Music During Prayer

One of the men in the church I serve mentioned something to me that I had never thought of before.  He said that music played during prayer distracted and confused him.  Whether it was the keyboards lightly played or a guitar quietly picked, it was distracting to his focus upon and attention to the prayer.  And he wasn’t speaking of music poorly played.  In fact, the better the ability of the guitarist or keyboardist, the more distracting it can be.  He wasn’t sure if he was to listen to the music or the prayer.  He wasn’t sure if the leadership wanted him to meditate to the music or participate in the prayer.

Music well done is hard to ignore and music poorly done is difficult to bracket out.

Was he to be engaged in the prayer or was he to be enjoying the music?

My first reaction (in myself) to his comment (and it was a comment, not a complaint), was that we can multi-task, it’s no big deal.  We can enjoy the sweetness of the music and follow the rhythm of the prayer and amen its requests and affirmations both at the same time.  But as I thought about it, I had to be honest with myself and admit that I, too, find myself distracted by music played during prayer.  I listen more to the music than I do to the prayer.  I find myself commenting to myself about the music during prayer: “O, that’s nice.”  Or, “That sure is repetitive.”  Or, “I bet he’s bored.”

Again, my first reaction in myself to my friends’ comment about music during prayer had to do with multi-tasking.  But should we multitask in prayer?  Isn’t prayer task enough?  What’s the purpose of music during prayer anyway?  If it’s to set a mood, for me, the mood of the moment easily overshadows the prayer of the moment.  The mood the music creates can crowd out the plea of the prayer.

The music makes it a more emotional moment, but I am not convinced it makes it a more spiritual moment.

In fact, for some people, it can distract them from the spirituality of the moment.  This is obviously part of a larger conversation about substituting emotion for spirit – something that is easy to fall into – and a dynamic we should look into.

I’m sure many would make the argument that since prayer is the continuation of worship, and since the worship songs are carried on the wings of music, the prayer can use the same musical updraft that’s been created.  Maybe.  I don’t know.   With worship songs, the words and music and melody and rhythm are woven and knit together – they are parts of a whole.  In thinking of one you think of the other.   Not so with prayer.

What do you think?  I know that with the great need that billions have of knowing Christ and the mind-boggling social and environmental needs of our planet, music during prayer isn’t a burning question, but it is a relevant one.  I haven’t reached any firm decision – I’m boldly planting my feet on both sides of the fence!  I know that for some, music and prayer go together like peanut butter and jam.  To think of a musically unadorned prayer is like a bride without her wedding dress on her wedding day – an unspeakable tragedy.  What about you – have you thought of this before?  Have you thought through this before?  Chime in.

Spiritually Fit, but Physically Flabby?

Extremes describe my life.  I have often said, “I wasn’t given the gift of moderation..and anything worth doing is worth over doing!”  Over the last 10 years I transitioned from the life of a Navy SEAL to the life of a pastor.  There have been many positives with this transition, but one negative snuck up on me–the decline of my physical fitness.  When it comes to fitness, I can hardly think of two extremes more polarizing that the fitness level of your average Navy SEAL to the of your average Southern Baptist pastor!  Unfortunately, about 6 months ago, I was feeling like I felt into the later category and I was miserable.

There are many who seem to quote 1 Timothy 4:8, “…for bodily discipline is only of little profit…” as a justification for poor physical fitness.  I think the average application of this passage is a little off.  First, the context of this passage was written during a time when life required to work physically hard in contrast the the sedentary life of many today.  Second, this passage does say bodily discipline has profit!

The area of physical fitness, or general health, may be one of the first things to go for the average church-planter or pastor.  Many have suffered medically for slacking in this area.  Mark Driscoll, Rick Warren, and many others suffered a major health crisis early in their journeys of pastoring that required them to make a radical change in order for them to run the race for the long term.  Their hard lessons resonated with me.  I felt like I was heading down that path and it would only be a matter of time before I suffered the same problems.  I was feeling some of the side effects of the pastor’s life–free floating anxiety, difficulty focusing, discouragement, and difficulty sleeping well.

My health surfaced through an unusual circumstance.  As a chaplain I serve with a SWAT team and one particular morning in July I found myself playing a bad guy.  The SEAL in me came out, but my body failed me.  I ended up with some bruised ribs.  It was extremely painful.  I hurt bad–Vicodin bad.  A few nights later my cell phone batter died and the phone beeped.  It was about 3am and I jumped up…thinking there was a SWAT call out.  I moaned in agony jumping up only to sigh with disappointment to discover that it was only a dead battery.  My wife did not find this amusing.  She said something like, “Really?  You want to respond to a SWAT call out right now?”  The answer seems obvious to me.  She however thought it was time for me to start hitting the gym as she gracefully reminded me that I was no longer a 25 year-old SEAL, but was a much older pastor.  Her point was well made…I knew I needed to get more faithful at the gym.

Long story short, I was blessed with a membership to a CrossFit gym in my community a few months after this incident.  I have been disciplined in working out since then 3-5 times per week.  I have been sore for much of the last six months, but I feel so much better as a whole.  By getting back into a regular exercise routine my stress levels are down, my ability to focus is much better, and I am just in an all around better mood!  It is funny how so often the thing we need to do is actually the thing we put off.  I am so thankful for this opportunity that was given to me and I see now how bad my health had become-right under my nose.

This is a simple thought, but giving time to physical exercise daily is critical for for pastors over the long haul of their life.  Our calling places unique demands on us.  These demands often require  much of our time…legitimately so.  Our personal health is an area that requires our attention if we desire to go the distance in our calling.  I encourage my brothers to cut out time for their physical fitness.  You’ll be glad you did. What things have helped, or hurt, you in your attempts to stay healthy?


Accepted And Accepting

From what I have seen, a great need among us humans is the need to be accepted. Translate that loved, valued, understood, noticed, heard, appreciated, etc. For now, let’s use the word accepted.

For many years of my life, I struggled desperately with wanting to be accepted.  I wanted to be able to accept myself, and I wanted others to accept me.  I was extremely unhappy with myself, and quite self condemning.  It was crippling, it held me back, and at times, it felt consuming.  I suppose that I am still predisposed to this sentiment, though God has done an incredible work in me.

I have noticed from my life, and from the lives of others, that the person who is desperate to be accepted will do “whatever it takes” to be accepted.  They will commit crimes, they will give themselves away to others in damaging relationships, they will demean others in order to gain approval, they will anesthetize themselves; the list goes on.  Some will even demand that you accept them no matter what they do, and will continue to push the boundaries to make you prove that you accept them.

The Christian has a great advantage that isn’t always understood or received, but yet remains.  The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus…

“…He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.” Ephesians 1:4-6

The Christian who is desperate to be accepted by people they can see, will run past the God they can’t see.  They will generally relate to life on the visible plane.  Though there is sufficient faith for salvation, it has stopped there, and satisfaction and purpose is sought from that which is tangible.

They overlook the very truth that can liberate them.

The work of God’s Spirit in directing the Believer away from what is seen, and on to that which is unseen, is the critical experience that needs to transpire.

We worry about people’s opinions of us, when the Highest Opinion is the one that really matters. When I understand and experience the fact that the Highest Opinion accepts me because I am in Christ, I can rest.

God tells us that he has made us acceptable unto Himself, as we are forgiven and united with Christ through faith.  God really does love me and accept me.  As I grow in this truth, I am free to accept others, even though they may be acting out in some of the aforementioned manners.  I am free from my desperate need for approval, because I am walking in the acceptance of God, because of what Christ has done, and continues to do in me.  I can increasingly not worry about what others think, about where I should be in life, about the failures I have made and do make.

The path of this truth becoming a liberating reality can be difficult.  I speak from personal experience, and from 20 years of pastoral observation.  How it happens, how long it takes, etc., is different with everyone, but I do know this:  The person that experiences the liberating acceptance of God is the one who will not let go of God, and continues to pursue God in faith, and seeks to “live by faith and not by sight.”

The person who struggles with acceptance is in pain, and can believe that pain in and of itself is reason enough to not try to push forward in faith.  “Can’t you see that I am hurting”, they ask. “How can I push forward in faith when I feel so bad”?

I have said and felt those same things, but my question to them is this: “How can you NOT push forward towards faith and the promises of God?”  It is God who heals, but we must pursue Him will ALL of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, even though we might be in debilitating emotional and mental anguish.

The distance from feelings to faith can indeed seem like an endless journey, but the Truth is still there for us to apprehend, and it is the best rewarded effort that one can put forth.

C.S. Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” (The Problem of Pain, 1940).


Having small children, as I do, ensures that I have a steady diet of Veggie Tales.  If you’ve never seen a Veggie Tales episode you are definitely missing out.  Bob and Larry are something of a staple in our home, which means that I regularly hear, and often cannot get out of my head, the little veggie ditties (i.e. songs; many of which are actually quite funny).  One of the songs that I recently heard (for the millionth time) says at one point…

We’re busy, busy, dreadfully busy
You’ve no idea what we have to do.
Busy, busy, shockingly busy
Much, much too busy for you.

It is an interesting thing when a song written for 3-6 year-olds challenges you to think and question whether or not you’re doing what you should be doing.

We live in an dizzyingly busy society, and I find myself so often caught up in the busyness of it all.  Words like “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10) and “Come aside… and rest a while” (Mark 6:31) are challenges that I often fail at.  It is staggering just how fast days and weeks fly by.  With seemingly endless things to “get done” I frequently find myself flying from one task to the next.  Sadly, with my mind on the 3, 4, 5 or 10 other things I “must” get done, I just mechanically process the tasks.  It’s like when you’re driving somewhere, with your mind elsewhere, and when you get to your destination you realize that you don’t remember any of the drive and wonder how you made it without an accident.

A few of months ago, while thinking on the story of Jesus at Lazarus’ house as Martha served and Mary sat at Jesus’ feet I was struck by Jesus’ word to Martha…

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled  about many things: but one thing is needful.”

Luke 10:41-42

There are a number of different ways to apply the passage, but as I meditated upon it I found myself confronted with the reality that I am often so absorbed with the “many things” that I need to do that I miss the opportunity to worship the Lord in the “one thing” that I’m doing at that moment.  The Apostle Paul said, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) And “whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord” (Colossians 3:23).  I’ve been challenged since that meditation to seek to worship the Lord with whatever “one thing” I am doing from moment to moment.  Whether it’s writing an email, answering a phone call, reading a Psalm or driving to an appointment; whatever I do, even eating and drinking, can be done as worship for the glory of God.

Trust me, it’s hard.  Especially since I keep finding myself distracted by the 12 other things I need to do when this post is done… 😉


For further consideration I recommend a post from my friend Mickey Stonier at The Rock Church, San Diego, Pastor’s Blog


Intentionally Limiting…

I love living in the day and age in which we live. We have immediate access to information and I love information! Let’s be honest, I am an information junkie. Growing up in a heavily technological age and then with the internet coming onto the scene, I feel that I have lived my entire life on information overload.

God has been doing much in my heart and life lately. Things like quietness, solitude and simplicity have been at the fore of my heart and mind. I find God is continually simplifying and refining my life. But as God has been stirring my heart for simplicity, I have begun to realize something about all of this information. When you have access to everything, you end up being an inch deep and mile wide. Let me explain it to you. Back in times before there was unlimited access to information, people got to go down deep with just a few things. Instead of scavenging everywhere in unlimited fields, people knew one field very well. Today it is not so. For most people (including myself), we have such access to information that we rarely ever connect to the ethos of few things. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not making a moral judgment about this. Instead I am trying to articulate that the sword cuts both ways, in some ways amazing and in other ways limiting.

Let me give you some personal examples. When I first got into listening to jazz, I owned 3 jazz albums (Miles Davis – Kind of Blue, John Coltrane – A Love Supreme & Bill Evans – Sunday at the Village Vanguard). I listened to those albums over and over and over again for the better part of a year. Even to this day, I can sing many of the solos on every one of these albums. I soaked myself in them and they became part of who I am. But then the world of unlimited music kicked in. Before I knew it, I owned thousands of albums. I grazed in each field but never truly got to know any of those fields nor internalized the music.

Fast forward to my conversion. I had a Bible and I devoured it. Someone gave me a copy of JI Packer’s Knowing God and Andrew Murray’s Humility (I think they were trying to tell me something ;-). I devoured those books. Read them over and over and over again. But in the same way, ultimately the world of Christian books opened to me. Now thousands of titles later (in print, e-book, and on various computer programs), I find myself an inch deep and a mile wide with everything. I imagine that many of you are like me. You get a new book (or album), you read a bit of it and then you never finish it. You get going, you get distracted reading something else and then you put it down.

So I decided to take action and intentionally limit my reading. I decided that I was going to focus on a few authors for the entire year. I decided that I was going to spend an entire year with Eugene Peterson, Abraham Heschel, Henri Nouwen and John Stott. I have to be honest, it has been a total blast! I feel like I am soaking in these men’s writings in a much more special way than just grazing. By making an intentional decision to soak rather than graze, I find myself being shaped in new and different ways.

So my question would be this, “If you were to chose four authors to focus on this year, who would they be and why?” I’m not saying your ‘Desert Island Authors’. But those who would be nourishing your soul specifically right now and why. I am also assuming that you would be reading the Word of God.



To Preach or Be Personable

As I survey the landscape of much of Christian ministry, it seems clear that the preferred evangelistic method of the day is to be relational, and missional.  For many, the days of preaching the gospel openly to a crowd (at church or anywhere) and calling for people to believe then and there isn’t effective or necessary.  Instead, people say what we need is to focus singularly on making long-term friendships with people who don’t know Jesus, and evangelize them through acts of service and conversation in the context of our friendship.

Let me be clear up front about the fact that I’m all for missional living!  I’m all for relational evangelism.  I’m all for organic witnessing.  But I think that our current obsession with the missional/relational approach to evangelism is only half of the portrait of biblical evangelism.  I believe that as we engage in the one-to-one relational evangelistic mission, we must not ignore or despise the place of preaching to crowds, and calling for decisions.  We need a both/and approach.

I come from a theological and philosophical background which promoted skepticism about calling people to respond to the gospel on the spot in a public way.  This is partly due to the abuses sometimes seen in the ministries of so-called evangelists.  But nut-jobs aside, I can remember hearing godly men give legitimate invitations to believe the gospel, and criticizing them.  I thought that it seemed like emotionalism, and lacking in emphasis on discipleship.

 Encountering Invitations in Acts

Today I give public invitations for people to believe the gospel and be saved every week at the church I serve.  I’m in a very different spot than I used to be on the issue of invitations.  What ultimately brought me to where I am today on this was surveying the points of appeal that are recorded in the Book of Acts.  As I set out to try and get a biblical perspective on invitations I had two questions: 1. Are on-the-spot invitations to believe biblical at all? 2. What is the primary thing offered to unbelievers for believing in Jesus in the appeals recorded in the Bible?

What I discovered in my survey of Acts were numerous points of appeal where the apostles called their hearers to respond to the gospel in faith right then and there.  Secondly, I discovered that the main benefit of believing in Jesus that the apostles offered to people publically was the forgiveness of sins.  It wasn’t a better life now or even a personal relationship with God (though of course the latter of these is not wrong).  The primary thing they promised people for believing in the gospel was forgiveness.  This makes sense considering Jesus’ declaration that the Holy Spirit is right now on a mission convicting the entire world of sin, and failure to believe in Christ. (See John 16:7-11)

A good example of this is seen in Acts 2:38 and 40: “Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins; and you shall receive the promise of the Holy Spirit…And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying ‘Be saved from this perverse generation.’”

Peter believed in calling people to make an immediate, public profession of faith in Jesus.  He believed in having them demonstrate that profession of faith with action (baptism).  He offered forgiveness to all who heeded him.  He didn’t do so casually or briefly, but with many words exhorted them to be saved!  This same kind of process permeates the testimony of the book of Acts.  On your own time consider the following passages: Acts 2:38-40; 3:19 and 26; 10:42-43; 11:14 and 21; 13:38-39;14:21; 16:3-34; 17:30-34; 18:4-8; 19:4-5; 26:17-18 and 28-29; 28:23-24.

 Objections to Decisions

For various reasons people object to any kind of public appeal to immediately believe in the gospel.  For some their reason is theological.  I’ve heard some from strict Calvinistic backgrounds object to such an appeal on the basis that it is God who makes the decision.  If you believe a person has to be born-again before they believe, there’s no cause for passionate appeals to respond to Jesus right now!  God will take care of their response in His time, so just relax.  They believe it to be miss-leading to tell people to believe.  In response I’d point out that Peter disagrees, if you consider his appeal in Acts 2 alone.  Whatever theology drove him there, he was perfectly content to make passionate, persuasive pleas for people to believe in Jesus right now for salvation, and get baptized.

Others object to appeals for decisions on the basis of emotionalism.  To be sure, some evangelists are simply able to stir emotions and get professions whether they preach the gospel or not.  But this doesn’t mean its wrong to be emotional when you preach the real gospel.  I would contend that if you believe people will spend eternity in hell without trusting in Christ, you’d better be a little passionate and emotional when you call them to faith!  If you’re not, I wonder where your hearts at, and how much you believe the gospel you preach.  I heard Pastor Pedro Garcia tell a story about a question he was asked at the end of an evangelistic service he preached.   At the closing of the service a man inquired, “Are you always this passionate when you call people to receive Christ?”  What was Pedro’s emblazoned response?  “How can we not be!”  Some of us need to ask that question.

 Objections to Common Methods

Still others are bothered by methods utilized to give people a chance to express faith in Christ publically.  We’ve all heard the “Now with every head bowed and every eye closed, if you want to receive Christ just raise your hand up, and I’ll pray for you” approach.  I used to criticize it heavily, and others like it.  Now I even use it sometimes.  Why?  The truth is that the most biblical way to call people to faith in the gospel is to call them to believe, and then call them to demonstrate that belief by getting baptized right away.

As a church meeting in a school, our baptismal is an inflatable portable hot tub originally designed for camping!  So I can’t call people to believe and get baptized at every service.  When we do baptisms we do them open invitation style, and its always beautiful to see how God uniquely blesses the call to believe and be baptized with conversions.  On the other weeks, I figure that giving people some practical way to respond is better than giving them none.  So sometimes I ask them to raise their hands as a symbol of appeal for God to save them in light of the gospel.  Sometimes we just invite them to come pray with us after the service if God’s spoken to their heart.  I find God blesses the offering of a variety of opportunities for people to publically express the faith of their hearts.  What I know is we see people come to Christ in our services when we give them practical ways to express faith way more often than we did when we weren’t offering methods like this.  It also helps us see who God’s been working in so we can follow-up with them.

The funny thing I’ve found is that most who criticize people who use methods other than baptism to immediately demonstrate new faith in Christ don’t call for immediate decisions followed by baptism either.  They don’t really call for belief at all.  When you consider the biblical record, to me, the burden of proof is on them.

How About You?

Do you ever make an appeal for an immediate response of faith to the gospel?  Why or why not?  What practical methods do you use to encourage people to demonstrate their heart’s response of faith to the gospel?  Do you think your theology or practice in this area promotes or hinders you and your church from experiencing the blessing of seeing people come to faith in Jesus the moment they hear the gospel?  Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!



Good Friday….it’s the SHAME….not the physical pain/death

Heb. 12:2 …looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

As this verse makes clear, Jesus despised the shame of the cross.  He regarded it with contempt, He loathed it, He basically gave it no regard–He assigned no credibility to it.

But what specifically did He despise?  The SHAME of the cross.

The Romans were brilliant.  They perfected a method of execution that would declare they were an empire governed by a “rule of law”.  Certain violations of certain laws would cost the violator his life.  But before that life was extinguished, the maximum amount of bodily pain would be inflicted upon that person.  Crucifixion was the stroke of genius that made that possible.

But, they also recognized that the people they conquered and ruled didn’t navigate with regard for the “rule of law” that they believed they navigated by.  Those they ruled were primarily honor/shame based cultures, not a progressively growing rule of law based culture like their own.

In an honor/shame based culture, bodily pain isn’t the most damaging thing that can be done to someone else.  SHAMING them is.  And the Romans knew this.

They understood that something other than an incredibly slow and painful process of taking someone’s life was needed to demonstrate that their laws MUST be obeyed.  In other words, the threat of an excruciatingly painful  death was insufficient for motivating people to obey the law.

Honor/shame based cultures place honor/shame above the law.  They aren’t “ruled by law”.  They are ruled by their foundational cultural traits.  And any time the law of the land comes in conflict with their foundational cultural traits and they have to choose between the two….culture trumps the law.

How do you communicate that your laws are what must be obeyed in those times when they conflict with the culture of those you desire to live under your laws?

You use one or more of their cultural traits in such a way as to reinforce the importance of obedience to your laws.

The physical pain and the death produced by crucifixion was insufficient to be a proper deterrent for honor/shame based cultures.  Shame was the only thing that could serve that purpose.

So, those who were crucified were crucified completely NAKED!

As difficult as it is to say it…unless the Romans made a huge exception for Jesus, our Lord was buck naked when He was crucified.  (And because honor/shame still held a high place in Western European cultures, even the artists of the past would also portray those crucified by the Romans with some kind of cloth covering the person crucified even though that was not accurate!)

Public nakedness not only dishonored the one who was naked, it also shamed the group that their identity was derived from, (their immediate and extended family, fellow villagers, fellow vocational group, etc.).

Having lived and served extensively among honor/shame based cultures, I can tell you firsthand that the majority of the people in those cultures would prefer to suffer intense physical pain rather than bring shame upon the group that supplied them with their identity.

As Americans, we don’t get all of this.  But our rule of law culture and the individual identity component of our culture, actually filters the way we understand the bibles that we read.

Good Friday and what we focus on as we commemorate the crucifixion are an example of this.  When we think of the brutality inflicted on Him and we try to project ourselves into that kind of situation, we think about the terrible physical pain He suffered on our behalf.  And He did suffer incredibly.

But is it possible that it wasn’t primarily the physical pain He suffered and His death that caused Him such inner turmoil?

Is it possible that it was SHAME that really crushed Him.

Heb 12:2 tells us that He didn’t despise the cross.  He despised the SHAME of the cross.

The dishonor and the shame that crucifixion cast upon His group, (maybe including the other members of the Godhead, but certainly His family members and disciples), was something He despised, loathed, and ultimately gave no credibility to.  The SHAME of the cross was worth bearing for the joy that was to be found for the family  that He considered Himself to be a part of.

The Historical Problems with Preterism

I am more familiar with Preterism than I care to be. I will be frank in that I believe it is one of the biggest false doctrines in the church today. If you don’t know what Preterism is let me give it to you in a nutshell:


The belief that all prophecies in Matthew 24-25 and Revelation 6-18 were fulfilled prior to 70 AD when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman Army. The period commencing after this event is known as the Church Age or Millennial Reign.

We won’t even get into the literal or figurative definition of Millennial (Thousand year) Reign. Let me also preface this with the suggestion if you don’t have wade into the knowledge of Preterism then don’t. In my opinion it is a complete waste of time. I was drug into this debate when I had a rogue employee who was causing grief in several churches over his zealousness for this topic.

The position that I want to discuss is the historical issues that plague Preterism. Most scholars agree that the Book of Revelation was written between 88 and 92 AD. Preterists argue that John wrote Revelation during the reign of Nero in the 60’s AD and not during Domitian’s reign (81-89 AD).

The question I want to present to you today is: “What was the age of the Apostle John when he walked with Jesus?” This gives us a key how old John was in 60 AD and 80 AD. You see John was old and frail when he wrote Revelation and his epistles. Stories have people carrying him into churches because he couldn’t walk. One has to be advanced in years to be in that state. (It is true injuries could’ve have caused that but no where is it mentioned that he suffered that and that he was the only disciple not to die a martyrs death but from old age)

Let’s look at an obscure passage to help us determine John’s age:

Matt 17:27 However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel.Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”

This is an interesting scene that is usually over looked but it points out some important cultural things about John’s age. The first thing we see is that only Jesus and Peter pay the tax. What about the other disciples? Was Peter alone with Jesus? Jesus wasn’t alone with Peter but only Peter and Jesus had to pay the tax because they were of age. You only paid a temple tax when you were over twenty years old. So this shows us that of the disciples who were present (likely Peter, James, and John) the rest of them were under the age of twenty. This would fall in line with how old disciples were who followed Rabbi’s during that time. Grown men with families did not follow Rabbis. Teenage boys who showed promise in the Torah followed renowned Rabbis.

If that is the case then John is probably between sixteen and eighteen at this time, which was likely 32 AD. If this is the case then John would’ve only been at most fifty years old in 64 AD and probably not the old man who is ready to die of natural causes. If you have him penning the book in 88 AD then he would be close to seventy five years old and more likely to be old and frail from all of the travels and the attempted boiling in a vat of oil.

So you see there is a history problem with Preterism based on the age of John when he walked with Jesus. He just wasn’t old enough in 60 AD to exhibit the characteristics that history attributes to him in his old age, couple that with the fact that there is no mention of Nero persecuting Christians outside of Rome and you have some major obstacles to overcome to prove this theory.

Secular Prophets

One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” This testimony is true.  Titus 1:12-13

Even as there were secular prophets in Paul’s day who had their finger on the pulse of a generation, whose testimony was true, so we have secular prophets today to whom we should pay attention.  Much secular prophecy today is put to music.  The three greatest rock songs of the 20th century give us prophetic insight into the desires and the discouragements of overlapping generations.  I was listening to a countdown of the 100 greatest rock songs of the 20th century and the top three songs have a very interesting story to tell.

The greatest rock song of the 20th century is “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones.  The lyrics are telling.  The singer is on a quest for satisfaction, fulfillment, contentment – but this proves to be an illusive goal.  It doesn’t matter if he’s driving in his car, trying to pick up girls, or what – he can’t get no satisfaction.  He tries and he tries and he tries and he tries, but he can’t get no.  That great British theologian, Mick Jagger, has captured the frustration of overlapping generations in three stanzas and a chorus.  And surprisingly, what comes through is a thoroughly Biblical doctrine – the flesh does not, cannot, will not satisfy – no matter how hard you try (and try and try).

The song in the #2 slot is Aretha Franklin’s “Respect.”  All Aretha is looking for is a little respect when she gets home – just a little bit will do.  She’s giving her man kisses and money and all she wants in return is a little respect when she gets home.  There is an ache in her heart that pleasure and money can’t fill.  She wants to be more than a sex object and a money maker – she desires to be seen as a person, in her home, by her man.  Is that too much to ask?  He can even sock-it-to-her.   The lyrics go on to say that she gets tired, but she’s going to keep on trying.

Mick desires a satisfaction that he’s not finding and Aretha is asking for a respect that’s being withheld from her.  What’s a person to do?  I know – escape this stingy world and buy a “Stairway to Heaven.”

And that’s exactly what Led Zeppelin did in the #3 rock song of all time.  Read the opening lyrics:

There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold

And she’s buying a stairway to heaven

When she gets there she knows if the stores are all closed

With a word she can get what she came for

The reality is that there is no satisfaction or real respect to be found here in this life and so let’s escape to a place where even if the stores are closed and the doors are locked and no one is opening to us, we can, with a word, get what we came for.  Let’s travel to a place where we don’t have to depend upon the good will of others to experience satisfaction and feel respect.  It wouldn’t surprise me to discover that LSD was the stairway to heaven where everything became possible and available – at least for a while.

Mick is frustrated, Aretha is rejected, and so thoughts turn heavenward.  And why not?  Isn’t this, too, a Biblical theme?  We weren’t created for this life, but for the life to come.  We are pilgrims, not settlers.  I just learned this last week that the full title of Bunyan’s book, “Pilgrim’s Progress,” is actually “Pilgrim’s Progress From This World to That Which is to Come.”  These secular prophets unwittingly reveal they are on the same journey, albeit, taking a much different path that will not lead them where their hearts yearn to be.  We know that Christ is the path which leads from this world to that which is to come.

These ‘three greatest rock songs of the 20th century’ are not so just because of their musicality – their rhythm and beat.  Lyrically, they resonate with the thoughts, dreams, and desires of overlapping generations.  In these songs we find a backhanded recognition of Biblical truth – we are created for a different world and this world cannot scratch our deepest itches, this world cannot reach our deepest places.  Secular prophecy has much to teach us about the desires and doubts of this generation, while at the same time it has much to teach those who author it about their own hearts.  May this generation listen to their hearts, because if they really do, they will be in a place to hear the voice of God.