Sheboygan, Wisconsin, Feb. 26, 2000
Everybody having a good time so far? (audience claps and cheers)
You know, I’ve shared my testimony many, many times but what’s cool
here, especially - my gosh, this was like my second home —
Milwaukee, Sheboygan – this whole area was like… my old band, my
secular band was here so much, it felt like my second home.
And I wish that I could make a very good report and say, “You know
what? All my memories were fantastic here.” The truth is, I don’t
remember much, because I was a fried vegetable. I was a cool fried
vegetable: looked great, walked on stage, drank a six-pack of beer
while I was singing, because I was cool – and I needed it for my
voice, of course. (audience laughs) I’d jump off while Roger, our
keyboard player, was doing a song called “Jefftown Creek”; he did a
solo that lasted forever. It gave me a chance to go down – we had a
system here. My road manager would open up a way. He had a path set
for me, room by room, we’d run in there – great big line of coke.
I’d snort the line of coke, and by the time Roger was finally done
with his solo, we’re ready to do “Never Been Any Reason.”
And I mean, by this time, I’m so hopped up I don’t even feel my
feet; I’m like, “Yeah, I’m ready, let’s do it all day,” and just...
it worked great. The only problem is, when I get off stage, I’m so
burnt that I need another line. And then they hand me a bottle of
vodka, a big can of tomato juice, a gigantic glass and I poured a
little 50/50 and I’d say, “OK, I’m ready for interviews!” Go.
Another hour. Interviews. Meanwhile, I’d do about two or three more
lines of coke.
By this time, if you guys have ever done coke, you realize there
ain’t gonna be no sleepin’ in John’s case. He won’t be sleeping
tonight, because it just don’t happen.
So I go through that for a while, for about, oh, four or five years
– actually no, it was about two years; two years of heavy duty use.
And I get tossed out of the band. All right? Now this is my life. My
whole life is the band. It comes before my family, before my health,
before anything. And all of a sudden it’s gone. So for the next six
months I go on this binge, this drug-o coke-o binge with the excuse
that I’m building a new band. The truth is, I was just in a haze and
it was just a great excuse to get high.
At then end of this, I was this close to suicide. I mean, I really
feel, looking back on it now, like hindsight, I can see the enemy
going, “Ha, Ha, Ha, you poor sucker! I had you all the way – now
it’s time to collect!!!”
But the enemy keeps forgetting that we have a God who loves us so
much; He knows the plan. He knows the plan! You’re not fooling Him,
Satan! You’re not fooling Him at all! You don’t have free rein,
babe! You may talk a big talk, but God is there saying, “Ah-ah.
So my wife gets saved in this same six month period that I’m going
on this binge – and if you wanna see a weird household! (audience
laughter) I mean, you got Mr. Depresso here that’s just going,
down…. down… down… feeling like the life…. Like there’s nothing
left. And she says, “La da dee da daa dee laa doo dee daaa,
everything’s cool,” and I’m going “AUGH!”
She’d try to tell me about the Lord, and I’d say, “Get outta my
face! I don’t need this Jesus stuff; I’m too cool for Jesus. I’ll
tell ya, I’ll become a Christian when I’m rich, famous, done
everything, too old to have any fun, and do it just… hmmm….. to be
She goes, “Oh, buddy! No, it don’t work that way!”
“Well, it works that way for me, so don’t bother me.”
She’d lay back; she knew I was hard-headed. So I just keep on going
down, down, down and finally, about August of 1980 - I’m serious, I
actually sat down and said, “OK, it’s time.” My son saw me wake up
on a couch – plowed. My son was one year old at the time, and I kept
that away from my family until then. And I said, “That’s it. That’s
final. I’m not gonna do it.” And instead of saying, “I’m quitting,”
I said, “I’m gonna end it,” which was a whole lot more final.
About that time my wife comes up to me and says, “John, you promised
you’d come and talk to my pastor.”
I said, “When?”
“When you were drunk last night.” (audience laughs)
I said, “OK. Cool.”
And I went and talked to the pastor. Now, my wife tried to tell me
about the Lord; I wouldn’t listen because I’m a husband. (audience
laughter) (John laughs too) I love it – it’s always the ladies who
giggle first, like, “Ha ha – yeah, we know!”
Anyway, this pastor hit me between the eyes with the truth, the
boldness – not just truth, but with a boldness. I mean, just a
in-your-face, I’m not messing with you buddy, I’m not impressed with
you, here’s your truth and you can take it or leave it, but I’m not
gonna have your blood on my shoulders. It was like, “Whoa!”
Says, “Do you know Jesus?”
“Yeah, I’m an American! I go to church twice a year. I’ve read - I
know what the bible looks like! I even read it – parts – maybe
couple pages! I go to church Easter and Christmas. Every year.
Says, “No you don’t. You don’t know the Jesus who loves you, you
don’t know that Jesus has a plan for your life, you don’t know that
Jesus is here right now.” I mean, the boldness blew me over.
Next thing I knew, I’m sitting in the corner – no, laying in the
corner, going, “WHAT hit me?”
Says, “Do you wanna to know Jesus?”
And all I did was (John nods head).
The seed was planted, folks. The seed was planted with my wife, who
kept getting on me, but then laying back; telling me the truth, then
laying back. And then it was finally – it took a one/two punch for
this hard head. But it was the beginning of a new life for me. It’s
why I’m still here. It’s why I’m still breathing.
And when I got that second chance, I walked out with a burden that
lifted off of me… I still can’t really describe it, except it felt
like tons had lifted off…. And I realized then that I didn’t have to
face this stupidity any more. I didn’t have to face this world of
stupidity any more, and that I was gonna win. You know why? Because
Jesus was gonna do it for me. He was gonna use me (audience claps)…
Yeah, praise God! And that is a reality. That’s not some little,
“Oh, that’s a Christian thing; isn’t that sweet! Isn’t that sweet
how they just believe that kind of stuff!”
I just wanna go, “You think you’re sweet?” (makes hitting sound)
“Here’s some sweet!” (makes hitting sound) Now, that’s a Christian!
But, of course you’re not supposed to… (audience chuckles) …but I’m
not perfect – I’m human, so that’s my excuse.
But I’m telling you right now, it is fact – it’s truth – we need, if
nothing else, we need to receive it as truth. We need to get it in
here, we need to get it here, we need to get a confidence back that
says, “You know what? Whatever I face, it’s not me, it’s Jesus going
before me and HE can take anything!” Praise God, you know what I’m
saying? (audience claps)
Well, I want you to know, I wish I could say, “From then on
everything was just great. I was a perfect individual.” Ha! I mean,
I did more stupid things right after I got saved than I had for the
six months before then. And I mean, it was freaky! It was like every
opportunity to do anything I’d ever wanted to do showed up. Why?
Because the enemy is freakin’ out! He’s losing! I’m not his mark any
more, and he’s freakin’! He goes, “I gotta get.... oh … no, no, John
– here’s some coke, here’s some…. blehblehbleh,” and he’s just
handin’… and I slipped two or three times.
But you know what’s cool? I walked back – I had a church who loved
me so much – KNEW that I’d blown it, ‘cause I smelled like a
brewery…. They said, “Ah, John – back, huh?” “Yeah….” “Ok, come
on.... come on, brother. Let’s pray.” And they would. And I was
received. And they loved me and they kept loving me and kept loving
me and I saw the love of Jesus through them. It was so cool…. so
And one day I realized: the coke went. Didn’t want it any more. You
gotta understand: for anybody that’s ever been in cocaine, it ain’t
easy to let go of. For me, it was… it was weird. I just… it was just
one of those things.
And beer was even worse than that! I refused to let – we prayed for
it… finally the pastor says, “You don’t’ wanna let go, do you?”
“You know what? In God’s timing, it’ll go.”
Like, “Wow! OK, cool, you mean I can still drink?”
“Yeah. In God’s timing, you won’t want to.”
“OK, cool! I can have it… and…” …anyway, you know, typical.
But what was so cool, was that one day (John chuckles) there was a
six-pack of my favorite kind of beer sitting in the back of the
refrigerator. And I realized it had been sitting there, for like,
two weeks! And it hadn’t been touched! And I go, “Hold it! I haven’t
drank nothing for two weeks?!?! No wonder I feel good! All right!”
No, no – listen: I said to my wife, “Babe! I haven’t drank anything
for two weeks!”
She says, “I know.” (audience laughs).
Like she has little marks… “I know.” (more laughter)
Oh…. but see, she’s the power part of our half, of our team; she’s
the power part. It’s been so cool to watch. You’d think I’d be the
human dynamo. Nah! She’s 5’1” of human dynamo. But I just watch her,
‘cause God knows my weakness and He knows her weakness and her
strengths. We work together, because that’s how God does it; that’s
what marriage is about too. (audience claps). Yes, praise God! It’s
I’m giving this testimony; I’m telling you a little bit of why I am
the way I am now. For five years, I assumed I’d never sing again,
because I’d blown it with so much garbage, so much stuff I’d done
with Head East. Never thought I’d sing again – that was cool, ‘cause
I knew God had a plan for me and I was cool – I was anxious to see
what it was. I thought it was gonna be, I was going to be a cost and
scheduling engineer for a mining construction company (audience
Well, don’t laugh – that’s what I was doing! And it was like, “Oh
boy! I’m excited about this – thank you Jesus!” And, I’m serious – I
was trying to be excited, but the truth was, way down deep, I’m
going: “There’s something not cool here because I’ve got a voice and
I’m wasting it. I’m not sure if this is really God.” But I said,
“OK, tell ya what: if this is God’s plan, praise God. I got a great
family, kids are going to a Christian school, I got a great church,
a new home I just finished re-building, dadadada… nice home, nice
job – that must be the American dream! Oh, thank you, Jesus – that
must be it!” And all of a sudden He goes, “Ah-ah. Don’t you sit here
thinking this is it, because there’s big changes gonna happen.”
I go, “Uh-oh,” ‘cause I’d gone through three or four changes. This
was a mining construction company; I had gone through three or four
major moves and I didn’t wanna do no more moves any more, so I’m
going, “Oh no, God – no! No God – I don’t wanna move any more!” And
He goes, “No, no – this will be your heart’s desire.”
I looked at my wife and go, “Babe! I think God just told me that
this isn’t it!”
She goes, “So what do you think it is?”
I said, “I have no idea.” ‘Cause by this time music was gone… it was
five years; hadn’t sung in five years! No possible way – who in
their right mind would have me sing for them? (John grins, audience
Anyway, by this time I’d discovered Petra. I think they’re
unbelievable. Really; in fact, when I was working in the mines… the
miners – they don’t like engineers, but they ended up liking me
because they realized what my past was, and I was actually a
“celebrity.” And so, they thought it was sorta cool that I was
riding down in the bucket with ‘em, and carrying transits and stuff,
and I was an old rock star.
And they’re going, “What are you doing here? Why are you here? Why
don’t you just go out and sing rock ‘n roll and forget this stuff a
I says, “Tell you what, guys, the only way I’d sing rock ‘n roll is
if it was a band like Petra.” Like, “The only way I’d ever fly is to
fly directly to the moon and back with out any help.” Because there
was no possible way, you know what I’m saying? And I said it two or
three times, remembering it. Gotta watch out what you say!
(laughter) ‘Cause God will take you up on it!
Out of the blue, Bob Hartman calls me and says, “John, you know who
I says, “Huh! Who in the world doesn’t?” And I said, “Yes, Bob, I
know who you are.”
He goes, “Would you consider singing for Petra?”
I looked and go, “You gotta be kidding! I haven’t been singing for
He goes, “All I wanna know: are you still a Christian?”
I said, “Well, actually I’m a heavy-duty Christian.”
He goes, “Good. That’s all I wanna know. You wanna come and talk
“No, no – I’m ready!”
He says, “No, no – don’t you think you should pray about it?”
I go, “Oh, yeah….” (audience laughs) “Yeah, I guess so.”
But I knew; I knew, my wife knew. And then they had to figure I was
– for six long months they had to figure out that I was. I finally
called them; I said, “Guys, is there another person, and you’re just
using me as a spare? It’s OK, it’s just - I just need to find out if
I need to tell my boss I’m gonna quit or not.”
“No, we haven’t tried anybody else; you’re perfect.”
“Then WHAT’S the big deal?”
“Well, we, ah… we need to come and talk.”
So they brought the guys up; there’s three of them – John Lawry,
Mark Kelly, and Bob. They come up, and they, I mean, they put us
through the RINGER! It was Investigating City. They talked to my
family, they talked to my kids, my wife, they looked me over, looked
my home over… it was like, “Gees, I didn’t know I was joining the
I finally said, “Cool, you know – whatever. Whatever.”
My wife’s a great cook, OK? So we had this gigantic roast. I mean,
it’s great!… something that usually lasts our family like two weeks.
“Hey babe, why don’t we invite them for supper?” She says OK. I say,
“Hey guys – you wanna have supper? We got this roast!”
They had this (gasp), this look on ‘em, “OH! Ah…. Ah…. Just a
minute, we gotta talk.”
And they go out and have a meeting! And I go, “Gee, gotta have a
meeting just to eat roast?! (laughter) I’m not sure if I wanna join
these guys or not!”
They come back and say, “Yeah, we’ll eat.”
They devoured that roast. That roast was gone before I got a chance
to look at it! I mean, I got this little sliver and I’m goin’: “It’s
GONE!”… Find out later they had been fasting. (audience laughter)
They hadn’t eaten for a while… And they decided, “Well, we’ve fasted
enough. That roast looks too good.” (more laughter & applause)
So they gobbled it down, walked out and later, about a week later I
became part of Petra. And I’ve seen unbelievable things in this
ministry. I’ve seen God work in mysterious ways. I see Him working
here tonight. I see Him working here tonight, folks – God never
stops working. It’s us who stop listening. And I’m telling you right
now – I’m telling you right now – if God is dealing on to your
hearts, anybody here tonight: if you’ve been walking the walk but
faking it – God’s here tonight. If you’ve been straying away from
God a little bit – God’s here tonight.
How many chances do we, in the body of Christ, get to join in Jesus’
name? How many times do we get to join together and be part of a
family in Jesus’ name? Tonight is a night of cleanin’ house. If
there’s something not cool in your walk, let’s walk right.
If nothing else – I’ll tell ya what – I’ve got nothing else to do… I
wanna pray with you. Sign autographs and pray. Something’s tugging
on your heart and you need to pray about it, you need to pray
about…..maybe walked a little far from God, you wanna get back….
tonight. If God’s dealing with you and you’ve been faking it, you
wanna get real, you wanna know that you know that you know that if
you died tonight, you’d be with Him, but you’re not sure now – let’s
We’re gonna make this evening not only fun, but productive for
eternity. That’s what’s cool about being a Christian! We not only
have fun, we can change lives for eternity in Jesus’ name! You show
me somebody in the world who can do that, and I’ll show you a liar.
Praise God! Praise God!
(John goes back into song at this point)
The Oasis, Naperville, Ill., Aug. 27, 1999
I grew up in this part of the country – I was raised in Illinois. I
wasn’t part of Chicago, though – I was central Illinois, back in
that other part of the state (audience starts clapping) in a little
town called Mt. Pulaski, barely a suburb of Springfield. But I was
still part of Illinoiz! (audience claps and cheers).
How many people – tell me – how many people say "warsh?" (laughter)
I mean, I was raised in Illinois to say "warsh" and "pajamas" and I
thought it was normal in Illinois; apparently it’s not… I guess I’m
just an oddball! (audience cheers) Yeah!…. no really, I really am…
I’ll tell ya what – I’m a saved oddball (clapping & cheering). I got
a chance, folks, 19 years ago, to get a second chance. I’ve got a
God who never gave up on me.
When I was here in Chicago – and I was here a lot, during my secular
years – I was in a band called Head East, and we played in every
club in this part of the stomping grounds. I’ll say that Chicago was
very good to us back then. But the problem was, when I first started
with the band, all we wanted to do was play good music. But as time
went on and we got bigger, we did more records, we did more touring
– I got caught up in the world of secular rock ‘n roll, and that has
nothing to do with Jesus.
I fell for the same lies that everybody else in that music business
ususally does – I won’t say everybody, but the big majority… it’s
normal to do drugs, it’s normal to get drunk every night. In fact,
if you don’t, you’re an oddball. And I didn’t like being an oddball,
so I wanted to fit in. I wanted to be cool. And I cooled myself
right into a habit that I couldn’t quit, with cocaine and booze. I
thought I could when I left Head East in 1980, but I couldn’t quit.
And it freaked me out.
I started my own band, called the Johnny Band, for about 7-8 months,
and I used that as an excuse just to stay high. And I’m serious – to
stay high from March to August. And I remember it, because I still
have people coming up to me and saying "Do you remember so and so,
and when this happened….?" And I don’t, because I was fried.
It was a time when I think the enemy – and you know what his name is
– if you don’t know him, I’m talking about Satan – that’s right, I’m
not afraid to say his name, because I’m not scared of him. I’m part
of the body of Jesus Christ; I have Jesus Christ go before me – he
doesn’t mean anything to me… Satan doesn’t mean a thing. I’m not
fearful of him because when he looks at me he sees Jesus, not me.
Now if I didn’t have the Lord going before me, the enemy could chew
me up in one try. But Jesus does go before me, because he died on
the cross for me. And I realize that, praise God, not by choice – I
was actually sort of forced into it.
Because for six months I went on a drunken binge that should have
destroyed me. But by "coincidence" my wife got saved in that same
six month period. And she was a heavy-duty Christian. Now, she’s
about 5’1" but as a Christian, she’s about 10’3"! (audience claps)
Trust me, this was not a pretty sight, because I’m supposed to be
the man of the house and she comes
"Now, you know, I want to tell you about…"
"AUGH! Grrrr….I don’t want to hear..."
"John, I wanna tell you…."
So she kept on me; she quit when she realized that I didn’t want to
hear it any more, but she kept and kept and kept telling me about
Finally, when it got to the point where I felt that maybe suicide
was the best answer for me, because the enemy had gotten me down to
that point, she came up to me and said "John, you’ve got to come
talk to my pastor." I said "sure, why not? I’ve got nothing else to
lose." Seriously, I had no idea that anything would change. I didn’t
give God any credit. I knew He was tapping on my heart, but I didn’t
want to - I was too cool – I didn’t need Jesus. I wanted to have
fun; I wanted to have nosebleeds, I wanted to have hangovers. I
wanted to be fried, every day, every night, ‘cause that was cool.
Was I lied to or what?
That’s how the enemy works. He keep lying, he keeps lying, he tells
you black is white, and white is black, good is bad, bad is good… we
wonder why our country is so hurting right now? Give the credit
where credit is due. Look straight in to the enemy’s face and say
"You know what? I claim my country back in the name of Jesus Christ!
How dare you try to steal it away!" (audience cheers)
But we have to have boldness, folks – we have to realize, we have to
believe that we have the power to do it – and yes we do, through
Jesus Christ. But we have to be real about being a Christian.
And that night when I walked in to the person’s house, that pastor’s
house, I had no faith at all, but that pastor did. And that pastor
looked me straight in the eye and said "You know Jesus?"
"Well, yeah – I’m an American! I go to church twice a year!"
"No you don’t – you don’t know the Jesus who loves you, you don’t
know the Jesus who has a plan for your life, you don’t know that
Jesus is here right now!"
And there was a boldness about it that just knocked me over. I’m
serious – I was in a corner going "what hit me?" Walks back, looks
down at me and says "You want to know Jesus?" All I could do was
(nods head). It was the smartest head shake I’ve ever made. Because
once I stood up, I said the sinner’s prayer, and it was the
beginning of a new life for me, where the pressure was released from
me that I didn’t even know I had. The pressure of guilt, of the sins
I’d done in the past, because His blood was shed for me, and I, all
of a sudden, spiritually realized that I had a new beginning. What a
way to live!
We are made in the image of God – we have the right to know about
Jesus Christ! We do! And every time we don’t get that chance, we’re
getting it stolen away from us by lies, deceit… the enemy tells you
"Hey, that’s not cool - you don’t need Jesus." You’re getting lied
to, you’re getting stolen, you’re getting the opportunity stolen
away from you – your right, and I’m sick of it. I’m sick of watching
our kids getting stolen. I’m sick of parents giving up on kids. I’m
sick of my generation giving up on the new generation! How dare we
give away our treasures to a lying thief! How dare we do it!
We don’t need to, because that thief is nothing but a liar. He has
no power unless we give it to him. He’s sitting around going
"hehehehe…." I tell you what – I’ll spend the rest of my life making
sure that when I talk, that smile just wipes off his face, because
the truth hurts him. And the truth is that he is a lair and Jesus
Christ is truth! Jesus is alive and well right here tonight. He’s
got a plan.
I look around and see the body of Christ right here, and there’s
folks here that are not part of the body, that just came to see what
a Christian rock band is about. You ain’t seen nothing yet, really.
This has been a family thing tonight… you want some ‘in your face
rock ‘n roll?’ We’ll give it to ya! We’ll bring the set – we’ll blow
your head off! (audience chuckles)
(John laughs) All right, when I say that, I say.... with a
……(audience member shouts out "With the power of the blood!") Thank
you – with the power of the blood! (audience laughs).
(breaks back into song at this point)