There are those who see the Church as a country club for saints.
And there are those who see the Church as a hospital for sinners.
Over the past year I’ve come to believe that both views are wrong. For me the Church is a training camp for soldiers or athletes, getting ready for a great spiritual battle, under the direction of the ultimate coach or drill sergeant. I got a strong affirmation of that this morning, when Leive & I went to hear Walid Shoebat at a local church. For instance, when he talked about the ongoing arguments among Christians concerning the Rapture, he said he is hoping it will be a pre-Tribulation Rapture, but he is ready if it turns out to be a post-Tribulation one. And if you’re not being persecuted for what you believe, it’s high time you started going to a church that is being persecuted!
For those who don’t know his testimony, Walid is a former Palestinian terrorist. One day he was sent on a mission to blow up an Israeli bank, and his weapon was a hollowed-out loaf of bread with a bomb concealed inside. When He got there he saw Palestinian children inside the bank, realized they would be killed if he carried out his mission, and instead threw the bomb on the roof of the building, so that no one was seriously injured when it blew up. Later he married a Catholic, started reading the Bible to find out where it contradicts the Koran, and ended up converting to Christianity. He comes across as a fiery speaker, more so than any pastor or evangelist I’ve heard in a long time, because he believes that to fight the extremist viewpoint he once held, he has to go over to the other extreme.
The church itself is called the Family Worship Center, and is located a few miles southeast of Lexington; we passed a horse farm or two on the way there. They appear to be an independent Evangelical congregation, not affiliated with any denomination. The only difference I noticed between them and similar churches elsewhere, like the one I attended in Florida, was that they had fall decorations (mainly squashes and pumpkins) outside, and went overboard on flowers inside; gosh, in another church I’d have to go to a wedding or funeral to see that many floral arrangements!
After the customary “three songs and an offering,” they showed a video, which played a Hebrew song while flashing verses from Psalm 83. You may have heard the news story about a 1,200-year-old prayer book discovered in an Irish bog last year, and how it was found opened to the 83rd Psalm. Coincidence? I don’t think so; that Psalm is a prayer for Israel to be delivered from her enemies, and the places listed as the homes of the enemies have been in the headlines a lot recently, including Tyre (Hezbollah) and Philistia (the Gaza Strip). Then Walid came up, and spoke for an hour and a half. Don’t worry, it was never boring. He began by joking that it’s a good thing the microphone didn’t blow up when he turned it on, because he has been trying to cut down on that habit. Now there’s one Christian I hope never backslides into his former ways!
The main message Mr. Shoebat has for us is that the Bible has 8,352 prophecies. According to him, most of those prophecies concern the Middle East, and a lot of them are being fulfilled right now! When God talks about His people (like when Jesus refers to “my brethren” in Matthew 25), he’s probably not talking about the Church, as much as replacement-theology Christians would like to think that He is. It’s more likely that He is talking about Israel. And we probably have it all wrong about the Antichrist. Whereas most of us are looking for a future dictator arising out of the European Union or (horrors) the United States, the society of the Antichrist described in prophecy sounds a lot like the society of today’s Islamic world. For example, Revelation 20:4 talks about the Apostle John seeing those who were beheaded for serving the Lord, and who practices beheadings today? And when Bible scholars talk about the Antichrist coming out of the Roman Empire, they only pay attention to the European part of it. Keep in mind that much of the Roman Empire–North Africa, the Middle East and even Constantinople, its most important city in the East–is now considered part of the Islamic world. To top it off, he said that the Mahdi expected by Moslems (mainly Shiites) is very much like the Antichrist of Daniel and Revelation; does that mean they are one and the same? I guess I’ll have to buy Joel Rosenberg’s new book on the Mahdi-Antichrist connection.
Besides Psalm 83, some (but not all) of the scriptures used as references were Joel 2 & 3, which state that God is judging the nations because they divided His land (sound like the Mideast peace talks of today?); Amos 9:15, which predicts that someday Israel will no longer be uprooted from the land; Isaiah 14, which gives Lucifer the same description that the Koran gives about Allah; Isaiah 34:9-10, which predicts that Arab oilfields will be ignited in the end times and burn forever; and Isaiah 63:3, which specifically mentions the Lord making war on part of the Arab world (Edom, modern Jordan and possibly Saudi Arabia). He also pointed out that when Gideon defeated the Midianite princes Zebah & Zalmunna, he took crescent-shaped jewelry from them (Judges 8:21), and one verse in Psalm 83 predicts that the enemies of Israel will become like Zebah & Zalmunna; an omen of things to come?
Afterwards, I got a picture a Leive with Walid, and she got one of me with him. Leive’s picture looks good, mine looks a little goofy, but no matter; you get the idea. We bought two copies of the DVD they were selling of Walid’s appearance in San Antonio at a CUFI conference last year, one for us and one for my pastor in Lexington. We also ordered a DVD in advance of the speech he’s going to make at the University of Kentucky this evening. When I hear the details, I’ll let you know how that turned out.
My pastor described Leive’s picture as a meeting between the Philippines and the Philistines (LOL).
Who’d have thought Leive & I would be happy to rub elbows with a real terrorist? And I don’t mean the Israeli activists like Gershon Salomon, Rabbi Eliezer Waldman, or Sondra Baras, who the State Department classifies as terrorists. Along that line, Walid pointed out that when he called for killing Jews, politically correct Westerners saw him as a freedom fighter, but now that he wants to protect Jews and fight terrorism, the same Westerners call him a racist and an Islamaphobe. Go figure!
p.s., For the sports fans reading this, UK beat Louisville in last night’s big football game, 40-34. Since UK has a reputation for playing great basketball but poor football, I’m sure this sports “miracle” will be the talk of the town for the rest of the week.