#20 Tug of War

Tug of war

I was walking down the stairs with Marty after one of our morning shepherding group meetings. Marty put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Tik, I am looking forward to seeing you tonight at the service. IT will be Bob’s last you know.”

I stopped on the stairs.

Tonight our night was our frat chapter meeting.

And tonight was my first monthly business meeting as Frat. President. In this meeting we would review the finances: cash in- vs. expenses vs. surplus and also vote on any issues that the frat members brought up.

In fact tonight, because of our excellent rush results (thanks to Sheila’s help from the party with her very large and old line sorority) we would propose a reduction in dues for the frat brothers.

I needed to be there, and in fact, was obligated to be there. I was elected President, it was my responsibility, and they paid me for it in free room and board.

Seemed pretty easy and simple to me.

I explained to Marty why I would need to miss the MCM meeting tonight.

Not only that but after the chapter meeting I simply HAD to hit the books- I missed a study group last night and that spelled danger.

Going to engineering school, at least for me, was like riding a bike at 20 mph just in front of a giant steam roller moving at the same speed. Everything was fine as long as you pedaled like mad. But slow down or stop and you would be run over and crushed. And I could feel the steam roller gaining ground on me. For I had studied little in the last two weeks due to all of my MCM activities.

A new look appeared on Marty’s face that I had not seen yet.

I am struggling now to describe it, so here goes: it was irritation combined with an attempt to soften it into compassion.

I mean, his face said, “You are irritating me,” but the tone of his voice was all compassion, sugar and honey.

“Well Tik, I understand what you have in front of you tonight, but this is a really critical time for your Christian growth and walk with the Lord. You are a baby Christian and babies need lots of feeding. It would be a real mistake for you not come to the service tonight. Besides there are at least seven sheep now from your frat, if you don’t come they probably will not come either.”

I really did want to be at MCM tonight and to hear what this new Prophet was going to say to us on behalf of God.

I wanted to this more than anything.

But there were lots of things that I wanted to do in my life, but did not do them, because of other things I was committed to; things I was both ethically and morally committed to do.

But Maranatha did have one thing right.

I was a man-pleaser and did not like to let people down. Now I was torn, do I let my new Shepherd down or my frat?

But what about my studies?. I simply had to study at least three hours or so tonight, say from 8-11 pm…and then I remembered that I was committed to Mike’s prayer group the next morning at 6am.

My heart sank.

“Look Tik, God looks at our heart and our actions. If you are truly committed to him then His things must come first. That is the difference between overcomers and watered down make believe Christians,” Mike intoned.

That decided it for me.

I would see if JD our frat VP would cover for me this one night. Then I would leave as soon as the service was over at 8:30 pm for the engineering library to crack the books.

“Don’t worry about me, ” I told Marty. “I’ll be there tonight.”

At the frat house I looked for J.D. our Vice President.

As I have told you we were NOT friends. He had run for President against me last spring.

I won becoming the first junior President of the frat. As a consolation prize he  was elected Vice President. He continually second guessed me at the frat, I understood why, it must have been hard to have someone with less experience running “his” fraternity.

Now I would have to tell him I would miss my first business meeting which only occurred once per month.

As luck would have it JD was in Mom’s room. Mom was also graduate instructor for Dr. Carl. And Dr. Carl, who you have already met, if you have made it this far, was a not only a prof. for two of my classes this quarter, but was also my student advisor.

Small world, huh?

Looking back on it Mom did a good job of looking out for us and trying his best to keep a bunch of 20 year old males in line and from burning the house down.

Last year one of our guys had gotten some bad grades and decided to drop out and go to work for the Power Company. Mom had escorted him down to the Dean’s office and “un-dropped him out”.

The kid was still in school.

Mom and J.D looked up as I walked into Mom’s room.

“What’s up Tikie?” Mom yelled.

J.D said nothing to me. He seemed to concentrating on blowing smoke rings with a lit cigar that was hanging from his mouth.

“Well I was actually looking for JD to see if he could cover for me in the chapter meeting tonight.”

Mom’s red eyebrows cocked up and JD momentarily forgot about the smoke signals he was trying to send.

“Got an emergency Tik?” Mom asked.

It was unusual for the president to miss a chapter meeting much less the monthly business meeting. I had missed last week’s chapter meeting and had gotten a little grief from the frat members because of this.

And now I stood there telling them I was going to miss two in a row including tonight’s business meeting.

I stood there trying to figure out what to tell them…then Bob’s admonition came to my mind that, “Jesus said don’t hide your light under a bushel,” sounded in my head.

So I said, “I promised some guys I would attend a church service tonight.”

“But I was sure that Chris’ study (Chris head of BSU) did not start until 8:00 pm on tonight,” “Mom” said. “Our business meeting starts at 7:00 pm and we will be finished by at least 8:00 pm.”

Chris of BSU and “Mom” were allies but not friends.

Neither really approved of the other, but “Mom” saw Chris as a restraining influence on us and Chris appreciated the fact that “Mom” really tried to look out for our welfare, well at least as he saw fit to.

JD was silent; watching me as he puffed his cigar. Had he spoken to Sheila about what and who I was involved with? I knew they were friends.

“No,” I said, “it is not a BSU function; it is a new ministry called Maranatha.”

“You mean that guy that was here with the band a while ago  who was yelling and screaming like some two-bit carney?” JD asked.

I nodded.

Mom laughed, “You are a grown man Tik, at least you ought to be one. You really have an obligation to be here at this chapter meeting, for God’s sake you are the guy in charge here.”

“Sorry guys, I made a promise.”

“Bullshit Tik!” said JD. “You made a promise first to the frat.”

“I know JD,” I said, “but that was before I made a commitment to put Jesus above everything else; to commit myself to him like the early Christians did.”

Mom twisted his red mustache.

“Tik everyone knows you are a straight arrow religious guy.”

Mom continued, “You know I don’t go for that crap; but I have never given you a hard time about it! You go to Rat’s and Chris’s studies almost every week and are at Sunday School every Sunday morning. For Pete’s sake what is so special and urgent about tonight’s church meeting?’

“Look,” I said standing up,”I realized I was a lukewarm Christian and have to take a radical stand for Jesus. He died for me so the least I can do is to put Him first.”

JD waved his hand at me.

“Cut the preaching Tik, alright? I don’t need it and I am not going to listen to it. So stop it. I am going to cover for you, okay? But what do you want me to tell the brothers? Huh? ”

“Tell them truth,” I said.

“You really want me to tell them that you have cracked up?” snorted JD. He walked out of the room in disgust.

I started to leave.

“Wait a minute Tik, have a seat,” said “Mom.

“What in the hell’s gotten into you Tik?,”  asked Mom. “I can’t remember you missing more than one or two chapter meetings since you were initiated as a frosh over two years ago. Now you have missed two straight. What is going on with you?”

“Don’t push me Mom I made a commitment to go!”

I caught myself, I was almost yelling. Mom continued to stroke his mustache.

“Tik- who is this group that you have gotten yourself involved with?”

“They are committed Christians, that’s all .”

I turned and walked out of Mom’s room and went down the hall to the door to my room.

As I put the key in the lock I looked down the hall and there was Mom, standing in his doorway, stroking his mustache and looking at me.

That evening was Bob’s last night to preach, at least for a while.

The Band was in great form and I ended up talking to Becky, the little sister who had broken down at the frat house. She was on fire for Jesus!

The service broke up around 8:45 pm and I reached for my backpack. I was planning on heading to the engineering lab to try to catch up on my studies.

All of the sudden Sam and Marty were by my side.

“Brother, we were so glad to see you here. I know that God will really bless you for your commitment tonight. We are going to be doing a study with a young man who is on the verge of making Jesus Lord and we would like you to sit with us, to give him your testimony and perspective on the study.’

“Will you help us Bro?”

What could I say? They had sacrificed last evening for me, so I would do the same for this new kid. Isn’t that what Jesus would have wanted?

I stuffed my back pack under my chair and went upstairs with Sam and a blond-haired kid who looked like he was 12 years old.

I was excited. I was going to help Marty and Sam bear fruit for the Lord.

My engineering studies would have to wait yet one more night.

#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.

#11 Discipleship

The cool morning wind tousled my hair as I laughed hysterically. My fraternity brother and new Christian brother, Robert, sped past me and cut me off waving and laughing as he did so. I put it into high gear, pumping the pedals for all I was worth, with the tires of my Schwinn humming underneath me. But there was no way to win this race, at least not this morning, that took us from the frat house to the MCM house.

Robert sped into the graveled parking lot behind the MCM House just as the bell tower at Sanford Hall, the huge Victorian pile about a mile away from us, struck the hour of 6:00 am. We slung our bikes onto the ground, hoisting our backpacks onto our shoulders and ran, out of breath, towards the back door.

Our thrice weekly shepherding meeting with Marty started at 6:00 am and we were late!

Peering around the dark meeting room of the house we slowly opened the door that led up the narrow stairs. The house was dark and quiet… not a sound could be heard.

We looked at each other, shrugged and then stealthily made our way up the stairs stopping at the landing on the second floor. A light gleamed from down the hall  through a half closed door and we could hear someone brushing their teeth.  Otherwise not a sound could be heard in the hallway.

We walked down the hall and saw a narrow door with a sign taped to it. It read “Marty’s discipleship group 6:00 am SHARP on third floor- THIS WAY.”

So up this final (we hoped) set of stairs we trod. At the top landing the door opened into a gabled long room where we saw six other young men seated on the floor in a semi- circle. In the middle of the group sat Marty, our shepherd, on a hard folding chair.

Marty turned and with stone faced stare motioned us to take a seat at one end of the semi-circle of brothers.

“Brothers these are the newest sheep of the Body: Tik Tok and Robert Smith.”

As if on que each guy introduced himself and uttered a brief testimony that went something like this: “Marty/Steven/Miltie/Fred (one of the brothers) shared the true Gospel with me and God showed me his grace and His Spirit touched me and I have committed everything to the Lord Jesus and He is Lord of All.”

Not everyone said this exactly but that was the gist of it.

Marty then asked Robert and I to share our testimonies which we did, however briefly.

Then he stood up, pushing his chair back, and faced us.

“Brothers you are part of God’s movement on Earth today. He has called you and blessed you with that calling. He is calling us to a life of denial and service in His Name.”

He flipped open a well-worn and heavily marked Bible and read “…and he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

“Brothers we must deny ourselves so we can live for Jesus who said ‘he who tries to save his own life shall lose it but he who loses his life should gain it.”

Marty cleared his throat, pushed his glasses up his nose, and continued, “Those who are following Christ in Maranatha are God’s Green Beret’s and you, the single brothers, are the elite force within the Body. As Paul said it is better to be single… and why? So that we can focus all our energy on bringing about the Kingdom of Christ on earth as it is in heaven.”

So far what Marty said sounded right…we did have to deny ourselves and take up our cross and focus on the work of God… but I just was not sure where this was going.

But I found out soon enough.

“But, you see brothers, we cannot be the point of God’s spear if there is sin in our life and if we do not hold each other accountable. You see unconfessed sin will hold you back, it will keep the work of God that each of us must do from going forward.”

Marty flipped through his Bible and read from Hebrews reading, “Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress”

“We are running a race and if we are burdened with unconfessed sin it will slow us down. So each time we meet we are going to confess our sins to each and then repent. That way we keep the sin from weighing us down.”

Now frankly my internal radar went up with a “Bing Bing Bing.”

All my life I had been taught, that as Christians, we were high priests described in Hebrews and need not confess our sins to anyone but Christ. My grandmother was a rabid anti-Catholic and at Sunday lunch she would scold the Catholics saying ‘I feel sorry that they don’t know that they can confess their sins to Christ directly instead of through a priests.” I had been repeatedly taught this at the Baptist Sunday Schools and Training Union classes I had attended since being a small child.

So I was pretty sure that the admonition in the Bible about confessing our sins to one another meant confessing transgressions we had committed against another Christian; not confessing all of our sins to someone else.

But I said nothing about my doubts and once again stuffed another strange MCM scriptural interpretation into the “closet in my mind.” I mean who was I to question a guy like Marty who had given up everything to follow Christ?

Marty asked a guy at the other end of the circle to begin the session by confessing his sins from this week.

He hesitated, turned red and said “I lusted after a sister all week…and then… uh… I masturbated in the shower.”

I looked at Marty, but his expression did not change, he was stone faced.

“Okay everyone look at me- who else has this problem and wants to confess it?”

The other guys looked at the floor and then one by one the arms went up. Marty then let loose a prayer binding the “demons of lust and commanding Satan to flee.” He then told us the story of Joseph and said “if you have that urge you should come tell me about it immediately.”

I was pretty sure that was one edict I was going to disobey, but I said nothing and kept my gaze straight ahead.

Mike then went around the circle and had each guy confess at least one sin he had. Some seemed anxious to spill as many sins as they could, other thought for a moment and  would state a problem with sin they were having. After each brother spoke Mike would lay a hand on them and pray over them. The he would make a notation in a small leather bound notebook laying within his Bible.

My turn to confess was getting closer and my heart was pounding. I was racking my brain for a sin that would measure up to the ones I was hearing (none of them earthshattering; but to my naïve 19 year ears hearing a young man confess to lusting after another male seemed incredible).

Suddenly I saw Marty staring at me for… one… two… three seconds…and my heart thudded as I considered all of my many sins.

Finally, I stammered, “My sin is my huge ego which has driven me to try overachieve in my Christian walk this past week in the hopes of getting praise from you Randy, Sam and Bob.”  This was a true statement, because I wanted their approval more than anything, and it seemed to me a sin of pride and arrogance.

Marty rebuked the demon of pride and ego and spoke a prayer over me asking God to guard my heart against selfishness and made a notation in his notebook.

And I wondered about that notation.

I would soon learn that there was actually no Roman Catholic like confidentiality within MCM. At the shepherds meeting with the Pastors at MCM the sheep’s sin, how their Christian walk was progressing, any backsliding and required remedial action, were all openly discussed. This was the essence of MCM’s accountable discipleship.

But I knew nothing of that process at this point.

Finally, the session seemed over.

Marty crossed his arms and with a smile that did not reach his eye said in a low tone,“Let’s hold each other accountable each day and hour, if we feel we are going to fall, or are being tempted, we should reach out to another brother. We should hold each other accountable for bearing fruit, for completing our Red Book studies and for serving the Body. Remember Satan is seeking to devour those who are in God’s service.”

Then Marty paused, pushing his glasses back up the bridge of his nose, “Okay, it has not been announced yet but we are having a love feast at the House Saturday night. I will need all of you to be here at 8:00 am on Saturday morning. We are going to pile into cars, head to the Jewish Community Center in Opelika and pick up tables and chairs that they are lending us. So be sharp and be on time.”

With that everyone started gathering their things to leave to head to work or school.

As Robert and I were headed towards the stairs when Marty gestured to us; motioning us both to come over to see him with a flick of his hand.

He frowned said to us, “Brothers, you are the spear point of God’s army. You were late this morning to the disciplining meeting. That shows a lack of discipline and caring for the other brothers. I expect you to be on time and, in fact, to be early. We are overcomers and the Body is depending on us to set the example.”

He turned to get his things and I could see we had been dismissed.