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LifeWay Research Study Reveals Church Planting in U.S. is Bigger Than Previously Realized


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Nashville, Tenn. (Vocus) November 15, 2007

Denominational growth in America has reached a plateau and in many cases has declined, but one would get the wrong idea to think the evangelical church is dying in the United States. A recent study finds just the opposite.

Dallas-based Leadership Network, in cooperation with the director of LifeWay Research , has uncovered striking changes in the number and type of new churches started in the United States. These developments promise profound cultural implications for the future.

“While much of the North American church is in decline, a surprising number and increasingly diverse group of new churches are being started in innovative ways,” said Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research, the research arm of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. “These churches are causing many Americans to reconsider churches they have rejected and to re-think what church is. I anticipate that as cultures change, through the inevitable shift of time, migration, and other means, even more churches will be born that reach people from these new cultural contexts.”

The “State of Church Planting USA” study was based on interviews with more than 100 denominational leaders (representing dozens of different denominations), 200 church-planting churches and some 45 church planting networks (The four-part study including a podcast can be downloaded at www.leadnet.org/churchplanting). Stetzer headed up the project and reported that the results surprised him in many respects.

“Church planting has grown in its scope, diversity and impact,” Stetzer said. “North American churches, networks and denominations are making church planting a growing priority. Such emphases push the church closer toward a movement – where churches plant churches that plant churches across North America and the world.”

Dave Travis, managing director at Leadership Network, observed, “Most church-planting studies tend to look at either a very narrow slice of church planting or developments on a global scale. In commissioning this study, our goal was to review the current state of U.S. church-planting efforts and begin to assess what today’s reality means for the next generation of planters.”

Key findings of the six-months-long effort include the following:

1.    Interest is growing rapidly. The pace of church planting has accelerated dramatically in recent years. For example, a simple Google search on the term “church planting” now returns over one million hits. And, while only two mainstream books were published on church planting from 1996 to 2002, no fewer than 10 have been released in the last five years, with several more on the horizon. Equally important, church planting has now become a preferred ministry option, not a consolation prize – denominations and individual churches report that many of their “best and brightest” leaders are pursuing church planting as a primary ministry focus.

2.    Local churches and church planting networks are driving the charge. Historically, church planting has been a denominationally driven activity. Today, the picture is quite different – with much of the energy centered at the local level. Many of the country’s most vibrant congregations see church planting as one of their central purposes. “Church-planting networks” – loose affiliations of churches that may or may not be tied by denomination but do share a commitment to launching new, like-minded congregations – are also at the forefront of the movement. As a result, denominational offices are increasingly taking a subordinate role – equipping rather than directing local congregational efforts.

3.    “Affinity” strategies dominate. Church planters once based their efforts on geography – the goal was to place new churches in “unserved” communities and areas. Today’s church planters are much more sophisticated. As Travis noted, “Through this study, we learned that most successful church planters today are specialists who emphasize a particular style of worship or a specific demographic. For example, they may exclusively plant house churches or ethnic churches – or perhaps build purpose-driven, seeker or missional churches. And the trend toward specialization is likely to continue as more tools and resources that serve specific types of planting strategies are developed.”

4.    Survival and success are markedly greater than realized. Observers have long assumed that most church plants fail within the first year – as many as 80-90 percent, by some estimates. Research reveals a very different picture – suggesting that 68 percent of the roughly 4,000 churches planted each year are still functioning four years later. These baby churches may not yet be self-sufficient, but the congregations themselves are alive and many are thriving.

What do these results mean for the future of the U.S. church? According to Travis, “I am hopeful that this study and the growing number of outstanding church planting conferences and resources will inspire a new wave of planters in the years ahead. That would be very good news indeed. Launching vibrant new congregations is often a more feasible and more fruitful strategy than attempting to revitalize struggling congregations.”

Leadership Network has created four free reports that summarize different aspects of this groundbreaking study:

    Church Planting Overview
    Who Starts New Churches?
    Funding New Churches
    Improving the Health and Survivability of New Churches

All can be downloaded at www.leadnet.org/churchplanting. A 25-minute podcast interview of Dave Travis and Ed Stetzer is also available as a free download at www.leadnet.org/podcasts.

About LifeWay Research: LifeWay Research is a department of LifeWay Christian Resources and exists for the purpose of assisting and equipping church leaders with insight and advice that will lead to greater levels of church health and effectiveness. Additional studies can be found at www.lifewayresearch.com. Contact Chris Turner, media relations manager, LifeWay Christian Resources, to arrange an interview with Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research.

About Leadership Network: Based in Dallas, Texas, Leadership Network is a non-profit public charity that fosters church innovation and growth in furtherance of its far-reaching mission to identify, connect and help high-capacity Christian leaders multiply their impact. Church planting is one of many areas in which the organization works. For more on Leadership Network, see www.leadnet.org , www.halftime.org and www.successtosignificance.com or contact Rick Long at 1.800.477.6698 x102 or rlong @ sourcepub.com.

CONTACT:

Chris Turner, Media Relations Manager

chris.turner @ lifeway.com

(615) 251-2307

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The Bible Reveals Next and Last Pope Will Be a Devil Impersonating John Paul Ii

The Bible Reveals Next and Last Pope Will Be a Devil Impersonating John Paul Ii

The Bible reveals next and last pope will be a devil impersonating John Paul II

Why this is True

Through the study of Revelation chapter 17, the Lord has led us to a most startling truth, confirming that we are nearer to the end of all things than ever imagined. We are prompted by our loving God to share this prophecy, that none need be ensnared by the global events soon to transpire which will engulf the world in the grandest deception yet contrived by Satan.

World’s Last Chance dares to declare this interpretation to the world because we adhere only to sound Biblical interpretation. This means we unlock Bible prophecy by using the Bible as its own interpreter. By doing so we are certain of the correctness of the revelation.

With the vivid realization that we are living in the age just prior to the second coming of Christ in the clouds of heaven, we pray the Lord will impress you with the shortness of time available before the fate of every living person is decided, and may His Spirit give you the discernment and wisdom needed as you undertake this solemn study. AMEN.

Revelation 17

1. Which part of the Bible led you to reach this conclusion?

It was chapter 17 of the book of Revelation. Please read through this whole chapter from your Bible carefully. Its exposition is given below.

2. Give a short explanation of this chapter.

Briefly, John is shown the final judgment of the great whore due to her own course of action. This great whore, referred to as Babylon the great, was shown to John in the wilderness (v.3). This is an important setting, as will be seen later.

The description of the whore is parallel to the first beast of Revelation 13 that also has seven heads and ten horns (v.7) indicating that both symbols represent the same entity that being the Roman Catholic papal system. Furthermore, the whore is described as sitting on seven mountains (v.9). Rome has frequently been identified as the City of Seven Hills, from classical times down to contemporary time.

Whereas in Revelation 13 the union of church and state was blended in one symbol, in Revelation 17 God has pictured them separately. A woman always symbolizes a church in the Bible, in this case the whore an impure church. And a beast has always signified a kingdom or state that persecutes God’s people. So we have an impure woman sitting on (i.e. controlling) a scarlet-colored (a bloody) beast (state). This again reinforces the reality of the Catholic system being the only system that is a church and an earthly kingdom at the same time. This whore is described as being eminently rich, proud, and more importantly, very corrupt (v.4,5). Indeed, it represents Satan’s final supreme instrument of deception.

The following verses are key verses: “And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space. And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition.” Revelation 17:10, 11. God elaborates on the seven heads of the beast, which are identified as seven kings. Significantly, the vision was viewed during the reign of the sixth king. He was to be followed by the seventh king, who will rule for a short time. However, the eighth king is going to be one of the previous seven kings, but that when he appears from the bottomless pit (v.8), he will not only merely be a king (ruling power) but a beast (a persecuting power); finally, he will then go into perdition.

When one of the seven kings re-appears from the bottomless pit as the eighth king but in the form of a beast, the ten kings of the earth (v.12) (ten is an all-inclusive, universal number indicating that this includes all earthly rulers; cf. parable of ten virgins) will be greatly awed by the beast, and will willingly surrender their power to the beast for a short time (v.12,13). Both the beast and the ten kings will rule and war against Christ in the person of His followers for a short time, and will overcome them (v.14).

Just before the end of all things, the ten kings will discover that they have been ensnared and deceived by the beast (the eighth king from the bottomless pit) and they will turn with vengeance against the beast system, and destroy it (v.16). For they will this time, though belatedly, be doing God’s will (v.17).

The Wilderness Setting

3. The great whore sitting on the beast was viewed in the wilderness (Rev.17:3). What is the significance of this?

This is important as it is not by happenstance that the “great whore who sitteth upon the scarlet beast” was seen in the wilderness. In Revelation 17, God is indicating the time-period that the Roman Catholic Church is in. To understand what will happen to the world when she comes out of her wilderness experience, we need to understand how the Roman Catholic Church entered this wilderness experience.

4. What does wilderness mean in Bible prophecy?

In the Book of Revelation we have another instance of a church that went into the wilderness. It was God’s true church during the Middle Ages, when the church was subject to papal persecution: “And the woman (church) fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand and two hundred and threescore days.” Revelation 12:6. We know that this church was pure, for it is God who led her to the wilderness, away from the papal persecution that raged for 1260 years from 538 A.D. until 1798 A.D. The dragon (Satan) was warring against the church during this period, using his earthly instrument, the Roman Catholic Church: “And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.” Revelation 12:14. The wilderness then, in Bible prophecy, is a figure of speech picturing the harsh conditions facing a church in a particular period in her history.

5. When did God’s true church come out of her wilderness experience?

The logical answer to this question would be, when the papal persecution ceased. This officially happened in 1798, when Napoleon Bonaparte sent General Berthier to Rome where he exiled Pope Pius VI to Valence in France. At the same time Berthier declared an end to the temporal power over much of Europe that the Catholic Church had enjoyed upto that time. It was a most humiliating and abrupt end to a long rule of power that lasted 1260 years. Shortly after, Christian Bible Societies spread all over the world, with their work unhampered or threatened by papal constrictions. Thus, 1798 marks the date when God’s church ended her wilderness experience. Now His church was totally free to focus her energies on translating and printing the Bible in as many languages as possible and to conduct missionary activities all over the world.

6. Did the Catholic Church then enter her wilderness experience just as God’s true church came out of it?

This was exactly the case. In 1798 the Catholic Church not only lost her temporal power over the kings, dukes, and princes of much of Europe, but the Church was in fact no longer free to carry her own ecclesiastical privileges, such as selecting a pope to succeed Pius VI. Her representatives needed the permission of Napoleon Bonaparte before they could appoint Pius VII in 1900 to succeed the pope who died in exile, a year earlier.

Furthermore, the wilderness experience for the Catholic Church came to bear on her in a most profound way from an entirely unexpected direction from her own backyard, Italy. Here is the background for the harsh and arid realities of life that faced the Catholic Church in Italy in the nineteenth century.

After the second and final defeat of Napoleon in 1815, Italians found their peninsula divided into states, duchies, and Papal States. Metternich, the strong Austrian leader at the time, used to refer to Italy as a mere ‘geographical expression’, reflecting the absence of united country. This odd situation gave rise to nationalistic attempts to unify Italy into one country. However, these attempts were met with great suspicion and resistance from the Catholic Church. Over time, the conviction grew in the minds of these nationalistic leaders that the Catholic Church was indeed a serious obstacle to the fulfillment of their national aspirations.

However, the move to unite Italy and form a united nation passed an important milestone when the Papal States were usurped in 1860 by force. There remained one major obstacle, however, for the creation of one Italian nation. The Italians wanted Rome, the seat of the Roman Catholic Church and the last piece of property left for the Church, to serve as the capital of their united country. This Italian dream came about when Italian troops occupied Rome on September 20, 1870, during the reign of Pope Pius IX. Shortly after, the Kingdom of Italy was declared.

However, the pope refused to recognize the new kingdom and went into voluntary captivity in protest. This unprecedented situation came to be known historically as the Roman Question. It remained unresolved for 59 years, during which time all succeeding popes confined themselves to movement within the few buildings in the Vatican in Rome, refusing to leave Rome. Indeed, the Catholic Church in the nineteenth century was engulfed in a very hostile wilderness setting.

In summary: we have seen thus far that from 1798 (when Pope Pius VI was banished to Valence by the French general) until 1870 (when Rome was usurped by the Italian

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