This is the Urban Christian News podcast. Here are the top stories you need to know about today.
According to ABC News, A white man who pleaded guilty to torching three historically Black Louisiana churches in a 10-day span was sentenced on Monday to 25 years in federal prison. Holden James Matthews, 22, learned of his fate in federal court in Lafayette, Louisiana, at the conclusion of a two-day hearing in which parishioners displaced by the 2019 arson rampage gave emotional victim impact statements, with one person saying to Matthews “some believe you should receive the death penalty.” Prior to Judge Robert Summerhays issuing the sentence, Matthews apologized for his crimes and said he wanted congregants of the churches he destroyed to know he had found faith in the Lord. Matthews, according to prosecutors, could have been sentenced to 70 years in prison. He pleaded guilty in February to three counts of using fire to commit a felony and three counts of intentional damage to religious property, which are hate crimes under the Church Arson Prevention Act of 1996.
According to CNN, Gunmen with automatic weapons opened fire in central Vienna on Monday evening, killing at least two people and injuring dozens, as people savored the final hours of freedom before Austria entered a nationwide Covid-19 lockdown at midnight. Austrian leaders have called the shooting a terror attack, and police have launched a city-wide manhunt for at least one suspect. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said there was still a “very tense security situation,” as people across the city were asked to stay put and avoid returning home until the danger had been averted. Speaking on Austrian public broadcaster ORF, Interior Minister Karl Ne-ham-mer said several suspects had assault rifles. “We are still in battle against the would-be terrorists,” he said. Gunfire erupted at about 8 p.m. in the busy shopping and dining district near Vienna’s main synagogue which was closed. Vienna mayor Michael Ludwig said the gunmen appeared to shoot at random as people dined and drank outside due to the warm weather and virus concerns.
According to the Christian Post, The U.S. Navy SEAL Team Six has rescued an American missionary who was kidnapped by an armed group last week in the West African nation of Niger. Jonathan Hoffman, the public affairs assistant to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, said in a statement that U.S. forces conducted a hostage rescue operation during the early hours of Saturday morning in Northern Nigeria to recover an American citizen who had been held hostage by a group of armed men. The abduction was not believed to be terror-related. Hoffman assured, “This American citizen is safe and is now in the care of the U.S. Department of State. No U.S military personnel were injured during the operation.” The American citizen is 27-year-old Philip Nathan Walton, who was kidnapped last Tuesday from his farm in the remote southern Niger village of Mas-sa-la-ta, which is located near the border with Nigeria.
According to the Hill, Federal law enforcement agencies are bracing for possible unrest over the outcome of the 2020 presidential election following a highly divisive presidential campaign season. The National Security Integration Center, a key national security and counterterrorism component within Immigration and Customs Enforcement, warned in an internal email late last week about planned protests inside the Capital Beltway. “From November 4 – 7, Civil Unrest is planned throughout Downtown Washington DC. LE Intelligence Agencies have monitored several messages on protesters’ social media sites stating, ‘If you want to throw down come to Washington DC on November 4th,’” reads one of the bullets in the email. In a sign authorities are preparing for the worst, a “non-scalable” fence has been erected around the White House ahead of Election Day to create a buffer should protests turn violent. And businesses in D.C. and across various U.S. cities are boarding up their windows to help protect storefronts from the risk of looters and vandalism. No matter the result, the chances of violence appear to be rising amid clashes between supporters of the two presidential candidates.
According to the Christian Post, A New Jersey youth pastor has been arrested and charged with blackmailing young boys across four states to get them to record and send videos of themselves performing sexual acts, authorities say. Thirty-year-old Sean Higgins, who serves as a youth pastor and music leader at Harbor Baptist Church in Hainesport, a suburb of Philadelphia, was taken into custody last Thursday and charged with 28 criminal counts that include first-degree aggravated sexual assault and manufacturing child pornography. According to Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina, the six identified victims range in age from 12 to 15. The boys reside in Alabama, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and South Dakota. The youth pastor’s crimes do not involve any members of his congregation or the church’s school. Higgins also serves as a teacher at Harbor Baptist Academy, a private K-12 school that has about 75 students enrolled.
According to NBC News, An eighth grade Missouri boy died over the weekend of Covid-19 complications, becoming the state’s, and one of the nation’s, youngest deaths from the coronavirus. In a statement, Dr. Lori VanLeer, superintendent of Missouri’s Washington School District, said that the Baumgarth family confirmed their 13-year-old son Peyton had passed away from complications of the virus. VanLeer said Peyton died less than two weeks after he last attended class. The boy’s last day of eighth grade was on October 22. He began a quarantine on October 26. Within a week, his symptoms worsened. Baumgarth was hospitalized and over the weekend succumbed to complications of Covid-19, his family told the school district.
According to The Media Collective, Sadie Robertson Huff has launched a new endeavor, LO WORSHIP, encompassing a record label and publishing group, and introducing a new band by the same name, comprised of worship leaders Brantley Pollock (Church of the City, Franklin, Tennessee), Kaylea Mayo (Christ Church, West Monroe, Louisiana) and Cazaiah Franklin (Nashville). The first single from LO WORSHIP, “Compass,” written by Pollock, Mayo and Robertson Huff is available today, along with a lyric video. LO Worship will join Robertson Huff on her Spring 2021 ministry events. Robertson Huff says, “I started LO Worship because I wanted to write songs that support the messages that Live Original is already sharing: that one encounter with Jesus can change everything. People don’t always remember a 40-minute sermon—but they do remember a song! I wanted to help people find the words to sing over themselves in hard times. Worship has always done that for me. LO Worship is a group of friends, songwriters and musicians that I have gathered to together to use their gifting to write songs which magnify Jesus and lead people to that encounter with Him.”
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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!