#30 MLTS with Larry and CJ

We are taking over
We are moving out in Love
We are lifting up our Savior
In the Power of God.

None shall stand before us
No more shall we be afraid
We are taking over the nations
In His mighty Name.

A Chorus written for MCM by Bin Soto in the late 1970s

Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not–to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God–that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” Colossians 1:26-31

Maranatha Leadership Training School (MLTS)- seven weeks after I joined MCM

A cadre of five single brothers including three who left the frat with me, Robert, Fred, and Ricky, left Auburn around 3:00 am on a cold November morning for the trip to our first MLTS in Cookeville, TN.

The aging and decrepit 1973 Datsun B210 shook our bones as we chugged up the highway (for those of you under thirty years of age Datsun is now Nissan).  Picture a Honda Civic with a 2 feet cut off of it, no suspension, a two stroke motor cycle engine, a cracked windshield with no heat and I think you get the picture.

In order to save money we bought a big jar of peanut butter, a jar of jelly and two loaves of bread. We could not afford to eat out; so we were going to live on peanut butter and jelly for three days. We bought the stale white bread at the day old store for half price.

To this day the thought of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich makes me gag.

We had pooled our money and, after accounting for gas for the round trip and cost of a cheap hotel room for the five of us, we had about $ 30 left over.

We chattered the whole trip about MLTS, what it would be like and the message we would receive from God. We had a flyer that had been distributed about two weeks before at one of the nightly meetings with Joe Smith.

I glanced down at this flyer as the Datsun putt-putted up the US Interstate Highway towards Tennessee from Alabama.

Preparing the Leaders for God’s movement in these latter days

The “Featured Speakers” were Larry Tomczak and C.J. Mahaney a duo who headed a radical Christian group called People of Destiny International (PDI) located in the Washington DC. Area.

Larry and CJ would be tag team speaking for two days at MLTS.

According to the MLTS flyer they would be speaking on Entering the Promised Land.

We had been hearing for weeks about the awesome experience of MLTS and how it would further prepare us  to be over-comers and leaders in God’s new movement. The caravan of clunker cars from Auburn arrived in Cookeville TN about 9:00 am the morning that MLTS began.

Each attendee was given a welcome packet that included a name badge, a map, a list of restaurants and discount coupons (I would eat PBJ sandwiches for three days so it was wasted on me) and motel/hotel locations.

We joined the crowd that pushed into the auditorium of Cookeville high school which MCM had reserved for the weekend. People streamed past tables set up where you could sign up for special early morning deliverance sessions and discipleship classes.

There was also a large tented area selling tapes from the featured speakers, Bob Weiner and Joe Smith, and teaching materials that generated money for MCM. I will address this in a future post about MCM’s business model.

On the stage inside the auditorium was a huge white projector screen along with banners stating Overcoming for Christ and Jesus is Lord of All! and We shall rule and reign with Him that hung from the ceiling.

About twenty minutes before the opening session was to start the Praise Band kicked in and up on the screen went the words to the chorus.

The singing just about knocked me down.

The service was Auburn’s MCM service on steroids.

The music from the band and the vocals from 3,000 people attending singing at the top of their lungs had an affect that I can only describe as mesmerizing. I remember feeling almost transported to heaven by the singing, and the clapping, and the waving of hands.

Promptly at 10:00 am Bob Weiner took the podium and begin shouting things like, “Praise God!” and, “Glory to God! It’s great to be part of God’s end time movement!!!” at the top of his lungs.

The crowd exploded and the band kicked in with another fast paced song which sent people into the aisles dancing and singing and then Bob would get up and repeat his mantra of, “Glory to King Jesus!” and, “Hallelujah!.

This all went on for perhaps a half hour with song after song that riled the crowd up.

Bob finally put his hands up to get the crowd to stop the dancing, clapping, and singing and with that the place went silent.

He shouted, “This day we can expect GREAT THINGS!!! Amen???”

The crowd responded, “Amen!” and the whole shouting, singing and clapping started up again and went on for another ten minutes until Bob took control of the crowd again.

And what we could expect at MLTS, according to Bob, was, “A mighty and world-changing message from God Almighty Himself speaking to His special Green Berets.”

“Wow,” I thought,”this sure beats the session at the last annual SEC BSU convention I attended entitled  How to cope with stress and temptation.”

How parochial and small-minded the BSU convention seemed in comparison with MLTS.

We were talking about, “changing the world,” and actually, “taking over the world from Satan,” whatever that might mean!

I submit that the various and sundry teachings present in MCM, (and I believe also in Larry’s and C.J.’s ministry PDI) in the 70s on the end times served one purpose: To support the formation of a tightly knit group of over-comers that would serve the purposes of the leadership.

Regardless, Bob said Larry would speak first and told us to, “Ask God to prepare you heart and listen and be ready to respond to God!”

He paused and looked over the crowd.

“Do not blaspheme the Holy Spirit by ignoring God’s message and his anointed,” Bob then shouted as he waved both men up on stage.

This left a lasting impression on me, but it is important to remember every MLTS was designed to:

1. Be “Earth Shattering”,

2. tighten control over the “Green Berets” and to

3. empty our wallets for God’s cause (and put money into the leadership’s pockets).

Anyway, I was not sure what to expect from the exciting anointed men of God Bob was speaking of, but up to the rostrum stepped a guy with dirty blonde hair, while his partner, C.J., took a seat with the MCM elders  to one side.

Larry then exchanged a high-five with Bob Weiner who took a seat besides C.J. clapping him on the back.

In a soft voice Larry asked us to bow our heads and he said a short prayer.

From what I can remember Larry was at first a low-key speaker; neither the hyper excitement of Bob Weiner nor the “Warm but serious Uncle” played by Joe Smith.

Larry seemed a genuine and warm person. Perhaps he was genuinely and warmly deceived by both MCM and his own message.

You must whether that was true judge by what I relate below.

His message was taken from the Exodus 6:1-9 and from Numbers according to my contemporaneous journal.

First he slowly read the text from Exodus.

Then he stopped and said, “Our God is the same today as He was yesterday. So his message for the Israelites and for Moses is the same message today for His Church the grafted on vine.”

We are not victims we are His mighty army!” [“Amen brother!” shouted Bob Weiner and the place erupted in applause and shouts].

“Listen to what God is saying to us his chosen army,” Larry continued.

“First in verse 1 of Exodus 6 we are promised success. And we were promised success, because we can do all things in Christ. If we have faith and discipline we can NEVER FAIL!”

“Second in verse 2 His chosen people were given an anointed leader that set the course for them. God had chosen Moses and this was evident to the Israelites. The same is true today. God has given us anointed leadership. We must not be like the people who grumbled against the leadership. Those who do so will wander in the wilderness for forty years I tell you!”

“Third, we see in Exodus 18:25 that Moses chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Perhaps you in this room, if you can measure up to God’s calling, you can be one of the hundreds, or fifties or tens. But you have to be disciplined in your walk with Jesus!”

“Finally they had the opportunity to go down in history as God’s mighty conquering army. Sadly… this did not happen.”

“Let’s look at Numbers 14. Here we see that with the exception of Joshua and Caleb the Israelites disobeyed their leaders and believed the LIES FROM SATAN that they were destined to be poor and wandering and lost…just like the church today sits around waiting saying ‘poor little ole us, we are just sweet little Christians and will  be run over by that mean old Satan and his world.”

All of the sudden Larry was on fire; matching Bob in his ferocity and enthusiasm.

Larry shouted out, “I tell you this is a lie from Satan, we are over-comers and the gates of hell shall not prevail! Are you going to listen your leaders, and the Word of God, and overcome and rule and reign with Him or are you going to head back into the desert and have your bones buried in the sand?”

We, by this time were all standing and shouting, “We will follow God! We will rule and reign we will overcome! We will overcome!” or something like this.

Larry paused and let the crowd get quiet.

You see it is a LIE!… from Satan…. that the church should sit around and wait on the persecution for we will Rule and Reign with Jesus for 1,000 years. This generation must make the same decision as faced the Israelites: are you a loser or are you a Caleb and a Joshua?”

The place went crazy,

It was a pavlovian response that I would grow use to at MLTS; the main speaker would make some over the top world ending point and the entire place would go ballistic.

I believe this message was given because Bob and the leadership wanted a dedicated group of radical leaders that would do their bidding in building the kingdom.

I think, nay I know, that they made the theology fit the mission; not the other way around!

And I am confident, in a quid pro quo arrangement, that Bob went to PDI and delivered much the same message to Larry and CJ’s. I don’t know this for certain, I will admit, but I would take even odds this happened .

For both C.J. and Larry were frequent guest speakers at MLTS and MCM events. And the same was true of Bob at PDI.

This was how it worked: bring an anointed outside leader and expert in to reinforce the leadership’s message and methods.

Rinse and repeat.

That afternoon at the Bookstore Tent in our enthusiasm our group purchased a 10 tape set series (cassette tape) for $ 25 entitled The Overcoming Life by Bob and Rose Weiner.

We now had about $ 5 in cash between the five of us; not counting the $ 20 left for gas to get us back to Auburn

After an early evening service replete with singing and baptisms we headed for our motel and dinner.

The next morning C.J went first preaching; this time from Revelation 20 on how the kingdom of God would come on earth during the thousand-year reign prior of Christ.

It was a passionate sermon that played right into what I had heard Bob and Joe preach the month before at Auburn:

1. Were God’s Green Berets going to be sent on a suicide mission by God into the world fight the battle  they could never win?

or

2. Will we “take over” and prepare to rule and reign in the thousand year millennium?

CJ said, “The word of God is true and we can see in Revelation 20 verses 4- 6 that ‘They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.”

He shouted, “Not only shall the over-comers rule and reign but they shall NOT Taste death! We shall not die! We will rule and reign as His Princes and subjugate the earth!!!!.

This was exactly what Joe had told us last month. And we would triumph and rule with him, and, in my heart I prayed right there, according to my scribbling in my journal that day that “I would have the strength to increase my efforts to make this a reality.”

C.J. continued saying “We must be like Joshua and Caleb, we must be fearless in believing God’s promises and understanding what he wants and in following His anointed leaders!”

Cheers and clapping erupted

He paused and the place when silent.

“God will carry out His plan… the question is who will He use? Will you be God’s instruments…it is up to you and what you decide to do EVERY DAY!”

The place went crazy and the band kicked in for more singing, dancing and clapping.

Bob stood up and summarized Larry and C.J.s message to waves of applause and cheers,

“Brethren, this is why MCM focuses on leaders. If we convert future leaders who are faithful to Jesus and the Body and, who in turn later move into leadership positions in governments, business and universities the Body of Christ will LITERALLY establish the rule of God on Earth and bring the millennium to heaven and fulfill the Lord’s prayer on earth as it is in heaven.”

 I determined to be a dedicated member of God’s Green Berets no matter what the cost!

And I would be a prince and people would bow before me during the reign of Jesus!

************

That evening the five of us single brothers from Auburn camped out in a run-down, freezing motel room on the outskirts of Cookeville, Tennessee and, while we feasted on a dinner of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, we spoke until the early hours of the morning about how we would fulfill Larry and C.J.’s charge to us from God of bringing heaven to earth.

#25 A Slippery Slope

November 1978

That evening I made my way back to the frat house after the MCM meeting.

I had almost forgotten about the chapter meeting that evening and about JD’s threats after the drama of the healing spectacle at MCM that night.

But the door to my room was open and waiting on me was Mom, sitting at my desk, with a frown on his face.

As I walked into my room he stood up and said, “Tik, you and I need to have a serious talk.”

Then Mom motioned for me to sit down on my bed while he took a seat at my desk chair.

I knew why he was here.

I had just gotten back from a Maranatha service and had missed my fourth chapter meeting in a row. And as President, heck, even as a plain old chapter member, that was not supposed to happen.

“Tik,” he said, “you need to know that JD [the frat. VP] tried to get the brothers to vote on impeaching you tonight in the frat chapter meeting. He could not get it to a vote. But he had thirty of the frat brothers on his side. The place was in an absolute uproar.”

“What?!!” I exclaimed. Thirty frat brothers out of one hundred and twenty siding with JD?????.

I sat back against the wall that my bed was nested against and put my hands to my head.

“I don’t think all thirty wanted to impeach you, they just wanted to send a message,” said Mom.

He crossed his arms.

“I took the floor and defused it. I told them you were going through a phase and that I would talk to you tonight.”

“It’s not a phase I am going through!” I said. “I don’t think this is any of your business talking to the chapter about my spiritual life or my walk with the Lord.”

“Yeah…well it IS my business when the Frat President is ignoring his duties and sending this place in a tizzy. Not to mention the fact that I see a good friend of mine jumping into a pit of alligators, or worse, Tik.”

“What is that supposed to mean?” I asked.

Mom looked closely at me, and then before speaking he stroked his red mustache like he did when he was about to say something he knew you would not like.

“It means this: I don’t know who, or what, these people  are but I don’t like what I see, that’s what,” Mom said.

“Look Mom, you would not understand anything I am doing… you have rejected the gospel and this stuff would not make sense to you, regardless. The brothers and sisters at Maranatha are real Christians, that’s all.”

Mom sat back and pointed his finger at me, “This is exactly what I am talking about Tik. How do you know anything about me and God? But you know what?  Maybe you are right, maybe I don’t know crap about religion, so to be sure I called your old friend Chris whom I suspect DOES know about ‘this stuff’, as you put it.”

Chris was the head of the Baptist Student Union (BSU).

“Why did you go and call Chris?” I asked.

“And why shouldn’t I?” asked Mom.

As he crossed his arms he continued, “Hey you just said I could not POSSIBLY understand this stuff so I called an expert, a guy who went to preacher’s school after college, or whatever it is they call it. Well guess what? Chris thinks these guys are a cult. He has already had calls from three sets of parents here at Auburn whose kids are involved in this crazy group. These parents are worried about what they are seeing in their kids. How they are acting.”

I sat there for a moment.

“Tik not only are you spending almost all of your waking hours on this thing, Marawhaever, but frankly, you are changing- you are becoming a different person. No one can have a normal conversation with you.  It’s all scriptures, and stuff about God and Jesus… you have practically tried to convert the entire frat, and some of the frat brothers, and not just a few of them, don’t like it”

“Well, Mom,” I said, “I am a new man in Christ of course I am changing.”

“Tik, like I say, you are a grown man, but I just hope you know what you are doing here. If this keeps up I will tell you JD is going to get you impeached. And I am not so sure that I won’t support it.”

“C’mon “Mom”, things are going to settle down.”

“Maybe,” he said, “ But why should you have the title and perks of the office if you are never here and you ignore your job? And, by the way, that is not the only thing you are ignoring.”

“What are you talking about, ‘not the only thing?’ ” I asked.

I was getting angry.

“I checked the grade book; that is another thing I did today,” Mom said, grimacing.

Mom was Dr. Carl’s teaching graduate student, my engineering professor, from whom I was taking two courses this session. Dr. Carl, as I have mentioned was also my student advisor. Mom assisted Dr. Carl in the lab, taught lower level courses, and helped Dr.Carl grade tests and exams.

“Hey, you can’t do that,” I sputtered pulling myself out of the bed I was sitting on.

“Well, I did,” said Mom. “Tik, you have got to be kidding- a “D” on the first structures examination.???What in the hell is that about!? This stuff should be child’s play for you. Dr. Carl tells me that you also have been late for at least five classes and you have skipped out on two classes. This is not like you. You and I both know that these engineering courses have to be treated like a full time job.”

“Look, Mom, I have it under control. I don’t need your help… so stay out of it okay?”

“Like I said Tik, like I said you are a grown man. But if you have any sense you will listen to me. Just cool your jets for one more minute. Chris wants you to come by to see him.”

“Why?” I asked

“Get off of it Tik, it’s about everything we are talking about. He has found out some stuff about the Maranootha or whatever hell they are called, and he wants to show it to you. Call him, he said he will meet you anytime, anywhere.”

“I’ll think about it,” I said.

Well I did not go to see Chris.

I was to busy, discipleship groups in the morning,  classes, trying to cram study time into lunch and any free time during the day. Nightly three to  four hour services and Maranatha witnessing sessions on campus, putting up posters for special events, helping set up for Maranatha meetings and my shepherding sessions with Marty’s group all got in the way of my seeing Chris.

There was not time for anything. And my grade showed it.

On all my mid terms I scored all “Cs” and “Ds’.

And as for Sheila?  Well other than one or two lunch meetings and a note or two for her and from her; we were incommunicado. In fact I pretty much had cut myself off from my former friends and they had cut themselves off from me.

Other than the “Christian Clan in the frat” all of the brothers were avoiding me.

And JD was leading the charge to have me thrown out.

I spoke to Marty my shepherd in Maranatha about it but he showed me numerous scriptures that said that we would be persecuted and scorned.

Once again he said that I should rejoice what was going on in the frat and besides at least sixteen people had come to Jesus because of my leading the overcoming life.

Saving souls and overcoming in this world why that was eternal stuff, that was Kingdom stuff, and proof that God was leading me and that I was doing His work.

#24 My Troubles Begin

It was no shocker, but I was still disappointed in myself. I continued to stare at the test as if that would somehow change the score circled in red at the top of the page.

I had garnered a test score of 76, or a middle C, on my thermodynamics test, the one I had failed to study for because of my “kingdom” activities during the last two weeks.

This term I had scored grades of  Ds and Cs on every test thus far. It was my poorest performance since entering Auburn University over two years ago. In fact, last year I had scored A grades in 10 of my engineering courses and a B in the remaining two. My freshman year GPA had only been just slightly lower. And for this I had been awarded a full books and tuition scholarship by Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society.

If I could pull off high Bs and one A on all the remaining tests and exams then a B grade point average for the term was not out of reach for me.

But if I did not earn that B grade point average for the term  then I lost that books and tuition scholarship.

However, on the Kingdom front everything was on a roll, it seemed.

Four more of my frat brothers had made a commitment to Jesus. They had started attending Maranatha Services and were being shepherded and discipled by older MCM brothers.

This meant a total of 15 people from my frat had become radical Christians in the span of about four weeks. “At this rate,” I thought, “within one year over 150 people will have come to Jesus through me.”

My heart glowed with pride.

Joe Smith had promised that tonight that God was going to heal people just like He did in the first century church.

Of course, if you have bothered to slog your way through my story thus far,  you know that as frat President I was supposed to attend a weekly Chapter Night meeting. At these meetings we reviewed the week’s events, talked about issues and projects, socials, fundraisers, and made our plans for the coming term.

In addition there was the infamous  pass the gavel session, where the chapter gavel was passed from member to member and each brother had up to five minutes (if they wanted it) to discuss what was on their mind.

So once I again I was scrambling.

My head hurt.

First, I did not want to miss the show of first century miracles that were supposed to occur tonight at the MCM House according to Marty, my shepherd.

Second, I did not want to miss the preaching on, “The right relationship with Jesus,” that Joe Smith had said, “would be fundamental to my faith.”

Finally, but no less importantly,  I did not want to disappoint my older brothers and my Shepherd at Maranatha, that is, my new family.

So I was going to try to wiggle out of yet another frat chapter meeting tonight.

I headed to JD’s room.

As Vice President JD led a number of committees but was he also second in line if for some reason I could not fulfill my duties. This had happened occasionally in the past, but it was a rare occurrence.

JD’s bedroom door was open and I could hear the sound of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s hit song Give Me Three Steps blasting out of his stereo system.

I peeked in and saw JD with his head buried in a text book. How he could get any studying done with rock music blaring was a mystery to me.

I knocked at his open door. No response.

Again. No response.

So I stepped in and reached over and cranked the volume down on the stereo.

JD looked up immediately.

“Run out of people to proselytize Tik?” he laughed.

“Well you are barking up the wrong tree if you are looking to dunk me in a swimming pool and have me blabbering like a baby!”

JD and I had a very strained relationship at best and it was all over the frat house that twelve of the brothers had become Jesus Freaks and that our sleep in slut, Rhonda, had moved out of the house and back to her dorm room.

“I hear you broke up Rhonda and Ricky as well…,” then he snickered.

I was not taking the bait.

“Look JD I wanted to see…”

Before I could finish JD cut me off with, “Tik, if you are up here to see if I am going to cover for you for the chapter meeting you need to save your breath. I am not your f**k*ng baby sitter and nurse maid.”

His face was red.

“Calm down JD, why are you so upset?”

“I’ll tell you why, hot-shot. You are everybody’s golden boy, you crap golden apples as far as the brothers, well at least some of them, are concerned, and your red-headed stepmother (he was referring Mom our resident advisor) keeps his protective apron around you.”

He stood up and sneered at me.

“If any other frat officer, like yours truly,” and he pointed at his chest with a thumb, “missed a business meeting and three chapter meetings, skipped out on two of our post game parties, played hooky during the Gamma Delta social, and then failed to show up Thursday afternoon for this term’s pledge report out, they would be hauled before the chapter and thrown out of office; if not thrown out of the frat altogether.”

He was right of course, as President I not only had ceremonial responsibility to welcome the sorority girls, to pat the pledges on the back and make them feel special; I had an obligation to preside over the frat’s business at meetings.

But the Kingdom came first, right?

Weren’t the frat brothers just playing camp? Wasn’t the frat house a den of debauchery every Saturday night after a home game?

“JD, you know that nothing important is going to happen at the chapter meeting tonight. The only thing on the agenda is Jack’s monthly plea to give the upper classmen priority parking spaces, that’s all.”

“How do you know that Tik…what makes you so sure???” and he grinned and pushed his chair back against the wall.

He looked very satisfied with himself.

“We both know that there is nothing urgent that is going to come up that’s why,” I said.

“Well, I can tell you one thing, if our Frat President, Mr. Tik Tok is not at the meeting then I am going to move that we start impeachment proceedings against him and have him thrown out of office.”

I laughed, he was joking and needling me.

“I am NOT kidding, Tik,” he said.

“Listen, twelve  of our brothers are missing practically every frat function thanks to the proselytizing of our Frat President; whose MAIN job, by the way, is to rally the frat around the chapter not get members to desert,” he almost shouted.

He sat back down, but his voice grew louder as he said, “And YOU, MR PRESIDENT,” and JD then saluted me with two fingers, “YOU have been missing in action, AWOL…no has seen from you or heard from you in the last four weeks; unless of course its meal time. You always seem to make those surprisingly enough.”

My face turned red this time.

Okay, I did not like JD, he was cynical, he was a smart ass, he was crude, but this time he was right.

What could I say?

“JD I have done a lot for the frat,” I said. “Things will get back to normal once the rally is over at Maranatha.”

“But would they every get back to normal?” I thought.

“Yeah, okay, you did a good job as rush chairman last year, I grant you Tik. But you SUCK as a President and you know what pisses me off, you are not doing JACK around here and you are getting free room and board at the expense of every cotton picking dues paying brother.”

I was completely conflicted.

I had my duty to the Kingdom, but I had a job to do at the frat as well. I knew the ups and downs of being frat president; all of it.

But the mantra in my head ran, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and these things will be added unto you.” I was going to seek the Kingdom first no matter what.

That was what over-comers did. They did not worry about the world.

“Well JD, I understand how you feel, but I will not be at the chapter meeting tonight and as VP you will need to cover for me.”

“Suit your own self Tik. Do what you think is best. But you can’t say I did not warn you.”

JD crossed his arms. My stomach was turning over.

I decided to head down to the Maranatha House and skip dinner with the frat. brothers.

I just wasn’t hungry.

As I walked down Magnolia Street I became angry with JD and his attitude. I thought about all of the rude things that I had seen him do to people over the years. I found my face getting hot as I replayed the crudity of his accusations.

I knew that the chances of me being impeached were about nil, but I also knew that JD would raise a stink about me and about my absences. He would get a handful of the brothers in his corner.

But the real damage would be to my reputation and would put me under the microscope of all the frat members.

I walked into the MCM house and found my shepherd Marty seated behind his desk. I explained how upset I was and that I was worried about what might happen at the frat. tonight.

Marty paused and thought before he spoke, sitting back in his chair and crossing his arms over his chest.

“First, what is happening to you is exactly what happened to the early Christians,” he said slowly.

“They were persecuted for the beliefs and stand. That is what Jesus meant when he said ‘I did not come to bring peace’.. our stand for Jesus are going to bring the attacks of the devil. We should rejoice that this is happening.” And with that he uncrossed his arms and pushed his glasses back up onto the bridge of his nose.

Now I did not feel so happy about this persecution, for I knew I actually deserved it. Although JD was crude, he was correct, I was shirking my duties for which I was paid in room and board.

“Look Tik you are in the frat right now because God has you there to harvest souls. Maybe He will call you out of the frat. That may happen. This is all in God’s hand and as long as you are doing His will then it will be okay.”

“But, “ I said, “the Frat pays my room and board and it amounts to $ 2,400 a year that I save in living expenses by being President.”

Now in 2006 that may not seem like a great deal of cash but in inflation adjusted dollars it represents about $ 7,000/year in today’s dollars.

And for a poor guy like me that was a small fortune.

How would I ever make up that budget shortfall?

“God will take care of his faithful Tik. Remember that you do not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

He was right, I thought, I had no previous persecution in my life because I had never done anything for Jesus.

Of course this felt uncomfortable.

This persecution happened because I was overcoming the world and saving souls. This made the devil attack me. Surely God would figure out how to finance my schooling if I lost my position of frat President.

Right?

Jesus would take care of His Green Berets, I was sure of it.

#23 False Teaching

Editors note: Tikie now discusses some of the false teachings given by MCM leadership. The larger point is not the teachings themselves, but rather how these teachings were used to reinforce the power of the leadership and to extend that power down through the MCM hierarchy of elders, pastors and sheep. These tactics are common amongst sociological cults: set the leadership up as infallible; ensure that their directives are seen as coming straight from an unimpeachable source, and then make it impossible for their followers to confront, or even question, the leadership’s actions or motives.

The False Teachings of Joe Smith 

Prophets and Apostles

At the rest of the Maranatha services that week Joe Smith cited the fact that MCM, just like the first century church, had apostles and prophets anointed by God and filled with the Spirit.

And, he stated, there was a clear reason for this.

“My brothers and sisters the Bible says that God’s church is ‘built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone,” said Joe, quoting Paul in the book of Ephesians.

“And any true church, any overcoming church, any church that is the real Body of Christ therefore must have apostles and prophets or it has no solid  foundation. So these fake, watered down, Christian have no real foundation; for without leaders anointed with His Spirit they cannot demonstrate God’s power and His Word.”

Joe frowned, and then paused, and then looked up at us for at least a minute, his head turning slowly back and forth as he gazed out at the congregation from the stage.

In response to this the whole congregation seemed to lean up, on the very edge of their seats, to see what Joe would say next.

Then suddenly Joe’s face broke into a broad smile and his eyes lit up like a kid seeing a birthday cake with candles and he shouted, “But praise God His Spirit has given His church, His new work on earth elders, apostles, and prophets to provide a firm foundation! AMEN AND AMEN!!”

The congregation then broke into loud applause with shouts of, “Praise God and Hallelujah,” while Joe stepped back and took a long drink of water from a glass on the podium.

Then he leaned back over the podium and raised his hand palm up  and just as suddenly as the crowd had erupted with their approval- it once again became silent.

“Therefore my brothers and sisters you can take comfort that God is directing His work through His anointed elders, not those appointed by man’s power, and that, because of this, the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church of God that is doing his work today!” As he finished a slow smile, and a look of satisfaction, spread across his face while the music kicked in and the ushers began collecting the offering.

******

Only true Christians will rule and reign with Jesus

Joe Smith, that week, also taught us that how we, God’s Green Berets, would, “Literally rule the Nations as Princes,” since we were now, “The Sons and Daughters of God”. We would literally (and he meant physically) make, “The wicked bow before us after His return,” Joe told us.

“So church you see that the old dead mainline churches’  idea of namby pamby Christians sitting round on clouds, strumming little golden harps, and singing their little sweet songs for eternity is a lie from hell! But, my brothers and sisters, it is clear that if you want to rule and reign with Jesus then you have to be an overcomer in today’s world!”

Joe quoted First John, “Little children, let no one deceive you: The one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as Christ is righteous.”

And then he combined it with this admonition from Ephesians, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”

“Note brothers and sisters the phrase ‘parents in the Lord,” said Joe.

“Who are your parents in the lord?” he asked us .

Then quickly answering his on question he stated, “Well Jesus clearly tells us that we must be willing to leave our father and mothers… so the apostle Paul cannot be referring to your earthly parents.”

“No it is very clear from the Word that your parents in the Lord are your shepherds who provide for your spiritual safety,”  Joe continued.

“So flock you see that if we practice that Christian righteousness and if we obey our parents in the Lord then we will rule and reign with Jesus as the Sons and Daughters of God when He returns.”

“Isn’t that a wonderful thought? Can you say AMEN CHURCH?… WE WILL RULE AND REIGN WITH HIM AND THE GATES OF HELL SHALL NOT PREVAIL AGAINST HIM IF WE SIMPLY KEEP HIS COMMANDMENT!”

And the place went berserk as music kicked in and we all joined in singing John Saw the Multitude of the Overcomers and soon the crowd spilled out into the aisles dancing that MCM Hebrew jig in their excitement of learning that they would rule and reign with Christ.

But despite my addled state much I had heard that night concerned me. And even as I was dancing in the aisle with my new found Christian brothers and sisters I was troubled by Joe’s pronouncements.

For Joe made had it clear that those who were, “Not in right standing with Christ  could not, and would not, be Sons and Daughters of God”.

And who, or what, determined if a person was or was not in right standing with Christ?

It seemed clear as to who determined a sheep’s standing with Christ; Their shepherd and the elders that were over the shepherd…right on up the line to Joe Smith, Bob Weiner and Bob Nolte: the Apostles and Prophets of MCM.

And the what that a sheep did to keep their standing with Christ  seemed to mean obeying God’s word as given by the elders of MCM.

Those were serious long term issues that I should have been worried about at a that point.

But there were actually more pressing issues that evening I had not considered yet; my job as President of my frat.

Because things were heating up at the frat.

And I would soon learn that I could ignore my duties as frat president for only so long.

#18 The Fruit Keeps Dropping

Sunday October 1978
I picked the phone up to call Sheila’s dorm room. It was 8:30 am.

“Hello?” it was Jane, Sheila’s roommate answering.

“Hi Jane, it’s Tik, is Sheila in?”

”Hi Tickie,” came the answer, “she just this minute walked out of the door. Chris [from BSU] is picking a bunch of the girls up at the turnaround [the drive at the top of the “Hill”] to take them to First [Baptist] Opelika. Are you heading there this morning?”

“Not today Jane”.

I planned on attending Bob Weiner’s “blowout” Maranatha Sunday morning service at 10:55 am. Bob was leaving tomorrow and I wanted hear every second of his preaching that I could.

“Could you tell her I called Jane.”

“Sure will Tik,” she said. “Hey, did you guys have fun last night?”

“Uh…sure,” I said.

Was she talking about the “celebration family dinner” at Maranatha last night?

I didn’t think so. I had not mentioned it to Sheila and I knew for certain she would probably not get near the MCM House anyway.

“Sheila said you guys had Smoke Rise playing at the frat house last night… I LOVE them!”

Smoke Rise was a local band and very popular with the students. They were the band I had been watching set up yesterday while I was waiting to leave the frat house for the MCM love feast.

Had Sheila stopped by the frat house last night?

Did she know that I had played hookey from the frat party?

I caught myself and thought, “Now WHY in the world am I worried about whether Sheila was at the frat house or for that matter what Jane thinks. Who cares what she thinks???”

“Well…I did not make the party; but yes SmokeRise was there… I saw them setting up yesterday afternoon.”

Silence.

“Tik, uh… of course it none of my business, but, well… are you and Sheila doing okay?”

Good Lord not her too?

What was this with everyone asking about Sheila and me, for crying out loud.? The next thing I know my Mother will be calling to ask about me and Sheila!

“Yeah- everything is great just tell her I called.”

I jumped in the shower thinking, “Now that was one weird conversation”.

My MCM chums, Fred, Robert, Ricky and Rhonda were there within the next hour to head down to the Maranatha House. I had also invited Jim, one of my frat brothers to the service. I also invited another frat brother Kent as well.

Jim was a Yankee through and through, with nasal accent and all. It is ironic that I used to make fun of his accent since I later married a Yankee and have spent most of my life post-Maranatha north of the Mason Dixon Line.

Who says God does not have a sense of humor?

Jim had round tortoise-shell glasses and his curt and direct responses like “you are completely full of [expletive deleted]”  irritated many people.

But I liked him a lot; he was full of energy and I found his very direct “good is good” and “bad is bad” approach to life refreshing.

Kent was a music major that I had become friends with at the frat.

He had turned into a real party animal, one of those Southern Baptist guys that when he had the chance, went nuts. He had gone on academic probation last year and was trying to work himself off it with little success, because he could not lay off the booze. I was pretty sure Kent was smoking dope as well. Probably late at night on the porch out back

But I really did not want to know about it, being Frat. President and all.

So we all walked down Magnolia Street to the Maranatha House.

There we found the  Praise Band in great form playing hard core Christian rock and roll  with my “friend” Ellen singing a beautiful solo. The Praise Band would be leaving with Bob after today and I was very sorry to see them go. I thought that their music and presence on stage were fantastic.

And I was sort of sad that I found little time to ever really get to know Ellen; they very person who had helped bring me into MCM.

After the songs there was a very long prophetic utterance.

This time the “prophecy” did not catch me off guard, but I could tell that Jim and Kent were freaking out; first glaring at me and then looking at each other with their eyebrows raised..

This prophesying stuff made me nervous.

First how could anyone be sure that it was of God?

Second to speak on behalf of God, in a literal sense, seemed extremely dangerous. I made a note to ask Mike Caulk or Marty about this.

Of course my gut was right.

Prophesying, is, of course scriptural. But it should be undertaken with great care and caution.

Maranatha, I will show, as well as associated groups, abused this gift and used the threat and gift of prophesying to control and manipulate people. I believe that God knows the damage false prophecy can wreak.

Regardless, the Praise Band, after the prophesy, rolled right into another upbeat song  and the ushers passed around an offering plate. The fact is that the offering occurred every night and the other fact was that I had not put a nickel in the plate.

And this was for one simple reason: I did not have a nickel. No money. I am not exaggerating. Later I will cover my expenses and how Maranatha almost shipwrecked me both financially (which was not hard to do since I was penniless!) and scholastically.

Then Bob Weiner got up and lit into one of the most fast paced scriptural wind sprints I have ever seen before or since.

First he launched into the evilness of man. That, he said was scriptural and self evident. How man was rebellious and hated God. Then Bob charged through the third chapter of Romans.

“There is non- righteous NOT ONE. No fornicator, adulterer, drunkard, homosexual or liar shall enter heaven. ”

“In fact,” Bob shouted, “Jesus says that if you even HAVE a wicked or lustful thought it is as if you ACTUALLY committed the sin and the act.’

“Hh oh,” I thought.

“I say again no homosexual, no deviant, no liar, none who have sin shall enter the Kingdom. But let me give you a warning.”

He stopped. Dead silence. Not a sound.

Only the breathing of the crowd.

Then a whisper, “Jesus says that it is better to be cold and in sin, completely in sin and rebellious than to be a pretend Christian. To go to church on Sunday, or a Bible Study and then to engage in sinful acts the rest of the week in secret. But nothing is secret from God. Not one thing.”

He was hunched over almost double speaking into the microphone as he whispered this.

Then he jerked straight up pointing his arm into the crowd with a flourish.

And he shouted “Jesus says it is better to be HOT or COLD for if you are LUKEWARM I WILL SPEW YOU OUT OF MY MOUTH!!!!! He will say DEPART FROM ME FOR I NEVER KNEW YOU!!!!”

He stood stock still. Silence again. One…two…three…

Then in a low voice “If you are in sin, if you are leading a double life, if you want to avoid the wrath of God that is coming in these end times- then you MUST take a stand. What better time than now. Because none of us knows what will happen today.”

“There is a person here, who is engaged in sexual deviancy, I tell you that God is telling me that unless they repent today they will be struck down and spend eternity in hell. This IS a life and death matter.”

The Praise Band took the stage and started playing one of their softer tunes as Bob spoke in a whisper.

“You must take the first step. Jesus died for you. Don’t ignore Him. Come now. Don’t ignore what might be your last chance.”

I begin praying and closed my eyes.

After about two minutes I looked up and Jim my Yankee frat brother was up front talking to the counselors. And believe it or not there was standing room only at the stage. At least 20-30 people, probably a good 10% of the audience were up front kneeling or crying.

It was incredible.

Walking back to the frat house Fred, Robert, Rhonda, Rickey, Jim  and I were all talking about Jesus. Jim was ecstatic and had gotten a copy of the Red Book and was going to go through a couple of studies that afternoon. He was scheduled later that day to meet with Sam and he told me that he wanted to be Baptized that night. He was yammering away on being committed and being a radical Christian.

I was beside myself with pride.

Six people brought to Jesus in my frat in just over a week.

Bob seemed to have the right of it. God was doing a mighty thing at Auburn and I was part of it.

Maybe even at the center of it.

I walked down the hall to my room just as  Mom was sliding a note under my door.

“Wacha got “Mom?” I asked.

“Sheila called about a half hour ago and she spoke to Jenny. She tried to call your room first and ended up calling mine. She wants to know if you could meet her for lunch at noon on Monday at the War Eagle, that’s all.”

I took the note. It was in Jenny’s handwriting.

“Oh Tik,” Mom said, “did you know that Sheila was hanging around the frat house all night? ”

He was eyeing me up and down. “You did not stand her up again did you?”

“No Mom I did NOT know she was here last night (or did I?… exactly what had her roommate told me??) and besides I had no plans to meet her. Look it’s a free country,  Sheila comes to our parties all the time!”

“Hmmmph,” he grunted, “well…she looked mighty lonely last night. You need to help that girl out, know what I mean, Tikie?? Young nookie is wasted on the young!” and he laughed as he made an obscene gesture with his hands.

“Just shuddup would ya “Mom?” I exclaimed as I wadded up the note and threw it at him.  I then told him to try to keep clothes on  Jenny when she walked down the hall to our shared bath; if that was not too much trouble.

I tried calling Sheila’s dorm room, but there was no answer. I headed to the engineering lab to try to figure indeterminate structures out.

I sure wished I had figured it out before Dr. Carl’s test on Friday.

#17 A Completely New Family

Saturday October 1978

The crowd in the stadium rose as one and cheered, “Waaarr EEAAAGLE!” as Auburn scored a touchdown.

But at that moment my mind was on other matters.

First, there was my problem with Sheila. She had called me to make peace after our blow up about who was, and was not, a Christian… and to talk about my involvement in Maranatha.

To seal that peace, and because, well, I missed seeing her, I had made a non-date  date with her to go to the football game. Now I had done something really rude to a very good friend. I stood her up and left her hanging at the frat house for at least an hour by herself.

I felt bad about this, well, at least part of me did.

But that part of me that felt bad, the part that was ruminating on how in the world I could have done such a thing to a good friend, was being challenged by someone else.

A new comer.

The new comer that had been forming in me over the last seven days. A soon to be tyranical new comer that I gladly welcomed in to my head, my heart and my soul; that I happily fed, watered and eventually, as you will see, let take over every aspect of my life.

The new comer, the other part of me, that was saying, “The Kingdom must come first” and the one reciting Marty and Bob’s words about being an, “Over-coming Christian and setting an example for the Body.”

I thought, “All this-worldly stuff, ALL of it is of no consequence. My luke warm Christian and heathen friends in the fraternity are not of God. The dead Christian groups like CCC and BSU that never bore fruit are nothing but fronted social clubs.”

I glanced around at the screaming football fans and the revelry taking place in the stadium; all of this was temporal, I thought, while the Kingdom was permanent.

These eternal things were what the only  important things, or so I told myself.

Or was it this “newcomer”, the “new” Tik, that was thinking this?

“I should get away from this debauchery ….especially since God has picked me out for leadership,” I thought.

Isn’t that what Jesus would do, separate himself from the sinful stuff and the drunken harlots and whore-mongers?

And that new  part of me, the part that was on fire for Jesus, the part that was totally committed, the part that saw problems with watered down Christianity; well, this new part of me was shoving the old Tik into the same small closet that held some of the weird doctrines and practices that I had seen so far during my involvement in Maranatha.

Now to be fair I was NOT thinking in those terms.

Well, not exactly.

But I certainly was experiencing what sociologists, including cult experts like Janha Lalich, term cognitive dissonance, which apparently all sociological cult members seem to experience to some degree. Cognitive dissonance seems to occur frequently with those who are just moving into such a sociological cult (I will speak to cognitive dissonance and how individuals are assimilated into such groups later on).

But now my thoughts now focused on what MCM termed the old man versus the new man I was becoming; as I sat silent among the throngs cheering and screaming fans around me.

In fact Maranatha (Marty, Bob, Randy and Sam, thus far) had actually told me that the old man might try to come back. For sure Baptism in Faith and the  Baptism of Fire in the Holy Spirit would help prevent that the return of that dead old man.

But I was warned to stay away from that old man- the old Tik. The old Tik had been cut away and buried in Baptism. I must not, “Let him drag himself out of the grave” (an actual quote and teaching of MCM).

Isn’t that what Bob and Marty had told me to do?

That I was to, “Mortify the flesh, to kill the old man daily and let the new man come to life?”

Isn’t that that was what discipleship and total commitment to Jesus and His Body required?

The shepherds over us, I had been told, were to help discipline us in our walk with Jesus. They held us accountable for staying close to God, for watching over our spiritual well being, and, to help us keep the old man, and our former life, in the grave where Water Baptism had put him.

Friday night (the night prior) during my brief chastisement session Marty read the following verse to me: “Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool that repeats his folly.”

I looked around me at the hundred fifty plus frat brothers, dates and little sisters of the frat. Some were drunk, most were yelling and cheering. Thousands of people moved their shakers in clockwork rhythm as they yelled, screamed and hugged each other. It seemed to me, at least, that I was the only one in the whole crowd not in this worldly groove, if you will.

Despite this was I like the dog Marty had spoken of last night that was returning to it’s vomit?

Were the frat activities and all of this worldly stuff going on at the game the vomit that Marty and the Bible spoke about?

How about Sheila?

I knew in my heart that Sheila had rejected Maranatha, despite our effort to patch things up on the phone.

We were good friends. I did not like the term just friends because it implied a diminution of our relationship. But where did Sheila, my friend, fit in with God’s plan if she were not going to be an over comer?

Where did any of my old friends fit in?

A mere seven days into Maranatha and I had already categorized people as either old friends or my new friends; actually these new friends were my  new family to quote Marty, Randy, and Bob.

New brothers and sisters in Jesus they were.

An eternal family of God, for me, it seemed.

In my mind I was also starting to categorize activities as either eternal and of the “kingdom or of the world; that is temporary, fleeting and sinful.

Reality broke in as Auburn intercepted a pass sending the crowd into more fits of  screaming and cheering.

I thought, “Why can’t these people scream and yell about the miracles and  the goodness of God who gives them their very breath? Sheila said she thought the Maranatha service was strange the other night, but no stranger than what is going on here with 80,000 people yelling and screaming about a zipped up ball of air.”

Then Jenny leaned over and put her head in my lap; her strawberry blonde hair now hanging down to my shins.  And then she passed out with a small sigh.

“Sorry Tik,” laughed Mom. “I think the excitement was too much for her today!”

I stood up, cradling Jenny’s head and then laid her gently down onto the vacant stadium bench seat.

“Hey Mom I just can’t get into this game.  I think I am going to head back to the frat house.”

He smiled, “Worried about Sheila, hey?”

I just nodded and headed out of the stadium to find my bike. I had dropped it in the grass outside the stadium.

I hoped it had not been stolen.

It was there where I left it, thank goodness. I got on it and started pedaling aimlessly up campus.

About five minutes later I found myself sitting on the same brick steps near the Haley Center where Sheila and I had spent many an hour talking. I just looked across the empty green common while the roar from  loudspeakers and the crowd in the stadium washed over me.

I was tossing all of the thoughts I had about God, Jesus, the world, the Kingdom, my old life. my old friends and new-found family around and around in my head.

Suddenly something snapped inside of me. I jumped on my bike and sped to the Hill, and Sheila’s dorm, pumping my legs as hard as I could.

With a force of will the old Tik had broken his out of that partially closed closet in my mind and had taken control again.

At least for now.

Now men were not allowed into the women’s dorms with few exceptions.

But I knew that the side door by one of the patios at Sheila’s dorm was always open and it would allow me to bypass the Pinkie on guard (these were the security guards employed by Pinkerton; we called them pinkies).

I made my way up to Sheila’s room and knocked.

No answer.

I went down to the social room on that floor and got a pen and paper and then scrounged for scotch tape with no luck.

Just to think, I was on the verge of discovering post-it notes in 1978!

Oh Well.

I scribbled the following: “Sorry I was so late, I tried to find you at the frat house and the game. Please forgive me & call me! Your Friend, Tik”.

Then I scrawled at the bottom of the note.

“PS: Your are the ever BEST friend ever!”

I slid the note under the door to her room.

Back at the frat house I scrounged for some food in the walk in freezer. There was some frozen fried chicken that Annie, our cook, had put in baggies; so I threw it in the oven and watched the band for the post game frat party set up in our social room whilst I listened to the game on the radio and chugged a coke.

I was not required to come to the frat parties, the social chairman was, but it was expected that I would be there as the President.

And sure enough I was almost always was at the post game frat parties, but never took part in the hard-drinking and carousing. I just hung around and talked and occasionally got talked into a dance by one of the little sisters or Sheila.

Funny, Sheila was not a frat little sister, heck she was not even officially associated with the frat, but she usually came to our post game parties and hung out with me. We would laugh at the antics of our friends, occasionally dance and jitter-bug if we liked the song being played. By 11:30 pm, just prior to the party closing down, we would usually find ourselves sitting on the six-foot high retaining wall, at the back of the Frat parking lot, kicking our legs and talking about life.

But I could not attend the frat party tonight. Tonight was the love feast being put on for all the new brothers and sisters.

So I ambled down Magnolia Street to the Maranatha House with my potluck contribution under my arm. As I walked up the street I could see people streaming into the front door.

The stage was still in the meeting room but that morning we had put up about 20 tables seating 10 per table that morning.

The  head table on the stage where the Praise Band Equipment usually played had Bob Weiner, some visiting pastors and Mike and Missy Caulk, the Auburn Pastors seated at it, in places of honor.

Two members of the Praise Band were strumming on acoustic guitars and as I walked in  they broke into song. I saw Bob with a microphone,seated at the front table, holding it to his mouth, singing loudly into it.

That seemed quirky to me, but I shook it off and plopped down at a table where a couple had just taken a seat.

They wore the same preppy clothing, popular at that time, as I did, he with parted short hair, and she with dimples, dark hair in braids and blue sparking blue eyes that seemed to flare brightly when she smiled at me. I smiled back and before I could speak we all joined in singing with the band.

After a couple of these songs Bob Weiner stood up and said, “Praise God- this is our third week at Auburn and we are seeing a mighty revival here. It is part of the new thing that God is doing on His earth. Tonight for the first time the new Body here at Auburn will break bread together like the early Christians always did.”

He pointed us to the scripture in Acts on how the new church broke bread and fellow-shipped together routinely and weekly.

He continued “This is our new family our brothers and sisters in Christ, our adopted family because we are adopted sons of God and heirs to His Kingdom. Amen????”

There was clapping and shouting.

“Tonight we are going to enjoy some Godly music, some food and we will have about ten baptisms tonight!!! PRAISE GOD ALMIGHTY! JESUS REIGNS!,shouted Bob.

“AMEN BROTHER!!!”came a shout from the crowd and there were cheers,  applause, and stomping of feet.

Bob waited until the noise subsided.

It was a dramatic pause. Bob had/has an unbelievable sense of timing; of how to build a story; of how to build drama when he spoke…even into the announcements like this. During this pause, and as the room grew silent, his face showed keen anticipation.

I found that the anticipation of what he was about so say growing in me as well.

“… and on Sunday night, after our blow out Sunday Morning Worship Service tomorrow morning, I will be speaking on an extremely important topic, a true revelation from God, that will prevent the hurt and injury that we see today in the world. You see God’s church, the Body of Christ, is called to be different in every way from the world. For those of you who have made a commitment to Jesus, that are committed to being radical over-comers,  you simply will not want to miss this session on Sunday night.”

“What is he going to be speaking about? What could be so revolutionary?” I wondered.

“…tomorrow night I will be speaking on God’s perfect choice and his plan for your life and you life-mate. It is an exciting topic and a plan that God has given to us, His Church and His Apostles in this end time. I will show you how God intends to bring brothers and sister together into holy and noble marriage with none of the hurts and the scars that the world leaves people in the sinful and lustful dating game that the world plays!”

“Amen?” he shouted and cupped his hand to his ear.

“Amen!” we all shouted back in unison.

“Wonder what in the world all that stuff was about?” I thought.

After getting through the pot luck line with a plate of food I sat back down at the table next to the young couple.

“We have been watching you at the services since last Sunday night,” said the girl. She introduced herself as Allie.

“This is my husband Matt.”

“You seem so on fire so alive to Jesus,” she said as she tore off  a piece of bread from her plate and popped it into her mouth.

It was a very nice compliment she gave me, I thought, and I liked hearing it.

It turned out that Allie was in nursing school and Matt was completing his master’s degree in sociology, or something like that. Although Allie was only one year older than me, and Matt four years older; their maturity levels, both as people, and as Christians, were much, much higher than mine.

They had both come from a charismatic Christian church in Montgomery and were dissatisfied with their walk and what they saw in the commitment to Jesus by other members in that church.

We spent the entire dinner talking about Jesus and what He was doing and the gifts of the Spirit and our mutual radical commitment to Him.

It was evident that they were far better versed in scripture and had a much deeper walk with the Lord than I did; this despite my constant attendance at the Baptist church and Bible studies on Campus over the past two years.

I did not know it then but Matt and Allie were to become my surrogate parents, at least that is the way I saw them, over the next three years while I was at Auburn.

They were  to become refuge for me at Maranatha when my “shepherds’ started whacking out and going nuts. Which happened often I would soon find out.

Matt and Allie were sincere and humble with a true desire to know God. Like others, including me, they were being sucked into a machine that did not reward humbleness, piety, or a servant’s spirit.

Ultimately, like almost all of us, who found their way to MCM, they ended up paying the price in hurts and scars and torments. Those who were the most sincere, the most devout, and humble ultimately paid a greater price in the arrogant and controlling atmosphere that Maranatha became, or actually, I think, already was.

It was also Matt and Allie who introduced me to a couple that would also have an affect on my life:

Karen and Phil Bonasso.

But all of this would come much later.

But tonight was simply was a night of fellowship and fun all centered on the Bible, and Jesus and Maranatha.

Matt introduced me to Mike and Missy Caulk (their real names are used with their permission) the new pastors at Auburn. I did not mention to Mike Caulk that I had met him earlier that week. I did not think he would remember that encounter.

During my conversation with Mike Caulk I learned he was an ex-Marine and had been quarterback for the Marine Corps football team. He seemed like a very personable and genuinely funny guy.

I immediately liked him. I was glad he was going to be our Pastor.

Throughout our conversation, however, which lasted about ten minutes, I noticed that Mike Caulk’s eyes would periodically follow Bob around the room. I could not put my finger on it, but it seemed that Mike Caulk, a big striking muscular guy, a handsome looking guy with a face a sculptor would love, was in awe of, and, it seemed to me, intimidated by, Bob Weiner. Mike watched Bob like a dog would watch a harsh master intent on the master’s every move and awaiting the inevitable punishment.

At the end of the service Bob called Mike and Missy Caulk up to the stage.

“Now,” Bob said, “I am going to be here preaching at Auburn only two more nights more, at least for right now”

There was a groan from the crowd and shouts of “stay longer and don’t leave.”

“Now, now,” said Bob, “it is God that is doing the things here..I am just sowing the seeds. Trust me I will be back and keep tabs on things here!”

And he laughed.

“Next week you are going to have a real treat in store. You see I am the evangelist that lays the ground work that gets the Ministry going; the one ploughs up the earth and plants the seeds. But starting Monday the person who will water and tend the soil is coming.  A person who will help build up this work into the mighty fortress of God.”

He paused.

“The man who is coming has a deep and passionate understanding of God. He is a true and real prophet of God in these last days: his name is Joe Smith. He is anointed by God and will be a true blessing to all of you. He will prophesy over you and change your lives.”

Then he looked at Mike and Missy Caulk.

“Now of course,” he continued,” these are your pastors Mike and Missy Caulk who are coming from Oxford, MS to lead this ministry. Praise God!”

And with that he waved Mike and Missy to stand up.

There was shouting and whooping like at the football game this afternoon. Then Bob said something really odd, something I thought strange at the time; something that has stuck with me verbatim some thirty years later.

He said, “We are counting on Mike and Missy Caulk to make this place grow, we have invested a lot of time and money in this ministry…. and they had better not mess it up!

I may be disremembering (is that a word??? If not it should be!) some twenty-seven years later, but the entire place seemed to let out an audible gasp, at least I am sure that I did.

Both Mike and Missy had a stunned expression on their face.

Bob seemed oblivious to all of this and yelled out: “Let’s close with the song ‘what a mighty God we serve’! And tomorrow morning invite all of your friends for I will be preaching on the mighty blood of Jesus!”

I stayed for another hour talking with Matt and Allie and visiting with Mike Caulk.

As I walked back up “mag” towards my frat house I thought, “What a great family I have become part of.”

Maranatha would become my complete and total “family”, in almost every sense, over the next five years.

And I would come to learn, in time, that this “family” was also completely and totally dysfunctional.

#15 First Chastisement

 

Maranatha House, Auburn University, circa 1979

Friday night-Saturday morning- MCM House

My new “brothers and sisters” in Christ gave me hugs as they left that night. I stood in the cool October air on the columned porch of the Maranatha House and watched them walk up the street arm in arm.

Some 25 years later I still cannot forget the expressions on their faces of hope, joy, and love. And it was because of my witness for Jesus and my new radical stand.

It had to be that, right?

In seven years as a Christian I had not seen ONE soul saved and in the space of six days, BAMO!, six hard-core non-religious types saved, baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit. Speaking in tongues; the whole shooting match.

An, “Ahem” woke me from my reverie. Marty stood by my side. He pushed his glasses up on his nose.

“Tik,” Marty said, “lets go inside and talk.”

It was after 1:00 am on Saturday morning and I had  a grand total of 6 hours sleep in the last three days.

I was starting to see double.

The House had mostly cleared out.  Small clusters of people huddled in corners of the meeting room; some doing many praying it appeared. But other than that the two hundred or so people who had been there for the service were gone.

Marty led me into the office and took a seat in one of the expensive and beautiful wing backed chairs that flanked the mahogany desk.

“So, Tik, how are you doing?” he said.

“Marty, I couldn’t be doing better. I mean what Jesus is doing here is incredible and to see Ricky, Rhonda, Fred, and Roger all becoming overcoming sold out to Jesus Christians …well I am speechless!” I exclaimed.

“It is wonderful, isn’t it?” he commented, in a voice of excitement. “Tik, God is going to use you, but I think it is important to understand HOW he uses us. You are bearing fruit but it is important to understand why.”

My mind was muddy from lack of sleep. Maybe that was why I was not following his line of questioning and did not understand where he was leading this conversation.

“Well, I think the explanation is the Holy Spirit and my prayers,” I said.

“I actually asked God to let me bear fruit Thursday morning. And it happened. I asked in Faith believing, just like Bob told us to, and then it happened.”

“Faith and the Holy Spirit and your prayers were certainly part of it,” he emphasized the word “part” slowly and carefully.

“But the real reason you are bearing fruit is because of your radical commitment to being a disciple and commitment to Jesus and His Body.

Well, what he said was true I supposed.

I invited Robert, Ricky, and Rhonda strictly because I knew that was what a totally committed person would do. Fred had approached me because of my total commitment to Christ.

“Yeah” I said, “I can see what you mean.”

“Tik, we talked about counting the costs, the night we met, right?” asked Marty.

“What in the world is he driving at,” I thought, “he certainly will get no disagreement from me on being sold out.”

“Right,” I replied to his question.

“That means not forsaking each other, keeping our commitments to our fellow brothers and sisters, being faithful to do what we say we are going to do each and every time… you do understand this concept, right? This is the REAL difference in who we are and what separates us from the world and fake watered down Christians we see everywhere.”

“Right,” I said again; nodding my head.

“That means that when you or I don’t keep our commitments we let the entire Body down. This is especially true for the gift of leadership like you . God is already demonstrating that he has called you out to lead.” Marty continued.

I still had no idea what in the world he was talking about. I was so tired my head was starting to nod downwards; but I did my best to concentrate on the conversation.

“When we leaders don’t keep our commitments it can cause weaker brothers to stumble, to lose confidence in what we are doing, and they miss out on our encouragement.”

I said nothing. I was in a daze.

Then as Marty continued it became crystal clear what this conversation was about.

“The Bible says we should encourage and admonish people especially those under our care. We missed you this morning Brother.”

He was talking about the 6:00 am discipleship meeting this morning (Friday) that I had missed. I had missed it, of course, because of the all-nighter I had pulled. And I was forced into this all-nighter because of my three consecutive nights of Maranatha activities into the wee hours of the morning.

I wish I could tell you that this is what went through my head at the time.

But it was not.

Instead my thought was, “Rats, I knew I should not have put my head on the desk at 5:00 am this morning to catch a few winks. I let Marty and my brothers in Christ down.”

“Sorry Marty, I said, “I got caught up in an all-night study session and fell asleep by accident.”

“Look, Tik, we all make mistakes, these things happen, but as God’s Green Berets we must set a higher standard than anyone. Your first priority is to the Kingdom and what God is doing. For one simple reason this is so: it is the only ETERNAL thing in your life, the rest is temporary, it will pass away;  it will not matter in the end. But your work for the Kingdom will endure forever.”

This was all said in a very kind and gentle tone.

Please, Dear Reader, don’t mistake me, Marty said this in complete sincerity with an air of concern and belief that he was helping me. He was utterly and completely convinced of the truth and goodness of what he spoke.

“Look at what you are producing for God. But remember, He can only use tools that are molded for his purposes.” he continued.

“Let’s covenant with one another that we will put the things of God first; that we will be the point of God’s spear, the over-comers that Bob preached about tonight.”

“Amen?”

“Amen” I answered. This is what I wanted. He was right, it seemed, the results were coming and I told him that he could count on me. That when all others fell I would still be standing.

We hugged and Marty mentioned that the discipleship group would be meeting a little later on Saturday.

“It has been a long week. Go get some sleep Tik.  We will start at 9:30 am tomorrow to move the chairs and tables we are borrowing from the Jewish Community Center in Opelika. I will see you then.”

That was great, for if it took us two hours to do this I would have plenty of time to head back up the frat house and meet Sheila for the pre-game cookout at 12:30 pm. Then we could head to the game at 1:30 pm. I was looking forward to catching up with her.

For the truth was I was missing Sheila’s company.

#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.