LISTEN: Urban Christian News Network #554 with Daniella Whyte

1. According to The Daily Beast, ISIS continues to gain substantial ground in Syria, despite nearly 800 airstrikes in the American-led campaign to break its grip there. At least one-third of the country’s territory is now under ISIS influence, with recent gains in rural areas that can serve as a conduit to major cities that the so-called Islamic State hopes to eventually claim as part of its caliphate. Meanwhile, the Islamic extremist group does not appear to have suffered any major ground losses since the strikes began. The result is a net ground gain for ISIS, according to information compiled by two groups with on-the-ground sources. A map developed by the Coalition for a Democratic Syria, a Syrian-American opposition umbrella group, shows that ISIS has nearly doubled the amount of territory it controls since airstrikes began last year.

2. According to CBN News, Issue same-sex marriage licenses and lose your salary. That’s the gist of a new bill proposed by a Texas Republican lawmaker Cecil Bell, Jr. Last week, he proposed House Bill 623, or what he refers to as the Texas Preservation of Sovereignty and Marriage Act. In part, the proposed measure says, “State or local taxpayer funds or governmental salaries may not be used for an activity that includes the licensing or support of same-sex marriage.” In a statement, Bell said the move was a part of his obligation to the constituents who elected him. Bell said, “Texas is a sovereign state and our citizens have the right to define marriage. We as Texans voted in 2005 to define marriage as being solely between a man and a woman. In Texas, marriage is sacred and traditional families are recognized as the fabric of our society.”

3. According to AFP, About 100 people are feared missing after a boat caught fire and sank in a river in the Central African Republic this week. The sinking happened on Monday after the boat’s motor exploded, starting a fire that quickly engulfed the vessel and forced terrified passengers to jump overboard. The boat was carrying an estimated 100 people down the Oubangui river from the capital, Bangui, when the fire broke out near the village of Modale.

4. According to The Guardian, Two people have been killed and another seriously injured in Verviers, eastern Belgium, during a police counter-terrorism raid. The Belgian public television channel RTBF said on its website that the public prosecutor’s office had confirmed the deaths after a police operation against an alleged terrorist group at around 6pm local time on Thursday. The station said there were no casualties among the security forces involved and that several people had been arrested.

5. According to St. Louis Post Dispatch, Eleven members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including Rep. William Lacy Clay, will be in Ferguson this weekend on the eve of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. Clay’s office said Thursday that the group will be there to “pursue change via the ballot box, federal legislation, the justice system and local law enforcement.” They will be at the Wellspring United Methodist Church Sunday at 11 a.m in Ferguson. Congressional Black Caucus Chairman G.K. Butterfield, will lead the delegation.

6. According to The Telegraph, President Francois Hollande declared on Wednesday that France would dispatch its only aircraft carrier, the nuclear-powered Charles de Gaulle, to reinforce the campaign against Isil. Addressing the warship’s crew, Mr Hollande prepared them for a deployment in the Middle East where France has joined the US-led air campaign against ISIL. The Charles de Gaulle, which displaces 40,000 tons and serves as the flagship of the French navy, can embark up to 40 warplanes. France has already sent nine Rafale jet fighters and six Mirages to the United Arab Emirates and Jordan respectively.

7. According to the Washington Free Beacon, Iranian military leaders admitted this week to building and operating missile-manufacturing plants in Syria, where it was also revealed that Tehran is helping to build a secret nuclear facility. An Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps commander stated in a recent interview that the country’s Supreme Leader ordered forces to build and operate missile plants in Syria, where Iran continues to fight on behalf of embattled leader Bashar al-Assad. Iran’s military actions in Syria could constitute a gross violation of sanctions on the regime enacted by the United Nations and Western powers.

8. According to AFP, The International Committee of the Red Cross has warned of a growing humanitarian crisis in Nigeria and neighbouring Niger as tens of thousands of refugees flee deadly Boko Haram attacks. It is still not known how many people died in last week’s suspected massacre in Baga, a town on the shores of Lake Chad in north-east Nigeria, however some reports suggested thousands of people may have been killed. Amnesty International said hundreds of people, if not more, were thought to have been killed in the attack, which began on January 3 and targeted civilian vigilantes helping the military. Amnesty also published satellite images of Baga and Doron Baga, just over 2 kilometres away, which it said showed the scale of the attack, adding the towns had been “wiped off the map”.

9. According to AFP, Iran and the US held more than six hours of talks Wednesday seeking to nail down a complex nuclear deal, but negotiators remained tight-lipped on what progress had been made as the clock ticks down to a third deadline. Complicating the atmosphere between the two foes, Iranian officials announced that the case of an American-Iranian journalist detained in Iran since July had been transferred to the country’s revolutionary court. Negotiators have given themselves until the end of June to reach a comprehensive agreement which would prevent the Islamic Republic from developing a nuclear bomb in return for an easing of iron-clad global sanction

10. According to the Associated Press, Hackers have targeted about 19,000 French websites since a rampage by Islamic extremists left 20 dead last week, a top French cyberdefense official said Thursday as the president tried to calm the nation’s inflamed religious tensions. France is on edge since last week’s attacks, which began at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. The paper buried several of its slain staff members Thursday even as it reprinted another weekly issue with Muhammad on its cover. Calling it an unprecedented surge, Adm. Arnaud Coustilliere, head of cyberdefense for the French military, said about 19,000 French websites had faced cyberattacks in recent days, some carried out by well-known Islamic hacker groups.

As you go throughout this day, keep this word in mind: says, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.”

Dale Carnegie said, “Don’t be afraid to give your best to what seemingly are small jobs. Every time you conquer one it makes you that much stronger. If you do the little jobs well, the big ones will tend to take care of themselves.”

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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