“Now What?!” by Glenn Kaiser

“NOW WHAT?!” By Glenn Kaiser

The story of my early Christian Walk

INTRODUCTION

  1. ACCEPTED …BUT ANYTHING’S ACCEPTABLE?
  2. ROCKIN’ GOSPEL -AND A FEW OTHER THINGS
  3. UNDERCOVER CHRISTIAN?
  4. A DISCIPLES “DRUGS OF CHOICE”??
  5. WATER AND SPIRIT
  6. BANDS AND BAND-AIDS
  7. WHOSE VOICE MATTERS MOST?
  8. IT’S NOT JUST “WHO YOU KNOW” BUT WHO YOU FOLLOW
  9. PRAY FOR LABORERS
  10. “RUINED FOR THE WORLD”
  11. WAY, TRUTH, LIFE
  12. “THE CHURCH”?! FOR WHAT?!
  13. THE “JESUS MOVEMENT” – “WHAT” THEN AND NOW

INTRODUCTION

Yep, STORY. Admittedly some blatant teach/preach here but I tried to keep that to a minimum. Yet I beg you to spare a quick read of this intro. because it provides context and explanation as to why this book came to be written.

Nine months.

I’ve often thought about that time frame as in one small sense my story somewhat reminds me of my wife Wendi, myself and our children. My initial months with Jesus were a bit like the journey of childbirth.

I had already become “re-born/born again” but hadn’t yet learned to walk.

Ok, I was working out what surrendering to Him really meant. The term “stumbling” is pretty applicable to those days as well.

Using another precise term, I needed discipleship and that doesn’t happen automatically though at least some Christian scholars and preachers seem to think otherwise.

In another book as yet UNpublished (“Every Time It Rains”), I tried to explain all the incredible ways God invaded my life revealing Himself mostly in the space of some 4 months -and in three-dimensional lightning-bolt style. He did so when I was high and when I was perfectly sober.

Well He sure didn’t stop after I came to saving faith, especially in that first year.

I purposely did not use much overtly “spiritual” sounding language in ETIR until the end and only then because John 3.16 was and is such a seminal reason I came to believe. So after one comes to saving faith in Jesus, then what?

The number one question I’ve been asked by followers of the Lord over a lifetime of ministry is how they might discover God’s will for their life. Five things ring true and are solidly biblical in scope:

God speaks to us and leads us through His Word (The Bible), prayer (an ongoing conversation spilling our hearts out to Him as well as listening), via godly people who know Him, His Word and know us (voluntary accountability, mentoring, small groups, spiritual direction, relationships of discipleship), practical doors of calling/service opening or closing and lastly, the supernatural (dreams, visions, on rare occasions prophecy via others, signs and wonders).

He absolutely spoke into my life in each of these ways and has continued to do so.

So full disclosure -I came to truly follow Jesus after out-and-out up and down rebellion for some nine months AFTER I began my initial walk of faith.

Though this isn’t unusual, in my travels and experience few people are brutally honest in public about their selfish attitudes, events and often reluctance to surrender to Jesus after they come to relationship with Him.

This is the short-form, a lot more happened in my life over those months than I’ll share here, but these were the low-light-and-highlight moments where lessons of my need and God’s provision and His will for me became super clear.

Ok, we aren’t saved by our good works, right? We cannot earn our own salvation. Eternal life only comes by the gift of faith in the died-on-the-cross-for-me and risen Jesus Christ, if my name’s in the Lamb’s Book of Life, if I’m born again, if the Spirit of God is in my life, I’m forgiven, I have eternal life, that’s that, correct?!

Believers accept such core truth which IS the truth and Good News that we aren’t saved by our works, nor do we grow as disciples by our works, that is, by our own efforts but by faith in the crucified-for-our-sins, risen and coming again Jesus Christ. Though this is all Bible truth- sadly, a good many of us slip into:

“Relax and simply do whatever you wish because the mercy of God is new every morning (true) and His blood covers all our sins past, present and future (also true) so COOK YOUR CHILI HOWEVER YA LIKE DUDE/DUDETTE”!

Well, that’s like saying “I love Wendi, married her and only commit adultery every so often but hey, before God and humankind the marriage certificate is filed at the courthouse, the ink’s dry, no worries. It’s all covered, under the blood of my Savior. done deal.” Would you call that a marriage? Does anybody really think this is God’s desire for His people?

Faith is a gift of God. Faithfulness is up to us.

Please re-read those last two sentences a couple more times before continuing.

Straight-up, I sin daily, sometimes aware and often unaware of it. I ask for His grace and forgiveness daily. This book is NOT about some sort of sinless perfectionism nor about my or someone else’s personal or church idea of what holiness is. Nada “self-rightous-r-us”! I ain’t no more perfect/flawless than the rest of the human race, professing Christians or not!

So on with the story -and once again, I was there, this is exactly how it went down and how God finally became my one and only God.

CHAPTER ONE

ACCEPTED …BUT ANYTHING’S ACCEPTABLE?

Nobody could have been more shocked than I was that I had come to follow Jesus Christ.

Plenty of my friends thought I’d simply done so much dope I’d fried my brain and was off on a spiritual trip in flipped-out imagination land. “Guy’s full of acid and ain’t comin’ back!”

I didn’t blame them for thinking that. Nor did I blame a fair number of them for thinking I was now a royal pain to be around because I’d often turn a conversation into discussing Jesus, the Good News, and began moving away from my old habits and lifestyle which then became a conflict of interest between us.

Playing in bands became more of a burden than a joy because as a life-long musician people expected me to sing whatever lyrics were in the “cover songs” at the time. I began having a hard time singing stuff I didn’t believe or disagreed with as I began reading the Bible daily, praying about things and really considering what I believed was actually true.

My songwriting changed not so much in terms of sound but lyrics, and of course as Jesus said “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” therefore issues of spirituality and faith started popping up in my work, both as I sang with other bands or in a band or two I actually led. This continued as I did a bit of solo folk singing around Milwaukee where I was living at the time.

One day driving along in a rental truck with a bandmate/guitarist friend, he suddenly turned and asked “What’s up with you?” I replied “What do you mean?” He went on “You ain’t cussed in about two weeks. What’s goin’ on?!”

I got a little nervous, then laughed a bit because I hadn’t noticed the change, and we hung out quite a bit. I’d F this and GD that all the time when with friends, it was just typical. He’d noticed that wasn’t happening.

I turned to him and said “Well I’ve started to follow Jesus and I guess that’s it.”

He about drove the truck off the road.

So there you go, an early indication that some change had come and I hadn’t even realized it.

After addictive habits had ruled my life for years the grace of being delivered not only from swearing like a pirate but far larger issues of chemical drug abuse was instantaneous and quite a miracle.

Studying the Bible daily, usually about ten slowly-read chapters worth, the Lord began to bring healing to my mind and peace to my soul like I’d never known prior. It was both surprising as well as apparent how much better I began to feel.

I was still an eighteen year old singer/guitarist playing in blues and rock bands in search of sweet, pretty girls -and met several. I moved in with one for a while AFTER I had come to saving faith in Jesus.

Sex was a continual, nagging issue and the more I read scripture the more I realized God had plans for me -but it would be marriage. I needed to truly surrender rather than act out every urge. My desire for foreplay and release with another was HUGE and often just off-the-charts. Worse, several girls I knew were quite willing. One was not only beautiful but super sweet and kind… but she wasn’t following Jesus nor did I have any intention of marrying her or anyone else.

But hey- I even took her on a date to check out the first full-on Christian band I’d ever had the chance to see.

CHAPTER TWO

ROCKIN’ GOSPEL …AND A FEW OTHER THINGS

The War Memorial site built atop a ridge on Milwaukee’s lakefront was a spot I’d visited a number of times but I never recall going inside until this particular night.

Like many others, during the Vietnam War I opposed the fighting, the deaths and especially feeling that so many of our drafted young men -and women in the military there were largely cannon fodder for a conflict we should have never gotten into.

I never spit on returning vets nor thought our military were out-of-hand cruel but I also didn’t think several proven atrocities (and those were merely the one’s publicized) added to some sort of “honor” or “good reason” to be shipping kids home in pine boxes.

Years later countless veterans told me how many of our military were stoned on hashish and at times other dope on a near-daily basis. The wonder is not how many were killed or that we lost the war, what’s amazing is how many made it back home alive.

At the same time, like plenty of us Stateside, drugs, booze and free-for-all sex was pretty much laced through huge bits of younger American society at that point. If you were only living to die why not snatch whatever pleasure you could get whenever and with whomever you could get it?

Thousands of students, clergy and others marched in anti-war protests all over the nation. Police and at times National Guardsmen showed up, tear gas in the breeze, batons swinging, people getting bloodied and arrested. The Establishment was established… and young people were obviously unaware of the hell-on-earth of Soviet and Chinese communism (not me, never, ever agreed with it) and therefore protesters needed to “go elsewhere”. “America, Love It or Leave It!” vs. “America: Fix It or Forget It!”.

No doubt, some protests got violent, windows smashed, cars overturned, fires started, and drugged-up people (though very few in my personal experience) needed jail time or to get their minds “right”, therefore the War Memorial is where many marches either started or ended, where peace speeches were made. It became a spot I frequented during demonstrations and otherwise.

We hippies re-named it (unofficially of course) The Peace Memorial.

So there I was, a fresh, bumbling and stumbling Christian taking my live-in girlfriend to an evangelistic show, a packed-out main room at the War/Peace Memorial. I was excited and happy she was willing to come along with me.

Mind you, we’d smoke a little grass or hash fairly regularly, have sex together… and now we were going to “worship” the Lord. Or at least to see a music show.

The place was wall-to-wall with long-haired teens and twenty-somethings.

A dude with a goatee mc’ed the night handing it off to the band, some five (or six?) people I’d never heard of: Andre Crouch and The Disciples.

My girlfriend and I both noticed a very cool sense of peace and though the place was hot and room full, people were smiling and the atmosphere felt… well… spiritual. Sweet,  just different in a super comfortable way -a very unique atmosphere for a concert.

By this point in time I’d played hundreds of gigs in festivals, clubs and hippie events around Wisconsin and beyond and had attended countless shows as a fan but this was truly different.

There were no chairs so everyone sat sardine-ed together on the floor. Somehow she and I made it right to the front row, like three feet from the shoes of their hippie-looking guitarist. He cooked! I mean my mind was blown! Song after song Andre, the lead singer/piano player and his band tore it up!

Every so often I sensed what I’m sure now was the Holy Spirit touching my heart. More than mere endorphins. Such a cool night! Looking around people were swaying to the music, a few dancing a bit up against the walls, but the whole scene was mellow and really good.

Lots of people were raising their hands praising the Lord but then I looked at my girlfriend who never once professed anything like being a true follower of Jesus… and her hands were raised, face up to the sky. Uhhhh…?!

As the band finished, the mc got up, thanked them and began to speak. He talked about following Jesus, about praying to receive Him by faith and that we could trust Him for forgiveness of all our sins and receive eternal life. He said Jesus gave peace and love, the real stuff -but deeper than anyone or anything and for eternity– and if we’d like to know Him to come forward and share a prayer, then stick around to talk and pray a bit more before leaving.

I’d already prayed to follow Jesus… months before this night.

No major critique here, but I can’t recall anybody in churches I attended (three of ’em, often all in the same week) nor at this show emphasizing surrendering to the Lord, about the practical difference between believing and actually following Him.

Immediately after the gig and a thirty-second rap thanking and telling the guitarist how amazed I was at his performance and that of the band, amd that I loved Jesus too, we went back to the apartment.

There was another dude in attendance who I didn’t meet that night but some time later we ended up serving on our fellowship’s pastoral team for years because he actually began following Jesus that very evening.

I felt pretty high “in the Spirit” on the way out the door. I don’t recall now but I think we likely did something other than have a Bible study when we got back to our apartment…

CHAPTER THREE

UNDERCOVER CHRISTIAN?

Like plenty of people, certainly guys, lust built up in my life all the time and in the typical scenario it was a matter of thoughts, sight (or the other way around) and then came temptation to act on it.

The people I hung out with often partied with misc. dope, booze and sex at every chance. Because a couple of them were often dealing various drugs, certainly more than I ever did, parties happened nearly every night.

I can’t recall how I ended up at the one where I met her, but it was a smaller gathering of hippies where as usual I passed out after smoking a load and perhaps mixing with other dope as well.

Susie was super sweet, super pretty and when I woke up nobody was left in what turned out to be her apartment but the two of us.

She just sat there on a cushion, leaning against the wall, staring at me and smiling this shy, cute smile. It was still dark out but approaching dawn if memory serves.

We talked and she invited me to bed, we had sex. So it turned out I basically moved in.

I recall my Mom asking what I was doing with Susie after she realized what was going on (I’d moved out of the house) and though I’d believed in Jesus by this time I still had not forgiven my mother for my parent’s divorce, her adulteries nor was I willing to fully surrender to the Lord.

So when she made her displeasure known I bitterly replied “YOU are going to preach morality to me??!” That was my only response at the time.

Months later I apologized, but not until I’d moved in with the Jesus People of Milwaukee and remembered how I’d treated her.

My girlfriend and I had mutual friends and one of the things we often did that early summer was pile in cars and a van and visit a couple old local gravel pits where springs had formed small lakes. More than not we’d go at night after drinking or drugging and some dozen of us would skinny-dip for a couple hours.

At this point I was “in love” with Susie, or certainly in love with love, an apartment with a girl who held a day job and as I was rehearsing and playing in bands and had no certain paycheck or desire to do much but sell a bit of weed and hash, make music and play gigs, this looked like a cool set-up to me.

From January 3rd of that year on I had come to truly believe Jesus had died on the cross, was risen from the dead and that He was my Lord and Savior. Spring was close to ending.

A friend of both Susie and I quietly sat down and asked me if I planned on getting a day job to help pay bills at Susie’s place. She was kind, gentle but brought to my attention that it wasn’t right for me to be the regularly loaded and lazy (not her words but those were the facts) boyfriend who wasn’t serious about much but selfishness and freeloading.

I honestly was so full of myself -and somewhat high when we had that talk… that I didn’t get it, nor of course, did I want to.

Years later I’ve lost count of the dudes I’ve met who took the same path I did and wondered why relationships were so “difficult”. Self-centered, sinful choices finally bring a reaping of what we sow.

Susie was visiting her Mom’s house which wasn’t far from my Mom’s, so she said I could stop by when I was ready as her Mom wouldn’t be home for at least a couple hours.

When I got there we went right to her old bedroom, un-dressed and not too far along the escapade her little brother flipped the door open, eyes immediately large and shouting something like “I’m telling Mom!!” She yelled for him to beat it or she’d beat him, and told me to forget about it.

Until about 20 minutes later when we heard her Mother come in the front door and chatter with her kid brother!

I literally grabbed my clothes and slipped under the bed on my side near the window.

Her Mom knocked and through the door asking “Susie, what’s going on?!”

I think she perhaps opened the door slightly more (I can’t say for sure, I was under the bed) and Susie said “Hey, not only am I of age but trying to take a nap!” and some such blather. Her Mom then went elsewhere in the house.

A few moments later I quickly dressed, then snuck out her first-floor bedroom window, quickly through the side yard and buzzed down the street.

Soon after this I decided we needed to talk, and the gist of it was that I had made a commitment to Jesus and we really should break up because this relationship wasn’t pleasing to Him and I knew I needed to change. She wasn’t coming to any saving faith in Him and I sure wasn’t “a catch” with all my self-centered choices. We peacefully, mutually agreed to call it quits.

CHAPTER FOUR

DISCIPLES “DRUGS OF CHOICE”??

James writes in his biblical Book about a “dog returning to it’s vomit” and I did it over and over again those first nine months.

While some sins were just gone, had evaporated, and temptation rarely or in some cases never came around again after January, 1971 sex, grass, hash and on occasion booze were the in-and-out and in again issues in my life. I tried to wish away all the sense of “Not good Glenn” I was hearing from the Holy Spirit. I was beginning to lose. There are times losing is the best thing we can experience!

Jesus said we’d have to lose our life to find it, to lose our life for His sake in order to really gain and experience HIS life and plan for us. This was (and remains) my journey.

Perhaps a bit more clarity is needed as to who I was in those days.

This is no big “judge” of my fellow believers who smoke but I expect some will think it so when I say I smoked intense cigarettes (non-filters), American brands Camel and Lucky Strike for about two years, then moved on to smoking a pipe, then grass, hash and sometimes cigs, then lettuce-leaf (fake) cigarettes, off and on Kool’s (menthol filtered), the occasional cigar or cigarello, then an East Indian brand cigarette that almost got you high from the potency of the tobacco… and finally snuff. Did I say “addiction”? Yep.

There was this brand of snuff that came in three flavors, so up the nose it went for some months. Now, from pipe-smoking onward I was actually praying, trying to figure if my heavenly Father thought it was cool to smoke or not. The same went for grass and hash.

About two weeks after my saving encounter with the Lord I saw my first “Jesus paper”, a fresh, underground/hippie looking small “rag” as we called ’em: “Street Level”. It was put out by the Jesus People of Milwaukee.

Two days prior I’d asked the Lord to show me what to do about my dope smoking habit, that if He’d tell me one way or the other “by midnight in two days” I’d do it.

Two days later between 11:30 and midnight (!) at a Catholic-based youth house where I and a number friends hung out the door opened and a bro came in excited about a couple of copies of this Jesus Freak paper called “Street Level”. Cool! This was the first underground-looking Jesus paper I’d ever laid eyes on.

Reading the list of articles on the cover, one immediately caught my attention.

It was all about smoking grass and hash, and whether Christians should.

It talked about “pharmakeía (from pharmakeuō, “administer drugs”) (biblical Greek) – properly, drug-related sorcery, like the practice of magical-arts, etc.”, and cited a couple of places in the Bible where folks linked up with demons via drug use. There was a similar word in Hebrew in the Old Testament portion quoted. The whole article specifically spoke to my prayer…

Well information and transformation aren’t synonyms!

I needed both.

So I discovered the biblical word from which we get the English “pharmacy” is used in a quite negative sense within the pages of the Word of God. Hmmmm?

Please understand, I made an early argument for medical marijuana (no issues driving with it, no associated “buzz”) before any U.S. state legalized it. Not the same gig. I had been in the habit of running toward self-medicating rather than deepening my relationship with Jesus and His people, simple as that. No qualified substitute for the Lord Himself exists.

All would-be Christ-followers arrive at such crossroads plenty, at very least every so often. Your particular area of comfort, even addiction may vary. Yet the direction we take, the directions we follow, reject or yield to create the people we become. Ain’t no denying this in the sight of God.

Lots of people reject the entire Bible or large portions of what they’d rather just not wrestle with in it. Nothing surprising about that, at least not to me.

So what about His people, those who at times seem to “get in our face” about things that matter to us, and often things in some areas of our lives we in gut-level honesty just don’t want to change or to be confronted about?

I had prayed, the Lord saw to it to answer and now what? Sometimes in our rebellion it would be even more accurate to admit our attitude is “So what?!” instead of “Now what -Lord? What is Your will for me?”

Ok, so I was in the act of drugging myself but there were other issues too. Those hangers-on grass, hash and booze with the occasional tobacco fix, sex outside of marriage and in my case the additional worship of music itself. These, my very own “little idols” kept taking me two steps back spiritually.

Further, in that nobody ever asked me anything even close to how my actual daily walk with the Lord was going, I just kept falling back (or never moved much forward) in being fully clean and sober in these areas of my life.

The band Bad Company likely got it’s name from an old blues song recorded and performed by people such as Rev. Gary Davis. It’s all about a guy who is about to be executed as he’d been given the death penalty. Essentially it sounds like he’s talking to his mother lamenting the fact that “bad company brought me here”.

Plenty of my friends shared the same habits I was locked into. Boom. Pay attention who your key influencers are.

I kept hanging around them and of course party-time happened and I’d find myself toking up, stoned, drinking, drunk and sexually acting out just like I’d done prior to making a commitment to Jesus.

My resemblance to that dog I’d read about in the Book of James was beginning to bother me.

I needed a new life and that didn’t just mean forming new habits, it meant creating distance from old friends because I was too weak to resist temptations when we were together.

It was just so easy to fall right back into violating the will (Word!) of God in this way. My friends mostly didn’t profess to follow Jesus… this was on ME.

Equally, I needed new friends who were more than converts. I needed to meet and spend quality time with disciples who would mentor me, pray for me, accountability partners with whom I could share anything and together we could bring my and our needs, sins and dreams before the Lord. And I did find them after many months.

The difficulty, risk and even fear of getting ripped off by people “lording it over us”, the unwillingness to spend the time it takes to find and build trust with others and they with us, all of this was part of the reason it took so long for me to move beyond my addictions.

I’d spent several solid years self-medicating and my sobriety apparently wasn’t going to happen in just a few months.

Some wise wag once taught us “We don’t realize how far we’ve fallen until we try to start climbing back up!”

My best friend from the third grade up through high school graduation had an apartment. I’d never been there but knew the street name. Within a moment of realizing where a walk downtown had taken me, I went right up that street, up the stairs and did whatever dope he had on hand that afternoon.

I’d come to a crossroads and once again made the wrong turn.

CHAPTER FIVE

WATER AND SPIRIT

In terms of the time-frame it would be more accurate to title this chapter “Spirit and Water”. In any case…

I believe it was sometime in May that year I once again attended the Jesus People coffeehouse at the top of Brady Street, Milwaukee as they were about to walk down to the Lake Michigan shore for water baptisms. We were instructed to read through Romans chapter six which speaks about new life in Christ and dying to our old pre-Christian ways.

With no exaggeration at all this proved an amazing experience for me.

I don’t recall how many Jesus People were on the beach but there were quite a few. We sang worship songs, prayed together, then the leaders went out into the water inviting those to come who wished to be baptized in obedience to the Lord and by baptism to express total faith in the crucified, risen Savior as well as demonstrating a public commitment to follow Him forever.

I lined up behind several others and stepped out into that super cold water but felt so close to Jesus that the temperature didn’t matter at all.

Absolute truth: I’m convinced God did two things, one for those there and the other for me personally as a sign, not because we nor I were “special” or anything like it, just a bit of a God-kiss.

First, it had been softly raining off and on that day. The moment our large group of walking, singing, praying Jesus Freaks set foot on the sand the rain stopped just like someone had flicked the “off” switch.

Secondly, the moment I went under the water I remember seeing clouds above me -and the second I came up from my baptism the clouds parted and the sun shone. I was totally blown away.

God doesn’t always do this sort of stuff for believers, not even new Christians, but sometimes He does. Further, He does it when we’re walking with Him in everyday life -and we do need to pay attention regardless. To be very clear this book is not about following signs it’s about following Jesus Who sometimes writes them in sand and sky and elsewhere -whether we notice or not.

Walking along the shore with a towel someone handed me, lots of smiles, hugs and ongoing singing, praying as well as watching so many others get baptized that day was a deeply moving experience for me.

A believing high school friend of mine who was there had a boyfriend who was not a Christian. She lived out in West Allis also (Milwaukee suburb where I had gone back to live with my Mom at the time) and invited me to go from the beach to a prayer meeting on the north side of Milwaukee. She said her boyfriend would drive down to be our transport there and then back home. I agreed, thanking her.

The moment he showed up and we got in his car I just could not stop myself from praising God and sharing the Gospel with him. He seemed very open, asked questions, and we all happily rode to the church where the meeting was supposed to take place. Somehow she had the wrong information or in any case the prayer group didn’t meet that evening so we continued riding out toward my house where he’d drop me off, then they’d continue on to her place.

We talked about Jesus the entire way. Later, his girlfriend told me how much it had meant to him, and he eventually came to follow the Lord. He was also a musician and later toured the world in a Christian rock band. I believed… but it took some time before I, too would begin to tour the world sharing my faith via rock and blues music.

Several weeks before my baptism another good friend who happened to be a preacher’s daughter had her Daddy’s car one evening and asked if I’d like to go to a prayer meeting.  It was very cool, there were all sorts of different Christians from various churches there, common for this ongoing prayer-and-share gathering in a town just outside of Milwaukee.

When we left that gathering in Oconomowoc she drove us to the Jesus People coffeehouse on Brady Street as we both thought they also had a meeting that night. During the ride she asked me if I’d been “filled with the Holy Spirit”?

I told her I believed in that experience and had read about it in the Book of Acts, was comfortable around pentecostal and charismatic believers. Having prayed about that and trusting the Lord that He’d do whatever He wished about it I simply went on with my life.

She brought the most balanced bit of teaching on the subject I’d ever heard before or since -and we prayed together on the way to the JC Powerhouse. I was instantly filled, began praying “in tongues” (a prayer language one cannot “learn”) and felt an incredible sense of deep joy and the presence of God like I had only rarely experienced before.

Immediately after my initial prayer she asked me if I felt anything. I said I did not. She replied “That’s great, because the Holy Spirit is a fact, not a feeling!” Wise and true words.

My verbal sharing of the Good News began happening far more often and with greater ease and flow. It seemed I also experienced a deeper and more usual sense of God’s immediate presence and indeed, greater personal conviction of any sin in my life after this event. “The Comforter, Spirit of Truth, Counselor” is Who He is.

So the baptism service at Lake Michigan took place soon after this. Then another shift took place in my life about this time.

I began writing more songs with fairly direct lyrics regarding my faith and increasingly Bible-based beliefs. In a nutshell, my own sense of boldness to witness about Jesus grew.

Yet I would still fall into those old habits on a far-too-regular regular basis.

CHAPTER SIX

BANDS AND BAND-AIDS

I’ve already mentioned my music “addiction” -and that’s really what it was. What I’ll share in this chapter happened at one point prior to my water baptism.

A whole lot of my core sense of identity was still wrapped up in being a musician rather than “child of God”, “Christ-follower”, “Christian” and surely not so much “disciple”.

Plenty of godly folks through the ages have lamented at the vast number of converts vs. actual disciples amongst those professing to be Christians. So what is a disciple?

That term in biblical Greek means not only follower but “listener” and “learner”, one who is being taught and applying, acting on and living out the teachings of Jesus in their personal life- in both their relationship with the Lord as well as with people.

My thoughts, choices, words and most of my friends were still streaming in from my recent past. Being in bands and being influenced by the temptations involved in the music scene continued to feed my old B.C. (Before Christ) habits and lifestyle.

The fact is that most of my closest relationships were with musicians I’d played with or with people who thought we were cool. That is, fans, groupies. Getting high, drunk, and sexual talk as well as action simply for the sake of fun was normal, everyday stuff. This was typical with the people I hung out with regardless of the band or music style.

In a very short span of years I’d joined, quit, in some cases re-joined, quit again and eventually formed many bands. People loved me or hated me and I guess liked my vocal and musical abilities so this meant (especially in an area of town with few strong singers) I was often welcomed into groups. The issue was that I also got tired of the music and often the people in ’em rather quickly. In perhaps four or so months we’d rehearse, play shows and then I’d get bored or just in the mood for something else and quit.

When I would leave, a lot of those bands would fold up having no singer to carry the tunes. This meant a lot of folks seemed to love me joining but wanted to kick my behind when I left. Totally understandable. In those days it was ALL about ME.

Toward the end of that ongoing road I led two bands, the only two where I was the full-on leader. Just prior to doing a brief folk-singing solo experiment, I fronted a band by both singing lead as well as playing bass. The problem with that was (still is) I hear the melodies and rhythmic phrasing of bass playing as a totally separate thing from the melody lines and phrasing of vocals. I could do it in some songs but we all wanted to cover popular rock tunes in that band, not just do originals that we’d written. After just a month or so I quit that one.

The other group was a three-piece called Willow. I named it, had a kickin’ bass player and drummer who literally told me to pick and choose, write, play guitar and sing whatever I wanted, put the set list together each show and they’d support me no matter. They indeed did.

Now this was something new and honestly nothing I’d ever done prior, not in some sixteen or so bands over the six years I’d been regularly writing songs and playing shows.

Then came the night we opened for one of the most respected (and truly great) Milwaukee bands of the time. The place was packed out.

Willow was on a small side stage in the same room but all our high school friends had come out for the gig. Between those kids and the rest of the house it was one of those special nights when it seemed we could do no wrong song after song. The place went nuts.

I pulled out a second guitar and played slide as well, and the three of us were fairly on fire that night. We weren’t supposed to do an encore -but the audience wouldn’t let us get out the back door without one.

Finishing the set it was nearly impossible to walk through the crowd to leave the place. We didn’t have any recordings or merch so had just planned to go party afterwards. Everyone was just crazy kind, smiles, hugs and they all wanted to talk with each of us -and it was actually a bit overwhelming.

My bass player and drummer hung out while I finally made it through the people to the parking lot alone. I felt pretty strange, not at all like I expected. The audience was still chanting our name even into the main act’s first song!

I walked across the parking lot to the curb, sat down looking at the traffic zipping by and tried to figure out why I was feeling like I did. Why no sense of accomplishment, why no elation after such an amazing show?!

It was one of those moments you don’t prepare for. Things like this would happen to me… I hadn’t seen it coming.

At that very moment I heard “a still, small voice”. In my mind, a simple sentence followed by a question: “Well, I’ve allowed you to get exactly what you’ve always wanted. Are you happy?” I found myself muttering “No. Not at all. Somehow all this seems so empty and I don’t understand why.”

In a short time I told the guys I had to move on and if memory serves, except for that bit of solo folk singing which followed, I only had one more band experience before ending that chapter of my life.

As I’d written songs about Jesus and elements of my faith began surfacing in lyrics I wrote, that’s what I brought to a few shows as well as a local Milwaukee PBS tv broadcast that summer.

I don’t remember how I joined them again, but being in my cousin Mike’s band off and on (“Misery’s Sons”) mostly singing but on occasion also playing a little rhythm guitar, either he asked me back in or perhaps I was tempted and asked him for one more go-round.

The day came we played a show, the last set of the day (was it ever… the cops closed the whole event down) in front of close to a couple thousand hippies who like us -including me… had been getting stoned all day long at the lakefront site we all called “People’s Park” or “The Alternate Site”.

I didn’t know it then but I was also reaching to the end of my habitual yo-yo spirituality.

CHAPTER SEVEN

WHOSE VOICE MATTERS MOST?

There had been some talk of possibly recording, doing more gigs around Milwaukee and Wisconsin and maybe beyond but the lakefront show was the breaking point for me.

My cousin Mike was an amazing guitarist. I was happy to hang out with him as he had been one of only a few very close friends who somehow would often allow me back into his band.

I really liked all the guys and of course we did a lot of partying together. The band had a house not all that far from Brady Street and had built enough of a local following that somehow we got a slot at The Alternate Site.

Perhaps a couple thousand burnouts and several amazing bands showed up that afternoon. I STILL dig and chuckle at one of the groups -named “Boogie Man”.

To this day I love playing and attending outdoor shows, block parties and such, and had gone to several on Broom Street in Madison (“Mad City”, state capitol) as well as Milwaukee.

Hippies, dope, sandalwood incense, patchouli oil, bubbles blown in the breeze, wine and booze everywhere, people swaying, dancing, cool clothes, and when the weather was good and the cops didn’t crash the scene it all seemed pretty sweet to me.

It’s hard to recall exactly what I’d ingested all these years later but I remember smoking a lot of hash and likely grass that day, probably also drinking wine as there were gallons of it.

Mike was in his prime, the band cookin’, and well, this was just going to be a sweet day!

As it neared time for our set I was standing by the side of the stage fully loaded. And another “still small voice” spoke in my mind. Here we go again ‘eh?

It was very clear the Lord was saying “Summer is about over and you gave your life to me in the beginning of January. Do you really think it’s my plan for you to get high and just keep living for yourself?” Whoah.

I had not been thinking about Him. I simply thought about feeling good, getting ripped, hitting the stage and blowing everybody’s mind with a killer set, big opportunity for the band at that point. This was beyond a bar or little local gig.

For certain- no preacher or any other person was talking in my ear. We were just doing whatever… and boom, here comes the Holy Spirit up close and personal.

I immediately broke down crying. Though standing around all these people I just could not stop sobbing.

Quietly naming all my obvious sins including getting stoned, ignoring what I knew to be true and right before Him, even singing songs with lyrics He’d never agree with and the whole “ME-ME-ME, I’M IT!!” lifestyle -I fully asked His forgiveness for all of it right on the spot.

The moment I said “Amen.” it was like someone had hit the “off” switch. I realized I was full-on straight! Sober. No trace of high/drunk, nothing.

Mike came over and I honestly don’t remember what was up with any of the band by that point in the afternoon but we all got high in those days as a typical thing. He may or may not have noticed the tears and such but as we were about to play our set, told me we were about to go on.

I said something like “Cool, ready. But I’m going to change the lyrics today.” He said “Whatever.”

Ain’t nothing like singing about Jesus in original tunes and even cover songs here and there while facing a large crowd of stoners. But that’s what went down -until out of nowhere police cars tore into the parkway, people were getting busted as the cops spread out through the crowd and after an extremely short set we scrambled to get our gear into our vehicles and spun out of there fast as we could to avoid getting arrested.

A vivid picture in my mind was after tossing equipment into Mike’s car and him cranking the engine, our tires spun out some in the deep green grass because it had rained the day before, maybe even that morning just prior to the bands playing. It was pretty intense but we got traction and peeled out of there. I never found out what happened with the rest of the band, I think they had a van and I know we were all madly tossing gear into the vehicles fast as we could. Mike kindly drove me back out to my Mom’s place in West Allis where I was living at the time.

He pulled up on the street at the end of our little driveway. I opened the door, feet hitting the gravel and immediately turned back to say “Mike. I quit. I know you’re not going to understand this but I made a commitment to follow Jesus in January and it’s the end of summer. I’m not going to sing again unless it’s for Him.”

His response was unrepeatable but let’s just say as I was later on tour in Florida with Resurrection Band I’d sometimes phone him up -and he continued to use the same words the moment he heard my voice. As time went on he prayed with a mutual friend (dope dealer and longtime friend of the band who’d made a commitment to Christ) but I’ve lost touch with him in the many intervening years as I write this.

My motive for writing, singing, playing, being on any stage changed immensely from that point. For too long anything I did in music was about me, I was my own motive, goal and focus. God had given me whatever musical talent I had -and I’d ultimately used it for self-worship.

I had begun to realize how essential it was for my identity to be fully and solely in Jesus Christ my Savior. But what of “Lord”? Well, this was part of the process and I’d be lying if I did not admit that element of our relationship continues to grow slowly and will until I leave this earth and see His face.

CHAPTER EIGHT

IT’S NOT JUST “WHO YOU KNOW” BUT WHO YOU FOLLOW

A high school classmate friend of mine dealt a fair bit of grass and hash. I joined him in this but as far as I know, unlike him, I ripped people off. Who knew some of them had their own grain scale and would catch me at it?

Most of the money I made from playing shows went into grass, hash, acid, uppers, downers or whatever was available at the moment and the real reason I sold grass or hash was to keep myself stocked. One time in particular I’d gotten “the good stuff” and decided to shave some extra for myself to smoke.

The summer had ended but my falling back into temptation sure hadn’t.

He was starting his first year in university about forty-five miles from Milwaukee and asked if I’d like to join him for the weekend. I didn’t even think about it, just went along and as usual, we partied.

Late that last night we hopped in his Volkswagen Beetle and he dropped me off on the edge of town. I was trying to hitch a ride back home on a little two-lane road with very few people going my way, most every car going into, not out of town at that time of night.

It was dry, warm, and quite dark. Clouds covered the moon as I stood there stoned in my little black top hat, black rain coat and white wicker shoes, bright blue socks peeking through. “Mr. Cool” was trashed.

And then it happened.

I’d read enough scripture by then that I noticed I was standing next to an immense cornfield and the story of Jesus’ disciples going through fields gleaning food when they were hungry came to mind. I was hungry -and not just drug-hungry for munchies on this occasion.

Off and on I’d put myself on a sort of spiritual diet, as in stuffed one day, empty and distant from God the next two or three and so on.

The Lord started speaking in my mind at that moment.

“You called on Me, you realized I was real back in early January Glenn. It’s September. You treat Me like a sort of smorgasbord, taking what you like and rejecting the rest. You want Me as Savior but deny me as Lord. You want My love but refuse to obey Me. You said you’d follow Me. What are you doing?”

I broke down. There was no audible voice, just deep and direct words to my heart to repent, to turn, to face Him and surrender. But this was more intense than ever. I had the most overwhelming sense He really meant lay it all down, EVERYTHING, not merely a few areas of my life.

I began naming every thing I could think of that that would separate me from Him, that had been building or maintaining a wall between us. My kingdom had to go so the eternal kingdom of God with the King’s values could truly form me as He desired.

“Please forgive me for giving in to drugs, drink, sex, music…” on and on it went, all the idols I had so often polished, that had created gaps between us.

When I’d finished I still had a core, gut sense there was something more, something else He wanted.

I pleaded with Him, “Lord, what else IS there? I’ve named everything I can think of! I’m so very sorry, what else can I give You?” At this point I was crying, something I rarely did until first coming to faith in Him.

As clear as if He stood in front of me speaking audibly: “You, Glenn. I want you. All of you. Your entire life. Your dreams, plans, everything that makes you who you are. I died and rose for you. Follow Me!”

Now I had reached a point of great, heaving sobs, shirt wet with tears.

Then came another repeat moment. I’m telling you with zero exaggeration that in that black, lonely night the clouds began to move, the moon shone and I realized in a heartbeat I was flat-out straight- sober as if I’d not done a bit of grass, hash or booze all weekend.

I immediately had such a sense of His embrace and peace it was just a jaw-dropping experience!

My next words were of thanks, and then “Lord, Your will, whatever it is, but I have no way of getting home and nobody sees me out here. Would You please get me a ride?”

I’d only seen a few cars going past toward Milwaukee and as I held out my thumb the very next car after I prayed flew by too. As I watched the tail lights dim in the distance they suddenly got brighter… because they were obviously backing up toward me.

I ran toward those glowing red lights laughing, straight and truly blown away.

When the car got close the driver hit the brakes. I recall him moving over into the gravel a bit as I ran up. Someone flipped open a door and that carload of people, all about my age, had just enough room to squeeze me in the back seat.

I thanked them, they laughed and said they weren’t sure if they’d seen someone on the road or not but then decided to check.

As I got in I blurted out “If I don’t believe in God now I never will!”

The dude sitting next to me in the back seat asked “What’d you say?” In a split second I thought “Well, I’m about to get thrown out of the car…” but repeated those words a second time.

It  turned out they were a carload of Christians whose route back to the city “just happened” to be taking them right past an exit two blocks from the place where my Mom and I were living in at the time.

No doubt a person could make this stuff up but I’m telling you this is as true as my name is Glenn.

Strolling down the driveway to our little house in West Allis in the darkness of early morning I felt as though I was swimming in a current, smooth, sweet and near-effortless. I was being carried and cared for.

Things were beginning to change and my heart was finally beginning to also.

CHAPTER NINE

PRAY FOR LABORERS

A. W. Tozer preached and wrote a great many incredible truths about discipleship. One of them comes to mind as I continue with my story:

“Prayer will become effective when we stop using it as a substitute for obedience.”

Boom.

The Lord now made it clear to me I had to get a real, paying day job and blow off playing music or running to other things.

So I prayed, put in an application to a car wash that was opening and looking for employees. It was within a long walk of my Mom’s house.

They told me later that my application landed on top of a large stack of them -and picked me for the job about two days later!

I decided I was going to bring my New Testament to work, I would be kind to everybody, pray (quietly, not to be noticed) right through my shifts and  I’d be respectful to the manager and my co-workers no matter what happened.

Most of them were getting high one way or another, shared dope, dirty jokes, cussing, all the normal stuff I’d doing for a long time. No big deal, I just wasn’t going to join them in any of it but focused on trying to be nice, show up on time, do my job well and “the chips would fall” where ever.

Doing what I was asked to do, I sometimes found myself merely outside spraying the cars and vans down prior to their entering the washer track and through the actual wash station. Because I was often smiling and singing out there, drivers (including cars full of hippies like me) would roll their window down grinning and ask why I was singing and so happy? Like, was I high and how could they get some of that? I’d point the hose spray away from their vehicle and say “Because Jesus loves you and me!” They’d typically roll the window back up real quick and look at me like I was some kinda space alien or something.

The boss and employees knew I was a Jesus Freak in the first day or two.

Then came a couple surprises.

Not quite two weeks later the manager called me in for a raise. Not long  after that he phoned me at home.

I remember my Mom with her ever-present glass of brandy, cigarette and paperback trash novel looking up realizing my boss was talking to me about managing yet another car wash they were about to open even closer to our house -which would include a substantial pay hike.

She just about swallowed her Raleigh Filter cigarette when I told him “Really, I’m flattered and thank you for the opportunity but I gotta pray about it. Can I let you know in a couple days?”

He was good with that knowing I meant it -and my Mother freaked out!

Understand, this was one of only three “real jobs” I’d worked in my entire life to that point. After I’d finally gotten clean and sober and had begun working regularly like that she just couldn’t believe I’d respond as I did to his offer.

She was not a believer and of course thought any number of negative things might happen if I didn’t take him up on it.

I let her know I was seriously considering going into full-time ministry, actually joining up with and moving into the Jesus People commune in downtown Milwaukee.

In that I’d graduated high school and was eighteen years old, so “of age”, this was my right and my decision to make.

I just truly wanted to hear from the Lord on what I should do and He again made things rather clear to me -after I played just one more “game”. Sigh…

CHAPTER TEN

“RUINED FOR THE WORLD”

As I began talking about joining that group of Jesus People where I had hung out from time to time, had been baptized and realized it was an option, my parents both asked me the same question.

First Mom, then when I visited my Dad who lived a 90 minute drive from Milwaukee asked “What are you going to be doing in five years? How are you going to live, to survive?” Certainly reasonable questions.

I told both of them the same thing. “My life belongs to Jesus Christ. In five and in fifty years I’m going to be following Him where ever He leads me.” As I write I’ve entered my fiftieth year of that relationship. THE Best Thing I ever did was to start and continue in that relationship and a major part of it happened (and happens now) in service with and for Him and alongside some of His genuine but like myself, flawed people.

Nobody among the Jesus People attempted to hard-core “proselytize me”. No one leaned on me to join, move in full-time, become part of the ministry. I want to be clear about that. I also think it’s a bad idea for a number of reasons, but here I’ll simply say I needed to know for myself this was a God-thing, not yet another Glenn Kaiser’s amazing plan for his life mess. I’d nearly (read on…) had enough of that. Nearly.

My personal sense of conviction was simply growing via prayer and taking a hard look at myself, the lives of plenty of friends and both the history of the world prior to my being born and in those days of my faith.

I had come to recognize this: sooner or later the time, effort and personal sacrifices each of us make during our journey on earth will come before the judgment seat of Christ. For whom, for what did we make them? There are in fact two books mentioned in the Book of Revelation, the Lamb’s Book of Life and another where our works are being recorded.

My personal kingdom (the kingdom of self) needed to go and I mean truly -go-. I needed, as an old preacher once said in a sermon, to be “ruined for the world”.

He meant that eternal life with our eternal God and the family of Christ followers starts now while we are on earth. This being true and life on earth quite short in light of forever, we had better quit trying to please and impress ourselves or others as so many think of what’s cool as opposed to living lives of active obedience to the One we refer to as Lord!

Saved by our works? Earning our own salvation? ABSOLUTELY NOT!! And yet love for Him and others does not mean living for one’s self but best as we can figure, to seek Him, His will in accord with His Word (The Bible) and not allow a sort of “I’m saved, time to have fun and just do whatever” attitude -or “keeping up with the Joneses” status-quo cultural stuff… and not genuinely living life out in service to Jesus and those in need around us.

“Ruined for the world” means “the ships are burned”, there is no more “going back”.

I thanked my boss at the car wash, told him I had to respectfully turn the new job offer down and at the same time tendered my notice because I was about to join the ministry.

He was quite gracious and at that point I don’t think he was surprised.

So I phoned that crazy Christian community downtown and set up an interview with their lead pastor for a particular day -and as that date and time approached I got “cold feet”.

“A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.” James got it right in his biblical Book- along with the rest of what he said!

I had been back-and-forth with God most of that first year and now it was the night before the interview.

I purposely played a rebel’s game with Him and that’s about all I can call it.

Which reminds me of a night at some point in those earlier summer months.

My best friend knew of a farm with a patch of woods right across the fence off of a little two-lane Wisconsin road about 35 miles outside of Milwaukee.

Someone had planted a bunch of marijuana plants there and they were ready to harvest.

We hitch-hiked near the spot as it was only a short walk from the freeway to a field on the opposite side of the road, pitching our tent in the dark and setting a wind-up alarm clock for 4 a.m.. When the thing rang it was still pitch-black, and as we rolled up our tent and bed rolls readying thick plastic garbage bags to make a haul I quietly prayed “Lord, please forgive me for what I’m about to do!”

We got away with it, packing the plastic bags in half a duffle bag each full of weed, camping gear on top and hitched another ride back to the city. What an hypocritical nonsense prayer and act.

And yes, I sold some of that weed and smoked some of it too.

This back-and-forth nonsense was just too typical of me in those days.

So… on “Interview Eve” with the Jesus People I literally forced myself to stay awake until I couldn’t any longer. I told the Lord if He wanted me to join the ministry He’d have to wake me up in time to catch the particular bus and then transfer to a second bus in order to make the arranged meeting.

After about 3 hours of sleep I woke right up with a start! Sun shining in my bedroom window, peace, calm and… and… looking at the clock I realized what day it was, what I’d told God just a few hours before -and that I had about 10 minutes to catch the bus or miss the appointment.

Guilty! Convicted. Yow!

As I’d fallen asleep in my clothes, I pulled on my shoes, checked my wallet for bus fare and literally ran the two and a half blocks toward the bus stop and… watched it pass by and pull away from the stop as I was yelling, sweating, flipping out and still some 40 yards from it.

Once again I found myself asking forgiveness, standing there a spiritual rebel, failure, facing the truth that I had fought Jesus tooth-and-nail right to the last moment while fully convinced He was calling me to do something that I wasn’t fully committed to doing: truly living out my life in loving service to Him regardless of the cost, no matter the acceptance or rejection of anyone else.

Now this intersection in West Allis was one I’d spent a lot of time at, among other things, collecting news papers for my route via the local paper shack where sexual jokes, petty gambling by pitching quarters and generally acting like the messes we guys were, all common. There was a paper box there (in those days with no lock) that made it easy to steal extra papers from them on holidays to sell on the curb for big tips. A buddy and I did it plenty. There was also a pizza joint we liked at that corner. Then as now it’s a well-used four-lane boulevard where two major roads cross.

Standing at the crossroads indeed.

I stood there watching the bus speed away and broke down crying like a baby in yet another epic fail.

I likely told my heavenly Father I was sorry about six or seven times, then remembering that country road just outside of Whitewater, closed my eyes and prayed once more: “Lord, if it’s Your will for me to do this, please bring me a ride!” and stuck out my thumb.

Immediately -and I mean within seconds a horn honked. I opened my eyes and there at the curb a little Triumph two-seat sports car was waiting for the light to turn green. The driver reached over, rolled down the passenger side window and asked where I was trying to go.

“Prospect, down near the University.” This was quite a few miles distant on the other side of Milwaukee. He laughed and replied “I drive right by there on the way to UWM every day. Hop in!

CHAPTER ELEVEN

WAY, TRUTH, LIFE

Walking in the door that day I had no idea what was in store for me. I didn’t know them well and only had vague knowledge that a classmate or two from high school had visited the Jesus People of Milwaukee from time to time.

When I had occasionally stopped by their J. C. Powerhouse coffeehouse I didn’t say or interact much, just would slip in to hear some music or a bit of teaching, then leave, so I hadn’t really gotten to know anybody there.

As fried as I’d gotten from drugs, well, people tell me I seemed pretty shy and quiet at that phase of my journey. I heard singing in the main house and so slipped in through the door and took a seat at the base of an old couch between a couple other guys.

That first morning a wall-to-wall group of Jesus hippies were finishing up a meeting singing worship songs, packed like sardines in one of their two cool and large wood-frame houses which sat right next to each other on Prospect.

The guys pretty much all had long hair, jeans and stuff street people wore at the time, the girls long dresses, mostly long hair and all seemed to do a fair bit of smiling.

They’d planted their ministry base about halfway between Brady Street where all the hippies hung out, and the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee which of course was a hotbed of students, activism, concerts and fertile ground for the Good News of Jesus if shared from The Bible and lives that actually lived what they talked about.

I knew and believed Jesus was Who He said He was and from what I could see in these people He was obviously the focus of those crammed into every square inch of the room.

That gathering was so seminal as I was finally surrendering my life fully to Him -and it’s branded in my memory like few other events and for several important reasons.

Jim Palosaari (lead pastor) addressed the group about his recent return from meeting with a leader of a large group of Pacific Northwest Jesus People. That leader had linked with a false prophet who demanded full obedience and the deceived leader was trying to get their entire fellowship to join up with said rip-off dude.

Jim told us all: “No matter who it is, including me- you are under NO obligation to obey anyone who tells you to do something against the Bible, the Word of God.” I never forgot it.

Further, he and other leaders there in the Milwaukee area met regularly and the Jesus People had made it a point to have a wide group of godly pastors, Bible teachers, missionaries and other Christian leaders from various area churches and ministries come teach them in their Discipleship Training classes.

J.P. of Milwaukee were anything but elitists who only focused on their own home-grown teachers or legalistic, thin “we got it all DOWN” sort of attitude regarding the churches. They made it a point to reach out, fellowship and learn from a wide range of Christian fellowships even though in that season many churches were wary of hippies converting to Christ. Culture ruled plenty of people as it still, sadly, does today. I remain very impressed about how sound and important that way of doing linked ministry is as it was there.

The meeting drew to a close and Jim looked directly at me. I was, frankly, a little freaked out as he asked “Who are you and what are you doing here?”

Now, he’d just been talking about a wolf in sheep’s clothing…

I tried to reply in a calm, direct, medium-tone: “Sir, I’ve come to serve the Lord.”

A lot of smiles, some applause, a few hugs and pats on the back from those near me -and he seemed to smile slightly saying “I’ll see you in my office in a few minutes”.

About three days later, September 18, 1971 I moved in with a small suitcase, sleeping bag, pillow and Bible.

I never left.

After coming to saving faith in Jesus, then meeting and the following June marrying my wife Wendi who was also a member of the JP community, after all the temptations, blunders, at times extreme pain, further callings that brought me crosses and at times perhaps the slightest taste of “hell on earth” I can say this was the 3rd best decision and out-and-out obedient response I ever made. The first was surrendering to Jesus in saving faith. The second was marrying Wendi. This was the third and in truth, fused the other two in actual daily practice.

My number one problem was and still is, me. Myself. No misery or challenge, false accusation or humbling act of truly needed repentance in my life has been too great for my Savior to handle, nor for my Lord to help me walk through as we’ve traveled the road together.

He was, is and shall ever be THE Way, THE Truth, and THE Life -and He is all these in my life.

Sinless Perfection? Literal flawlessness? Major-league spiritual maturity? Know-it-all (or at least most)?? Not me! Nor you dear reader!

I could continue my own story as to the sky-high ways God has blessed me, my marriage and a zillion things I’ve been granted to do in service to Jesus and others -but you can discover far more about all that via the several web links at the end of this book. Please read on as elements of history as well as present realities are sure to affect you as they do all of us who seek to grow in relationship with Jesus in our time on earth.

CHAPTER TWELVE

“THE CHURCH“?! FOR WHAT?!

If not for His mercies I would have long ago left the field. As a Christ-follower, you are a spiritual member of “the church”, pure and simple. But linking with others, also imperfect, broken, indeed saints who at times sin -just like you and I dear reader- ain’t always fun and ain’t always simple!

Jesus speaks of a real devil and demons -as weird, uncommon and unusual as it may be for today’s professing Christians to ever mention them. The old “divide and conquer” first happens when believers quit linking up and sadly, often on the basis of petty issues. Hurt feelings, not being offered or given the position they wish, not being treated with kindness and respect.

Sounds like how Jesus got treated by the religious authorities doesn’t it?

The fact is we need others and even others who disagree with us. And they (whether they know it or not) need us and what we bring to the table. When you quit eating at the same table what we don’t see are Jesus’ Own words being lived out: “All will know you are My disciples by your love for one another.” Let’s unpack what this means, what it costs. In truth. what you’re about to consider is the ground upon which I created this book.

Jesus told us to pray for laborers to help gather people to Him and invite them into His kingdom. Mind you, not our kingdom, HIS.

“Labor” is another word for “work” and the fact there is sacrifice and pain involved means there are plenty of “Jonahs”. God is so determined to express mercy He inspired a story, one that included “a great fish”. Please read the Book of Jonah in the Old Testament for clarifying details on this.

When we only hang out with those who generally agree with us and like what we like, who don’t challenge us to grow closer to Jesus, to grow up spiritually… and if they don’t encourage us to serve others, even serve those we don’t like and maybe even would rather ignore -those sorts of friends aren’t going to help us mature in our relationship to God.

Then again if you join a local fellowship- be it house church, denominational or non-denominational group of Christians who meet regularly to pray, worship the Lord together in song, read from and discuss The Bible (God’s Word to His people) and serve you’ll soon find people and things you don’t like. Love costs. Consider what Jesus suffered for us!

The entirety of the fifteenth chapter of the Gospel of John has been and is my reality. It is no different for any who actually follow Jesus as Lord and Savior. In John 15 Jesus Himself provides an overview of what an authentic Christian life involves. The sum of His words there describe relationship and discipleship. Jesus never excludes discipleship from salvation and both depend on Him as well as a genuine response from us. He is Savior, He is Lord.

Jesus’ words in John 15 give us eyes to see relationship to the Father, Jesus, to others, spiritual growth, a fruit-bearing life via the Holy Spirit and application of the Word of God, love, joy, eternal life, God’s judgment, His and our own sacrifice, personal cross-bearing and even the rejection that will come from people. He didn’t hold back on both encouraging as well as challenging us with sweet and also very tough truths in that chapter!

On one hand I don’t want to discourage you but on the other, encouraging you must include hard truths not only about yourself and your need but the flaws and frustrations you’ll encounter among Christians.

One prescription I offer any new follower of Jesus as well as those who may have fallen away from Him and the church but are seeking to return is to read John 15 slowly every day for a full week. Think deeply and pray about the ramifications in your own life and take stock of what sort of authentic spiritual life Jesus Himself calls you to. Then decide honestly where you stand at that point in time. I’ve done this and it’s both troubling as well as super encouraging. What a Lord! What a Savior! He tells us straight-up what LIFE in Him is all about.

Fault-finding in -any- sort of church or Christian gathering is easy. Forgiving, studying, changing, application toward getting things right for ourselves and the larger fellowship is what costs. This is why and how many quit, fall away, backslide, even to the extent of denying the Risen Christ.

I still find no fault in Jesus. I find plenty in myself and of course that being true find it easier to forgive and love my fellow faulty believers within and outside of the local church/community in which I serve.

Don’t miss this: you learn to love and forgive others as well as confess your own sins, repent and accept, really trust in His forgiveness or you will eventually allow lack of these to ultimately plant bitterness in your own heart toward others and even yourself.

God forgives me- undeserving of forgiveness… so I am both commanded and blessed to forgive others whom I may consider undeserving! True encounters with grace happens just like that -or without such practices is no more than a theory or empty concept.

We cannot earn God’s grace and neither can others earn it from us.

The biblical word “grace” means “UNdeserved favor. UNmerited kindness.”

Grace we extend toward people is a choice. This is part of “the how and why” I still walk and work with my dear local church, denominational church and wider family of God: the Church in the world regardless of kind, style or stream.

This is the recipe by which we can actually persevere, both gain and retain stability in a changing, shifting, often difficult world as well as sometimes truly painful church experience.

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

THE “JESUS MOVEMENT” – “WHAT” THEN AND NOW

Now a bit of history after which I’ll discuss current issues from my personal perspective as they relate to “church”.

For decades I’ve heard talk, prayers and prophetic (true or false) statements about “a new Jesus Movement”. Most agree we need Him to move as He did in that time but whether thousands of younger people are going to come to Him in saving faith as then… God is the only One -certain- about that. In that I came to the Lord in that massive move of God’s Spirit I think it best to consider what happened then and may or may not relate to us as I write this in February, 2021.

In the late 1960’s to around 1975 when so many thousands of people like myself came to follow Jesus Christ in what was called the Jesus Movement (or Jesus Revolution), for many of us the “establishment” church often meant personal rejection, not always a welcome smile and kind word. I am convinced this was often due to culture, economic standing and in many white churches, race. In essence, a typical issue was whether we were judged “acceptable” to status-quo church folk. At times their concerns over our political leanings were also involved.

Mind you, both older church members as well as we fresh, converted hippies were equally in need of maturity to not merely “judge a book by it’s cover”.

It happened that traditional church folk often seemed to stand hard, distant, sometimes even seemed mean, ignorant -unless you held a particularly right-wing political view and dressed conservatively. No doubt it was also a clash of cultures. To be sure some of it was due to our own rebellion but often the chasm had very much to do with their rebellion against both God and the very teachings of Jesus with regard to loving neighbors and even enemies.

There were also many traditional church folk who did welcome us young Jesus People with grace and even helped with food, lodging and finances. This must also be said as we consider that era.

Yet before you write the negatives off as mere “culture war” issues from an old admitted hippie also consider the following:

My generation in the 1960’s United States dealt with major city centers literally in flames, police and National Guard deployed in “race” riots due to horrific policies long-held in much of the U.S. regarding Black folks living in abject poverty, military conscription drafting of thousands of young men into the Vietnam (undeclared) War, assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Senator Bobby Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the murders of student protesters at Kent State University, Malcolm X, Fred Hampton and others.

I am convinced the lion’s share of these events were sourced and fomented via twisted doctrines of patriotism, national unity and protectionism. I believe a sizeable amount of this came from a “manifest destiny” concept- the sense that a particular view of what it meant to be an American patriot to many meant God was on our side regardless of what we did. Somehow our power was divinely given, therefore we were THE nation perhaps only second to Israel as THE people of God whom God certainly had planted on earth to rule and have dominion. In short, many were convinced we Americans and particularly white citizens were superior to most other peoples and nations in most of our ways.

This was in particular, a view of conservatives and liberals were simply crazy -and most hippies weren’t even close to being conservative!

God’s Word clearly states all have sinned, all are prone to self-serving and in need of Jesus.  All. Most of us younger types opposed the War in Vietnam, had dropped out of various elements American society, played with drugs, free sex and loud rock music. All this plus “wild” hair, clothes and “the generation gap” between young and older people all figured in to a genuine mistrust. Johnson was no favorite president to students and Nixon was worse.

Conservatives -whether on some levels truly spiritually mature Christians or not- weren’t all too often ready to give the Jesus People, sometimes also called “Street Christians” the benefit of the doubt.

This was my view of the situation then and it remains my conviction now. Of course some if not most of this not a shared view of plenty professing Christians in the U.S. and elsewhere. On the other hand, to this day a lot of Americans, indeed professing Christians -seem to continue to believe we are “King of the hill” and must maintain that position “for the sake of God and country”.

So now a long list of questions pertaining to the past as well as present and future:

Was it only and always the rebellion of new, ignorant “baby Christians” who had long hair, beards, bell-bottom jeans or “granny” dresses, were perhaps barefoot and had flowers on their dresses, in their hair (and in their brains?) who were just too young to understand the harshness and brutality of the world… or perhaps they just preferred a “bohemian” culture and so would never “fit in” to “real and authentic” churches”?

Was it the ignorance and liberal koolaide of the young who found it difficult to swallow a political doctrine of “Kill a Commie for Christ”?

Was this why the separations came to be, and in part how new and quite culturally different forms of local church service gatherings came about?

Was it a matter of “A haircut, suits and ties, sixteenth-century hymns and conservative politics are essential or you’re not welcome among us”?

And let’s be fair to also ask was it also true that in many individual’s attitudes even among some leaders in the Jesus Movement that those conservative types from traditional churches were also judged as “not worth fellowshiping with”?

I think the answer to all of these is YES. Further, deep character issues such as pride, defensiveness and spiritual immaturity often caused gaps that did (and today do) exist.

Then and now politically and often theologically “liberal” churches were at odds with the politically and often theologically “conservative” churches.

I have not studied hard data on another factor, but besides various scandals among conservative types in those days many of us had experienced the pain of our parents divorcing. My non-data based sense is that divorce began to become more common in the 60’s and 70’s. Families were torn apart and certainly between classic rebellion of young against old, there were as I say, what I am convinced were reasons people finally just went for whatever pleasure we could find in a broken world.

More traditional types went for pleasures and self-medication in different ways that their young exotic counterparts but often we saw and today see the same sad results.

Individual and corporate sins as in ancient Israel were issues that have continued driving people who walk with Jesus or don’t even believe God exists.

I will say this bluntly even admitting my own temptations, style-comfort choices and political bias -and yes, we ALL have them if we live very long:

Then and now the American dream kills too many, the injustices of “Establishment” society blooms as a nightmare and most young people want out. Of course the question is to where and to what?!

In the face of all this Jesus began to move in so many of our lives and we found in Him and His Word (The Bible) answers we had not found in our parents, teachers, politicians, friends nor our own drug, booze, sex and party lifestyles.

It was a complex mix of all these elements and more whereby “Jesus Houses” and “Ministry Centers”, several groups such as Calvary Chapel, The Vineyard and many more varied independent churches and even entire streams of house/home churches began to spring up all over the United States. This was repeated in various places throughout the world during the Jesus Movement of approximately 1967 to perhaps 1977 or so.

Jesus had indeed moved and had in fact done so largely outside of the “respectable” churches. I’m quite aware of conservative churches and even Bible colleges and seminaries being “turned upside down” by the Lord in those days, and yet it was as I say, a massive move of the Spirit among the young.

This may surprise you but I’m an ordained pastor in a protestant denomination and yet I often say “Thank GOD He is not bound by the Church!” I’ve also regularly stated that the church is the second largest mission field on earth. Showing up doesn’t automatically equal growing up. Yet I show up regularly and continuously for a number of significant reasons.

There are of course many changes that have taken place over the past fifty years. Here are to my thinking, several which are directly relevant:

In seconds via a click online you can find nearly unlimited sources of ancient history, real-time trends and opinions- options relative to just about any sort of faith, un-faith, spiritual practice or suggestion, this or that form of ministry, local or larger, denominational or world-wide-linked churches twenty-four hours per day, seven days per week.

My generation didn’t have computers and the World Wide Web did not yet exist.

As half a century ago what friends like or don’t, whom they might consider a good or lousy person, group of people or gathering of professing Christians carries a whole lot of weight to our choices and decisions regardless where we find cultural, spiritual or other comfort.

As always, basic agreement about gathering and the chance of either being invited/included in or conversely, not-leaned-upon for service… all of this figures in to linking up with folks who will or won’t want to help us grow as a maturing disciple of Jesus Christ.

Regardless of generation or tribe, for good or ill a tribal instinct and sense of welcome affects and in my view too often, directs us.

From many hundreds-of-years-old traditional churches and denominations to fully independent house churches that popped up yesterday, thousands of congregants in a mega church to four people meeting in a coffee shop every so often, highly smells-bells-ancient liturgical to near-zero pre-planned/zero structured Christian gatherings meet- and truly link with the Risen Savior when they gather! “Where two or more of you gather in My Name, I am there in the midst of you”. You don’t have to agree with that reality but it’s what Jesus says about believers who gather together.

Then we (as always) have had individuals who decide they cannot really trust anyone but themselves.

If they do not or seemingly cannot find people just.like.them. they’re done with regular meetings of fellow believers. It’s gotta be on THEIR terms or nada.

Nobody gains a balanced education nor grows in complete isolation. We may indeed learn a great deal on the Web but face to face iron sharpening happens in some measure of regular community -and will sometimes drive us crazy just as we will drive them so NO MATTER the local fellowship you plant yourself in.

The problem is when we become so demanding, so narrow in our choices of who to regularly link with we essentially become our own “assembly of one.”

If we ARE the church, the church is WE, not ME.

It’s like the U.S. or any nation: it’s US as in “ALL OF US” or your view and sense of care, compassion and even Jesus’ call and command to love our neighbor as our self gets shelved.

I suggest a serious study of the Book of Acts, prayerfully linking regularly with the most solid, loving, Bible teaching/applying local church you can find and build relationships of love, worship, trust, confessional accountability and mission service.

If you don’t I can nearly guarantee your walk with Jesus will be more self than Christ-and-others focused.

In the end your own ignorance and lack of patient, loving connection with people you don’t like will be exactly like those folks in “that church over there” who don’t like you. Arrrggghhhh.

You must learn to forgive and be forgiven -or live with the misery of being alone, aloof and self-righteous rather than a growing disciple of Jesus Christ.

In biblical Greek a disciple is not merely one who listens, but one who learns. That learning must mature into actively loving Jesus and others, serving, sacrificing, cross-bearing, gathering regularly with other Christ-followers. With the gifts and fruits of faith and joy via a living, daily relationship with both the Lord and His people, ours can and will become a life that is lived to bear witness to the Risen Christ- IF. IF. IF… we follow Jesus and learn to love and serve within and outside of the churches.

I must also state too many seem to pay someone else to do their Christian living for them. They “attend” and not much else.

Still- a major amount of people blame “the church” with it’s flaws, outright sins and injustices (yes, they exist and need to be graciously confronted) while plenty themselves refuse to BE the church among other flawed seekers who are also Christ-followers. It is self-defeating and in my view, largely hypocritical to think and live in such a matter and call it Christian discipleship.

As my city Chicago is larger than I, the state of Illinois and then United States is larger than Chicago or Illinois respectively, so The Church on Earth is far larger, wider, more broad and when truly considered in humility, far larger than myself and a few close friends. There is much to learn and you won’t learn it by yourself.

A great many seem to expect that because we are not saved by works, the actual effort in spiritual growth and living out a daily walk with Jesus toward making a difference in a sick, needy world via the character (fruit of the Spirit) and spiritual gifts for actively serving others is something distant, vague, perhaps even unnecessary.

Most of us were rather serious about sin and loving pleasure. Can we not be as serious now about spiritual growth, loving God and our neighbor within and outside our preferred “camp”?

Indeed, sometimes we Christians seem to be super abrasive toward the person who seems to have backslidden and ignore the fact many never front-slid. What sort of attitudes, behaviors, sharing and grace are we older believers offering younger people in terms of Christian love and maturity? What are you and I teaching by example?

If you genuinely tell the Lord “I will follow You regardless of Your call on my life, I’ll do anything, go anywhere, have YOUR way with me!” I fully doubt He will reply “No problem! Do whatever you feel like doing, I have PLENTY of sons and daughters, friends who are willing and actually committed to obeying Me. In fact the churches are overloaded with active, loving disciples serving me daily. Relax, enjoy life and I’ll see you with pie and a nice drink at the end of this!”

It is everyone’s job (“the priesthood of all believers”) to live for Jesus and to encourage life-changing, life-giving and yes, cross-bearing John 15 discipleship.

Local regular worship, relational, missional service with your brothers and sisters is essential, not merely an option.

Even with all the frustration and at times real pain involved such values and lifestyle has absolutely blessed and changed me for the better! The church has taught, encouraged myself and my family also making it possible for us to serve others far beyond our individual abilities.

What now?

Acts 2:42 gives us a guideline of how we are to grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ. “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.”

“Steadfastly” in New Testament Greek in that verse means “to adhere to, devoted to, constant, to persevere”.

All but one of the apostles were people who knew, walked with and followed Jesus -and were likely to be further down the road of faith, spiritual maturity and obedience. It’s crucial to find and build relationships with such people -and often this is not a description of your close friends. Please consider if that’s not the truth and what the Lord would have you do about it!

The early, Book of Acts believers were not slack in these matters- relationship to solid, mature leaders, paying close attention, regularly studying the doctrine (teachings) of the apostles, even daily gathering with them and the rest of the people of God locally. They not only ate meals together regularly but also took communion together (the Lord’s Supper/Eucharist) which involves confession, repentance and trust in Jesus’ broken body and spilled blood on our behalf. They were baptised following the Lord’s command. Lastly, the norm was praying together. If these are not happening, your spiritual growth isn’t no matter how you might feel about it.

By now you may realize the point of this book is to encourage as well as warn people that following Jesus and interacting with other believers is no “yellow brick road to Oz” where all is wonderful. The problem is if we aren’t focused on Jesus and offering grace and growth to our brothers and sisters -and pre-believing neighbors… if we choose to maintain unforgiveness toward others or will not trust God’s forgiveness toward us our focus will be on ourselves, period. That is the recipe for individual train-wreck (“shipwreck” in New Testament letter speak) and of course such happens in churches of all types and sizes. Form in itself never equals substance.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Reality is following Jesus IN REALITY, not endless bliss in a fallen world, though in many ways beautiful as God has made it so. We must reconcile with what God considers Truth by and in His grace and with personal, daily, serious commitment.

There is no secret, no short cut, no “join this church” or “read this book” or “attend this conference” and “receive this anointed teaching” or “amazing spiritual experience” and you’ll love every moment of your walk ever after!

What I can tell you from my personal experience is that daily relational life with Jesus and with His people, service to “the least of these” (see Matthew chapter 25) has made the crosses in my life not only bearable but actually understandable and even acceptable.

God made and continues to make me willing as I surrender and walk with Him in the power of HIS Spirit, clinging to His Word (The Bible) and via continual repentance and relationship with His people in the local church. I have learned the lion’s share of all good things from my sisters and brothers in the churches, indeed The Church (all called-out followers of Christ). I believe, and trust His forgiveness – even as I’ve blown it (daily). Oh how AMAZING is His GRACE!

I would never have guessed my life could have been so full, so blessed, nor my heart so grateful to Him! But “HE does all things well.”

As always, the Lord must and shall have the last word.

“If anyone would come after me, they must deny self, pick up their cross daily, and come follow me. If you gain your life you will lose it. The one who loses their life for My sake the sake of the Good News shall find it.”

Amen.

The Video-Book of “Now What” at GrrrRecords.com

Glenn Kaiser’s Main Website with many links to his other sites

Glenn Kaiser Solo on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/glennkaisersolo

JPUSA Ev. Covenant Church Chicago: https://jesuspeoplechicago.org/

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