#44 Whacky Revelations

The ministries at MCM found themselves under constant assault from International Office HQ in Gainesville (IO) with seeming crazy and whacky revelations and schemes from God.

These schemes were able to take hold with Bob, Joe and Rose because, even though their work aimed directly at colleges and universities they eschewed what they called, “The spirit of intellectualism of this age.”

In other words any rational objection to a scheme that popped into their minds irritated and upset them.

But despite how crazy these schemes and revelations sometimes appeared they actually served some practical purposes.

I will admit, most probably, that Rose and Bob really believed these crazy ideas were from God and would aid the ministry in the same way my Uncle thought that the box he bought from guy on a street corner for $10 contained a working stereo.

The box contained four bricks.

First these schemes served to keep the sheep busy with kingdom work. The elders knew that a person busy, busy, busy on Kingdom business could not spend much time pondering the real mess MCM was. “Idle hands are the devils workshop,” as my Grandma Reese used to say.

It also helped show which MCM member might harbor doubts; for failure to take part in what seemed like crazy and lunatic schemes demonstrated a sheep might be wandering, or even worse, displaying a spirit of intellectualism.

Finally these projects and ideas that came (apparently) directly from God served to show that the leadership still received revelations from on high; they demonstrated that God still moved through the MCM leadership in the end times.

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

Rose Weiner (Bob’s wife) had a revelation about groaning…and one morning, at MLTS, she read from Romans the following passage:

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.

Now this was the sort of quack pot stuff Rose was famous for and she took this passage to mean that if we were really in tune with the Holy Spirit that we would start groaning during our public prayers.

The fact that MCM members were NOT groaning during our public prayers was proof that the sheep were NOT praying seriously  hard enough and that was why the ministry was not growing FAST enough (well, not fast enough to suit Bob and Rose).

So at one MLTS Rose announces all from the front stage in the main tent session that we are all going to dedicate ourselves to praying; and that and that we will pray, “In the Spirit with groans as Paul directed us.”

Out loud during MLTS… for one hour.

All of us.

Together.

The implication, of course was that if your out loud praying did not elicit the groans Paul mentioned then you were one of the problem children who were not praying according to the spirit; nor dedicated enough to the kingdom.

“We will intercede out loud together in a mighty way and the Spirit [the Holy Spirit] Himself will begin interceding with groans expressing things we do not and cannot understand,” she shouted, her long blond hair swinging about her shoulders as she jumped up and down making her point.

Someone should have shown Rose the scripture in Matthew which reads: “But you, when you pray, enter into your closet, and when you have shut the door, pray to you Father in secret.”

Matt, Allie, and I are sitting apart from our flocks (we are all in full-time ministry by this point) in the far back of the auditorium. And like everyone else at this MLTS session we knelt in front of our seats on Rose’s orders.

And the place begins buzzing like a giant beehive with people praying in their shabalas or kolachackas or whatevers. After about a minute Rose lets out one long grunting groan and sure enough a chorus of unbelievably strange groans and grunts start being issued by about 4,500 participants all around us.

No one at this MLTS session would be a non-groaner, because being a non-groaner meant that you were a non-spirit led person.

Being a non-spirit led person was a bad thing. Bad… bad… bad….

Okay one more time:

Groaning =good.
Not groaning =bad.

Let’s try it again:

Being open to Rose’s revelation no matter how silly it was = good. Rejecting Rose’s revelation no matter how silly it was = bad.

So 100% of the people around us there are groaning and grunting.

Actually some people started wailing. I cannot describe how weird the thing was.

Really weird.

It was doubling unnerving with the chief groaners Bob and Rose on stage groaning and grunting into their microphones and with the sound system amplifying their groaning volume ten or twenty times.

I occasionally have nightmares about the ability of the leadership to have their charges initiate bizarre behavior at the snap of a finger. If I had not witnessed this repeatedly myself during my MCM time I would not think it possible.

Now that morning  I’m still sitting in seats up with Matt and Allie, not with my sheep.

I am trying to get into this praying and groaning revelation of Rose’s, but even in my anesthetized MCM state I am thinking, “Man, this is really bizarre.”

Holding my, breath I am waiting on this to pass and for Rose to go on to the next nutty and weird thing.

I am just hoping that her next revelation does not involve Saran Wrap and cooking oil.

Then I look over and catch Matt’s eye.

He gets this grin on his face and leans over and whispers, “Sounds like 4,500 constipated people sitting on the big white thrown, if you know what I mean Tik.”

And he winks.

And the three of us, Matt, Allie and I, get the giggles right there, chortling and trying to hold back the laughter; I swear I thought I was going to have internal injuries I was laughing so hard.

And all the while the place is groaning and grunting in the spirit.

But all I could think of is, “Get these people some ExLax!”

To this day I am not sure how we did not get thrown out of the place by the Maranatha Usher Gestapo; probably because they were too busy with the grunting and groaning revelation.

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

Now whatever the latest Word, or revelation, was from MCM IO in Gainesville, Marty, my then shepherd, would go at it implementing the latest Word whole hog.

For he was a True Believer in every sense, he was Lenin’s Trotsky or Stalin’s Beria.

As an example of this occurred one Saturday morning.

I was on my way out to my pizza job when Marty (my shepherd) stopped me in the back parking lot asking if I would give him a hand.

I said, “Sure”.

He opened his car’s trunk lid and there must have been 100 plastic gallon containers stacked inside and also in his back seat; the kind that distilled water comes in.

“Tik, can you help me unload these into the parking lot please?” he asked.

“Marty, what in the world are you doing with these things?” I asked holding up one of the empty gallon jugs. I noticed that he had rigged a garden hose up and had a bench with a bottle of bleach laying on it along an eye dropper next to this bottle.

“At the ministry retreat last week [for full timers help in Gainesville] we heard a Word from God that we must do practical things to get the church ready for the coming end times; just like Joseph did for Pharaoh. We were told to start storing food and water in preparation for these bad times.”

“But why the water and bottles and bleach?” I asked.

“Well,” said Marty, “the most vital element we need is water, and in the coming troubles if our water supply goes out we will need to store enough water to get the ministry through this time of trouble. I am going to fill each bottle with tap water from the hose and put a drop of bleach in it to keep it fresh.”

Marty might just have said, “Little Green Men have moved into my office” from my viewpoint .

I had just completed a course on water management and hydrology. One of the modern miracles we take for granted is pure potable water. With clean running water diseases like typhus, cholera and diphtheria quit making routine appearances in the USA. And the death rate for infants and children plummeted by over 50%.

“Marty,” I continued, “where are you going to store the water for these times of trouble?”

He pointed to the back house, a two-story structure, yet to be renovated.

“In there, I figure I can stack these bottles four or five deep on the second and third floors.”

I shook my head.

Should I let him continue this insanity or bring him a dose of reality?

This was not just a rhetorical question for me. For if I did not stop this nonsense I would be filling and toting water bottles for eternity.

Or until some other quack-pot scheme from MCM came along.

But if I challenged him then I could be seen as being in rebellion and questioning a Word from the Lord. The risk of rebellion seemed to outweigh the work of toting water bottles for eternity into the back house.

I could already feel my arms aching.

“Marty, I just completed a course on water and hydrology and I would like to point a few things out.”

He sat down.

“First, the average human needs, at the very least, 4 gallons of water a day. I can get out the text-book that shows this for you if you would like.”

He stared at me. I could not tell if I was going to get whacked or thanked at this point; because I was pretty certain I was exhibiting a spirit of intellectualism.

So I took a deep breath and said, “So if we take 180 people [the number in our ministry at this point] times 4 gallons of water per person per day we will need to store up 720 gallons or 720 of your jugs of water per day for each day in this upcoming time of trouble. That equals about 5000 gallons per week for the people here now. Or 20,000 gallons per month.”

“And there is one other problem.  My guess is that the back house has about 12,000 cubic feet of storage space and that would only hold about 6,000 gallons of water. So you only have space for one week’s worth of water, or so, for everyone here. But even if we decided to store 6,000 gallons in the back house we would still have a serious problem.”

Marty cocked his head, “What problem would that be, Tik?”

“Well, it is a wood frame structure, and I am sure that if you stored, or tried to store, 6,000 gallons of water the building would collapse like a house of cards. Water is VERY Heavy. Maybe God will just make a miracle happen like the manna from heaven that fell on Moses when these troubles come.”

What I said was true.

A quick look in around your town would show standpipes or water tanks made of steel or concrete. They are very strong for water is HEAVY. And these standpipes usually hold about 500,000 gallons of water or about one week’s worth of water for the area they serve. Electric pumps bring the water up and gravity brings it down. Kind of scary thinking about it, that we are exactly one week away from dying of thirst or dying of cholera.

At this point I shut up and waited to see what would happen.

Thank goodness, he actually looked relieved.

“Thank you Brother for a sharing, let me pray about this.”

And that was the end of our preparation for the times of trouble and my toting 6,000 gallons of water up three flights of stairs and having the back house collapse on me and kill me.

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

But the whacky revelations continued unabated and MCM latched onto them as if they were actually written in the Bible and thus created more work for the plantation slaves.

False Healings

 

Editor’s Note: Tikie shows us another MCM “ritual”, that of the healing ministry. Tikie believes that these public spectacles were performed to demonstrate that the leadership of MCM was anointed with God’s power to heal people; the same power that Christ had. For if the leadership was anointed with God’s power who could stand against them? Tikie tells us that even in his most “addled phase” of being an MCM member that he never really thought that the the healing ministry was real. He thinks that Joe Smith may have convinced himself that he had some bizarre healing gift, or perhaps Joe knew it was all a sham. Tikie is unsure of this. But Tikie is convinced that most, if not all, of the MCM sheep were fervent in their belief in God’s anointing on the MCM leadership to heal the sick. Repeatedly seeing people healed at services reinforced the hold that leadership kept on the flock.

False Healings

At the service that night Joe Smith preached and then spoke about four or five one on one prophesies. How many of these prophecies were correct and how many were false only God knows.

But when he had finished the last prophecy he looked up and said “God is telling me that someone has back trouble and that He wants to heal that person.”

An older woman stood up immediately and walked to the stage.

“God is telling me that your back is hurting here,” and he pointed to her lower back.

“That’s right” she said. “I have had a nagging back problem for years. I have had it x-rayed and checked by doctors but nothing can be found or done about it.”

Joe pulled a chair up on stage. He had her sit down.

“Now put your legs straight out parallel to the ground,” he said.

She did so and he knelt down where her feet were.

“Aha,” he said, “Just like God told me. Your legs are of different lengths.”

“I am going to pray and ask God to lengthen and straighten your shorter leg” he said.

The “beehive” of prayers started in the congregation and I could hear “yes Dear Jesus and “please Dear Lords” being spoken around me.

“I command this leg to grow in the MIGHTY NAME OF JESUS!”

Joe had a hand on each foot and the lady’s legs were sticking straight out. And there seemed to be a movement of one leg.

“Did you feel it?” Joe shouted out.

“I did!!!” She cried.

“Stand up” shouted Joe.

She stood up.

“Run around the stage!”

She took off running little bunny hops around the stage.

“How’s your back feel?” he asked.

“I’m healed, no pain” she screamed, raising her hands. “Praise Jesus!!!!”

Well of course the crowd went nuts as they did about every “miracle, sign and prophecy” that took place at MCM.

We all wanted to believe that God was moving at MCM in a special anointing. But the old Tik, from his now locked closet, was disgusted at the spectacle that night.

What “he” had seen was a cross between a “carnival show” and a poor imitation of Oral Roberts.

And I will let you in on a secret that I now know, and perhaps you know it as well. My company works with orthopedic and spinal surgeons. I have a number of surgeons that I not only know well, but am good friends with.

Here is the secret: There is not a person on earth whose legs are the same length. And the method Joe used to measure the length is so imprecise as to be laughable.

The other fact is that 80% of the adult population in the US over the age of 30 will suffer some back pain this year.

It keeps Tylenol and Advil in business.

I believe that God heals.

I also believe that God has given us the gift of medicine and has given doctors the gift of healing. I will let you draw your own conclusion about Joe Smith and that night. Maranatha was big time into healing, and the  demonstration of that gift, for it was a sign of God’s anointing and power.

But in the five years I that I observed both Joe Smith’s and Maranatha’s healing ministry I never saw the” blind made to see” or, “the lame to walk”.

I saw a lot of “proclaimed healings’ but none that ever convinced me, the “old Tik”,  now relegated to that the closet in my mind.

And I remain convinced that not a single “supernatural” stage show healing ever took place in MCM.

Ever.

It was nothing more, or less, than a spectacle to show that God’s anointing was on the leadership of MCM; plain and simple.

#22 FALSE PROPHETS

Editor’s note: Tikie now describes another method that MCM employed to control the minds and actions of its followers.
Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.”  The Book of Acts
At the service that night we wondered who Joe Smith, this Prophet that Bob had talked about, was and what he be like ?

I noticed that sitting up front next to Mike and Missy Caulk was a fellow wearing a blue cardigan sweater and a white turtleneck. He looked older than almost anyone in MCM, probably about 45-50 years old, which to my nineteen year old self seemed ancient.

Mike Caulk took that stage and said, “Tonight we have a real blessing from God, we will be hearing from Joe Smith.”

He spoke of Joe as one who had been called out from industry and anointed by God to teach, preach and prophesy.

Joe took the stage and my immediate reaction was one of disappointment. “This is no Bob Weiner,” I remember thinking.

Bob frenetically paced the stage, making karate like chops with his hand, speaking in whispers one moment and shouting in the next.

It was a real circus, in the good show sense of the word, when Bob preached.

Joe began speaking in a very deep Eastern Kentucky twang. Where Bob sparkled when on stage; Joe kept his voice soft and low and moved slowly.

Joe talked softly using a conversational tone. He punctuated his talk with a deep infectious laugh which made me feel warm. In fact in about 10 minutes it seemed we listened to an elder uncle whose warm welcoming tone showed sincere concern about  each person there.

He spoke of his love for Jesus and Jesus’ love for each one of us

He paused, sometimes, at the end of a sentence for a count of one…two… three…then slowly his face would break into a warm smile. His manner invited everyone to relax and hear the good news, at least that night it did.

His talk was on Jesus and who Jesus was.

Joe used as his text the story of the shepherd who looked at the 100 sheep; tenderly caring for them all night. Then the shepherd realized that one sheep had gone missing. He spent hours looking for this one lost sheep. Joe described how when the shepherd found the lost sheep, “He kissed it, calmed it, and petted it and removed the briars and thorns from its coat”.

“You see, Church, you are that one sheep, that lost sheep that means more to Him than anything. And, of course, Jesus is that shepherd, and you, all of you here, are that one sheep that He wants to love, to kiss, to pet and to remove the thorns and briars from your lives. To keep you safe.”

The contrast between Joe Smith’s slow build deep baritone voice and his kind and loving demeanor and Bob Weiner’s electric and dynamic presence could not have been more dramatic.

This contrast had incredible affect on me making me think,“Wow! This church, these leaders and shepherds are incredible, but so so different from each other.”

It reinforced the specialness of the group.

Joe stated, “Now I feel that God has some specific prophecies that He wants to speak to people tonight, about His plans for people, and about answers to prayers.”

I sat up.

Until this point all the prophesies had been pretty generic, like the ones I had described in the services earlier in the blog.

Now Joe stood with his eyes closed up at the podium.

The room silent now seemed tense with anticipation.

“God,” he intoned in his Kentucky accent, “is telling me that someone here is worrying about the health of their mother. Their mother has a diagnosis of cancer. ”

He opened his eyes.

“Now who is that, Church?”

He scanned the room.

Now my radar was going crazy.

This reminded me of the time that Sheila and I, on a dare, had visited a fortune-teller in Phenix City, an army base town about two hours from Auburn.

A young girl in front of me raised her hand in response to Joe’s question.

“Come up here sister.”

The girl walked up her mouth drawn tight and her eyes watering.

“God is speaking to me that you have prayed for your Mom’s condition. Is this correct?”

The girl nodded yes with tears starting to stream down her face.

“And you have prayed for your Mom’s spiritual walk as well haven’t you?”

The girl started crying aloud and Joe put his arm around her; giving her a warm tender smile.

“God will answer your prayers tonight,”Joe said. “First saith God I am healing your mother even as we speak. Second, I tell you My daughter that your witness shall result in the salvation not only of your mother but of your entire family. Glory to God…Let’s give God the glory…”

The girl stepped off the stage her face lit with a smile and her arms raised in a victory salute.

The place went ballistic. I even found myself clapping.

I had seen the gift of prophecy exercised, not some general statement of prophecy, but a very specific one. The smiling girl sat down with tears streaming from her eyes amid shouts of amens, hallelujahs, and calls of, “Thank YOU JESUS!

Was it real?

I had seen almost the same ritual last year at the fortune teller that Sheila and I had visited. The fortune-teller puts a thought into the head of the seeker. Then rapid questions confirming these thoughts are asked. If Joe had fore-knowledge of a mother with cancer then why did he have to ask the person involved to raise their hand? Wouldn’t God have given him the name identity of the girl? If Joe had just pointed to her and told her to come up on stage, it seemed to me, that this would have been much more effective in showing that the prophecy was indeed real.

I brushed this aside as a spirit of intellectualism trying to take reign in my brain. For everyone in the meeting room seemed excited and overjoyed at what they had just seen and heard. And they were sure that they were hearing prophetic utterance straight from God.

It is of God, I thought. “It must be of God, because if it is not…” and my thoughts trailed away to nothing.

Now it is clear that from the Paul’s letters that the gift of Prophecy is given to the church. I happen to follow baseball and a hitter who bats .350 would be considered one of the greats of all time. And a quarterback with a season completion average of 70% would be considered phenomenal.

But what standard does God have for His prophets?

And by inference what standard should we, as Christians, have for those utter prophetic utterances from God?

The standard, of course, is 100% accuracy. All of God’s prophets were correct 100% of the time in the proclamations. .

So the standard that we must demand is 100% accuracy from God’s prophets.

Think about it, if God KNOWS everything and is NEVER wrong then how can any prophetic utterance attributed to Him be incorrect? The answer is that  none of these utterances can miss the mark. Not one.

Not if God is perfect, and He is.

If the prophecies are false are then the person is a false prophet; the kind Paul warned against over and over.

Prophecy is a powerful thing. It can cause people to change the course of their lives. I liken it to nuclear fission. It has tremendous power and the potential for tremendous good and tremendous destruction.

I believe, and I will show, that many of the prophetic utterances by Maranatha leaders about the future were wrong many times.

Dead wrong and inaccurate.

And by God’s standards these leaders are false prophets.

That includes Joe Smith.

I promised you that I would show that Joe Smith (and other Maranatha “prophets”) were FALSE Prophets for the simple reason that their prophecies were dead wrong.

End of story.

Let me relate two such specific false prophecies given by Joe Smith that come to mind readily because of the damage they did.

Now that night Joe reeled off one thrilling prophecy after another  (and I use the  term thrilling purposely) using his marvelous gift of MCM’s chief prophet.

He mesmerized the room with his confident prophecies and after about thirty minutes of seeing Joe call people up and prophesy over them, I must admit that, “I was in the groove”.

Joe continued to reassure us that God continued to heal, the gifts were for today, and He still had His Prophets.

Finally Joe paused and closed his eyes and this time he looked at young bearded man in the congregation, Daniel, and said, “Young man come up here God has a word for you.”

This was the first time Joe had pointed to someone and called them up to the stage rather than asking them to raise their hand AFTER his prophetic question.

The guy he pointed to, Daniel, was a very soft spoken person, a very talented musician and had just joined the Auburn Ministry. I was drawn to him because of his kind demeanor and his obvious love of Jesus. So Daniel walks up onto the stage with Joe giving him that warm, slow spreading smile of his.

“God has a word for you,” Joe said in a sweet gentle tone.

“God is telling me that you have hurts, deep, deep hurts and He wants to heal them.”

Daniel nodded at Joe and his eyes widened in anticipation of what God, through Joe Smith would say to him that night.

“Thus saith the Lord,” Joe’s voice took on a more commanding, deeper tone, “I have seen your hurt and am sending my healing powers to your heart. You and your father have had a bitter relationship and I the Lord will heal this relationship and bring you back together and indeed I will make sure that your father will be saved and will know Me.”

The place went nuts with shouts of  “Hallelujah, amen and praise You Jesus'”.

Now Daniel had a strange look on his face as he sat down amid the shouts and clapping. Sitting, as had become my habit, next to my married friends Matt and Allie, I noticed that the two of them exchanged worried and knowing looks.

And then Matt, my new friend, leaned over and whispered, “You should know Daniel’s father has been dead for a year. ”

My head started spinning as I considered what Matt had told me.

I was not privy to the counseling that took place later between Daniel and his shepherd but at this point I would donate heavily to Bob Weiner to hear a replay of that conversation.

Did anyone confront Joe on this false prophesy?

I doubt it because there was a rule modeled after a scripture from the old testament, “Don’t touch God’s anointed.”

Let me share one more example of Joe’s false prophecies which had to do with a word for Peter and his wife Rita.

Rita and Peter had a boy who was a toddler at the time.

Peter had graduated from Auburn with a degree in Building Science and had gone to work for a large building construction firm in Opelika, a large town about 20 miles east of Auburn. Peter was making, for a recent college graduate, a pretty decent living and would, as a hard-working and diligent employee, expect to have a decent career in the trade. Keep in mind that very few of us had decent jobs. Most of us Maranatha members were either students, worked part time as part time students earning just at minimum wage. The few that had full time paying jobs were working at minimum wage or slightly better.

Peter was brought up by Joe for a word of prophecy in the same way as Daniel was.

It was a very solemn and serious affair.

He was by Joe told, “Thus saith the Lord, I am going to raise you up as a mighty business man who will run companies who will prosper and in that prosperity you will give back to my work and I will increase your prosperity ten fold…etc… etc…etc and you will start your own business and I will bless you and your household. ”

So Peter mortgages his house, based on this word from God and starts his own construction business in the midst of one of the toughest recessions of the century (thank you Jimmy Carter) and proceeds to lose everything he has and declares bankruptcy and before it was over could barely take care of his family.

All because of a prophetic utterance from God’s anointed prophet Joe Smith.

Were any of these prophets held accountable by the elders or pastors?

You can guess that the answer is NO!

They were NOT held accountable and the fact is, as far as I know, not a single person who provided such false prophecy in MCM was ever confronted. False prophecy abounded in MCM because, and I will be clear on this, none of the prophecies were either verifiable, or if they were verifiable, they never came to pass.

Ever.

But MCM prophets seemed untouchable because the only people who could have confronted them were the Pastors; who were appointed and given their positions by the very false prophets they should have confronted.

They were the anti-Christs Paul warned the early church about.

If a sheep had spoken up about this abuse they would have been labeled as “bitter” and/or divisive and before you could shout out, “ Shaballaba,” they would have been subject to having a spirit cast out of them and told to repent.

And if that did not work they would have been declared apostate and thrown out of Maranatha and suffer the loss of both participating in God’s end time mission and what, for all purposes, was their family.

I saw this happen a couple of times at least during my time in MCM.

We must be wise like the foxes because as Jesus warns us, “There are ravenous wolves who seek to devour.”

Paul also warns us over and over again to beware false prophets and those that would teach strange doctrines even if they seem as an angel of light.

We should demand that those claiming to have the gift of prophecy should be held to the standard given in the Bible: 100% accuracy.

And for those who are not 100% accurate, for those who would lead the little ones astray Jesus has a harsh warning, “It would be better for them to have a millstone tied around their necks.”

Of course I did not realize the tough standard that should be applied to Prophets, nor did I realize the likely consequences of one ever confronting any of the top leaders in God’s movement”.

I tucked my concerns about MCM Prophets and Prophecies away with all the others in that dark crowded closet in the back of my head.

#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.

#14 ON FIRE

Perspiration dropped on the paper in front of me. I was sweating like a pig.

I was going down in flames on Dr. Carl’s structures examination.

Crashing and burning with no parachute.

I was 40 minutes into a 60 minute test and I only had four of the problems completed. The first four were not the problem; it was the final two. They were centered on indeterminate structures and I was having a rough go of it. I did not know jack about indeterminates.

I had pulled an all-nighter with Ricky, a chain-smoking frat brother of mine, last night. We had crammed in traditional fashion. But I knew I was doomed.

Cramming did not work for Dr. Carl’s tests. Sure, for some Profs all you had to do was memorize some formulas and look at old tests.

But not for Dr. Carl.

He put a lot of thought into his tests and unless you knew the material inside and out, and were mentally prepared for the stress of his tests, he would crush you.

I poked my pencil onto the exam problem and thought, “Let’s see- the sum of the square of the distance over the area multiplied by the radius, or was it the diameter, yes that its twice the radius…”

“arrrgghhhh!”

“Okay people five minutes left,” came Dr. Carl’s bark from behind me as I heard him pacing up and down the aisles of the classroom.

I was halfway through the fifth of six problems at this point. There was no way I was going to complete the test and, even worse, no time to go back through the problems I had completed to check for errors.

“Head’em up and move’em out! Rawhide!”  Dr. Carl  laughed as he sang the tune to the old TV Western.

“Ha…ha.” A real comedian. Funny.

Then a hand on my back.

“Okay Mr. Tok,” twanged Dr. Carl in his flat nasal Kansas accent, “You are the only one standing between me and my next cup of coffee and I don’t think that is fair!”

I handed him my test paper. He flipped through it.

“This is not like you Mr. Tok. You didn’t even complete the test.”

“Yeah,” I answered, “I had trouble with the last two problems on indeterminate structures.”

“Stop by and see me this afternoon. Let’s see where you are getting stuck,” he said.

Dr. Carl had taken a liking to me last year, my first year of engineering school . I had been accepted into the engineering program with the equivalent of a 3.8/4.0 GPA at the end of my freshman year. Dr. Carl had encouraged me to pursue nuclear structures, which I did, ending my sophomore year (first year in engineering school) with a 3.9/4.0 average.

And this test was the first  academic butt kicking that had been administered to me since my freshman year. That time I had scraped by with my one and only “C”  in a nuclear physics course. That course had nearly killed me because despite the amount of time I put into the course I never really got it.

I had no such excuse for this course and the ass kicking this test had just given me. There was only one reason I got “smacked” on this test: I had failed to study methodically enough, or long enough, to master the material.

Now I felt woozy from lack of sleep as I walked out of the classroom. My head swam due to my “all-nighter” last night (Thursday) and getting less than four hours sleep the night prior.

Of course getting up at 5:30 am for Marty’s discipleship group at 6:00 am had not helped.

I stopped dead in my tracks in the hall.

“Gripes!” I exclaimed. I had forgotten about the discipleship group meeting this morning. Actually I had slept through it.

I had told Ricky, my chain-smoking frat study buddy, around 5:00 am that morning that I was going to close my eyes for a minute and take a fifteen minute snooze.

But instead I slept for the next two hours wakening with a start when Ricky yelled at me to, “Wake my sorry ass up!”

At that point it was after 7:00 am.

“Oh well, God knows my heart,” I thought.

Even though I thought the MCM discipleship session sort of weird; I was impressed by the commitment and the camaraderie that I had experienced. I also was impressed that Maranatha was walking the talk. They not only talked about total commitment but we were actually holding each other accountable to MCM’s Christ like commitment  God.

Of course, I was not sure what to make of some of their strange discipleship doctrines at this point. Just let it pass I thought. No big deal.

I saw Ricky getting a coke out of vending machine in the stairwell of the engineering building, Ramsey Hall.

Ricky was a year older than me, a member of my frat, and was also engineering major. He did not always put the required effort into his studies. Because of that he had gone on academic probation last year and had temporarily dropped out of college. Now he had re-enrolled and was in my cohort. We spent the prior night together cramming for Dr. Carl’s test as I had mentioned.

“Hey Ricky- thanks for working with me through last night,” I said.

“No prob at all Tik.”

Marty, my shepherd, had challenged us to be bold with with our faith. I had already done so earlier in the week… why not one more time?

“Hey Ricky, I have been going to this really cool Christian group that meets off campus. It is unlike anything I have been involved with before. Tonight they are going to be talking about the future and how we can all prosper in the coming hard times. Do you have any plans tonight; would you join me?”

Ricky lit a cigarette and took a deep drag. “Hmmm,” he said. “Interesting you should mention it because Rhonda’s sorority chaplain has started a Bible study, or some such stuff, and Rhonda is all jazzed up about it.”

“Rhonda and I were thinking about going to the free movie; but we caught “The Sting” last year so no point in it.”

Rhonda was Ricky’s live in girlfriend.

By that I mean she had moved into his room contrary to our rules. He and his roommate had actually subdivided their 10 X 12 room into two compartments using 2” by 4” stud and sheet rock adding a small door to finish it off. So Rick and Rhonda now lived in a 5’X 12’ 1/2 bedroom in the frat house. Half the mornings she would shower in the second floor bath with Ricky standing guard to keep the frat brothers out.

Note to self: Don’t let my daughter near a frat boy in college when she goes to school.

So we agreed that I would meet both of them at the frat house at 6:30 pm that night.

I did not mention that Fred was coming as well.

I slogged my way through the rest of my classes. The lectures had about as much effect on my brain as a rubber ball thrown at a brick wall. I don’t need much sleep; but I DO need it at least 5 hours per night.

I was feeling giddy.

At lunch I went to the War Eagle Cafeteria searching for Sheila, but she was nowhere to be seen. So I laid back on the grass and watched people passing back and forth in front of the Haley Center.

I started to praying for each person I would see; asking Jesus to open up their hearts and rebuking the demons that were around them.

I then took out my Bible and started to read the book of First John. Marty and Sam had suggested I read this NT book. Every word seemed to jump off of the page with new meaning; reinforcing all that I had heard since this past Tuesday. The words  overcoming, the powers of the age, not living in sin or making excuses seemed to come alive in the scriptures as I read.

Finally the Bible seemed to have real and powerful application to my life!

I heard the bell in the tower of  Samford Hall peeling. Had it really already been an hour since I had sat down on the wall? My hour- long impromptu reading of First John had passed by in what seem like minutes.

I trotted off on my way to my next class. I hummed one of the new songs I had heard at Maranatha the night before as I went.

That evening Ricky and his girlfriend, Rhonda, met me in the common room of the frat house.  Fred came walking in as well. Ricky and Ronda were surprised to see Fred coming. Finally Robert, my frat brother who had converted to Jesus the other night, ambled into the room to make the walk to the MCM House with us.

For my first night trip to MCM from the frat house it had been just Sheila and me. Now I was going with four people, two of whom were brand new Christians, thanks to me, and two whom I had invited to the MCM House that morning.

Robert and I chatted about the latest Red Book study and how he had told his parents he was a brand new Christian. Apparently they were baffled since Robert had been raised a devout Greek Orthodox member and his family attended Mass every Sunday.

The others strolled in front of us and I could see Ricky’s cigarette glowing and then dimming as he took deep drags on it.

Once again it was a beautiful cool autumn night. The MCM House gleamed at the foot of the hill from the glow of the front yard spotlights. Through the windows streamed golden light onto the front lawn.

The latest Christian rock music blared from giant loudspeakers in the windows as we walked to the open front door and made our way through the chattering crowd.

Randy and Marty greeted the five of us in the entry way. Randy took Fred by the arm and started engaging him in conversation. Robert and I hung back from them talking among ourselves about the exciting message from God that Bob had promised us would be delivered tonight.

Meanwhile Marty spoke in low tones with Ricky, who flicked his still glowing cigarette into a flower-pot on the porch. A tall girl, good-looking with black hair who I later learned was “Julie” (in time later married a full-time Maranatha Evangelist in an arranged MCM marriage) pulled Rhonda to the side and introduced her to a group of girls.

“This place will get wild in a hurry,” I said to Fred as Randy walked away from him.

That was an understatement.

The Praise Band kicked in with three songs including one sung by my fantasy sister Ellen, she with the beautiful dark hair and eyes. Funny after that first encounter I could never seem to get close enough to speak with her for more than a minute or two. I thought, “Oh well there is still time!”

After her solo we all stood for about 20 minutes of animated chorus singing as a group and finally ended signing a very slow melodic tune.

Bob Weiner took the stage during final choruses and, in a whisper-like voice said, “I feel like God is going to speak to us tonight.”

None of this was a big deal to me. I mean I had grown up in the Baptist Church and had heard evangelists during the old Baptist Weeklong revival meetings stand up and shout, “God is going to speak to us tonight.”

Bob  had done this at my fraternity house he said, “And God is speaking to a girl today…”

So I thought nothing of when he said on stage that night. I did not think he meant that God was going to literally speak.

But I was wrong.

The singing had stopped but the music continued playing in the background when from behind me, in a deep baritone voice, came the words:

“Thus saith the Lord!”

“Uh oh,” I thought, “some crazy has shown up at the service.”

It did happen occasionally. Two years ago at Rat’s Bible study some kid had jumped up on stage and proclaimed himself the new messiah. I had not seen it but the whole campus had been buzzing about it. Seemed the kid had gotten into some really bad drugs and had gone schizo or something.

That sort of thing flashed in my mind.

The voice continued, “I have begun a new work on this campus…”

“Okay,” I thought, “the ushers stationed at the doors and aisles are going to haul this nut hatch out quickly, and quietly, I hope.”

“And I say to my sons and daughters that I will bless you as you continue to seek me. And I will make you rulers over principalities and you shall crush my foes beneath your feet. For behold…”

Funny thing was, other than Fred, who caught my eye with a, “What in the heck is going on?” shrug, no one else seemed to think this strange.

In fact a whole section of the audience had started murmuring in tongues, with the whole place sounded like a giant bee hive at this point. Me? I simply hoped the Queen Bee was not about to gyrate down the main aisle- stinger and all.

“… I will make my enemies your footstool and with the power of my spirit you will conquer for I have given you the power to cast out demons, to heal the sick, to restore the blind. And Lo!” the voice was almost shouting and I turned to try to see who was speaking”…the devil himself will flee and my kingdom will come upon this earth…”

The place started erupting in cheers and shouts of, “Praise Jesus and Glory to God,” sounded out along with the sing song of members  tongue languages in the background.

“… and the gate of hell shall NOT PREVAIL! Thus saith the LORD OF HOSTS!!!” and with that shout prophecy ended.

Then the whole place went nuts and the band started cranking out a fast paced praise song and Bob started doing that funny Hebrew jig/dance and soon the entire place was dancing in the aisles.

I admit I was stunned and stood there unable to move.

Finally I turned my head straining to see Ricky and Rhonda but could not find them in the crowd. To my left Fred stood stock still his eyes fixed on Bob.

Finally the room quieted down and Bob shouted out: “Praise God…brothers and sisters we just heard a mighty prophetic utterance from God Himself and I bear witness to it.”

“Whoa,” I thought, ” you mean someone was actually literally speaking for God himself?”

This seemed blasphemous to me; despite all the good I had seen thus far at MCM.

But Bob did not miss a beat and launched into his sermon on what it really meant to be a Christian in the end times: a riff on his sermon last night from the Book of Revelation.

“The traditional church has misled you…and you will be caught unawares!’

And he referred us to the parable of the bridesmaids with the lamps in one of the Gospel books.

“The believers will NOT be raptured away before the anti-Christ comes, in fact the church will go THROUGH the tribulation and ONLY the over comers, those who persevere to the end who DO NOT ACCEPT the mark will be spared. “

He painted a vivid picture of the end times comparing it to the first century church and laid a vision of the future for both Christians and non believers.

“Last night I told you about the Beast and the evil he will do and how you can be saved from his wrath, that you must be totally committed to Jesus and to the Body. But now see we will see what happens after the tribulation.”

“Then!” Bob was shouting, “the over comers will rule and reign for 1000 years and they  will represent Jesus on earth and will be his rulers. And after that 1000 year reign the New Jerusalem will descend from heaven and we will be enthroned with Him in glory.”

Around me people were now shouting and raising their hands. He showed us scripture after scripture that showed we would physically rule and reign over kingdoms after Christ returned.

“We will NOT be sitting on clouds playing harps but we will be Ruling and Reigning with Him.”

“Wow!” I thought. I mean he must have used 30-40 proof texts and  had us flipping back and forth through the Bible during the whole sermon.

“I never knew we would actually rule with Christ after he returns,” I thought.

In fact I had never considered what in the heck we would be doing once Christ returned, one way or another. Bob had rearranged my whole outlook because he was not pointing me to things I had considered and discarded; he was pointing to an outlook I had never even considered!

“This is why we must be disciplined; this why is Paul speaks of … the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word in Ephesians. We are in a war and the war will come upon all mankind. ”

Then almost shouting he said, “I tell you that only those who are grounded in the word, that have girded themselves for battle, who are prepared and radically sold out will stand at the end with Jesus! ”

The crowd erupted standing and clapping and this time I was not watching from the sidelines I was yelling and shouting also something like, “I will stand with Jesus! I will overcome,” with the rest of the MCM members.

The Praise Band had made their way up, possibly seeing some signal from Bob, and they kicked in one of their fast paced rock songs and suddenly we started singing and clapping along with the music. When they wound the song up Bob started pacing back and forth on the stage again throwing the microphone around in his hand, back and forth.

“If you have not made a radical stand for Jesus, if you are in sin, no matter whether you have said a prayer, been baptized, tried to be good, NONE of that matters. For Jesus will say to you in that Day of Judgment ‘Depart from me I KNOW YOU NOT! ‘ You will be cast into the lake of fire with the demons from hell. But for those that persevere they will rule and reign as His sons and daughters of Zion!”

Then he challenged all their who were not sold out, no matter their background, to step up front to make a commitment.

The words were barely out of his mouth when Fred almost knocked me out of my chair to get up front. I saw ten or more other people getting up and heading to the front of the stage.

And then I caught sight of my chain-smoking frat study buddy Ricky and his live in girlfriend Rhonda heading up to the stage.

Rhonda was shaking and crying and fell into the arms of one of the MCM sisters while Ricky, her boyfriend, was taken aside by Sam, the associate minister.

And Bob begin praying on stage waving his arms over all of them whilst Mike Caulk, the Auburn Pastor, along with some older brothers and sisters knelt and spoke in whispers with the fifteen or twenty people who had responded to Bob’s call for total commitment.

Afterwards I spent an hour with Marty and Fred in a hootah (counseling) session. Then later I saw Fred, Ricky and Rhonda baptized.

I remember dancing with my new brothers and sisters in Jesus.  All five of us: Ricky, Rhonda, Robert, Fred and I were crying and hugging each other  whilst intoning fervent prayers in English and our heavenly tongues language.

Just a mere six days after committing myself totally to Jesus I had seen six people from my fraternity make a commitment; and they were not saying just some simple prayer that brought little change to  their lives; but all of them made a true and radical commitment to Jesus that seem to immediately change their behavior and thinking.

Truly I had found the overcoming Church Body described in Acts.

And I was on FIRE.

#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.