LISTEN: Urban Christian News Network #601 with Daniella Whyte

1. According to Fox News, Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, ticking off a litany of President Obama policies he opposes, promised Monday to return to a government by Constitution and “stand for liberty” as he officially announced his 2016 presidential bid. Cruz made the announcement during a speech at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. He earlier declared his candidacy via a Twitter post early Monday, becoming the first major candidate to officially declare. He is expected to start his campaign immediately rather than launch an exploratory committee, which many do as a precursor to a campaign.

2. According to ASSIST News Service, Saddleback Church, founded by Pastor Rick and Kay Warren, celebrated 35 years of ministry influence and impact during a special community-wide service on Saturday at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California. Some 20,000 people from around the world attended the service during which the Warrens announced plans for the next chapter of Saddleback Church’s history. Pastor Warren preached the same sermon he preached during the first service hosted by Saddleback Church in 1980, titled “A Daring Faith” – but in past tense, proving how the founding members’ vision has become a reality. The Warrens also announced plans for Saddleback’s next stage called “Daring Faith.” Over the next 10 weeks, church members will be encouraged to participate in special small groups to foster unity across the congregation as the church enters its next decades of ministry.

3. According to the AP, A third attacker in the deadly assault on the National Bardo Museum in Tunisia is still on the run, the country’s president said Sunday, but he “won’t get far.” President Beji Caid Essebsi said the Wednesday attack at the museum in Tunis – which left 23 dead — involved “three aggressors” and the third man escaped. He was speaking live with French network iTele from inside the museum.

4. According to The Washington Post, The Senate had two things to do this week — pass a bill cracking down on sex slavery, and vote on the nomination of Loretta Lynch to be attorney general — and it did neither of them. So barring an eleventh-hour weekend compromise, Lynch, who would become the first black woman to serve as attorney general, will wait until at least mid-April before a confirmation vote is held, extending an unusually long wait that Democrats have tried to turn to their political advantage by portraying the delay as tied to Lynch’s race and gender.

5. According to the AP, President Barack Obama said he takes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “at his word” for saying that an independent Palestinian state will never co-exist with Israel as long as he is in office, yet another sign of the strained relations between longtime allies. Netanyahu has backpedaled since he stunned the U.S. and the international community by announcing that dramatic policy reversal on the eve of his re-election Tuesday. But in his first public comments on the election outcome, Obama suggested that he does not believe the Israeli leader’s softer position on the Palestinian state issue. Obama, who placed a congratulatory telephone call to Netanyahu on Thursday, said he indicated to the prime minister that the U.S. remains committed to a two-state solution as the only way to keep Israel secure.

6. According to USA Today, With or without an Iran nuclear deal, CIA Director John Brennan says the United States will keep pressure on the Iranian government — over both nuclear development and terrorism. Brennan said on Fox News Sunday, “The nuclear program is one issue that we’re hoping to be able to halt. But also, we see that Iran is still a state sponsor of terrorism.” Brennan said, “whether there’s a deal or not,” the United States will have to “continue to keep pressure on Iran and to make sure that it is not able to continue to destabilize a number of the countries in the region.”

7. According to BBC, Nine British medical students and doctors are feared to have travelled to Syria to work in areas controlled by Islamic State militants. The group, all in their late teens or early 20s, had been studying medicine in Sudan. Some of their relatives, who have travelled to the Turkish-Syrian border, told the BBC they were gravely concerned about their welfare. The medics are believed to have entered Syria more than a week ago.

8. According to NBC News, Thirty-five years after he made them, Bob Jones III, one of the country’s most influential evangelical Christian leaders, has apologized for comments calling for gay men and lesbians to be killed “as the Bible commands.” Jones, chancellor and former president of Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C., issued the apology Saturday, calling his comments in 1980 “antithetical to my theology and my 50 years of preaching a redeeming Christ.” A petition on Change.org filed by BJ Unity, a nonprofit organization of LGBTQ alumni of the private evangelical college, has sought the apology since 2012.

9. According to the AP, The bodies of seven siblings who died in a house fire are headed to Israel for burial, a day after their sobbing father told mourners in his ultra-Orthodox Jewish community how much joy they had brought him. Flames engulfed the family’s two-story, brick-and-wood home in Brooklyn’s Midwood neighborhood early Saturday, likely after a hot plate left on a kitchen counter set off the fire that trapped the children and badly injured their mother and another sibling. The tragedy had some neighborhood Jews reconsidering the practice of keeping hot plates on for the Sabbath, a common modern method of obeying tradition prohibiting use of fire on the holy day.

10. According to Reuters, A Syrian military helicopter crashed in northwestern Syria on Sunday and at least four of its crew were captured by rebels, according to a monitoring group. Video footage on social media showed a helicopter crashing in the distance. Photographs posted showed one of the crew apparently executed on the spot and an injured pilot taken by rebels from the wreckage. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks violence in the country, said at least four of the six crew were taken hostage by the al Qaeda offshoot, the Nusra Front.

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