#8 Lightening

Randy, Marty, Sam and I walked down the stairs.

The service had started at 7:00 pm (actually 6:55 pm, this was a quirk of Bob’s) and glancing at my wristwatch it now read 10:30 pm.

I felt a momentary surge of panic because I had planned on heading to the Engineering Hall around 8:30 pm to get some studying done (I was in the midst of my core engineering courses) after I dropped Sheila off.

“Oh NO!” I thought. “I ditched Sheila. I hope she is not too upset with me.”

Sheila and I had been separated at the start of the service and I had been so enthralled by the singing, the excitement of the meeting and Bob’s sermon that I had forgotten about her.

We reached the bottom of the stairs and opened the door into the meeting hall to a surprise.

I had assumed that the place would be empty since the service had ended about 8:30 pm or so. Instead, two, hours after the service was over, there were at least a 100+ people still in the house, spilling out of the front door into the front yard and out of double French doors to our right.

I heard guitar playing and loud singing coming from these doors which led to the side of the house. That was the side of the house where I had noticed what looked to be a large fish pond the previous Sunday.

A couple of dozen of people loitered in meeting room talking and laughing.  I noticed various clusters of people in deep conversation or praying in soft voices.

I scanned the room but there no sign of Sheila anywhere.

Rats!

Marty stopped at the foot of the stairs. He looked at Randy and spoke, “Let’s find Bob. Sam, you and Tik wait here and we will be back in a moment.”

Sam and I took a seat while the other two headed outside.

Sam leaned in towards me, “Brother,” he said, “I can see God’s power working in you. Randy told us about you and we prayed fervently for you. I believe that God has a terrific plan for your life.”

Then he looked at me with a beaming smile, “You know Bob actually mentioned you this afternoon. He also believes that you have tremendous potential.”

I felt that something special was happening to me and had that inner thrill I always had when people noticed my accomplishments (and I still get that thrill- it’s the way I am made). I knew my ego was being stroked and I liked it.

I looked up and sure enough Bob, wearing enormous wader boots pulled over his suit pants, walked towards me with Randy and Marty scurrying behind him.

“Praise God!,” he almost shouted, startling me. He came up and slapped me on the back.

“God is doing wonderful things here. We are seeing revival with God’s  Spirit being poured out anew my brother!”

He paused and once again gave me a penetrating stare, saying nothing.

If you ever try looking at someone in the eyes without speaking for three or four seconds you may find this very difficult and disconcerting.

Bob had a habit of doing this; fixing his eyes on people and staring unblinkingly into their eyes.  I don’t know if he did this consciously or unconsciously but, regardless, it made me want to tell him what I was thinking.

Bob, Randy and the guys shared what it means to be a first century Christian and I want to be part of this,” I said as I gestured around the room.

“I want Jesus to be Lord of all of my life. But I do believe I am a Christian. Maybe just not the kind I should be.”

Bob looked over at Sam and they nodded at each other. “You see Tik, you have been brought up in a religious household. You are like the religious young man who comes to Jesus and asks what he must do.”

I was familiar with the story.

“Jesus,” Bob continued, ” told the young man that he must give up everything. And everything means everything. Have you done that???? In fact I know that you have NOT done that have you? Unless you fully repent and turn from your evil ways and are baptized you are not a Son of God. You have been given this ‘once saved always saved’ malarky from the Baptist Church and it is simply not true. No one can pluck you from God’s hand but you can surely jump.”

Bob, of course, just massacred John Calvin’s supposition about the perseverance and preservation of the saints with his, “once saved always saved” comment; but my theology was not strong enough to counter this.

He proceeded to show me the scriptures that supported his view. I was not educated enough to know that for every scripture he pointed out supporting his Arminian view (not that I even knew what an Arminian  was) there were three to four that would support the opposite view.

My point here is not to get into a theological debate regarding this  (since I do NOT believe that either view is essential for salvation). But I am simply pointing out that Bob was twisting and bending scriptures to create a theology that served one purpose: to get my committment to MCM.

He was successful as you have probably guessed.

“Tik,”  he said, “the Bible talks about being baptized. But this is not the baptism that you have been fed by the stodgy old religious lukewarm churches.”

He was talking about the churches I had grown up with, the Southern Baptist Church; the one, which, in my arrogance and rebellion, I despised. He was playing right to my weakness; that is the selfish pride that told me  I could be a true first century Christian if only I could find the right group to join and people to surround myself with.

“The Bible talks about two baptisms you see. It speaks of the baptism by water and by the Spirit. The baptism by water is NOT just a dunking in water.  Despite what you have been told is it NOT JUST a symbol. ”

Then Bob quoted the following verses from Romans (one of the few times that MCM would ever use the book of Romans was to support their unorthodox views of Christianity): “For he is not a real Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. He is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart, spiritual and not literal. His praise is not from men but from God. ”

Bob continued, “This circumcision of the heart is referring to water baptism. Unless you are water baptized the old dead man of sin will hang around your neck and keep you from repenting. You must be baptized in faith and believe that this is happening or you will slip back into sin.”

I was confused.

I knew the Presbyterians and Methodists viewed infant Baptism as a sign and type of circumcision but this sounded strange.

But with Randy, Sam, Marty and the big guy himself telling me it was so I stuffed my doubts about this  strange doctrine into some back closet in my mind.

It would be the first of many times that I did this. Eventually this closet was stuffed full of  strange ideas which I soon accepted as being normal.

“The second baptism, the baptism of the Holy Spirit also happens during water baptism,” said Bob.

“If you truly believe, have repented and have faith the Holy Spirit will enter you, and, like the Christians in the upper room at Pentecost, you then will begin speaking in tongues. You will have divine utterances that show that the power of God is on you. And the Holy Spirit will bestow some or all of the gifts of the Spirit on you. These gifts are the power of Prophecy, Healing, Evangelism, Teaching, and Pastoring. If you believe in faith this will happen.”

Bob showed me the parts of the first chapter in Acts and then flipping pages in his Bible turned to the verse of Paul’s that said “…and some were give to be teachers …”

Intuitively I got the other side of Bob’s phrase, “If you believe in faith” statement.

That is, if I did not speak in tongues, if I did not receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit, if I did not believe that my “old man of sin” was being cut away during water baptism, then I was not believing in faith, nor I was repenting. It would mean that I was not measuring up, not spiritual enough and not striving enough to be a true first century disciple of Christ.

I looked at Randy, Marty, and Sam. Their furrowed brows evidenced concern for my life and spiritual future. They had sacrificed of their own lives in order to bring sinners like me into true Christianity hadn’t they?

I looked around the room, some four hours after the service had started, and at least 50% of the people who had attended the service were still here.

It seemed right to me. This must be the true first century Christianity and the Christ-like group I had been dreaming for these past five years. These people were committed to Christ. They had power; I could see it right now. I had experienced it upstairs.

And I wanted it. I would do whatever I needed to do to get it.

“Tik,” Bob said, “we want you be baptized. To receive the Holy Spirit. To be a true follower of Jesus. To have Him be Lord of ALL.”

He showed me the scripture in Acts where Paul had baptized the jailer and his family immediately.

“Are you ready?”

I nodded yes.

Randy was prepared for this because he led me to a half bath and handed me gym shorts and a tee shirt and waited outside while I put them on.

Then I was led out through the double French doors and there stood Bob, waist deep in what I had thought was a fish pond, surrounded by about fifty people  singing and clapping in time with a strummed guitar.

Bob had his hands on a girl’s head and her shoulders. She turned her head to look at me and I stopped dead in my tracks.

Becky, the little sister, the girl from my frat, who had broken down in tears during Bob’s sermon at the frat house, looked up at me from the pool.

She had never been a church goer.

I knew her of course. But her reputation was that of a party animal and so we had never been friends at all. She gave me a huge grin. I had never seen anyone look so happy…so…well… joyous! Her smile made me smile and a warm glow came over me and everyone suddenly stopped clapping and singing.

“So, my sister, are you truly repentant of your sins?” asked Bob looking into her eyes.

“Yes,” she said, in a very soft voice and then she began weeping with tears streaming down her face.

“Do you believe on Jesus as your Lord and Savior?”

“I do, with all my heart and soul,” she said.

“Are you willing to make Him Lord of ALL of everything in your life?”

“Yes,” she said.

“Do you believe in faith that your old man of sin will be cut away and that you will be raised again in newness life? That the old things will truly have passed away and that you will be a new person made in the likeness of him?”

“I do,” she said.

“Are you ready to receive the Baptism of Fire, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit… to receive the gifts of the Spirit, whatever they may be, and to use them for the glory of God and for his kingdom?”

“I am,” she said.

Bob lowered himself and Beck took a kneeling position in the pond.

“I baptize you my sister Becky xxxxx in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and I rebuke the demons of lust, wantonness and harlotry [“Good Lord,” I thought let’s just call her a “sleep around slut” in front of everyone!”] in the mighty NAME OF JESUS!”

And with that Bob pushed her down into the water and music from the two guitars cut in and everyone begin singing the chorus “What a Mighty God We Serve” (clap! Clap!! Clap!!) with many hopping around and dancing with each other as they sang. And as Becky came out of the water she started shouting out something that sounded like, “okallalh balla ofkoola rotalla” and then she started weeping and moaning.

Three sisters surrounded her, covering her with towels, carrying her back inside the house.

And then everyone looked to me.

And all silence suddenly reigned excepting the buzz of conversation drifting  from inside the house.

A grin spread across Bob’s face and I saw that behind him, at the edge of the pool, stood Randy, Sam and Marty .

Randy and Sam grinned from ear to ear, but Marty, with his glasses perched low on his nose, looked stone faced at me. I would get to know that look very well over the next three years or so.

Bob motioned me over and I waded into the pond.

He went through the same litany of questions with me that he had with Becky. I answered them all with a “Yes” or an “I do”.

All the while I silently prayed  silently, “Please God give me the faith to believe, give me the Holy Spirit…. please let me believe like these people…. let them see that I have faith; give me the gifts Bob talked about.” This mantra flew around and around in my mind while my heart thumped in my chest.

Then the denouement happened very, very quickly.

Bob pushed me into the water and then he, with a great jerk,  thrust me out of the water with so much force that my feet came off the concrete floor of the pool.

So out of the water I came with Bob shouting out in tongues.

And I thought well I must give it a go and, so help me, out of my mouth came sounds that I had never consciously considered. A sort of “kalachacha my solockocha” sound that later became my mantra (everyone at MM had a unique “tongue” sound- some sounded more like others, my tongue was in the “kalchahca” category not the “shabalaba” category).

Speaking in tongues felt released some great tension from every muscle in my body and the sound of my new language reverberated in my head giving me an alcohol-like buzz. Through the water streaming down my face I could see people dancing around in ecstasy, dancing a kind of Hebrew looking dance, with singing, shouting and waving of arms while I shouted out in  my new language.

And people were embracing me and suddenly I was dancing that half- Hebrew jig  with them while singing and clapping.

*********

So what happened to me that night?

Was I really speaking in tongues?

Was I really filled with the baptism of fire spoken of in the book of Acts?

Had the old man been cut away in the Baptism of Water like Bob claimed it was?”

Theologically with regards to the old man”being cut away the scriptural support is nil in the nth degree. That is pretty easy to answer as are most of the questions about the klatched together twisted MCM theology (no offense to anyone it simply had no Aristotelian Logic to it and MCM changed theology as frequently as your change clothes).

BUT, with regards to the whole emotional trance- like experience I had that night, including speaking in tongues without any apparent effort on my part, I must say, that even with 27 years of distance and some 20 years of pondering that experience, I am left with this answer:

I can’t say for sure what it was I experienced that night. But it seemed real, in every sense, and I carried this sense of ecstasy, of what I imagine a drug experience might be, for about a month afterward.

I was on a spiritual high and had never felt as close to God as I did that night.

And I never would again.

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