, with 45% describing their mental health as excellent.
According to the Christian Post, By Christmas, Christians in China will receive the gift of two shipping containers packed with books and Bibles, said Mission Cry President Jason Woolford. In total this year, Mission Cry has sent 160,000 free Bibles and Christian books worth $3.5 million into China. And Chinese Christians need Bibles now more than ever because of increased religious persecution, Woolford said. He said, “In January, the Communist Party intensified their persecution against Christianity. It’s not talked about, but if you look up China shutting down Bible stores, right now Bibles are being pulled from online stores in China. They’re trying to control the religion. Just as Nazi Germany did, there are only state-approved churches.” China’s government forbids the shipping of Bibles to the Chinese mainland but allows shipments of Bibles to Hong Kong, he said, noting that the country maintains some freedom in Hong Kong to create an illusion that the rest of China’s people enjoy freedom. Woolford said, “Hong Kong is China’s way to say, ‘Look, we’re normal.’ It’s like a showpiece for them. You can send a Bible [there]. We strategically use that.” Hong Kong serves as a door for Bibles to reach the rest of China, he said. Once his Chinese partners receive them, the Bibles eventually get sent to mainland China.
According to the Daily Mail, Desperate parents have gathered at a secondary school in Nigeria on Sunday, begging authorities to locate the hundreds of boys abducted from there by gunmen. While exact figures are yet to be determined, more than 300 students from the all-boys Government Science school in Kankara in Nigeria’s northwestern Katsina state are thought to be missing after being taken by men reportedly armed with AK-47s on Friday night. Abubakar Lawal travelled to the school from Zaria, a city 75 miles south of Kanara. Two of his three sons who attend the institution were among the missing. Yahaya, a 17-year-old student, told Reuters he escaped on Saturday. He gave only one name for fear of reprisals. He said he sneaked away while the kidnappers transferred students to different locations in a forest close to the school. He said, “We met someone with a motorcycle who brought us to a nearby village. From there someone brought us to Kankara.” He added that group leaders told the men not to harm them. President Buhari’s spokesman issued a statement saying the military, supported by airpower, had located the bandits’ enclave in Zango/Paula forest in the Kankara area, and there have been exchanges of gunfire in an ongoing operation. The statement did not say if any students have been rescued.
According to the Christian Post, Before actor and comedian Kel Mitchell decided to surrender to the “call” he felt “all through my life” to become a pastor, he worried that perhaps he would have had to sacrifice his secular calling. Mitchell said, “There was a time where I felt like how will it be accepted? You know? How can I do this? I even searched around, like ‘Lord, send me people that have done this’ and I had no other actor or someone in the entertainment business that I could turn to that I knew was a youth pastor but also currently on television. So I was trying to figure that out.” As he wrestled with the decision, it was his wife, Asia Lee, who gave him the deciding shot of inspiration. He recalled, “I remember I went to my wife and I said, ‘I’m trying to find someone to talk to about this,’ and she said, ‘Well, what’s wrong with being the first? What’s wrong with being that? Just being the first and trusting in the Lord? He told you to do this so trust in Him.’ And so that just spoke to my heart.” On Dec. 8, 2019, Mitchell announced that he had become a licensed minister and would serve as the youth pastor at Spirit Food Christian Center in Los Angeles, led by founding Pastor Garry D. Zeigler. The actor, who was born in Chicago, Illinois, and raised on the South Side, explained that even though answering the call to be a pastor was not an easy one, he was relieved when God showed him how he could live out his faith in both the church and the entertainment worlds. He said, “When you put Him in everything in your life, He helps you navigate and make the decisions in your life …. When I started to do that, doors started opening up in my life and it would be the things where God would go, ‘OK, yeah, go speak to this youth group, go speak to these children. Go speak even though you might not feel like speaking.’ I might not feel like speaking at that point but I went and told my story. All through my life I’ve felt the call to be a pastor. I would hear the Lord telling me but I had to be ready and I had to be obedient within that and I just hit a moment where it was just like, you know what? This is really what I want to do.”
According to the Chicago Tribune, When something inordinately rare or unexpected happens, it is said “the planets aligned.” On Dec. 21, the winter solstice, two planets will appear nearly aligned, resulting in an event so uncommon it’s befitting of the saying. At one time, astronomers may have felt it so closely resembled a Christmas miracle — or, perhaps, the star of Bethlehem — that they named the spectacle the “Christmas Star.” The event is called a conjunction, said Shane Larson, associate director of Northwestern’s Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics. Larson said, “Conjunctions of Jupiter and Saturn happen every 20 years and most aren’t very close at all. What’s special this year is they’re right, right next to each other. These two planets have never been this close in the sky for 400 years so no one really knows what it’s going to look like because it hasn’t happened since 1623, in Galileo’s time. That kind of gives you a sense of the rarity of the event. This is not just a once-in-a-lifetime event, this is a once-in-our-history since-we-built-the-telescope event.”
According to Black Enterprise, A group of Historically Black College and University athletes have filed a class action lawsuit against the NCAA and its Academic Performance Plan. The plaintiffs, J’ta Freeman, Austin Dasent and Troyce Manassa, allege the NCAA’s APP is based on a formula that includes metrics the NCAA knew would discriminate against Black Student athletes at HBCUs. The suit goes on to say the APPs postseason bans represent a pattern of intentional discrimination against student-athletes at HBCUs. According to HBCU Gameday, the APP requires teams to hit specific academic benchmarks using a metric called the Academic Progress Rate. Punishment for failing to hit the benchmarks can range from cutting practices to a postseason ban. The suit states the benchmarks, which are based on grades, eligibility and whether athletes are graduating or staying in school, put HBCU athletes at a disadvantage because the mission of HBCUs has always been to give low-income, first generation and at-risk students an opportunity at a higher education. The complaint also notes the NCAA knew that its APP’s metrics continued to reinforce racial disparities knowing the graduation success rates for Black athletes were 20-30 percentage points lower than for white athletes.
According to ESPN, Friday night’s game had long been out of reach when Arizona State’s Jackson He scored on a 1-yard run in the fourth quarter. Arizona State’s players acted as if he had just scored the winning touchdown against rival Arizona. A walk-on, He is believed to be the only Chinese-born player in the Football Bowl Subdivision, and the Sun Devils have celebrated his heritage by putting his name in Chinese on the back of his jersey. The redshirt junior entered in the fourth quarter Friday and, after Rachaad White stepped out at the 1 to give his teammate a chance to score, bulled through a defender into the end zone for what Arizona State said was the first touchdown by a Chinese-born player in FBS history. He pointed to the back of his jersey and was mobbed by teammates after the score. The support continued with tweets from around the world, long after Arizona State’s 70-7 road victory. He said, “I’ve already received a lot of messages. I strongly feel their love for this game and for me. I’m so grateful.”
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In closing, remember, God loves you. He always has and He always will. 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 Jesus as your Saviour, today is a good day to get to know Him. Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died, was buried, and rose from the dead for you. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart 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 and may God bless your day!