PODCAST: 6 Killed in Jersey City Shooting (UCNN 12.14.19)

According to Religion News Service, Six people were killed — including a police officer — in a raging gun battle Tuesday (Dec. 10) at a cemetery and corner store, forcing the city’s schools to lock down and rattling nearby residents. One officer was pronounced dead at a hospital, and three civilians and two gunmen died at a kosher supermarket, Police Chief Mike Kelly said at a news conference. A second officer was struck in the shoulder by gunfire, and a third was struck in the body, Kelly said. Both officers had been released from the hospital. Authorities said there was no immediate indication of terrorism but did not offer details about how the shooting unfolded or whether any suspects were taken into custody. “The crime scene is very extensive and is at three locations, at least,” Kelly said. The third location involves a stolen U-Haul vehicle, which was being examined by a bomb squad, Kelly said. Sacred Heart School, a Catholic school across the street from the supermarket, was locked down, along with all Jersey City schools. No students or staff were harmed, the School District of Jersey City said in a Facebook post. Anxious parents and loved ones finally reunited with their children after sundown, when 30,000 students at 43 schools were dismissed. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the men and women of the Jersey City Police Department, especially with the officers shot during this standoff, and with the residents and schoolchildren currently under lockdown,” Gov. Phil Murphy said in a tweet.

According to The Washington Post, After 30 years of preaching more than 5,000 sermons, the Rev. Howard-John Wesley stood in front of his congregation on Dec. 1 and admitted he needed a break from the Lord’s work. In an address to his congregation that was shared widely this week on social media by others in ministry, Wesley made his admission to his congregation: “I am tired in my soul.” Wesley has been pastor of the historic Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Va., for the past 11 years, leading four services every weekend, averaging 4,500 in attendance and 50,000 viewers online. “There’s a weight a pastor bears in their soul and their emotions that is inescapable,” he said. “There’s not been a day in these past 11 years that I have not woken up and knew that there’s something I had to do for the church, that I have to be available for a call, that I journey with people through the highs and the lows of life, through the great moments of celebration and in the valley of death.” He said he has been on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but will be on sabbatical from Jan. 1 to April 12, returning on Easter. “I wrestle with God, and it leaves me tired,” he said in preparation for his sermons. A fourth-generation Baptist preacher, Wesley said he’s not burned out and that’s he’s still excited about the job, but that he’s tired and needs “an intermission.” “I feel so distant from God,” he said. “One of the greatest mistakes of pastoring is to think that because you work for God, you’re close to God.” In an interview, he said he’ll be “in beaches and in woods” but declined to say where. He will turn his phone off for several hours at a time, he said, except to check on his teenage sons. He also said he has some spiritual goals while he is away. He also shared he is hoping to sleep eight hours a day — instead of four or five. He plans to shift to a plant-based diet, somewhere between vegan and pescatarian, working out five to six days a week. “When I started, I was working seven days a week. A member of the church at the time — an older lady — said, ‘Why do you work every day?’ ” he recalled. “I said, ‘The devil doesn’t take a day off.’ She said, ‘Why is the devil your role model?’ Jesus models that we need to rest.”

According to The Christian Post, One of the three heroic sailors who died protecting others during a mass shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola on Friday morning had only recently rekindled his faith. Anthony Snead, who coached Airman Mohammad Sameh Haitham, a 19-year-old from St. Petersburg, Florida, in track and cross-country at Lakewood High School in St. Petersburg, told The Washington Post how Haitham, who graduated in 2018, recently rekindled his Christian faith and had been attending church with a classmate. He explained how proud he was of Haitham who once told him that he was unsure what he wanted to do with his life, but he wanted it to be positive. “He didn’t want to be somebody who was going to coast,” Snead said. “He wanted to be someone who was going to be a positive influence. And he worked like it.” Haitham was the youngest of the three sailors who were fatally shot by a 21-year-old gunman, identified as Second Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani at Naval Air Station Pensacola. The navy identified the other fatalities as Ensign Joshua Kaleb Watson, 23, of Coffee, Alabama, and Airman Apprentice Cameron Scott Walters, 21, of Richmond Hill, Georgia. “The sorrow from the tragic event on NAS Pensacola will have a lasting impact on our installation and community,” Capt. Tim Kinsella, commanding officer at NAS Pensacola said in a statement Saturday. “We feel the loss profoundly and grieve with the family and friends of the deceased. The Sailors that lost their lives in the line of duty and showed exceptional heroism and bravery in the face of evil. When confronted, they didn’t run from danger; they ran towards it and saved lives. If not for their actions, and the actions of the Naval Security Force that were the first responders on the scene, this incident could have been far worse.” Alshamrani, who was armed with a handgun, opened fire inside a classroom building killing the three sailors and injured eight others before he was killed by a sheriff’s deputy. The FBI is currently investigating the attack as an act of terrorism, The New York Times said. Kimberly Walker, who said Haitham was her son’s best friend, told The Washington Post that his mother, who is also a Navy veteran, works for the Department of Veterans Affairs. She said he had only been stationed in Pensacola for a few months and had recently completed basic training. Authorities, she said, told Haitham’s family that he had tried to stop the shooter. “He was just so good that I knew the second [authorities] talked about a hero that he wouldn’t allow anybody else to take a bullet if he could get in the way of it,” Walker said.

According to Mission Network News, In mid-November, a pastor from South Korea was attacked and killed in Turkey. FMI’s Bruce Allen expands on the situation. “Evangelical pastor Jinwook Kim, he was stabbed…just while walking down the street in southeastern Turkey. He began serving as a pastor in this area just earlier this year, although he’s lived in Turkey for five years already. He died from his wounds after he was taken to the hospital,” Allen says. “In a sad twist to this story, his wife is expecting to deliver their second child [last] week.” Local authorities claim the pastor was the random victim of a thief trying to steal a phone. A 16-year-old has been arrested as a suspect for the murder. However, Allen and others familiar with the case suspect foul play. Allen suggests the incident may have been a targeted assassination. “From other ministry colleagues who work in that region, I have been informed that underage perpetrators, like the 16-year-old who [was] arrested, they’ve been used in a number of assassination attempts against Christians in Turkey recently, to lessen legal liability,” Allen says.

According to The Christian Post, A group of Christian worship artists and faith leaders, including Hillsong Church founder Brian Houston, prayed for President Donald Trump in the Oval Office on Friday. The musicians and ministry leaders participated in a worship service and visited the Oval Office and the Cabinet Room, where they prayed for the president and took part in a policy briefing on what the administration is doing to help the faith community and religious freedom. Attendees included the 65-year-old Houston; Bethel Music founders Brian and Jenn Johnson; Grammy-nominee Kari Jobe; her husband, Cody Carnes; Trump’s faith adviser, Paula White; and Sean Feucht, a Bethel worship leader running for Congress in California. Vice President Mike Pence also attended parts of the briefing. “Wonderful stopping by a worship leaders briefing today at the @WhiteHouse!” Pence wrote in a tweet. “America is a proud Nation of believers and our Administration will always defend the freedom of religion of every American, of every faith!” The event comes after questions were raised in September about whether or not the White House refused to invite the Sydney-based megachurch leader, Houston, to a state dinner with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Houston is regarded as Morrison’s faith “mentor.” Houston was investigated for allegations that he failed to report his father’s sexual abuse of children in his church. “Here I am at the White House. Never say never,” Houston said in an Instagram video filmed outside of the White House. “It is a great honor to go into the Cabinet Room and even into the Oval Office to pray for the president of the United States of America.” “To me, it is not about politics. It is about the position,” Houston continued. “[A]nd a significant man like the president of the United States could use all the prayer we could possibly give him.”

According to The Nashville Tennessean, The afternoon after winning Single of the Year for “God’s Country” at the 53rd CMA Awards in November (his first trophy from the Country Music Association in five years), Blake Shelton lounged on a couch in a dressing room over the bar at his Ole Red entertainment complex on Nashville’s Lower Broadway. Backstage, he said before he heard “God’s Country” in early 2019, he thought he had lost his momentum. He felt his country music career was slipping. “‘How am I going to feel when this goes away?’” he remembers asking himself. “I was kind of having that pity party.” “God’s Country,” which is from Shelton’s Dec. 13 release “Fully Loaded: God’s Country,” became his 26th No. 1 hit and heightened his presence on country radio. 2019 became the year Shelton found God — in more ways than one. It’s also the year Shelton felt his faith soar. He sings about it in “Jesus Got a Tight Grip,” a song he co-wrote with Chase McGill, Jessi Alexander and Rhett Akins, also included on “Fully Loaded: God’s Country.” Now at Ole Red, Shelton shared the inspiration behind his new dedication to God and how his faith impacts other parts of his life. It sparked, he said, with the start of his unlikely relationship with girlfriend Gwen Stefani. The two connected on the set of NBC’s “The Voice” while they were both mired in messy divorces. “I believe in God now more than I ever have in my life,” said Shelton, who also admitted he still drinks and cusses more than he should. “The biggest part of that is just how (Gwen) came into my life and now our relationship. It’s just too weird. If you take God out of it, it doesn’t make sense. If you put God into it, everything that’s happened with us makes sense.” Shelton and Stefani have been a couple since fall 2015. She convinced him to attend church regularly for the first time in his life, and he said he realized it was time to “turn a page.”

According to The Christian Post, A New Testament inspired role-playing video game called “I Am Jesus Christ” is set to be released early next year and will allow gamers to portray Jesus Christ. Polish game developer PlayWay released a trailer for “I am Jesus Christ” on YouTube Dec. 6 which shows how gamers can play out events in Jesus’ life such as performing miracles for points. The game also depicts the crucifixion and Jesus’ resurrection as the stone is rolled away from the tomb. “‘I am Jesus Christ’ is a realistic simulator game inspired by stories from the New Testament of the Bible,” a description of the game reads on Steam, the site that will distribute the video game. “Check if you can perform all famous miracles from the Bible like Jesus Christ. It is a simulation game and you can try to save the world as He did. Are you ready to fight with Satan in the desert, exorcise demons and cure sick people? Or calm the storm in the sea?” A trailer for the game has been viewed on YouTube more than 440,000 times but is receiving mixed reviews.

You can read these stories and more at UrbanChristianNews.com.

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!