LISTEN: Urban Christian News Network #556 with Daniella Whyte

1. According to The Washington Times, U.S. officials on Wednesday urged calm between Israel and Hezbollah after a barrage of anti-tank missile strikes by the Iran-backed militant group triggered retaliation from Israeli military forces and raised fears that the two sides may be on the verge of a war like the one that broke out between them in 2006. State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said the U.S. “strongly condemns” Hezbollah for striking Israel and framed the action as a “blatant violation” of the U.N. cease-fire that ended the 2006 war, but she also called on all parties — including Israeli forces — to “refrain from any action that could escalate the situation.” Ms. Psaki put the onus on Hezbollah, a well-armed militia that carries political influence in Lebanon, where it holds a small number of seats in the nation’s parliament. Hezbollah ranks high on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations.

2. According to VOA News, With Boko Haram intensifying its onslaught just weeks ahead of national elections, governors in the three Nigerian states hardest hit by the radical group on Tuesday called for United Nations and foreign military intervention to stem the violence. The plea by the governors of Adamawa, Yobe and Borno state underscored the chaos that has gripped northeast Nigeria, as well as rising tensions ahead of the Feb. 14 vote. At a news conference Tuesday in Yola, the capital of Adamawa state, Governor James Ngilari told reporters that the United Nations and other world powers must come to the aid of Nigerians. He spoke on behalf of the governors in Borno and Yobe, and said the region needed not only food, but military intervention.

3. According to Religion News Service, A high-profile alliance of conservative Catholics and evangelical Protestants is set to issue a sweeping manifesto against gay marriage that calls same-sex unions “a graver threat” than divorce or cohabitation, one that will lead to a moral dystopia in America and the persecution of traditional believers. Nearly 50 signers of the statement, which is to be published in the March edition of the conservative journal First Things said, “If the truth about marriage can be displaced by social and political pressure operating through the law, other truths can be set aside as well. And that displacement can lead, in due course, to the coercion and persecution of those who refuse to acknowledge the state’s redefinition of marriage, which is beyond the state’s competence.”

4. According to Reuters, Two Israeli soldiers and a Spanish peacekeeper were killed on Wednesday in an exchange of fire between Hezbollah and Israel, one of the most violent clashes between the two sides since a 2006 war. The soldiers were killed when Hezbollah fired five missiles at a convoy of Israeli military vehicles on the frontier with Lebanon. The peacekeeper, serving with a U.N. monitoring force in southern Lebanon, was killed as Israel responded with air strikes and artillery fire. Hezbollah said one of its brigades in the area had carried out the attack, which appeared to be in retaliation for a Jan. 18 Israeli air strike in southern Syria that killed several Hezbollah members and an Iranian general.

5. According to The Algemeiner, Israel has warned the Lebanon-based terror group Hezbollah not to approach the border or attack its interests abroad, in a message conveyed via Moscow. The message, delivered through Russian intermediaries, stated that “Israel is not interested in the deterioration of security and escalation on the northern border, but will not allow the presence of terrorists near the border.” Israel’s Defense Minister said during a recent visit to the area that, “we will respond strongly to any attempt to harm us.”

6. According to The Washington Times, Alabama’s first openly gay legislator has threatened to expose the extramarital affairs of some of her Republican colleagues due to their opposition to same-sex marriage. State Rep. Patricia Todd said without naming who she planned to expose, “I will not stand by and allow legislators to talk about ‘family values’ when they have affairs, and I know of many who are and have. I will call our elected officials who want to hide in the closet OUT.” Her comments followed Republican criticism last week of a federal court ruling that overturned Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban.

7. According to the Times of Israel, a senior Israeli diplomatic official said on Monday that a crisis in the current nuclear negotiations between six world powers and Iran, generated by new sanctions, could lead to their breakdown and ultimately to a renewed round of negotiations with better results. He added that the talks would likely not yield an agreement by their March 31 deadline, and that without new sanctions they would likely not yield a deal at all. He said new sanctions and an ensuing “crisis in talks can certainly sharpen dilemmas for Iran and can lead to the achievement of an agreement on better terms. The combination of political pressure and economic levers increases the chances of better results in the negotiations.”

8. According to USA Today, NATO’s chief said that a weekend rocket attack in the Ukrainian city of Ma-ri-u-pol came from areas controlled by separatists who are receiving more equipment from Russia. Secretary General Jens Stol-ten-berg said, “We condemn the sharp escalation of violence along the cease-fire line in eastern Ukraine by Russia-backed separatists. This comes at great human cost to civilians.” Stol-ten-berg spoke after Russian President Vladimir Putin accused NATO of pursuing its own interests in Ukraine and using civilians as “cannon fodder.”

9. According to CNBC, Amid a tumultuous past year for McDonald’s, the fast food chain’s CEO Don Thompson is retiring, effective March 1. The restaurant’s Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Brand Officer Steve Easterbrook will replace Thompson, who is a 25-year veteran of the company. On Friday, the company delivered its latest update on its ongoing U.S. turnaround, ongoing problems in Asia and the currency headwinds it faces. Following the news, the company’s stock ticked up 3 percent. Its stock is nearly flat during Thompson’s tenure as CEO.

10. According to USA Today, The Supreme Court on Wednesday blocked the next three executions scheduled in Oklahoma pending its review of the state’s controversial three-drug cocktail for lethal injections. The ruling was expected, since both lawyers for the convicted murderers and the state itself had urged the justices to intervene. But Oklahoma also wanted the court to allow executions to resume if it could find a replacement drug, and the court left open that possibility. The court’s order is the latest in a series of actions it has taken on issues relating to the death penalty.

As you go throughout this day, keep this word in mind: Mark 9:35 says, “Jesus sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.”

Mark Caine said, “The first step toward success is taken when you refuse to be a captive of the environment in which you first find yourself.”

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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