CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

When I’m Sixty-Four

Jan 27, 2017

OK, another milestone I guess. And I even have a very famous pop song to commemorate it with. Most of you would be familiar with “When I’m Sixty-Four.” It is of course a classic song by the Beatles, released in 1967 on their Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album.

It was a forward-looking tune back then of course. The first verse has these lyrics:

When I get older losing my hair
Many years from now
Will you still be sending me a valentine
Birthday greetings, bottle of wine?

Those are now questions I no longer have to ask – I can experience the reality of it for myself. Yes, I am certainly losing my hair. I don’t know about the valentine, but I did get both a birthday card and a bottle of wine. But consider a few hard facts here.

When the song first came out I was just 14 years old. Paul McCartney, who sang it, was 25. He is now 74, and today – as you may have guessed – I have just turned 64. So the song takes on new meaning at the moment. But what is really mind-boggling is the song appeared a full 50 years ago!

Where in the world did five decades go in such a short period of time!? It seems like just yesterday I had bought this album. Indeed, as the Beatles sang in another song released two years earlier:

Yesterday all my troubles seemed so far away.
Now it looks as though they’re here to stay.
Oh, I believe in yesterday.

Suddenly I’m not half the man I used to be.
There’s a shadow hanging over me.
Oh, yesterday came suddenly.

beatlesThere sure have been a lot of changes happening over that half century. Two of the four Beatles are now dead. America has been through ten presidents since the song came out. We have had the Vietnam War, the assassination of Martin Luther King, the first man on the moon, Woodstock, the fall of the Berlin Wall, several Gulf Wars, September 11 and the rise of Islamism, to name but a few momentous events.

And of course the Internet-, computer- and technology-revolution has since burst on the scene, which is why you are reading this here and not elsewhere. Indeed, the Internet was invented in 1973, and the first Apple personal computer appeared in 1976.

If everything I have just mentioned sounds all rather familiar to you, that makes you an old guy – just like me. Imagine that: 64! So much has happened – and so very quickly. I was just a youngster back then when the album containing that single appeared. I had just finished my middle year of junior high school.

Just like the Beatles and so many others, I too would soon start experimenting with drugs, eastern religions, and all things weird and wild. And because of all this, a lot of my rock heroes started dying back then:

-Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones, 1969
-Jimi Hendrix, 1970
-Janis Joplin, 1970
-Jim Morrison of the Doors, 1971
-Duane Allman of the Allman Brothers, 1971

During this time some of my friends were dying too – by drug overdoses or suicide. Both should have taken my life as well, but somehow I survived, only to become a Christian in August of 1971 at age 18. But those heady days are recounted in my four-part testimony which can be read here: billmuehlenberg.com/2012/06/27/coming-home-my-testimony-part-1/

But let me continue my story – ever so briefly – right up to today. After my radical conversion to Christ, I went back to my hometown in Wisconsin, and became active in Christian work: evangelising, leading home Bible studies, and so on.

In 1975 I went to a Christian college in Chicago for two years, then a year at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. I then got involved with Youth With a Mission, first in the US, then in Europe. I met my Australian wife while there in Holland, and we then left YWAM in 1984.

I finished my BA in Chicago at another college and then completed an MA in Boston. Then we moved to Melbourne in 1989. There I worked for various groups over the years, including the IPA, Quadrant, the AFA, Salt Shakers, and Focus on the Family. After that I started CultureWatch ten years ago.

I have penned nearly 4000 articles and written a number of books over these years. I have spoken and taught throughout Australia and overseas. Oh, and I have picked up a few books for my library along the way as well. I mention all this simply to highlight the truth that time sure flies.

One day I was a young kid listening to the Beatles on my old record player at home, and the next thing I know – 50 years later – I am reminiscing about all this! Wow. Where did all that time go? And have I spent it wisely? I have often referred to Malcom Muggeridge’s autobiography, Chronicles of Wasted Time.

That title seems to reflect too much of my life. I have been on this planet for 64 years now, but what have I got to show for it? How much time have I wasted, frittered away on trivial pursuits and that which does not matter? I look back and I cringe at how often I have been such a poor servant of Christ, a poor husband, a poor father, and so on.

I know I will soon stand before my maker and my judge to give an account. It is somewhat frightening to consider. Sure, because of the finished work of Christ at Calvary, I have my sins forgiven and a right standing with God. But the works I have performed, or left undone, will be weighed up and assessed.

I fear I am so far from where I should be. Time has gone by so fast and I have done so little for my Lord. And time is running out. As you age all sorts of aches and pains and illnesses etc., creep up on you. My wife who is younger than I has already had a hip replacement!

Decades gone – like a puff of smoke. As Isaiah and Peter put it, “All people are like grass”. Or as James put it, “You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” Sure, being 64 is not all that old – but it seems that way to me. I have no idea how much longer I will be alive.

How much would I have done differently had I a chance to do it all over again? That is of course not something to spend time worrying about – I cannot go back and relive my days. All I can do now is seek to live what days I do have left fully for Christ and for the glory of God.

Since I have been quoting the Beatles, let me do so one last time. Back in 1965 the song “Nowhere Man” was released. It began with these words:

He’s a real nowhere man
Sitting in his nowhere land
Making all his nowhere plans for nobody
Doesn’t have a point of view
Knows not where he’s going to
Isn’t he a bit like you and me?

Far too many people are like that. But that is not how the Christian should be. If you feel you have wasted so much of your life, the good news is, it is never too late to rededicate yourself to Christ and to living a worthwhile life. No matter how much of life we may have wasted, God is able to make up the years that the locusts have eaten, as we read about in Joel.

Please don’t wait until you are 64 before you start considering seriously your life and how it has been used for God. Start pondering seriously on these matters now, regardless of your age. Let me close with a few quotes from the terrific 2003 volume by John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life:

“You get one pass at life. That’s all. Only one. And the lasting measure of that life is Jesus Christ.”

“We waste our lives when we do not pray and think and dream and plan and work toward magnifying God in all spheres of life. God created us for this: to live our lives in a way that makes him look more like the greatness and the beauty and the infinite worth that he really is.”

“Desire that your life count for something great! Long for your life to have eternal significance. Want this! Don’t coast through life without a passion.”

“But whatever you do, find the God-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated passion of your life, and find your way to say it and live for it and die for it. And you will make a difference that lasts. You will not waste your life.”

“No, you don’t have to be a missionary to admire and advance the great purposes of God to be known and praised and enjoyed among all peoples. But if you want to be most fully satisfied with God as he triumphs in the history of redemption, you can’t go on with business as usual—doing your work, making your money, giving your tithe, eating, sleeping, playing, and going to church. Instead you need to stop and go away for a few days with a Bible and notepad; and pray and think about how your particular time and place in life fits into the great purpose of God.”

[1595 words]

30 Responses to When I’m Sixty-Four

  • Happy Birthday Bill 🎉🎈🎂🎈🎉
    Have a wonderful day and may God grant you many happy returns of the day in the year ahead.
    Blessings and love from Sandra

  • Something to look forward to Bill, in two years you’ll be 60 again. Plus GST of course.

  • Happy birthday sir. Wishing you a long healthy life ahead doing God’s work. You can’t even take a break to enjoy the cake and bottle of wine without a short sermon. 😀
    Cheers

  • Good post Bill and Happy Birthday!

  • Hi Bill, Happy Birthday, & have a great (moon beam free) day.
    Blessings to you & your family,
    Kelvin.

  • Happy Birthday to you!

  • Happy birthday… great article; brings back memories… ah, to be 64 again.

  • Happy Birthday, Bill, I am a good friend of Daniel Lo who recommended me to all your articles. I enjoy them all, though it can be rather provocative to some….Enjoy the day!

  • Happy birthday, Bill! Keep up the great work….I know you will never be truly satisfied with what you have done, and are doing, and that’s as it should be because it drives you on to do more. But be assured, you are making a difference, and you are doing the work God set for you. May He bless you with a long and fruitful life.
    PS I love reading and sharing your articles…they are always thought-provoking, honest and topical, and scripturally sound.

  • I reckon there’s a “Well done, good and faithful servant waiting for you Bill” around some corner. God gave you a great intellect and a new heart and by His grace (just imagine if He had not!) you have helped His people immensely. Thanks so much. [And fancy that, now I know I’m the same age as a Beatle.:)] Cheers!

  • Thank you for this article and Happy birthday.
    I did think of Imagine and how it goes nowhere.
    Rather, I’m so thankful for the light of Jesus Christ and all that He offers.
    Praying that more people would discover Christ too. That the scales would be lifted…….from the eyes of our nation.

  • m.youtube.com/watch?v=IvUPcF7bGOM
    50 yrs on and there is a heaven and a hell. It’s peace with God that is required not world peace. Eternal peace will be heaven itself. Sad that he messages have been confused but no surprise as the media has been such a powerful influence in the last 50 years.
    ?????????????

  • “Happy Birthday!” to you, Bill. Thank you for bringing back so many precious memories most baby-boomers share. Thank you, also, for your insight and Biblical approach to so many social issues.

  • Indeed, Bill. I almost know what you mean.
    Peter (aged 63)

  • Don’t forget Bill, that God is also your Father, not only your maker and judge.

  • Happy birthday Bill

  • Blessings on your birthday, Bill.
    But the greatest of all was your reborn birthday when you became a member of the household of Christ, by His marvellous grace, mercy & love.
    In that family He has called you to be a shining light (hated by the darkness, though) on His behalf.
    Keep on pressing on.
    Love you, man.
    You are a real brother to me.
    That is a great privilege for me, here in S.Africa.

  • Happy Birthday Bill and thanks for such a stirring article. I have no doubt that you are having a huge effect for the Kingdom as you preach your Facebook sermons day in and day out. God has called those of us who have a passion to shout truth from the ether. He has called us to tear down strongholds that seemed impenetrable even at the turn of the century. We are called for such a technological era as this and yet I believe that there is more coming. God is not finished with us yet. My elderly mother is still going strong mentoring interceding and sharing Jesus at every opportunity. Blessings and may your fruit be multiplied and accelerated in the coming year.

  • Happy Birthday!!! Woo hoo! and something to look forward to, :”well done good and faithful servant.” that’s the birthday we should all be looking forward to..

  • Happy 64th birthday, Bill! When we go to be with the Lord, the greatest thing that he can say to us is, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” From what you’ve done ( and doing ) in your walk with the Lord, I’m pretty certain that that is what Jesus will say to you when you go to meet him ( whenever that may be! ). God bless you Bill! 👍🏼

  • Happy Birthday Bill, from someone coming up on six O myself. Prayers for many more years to come. The sixties are the new forties. Well the idea gives me some comfort anyway.

  • Happy birthday!

  • ****HAPPY BIRTHDAY , BILL! **** ***BLESSINGS***

  • A belated “happy birthday” to you Bill. Yes isn’t it something to be our age and reminisce on all the things we’ve seen and experienced. I became a Christian nearly 25 years ago and am also very conscious of all that I would like to ‘pack in’ for God. Yet at the same time the question keeps popping up in my mind, ” What is the chief end of man?” from the Westminster Catechism. We are to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. So I have come to understand that besides ‘doing’ all the time, God also wants us to enjoy Him and His creation. That is a wonderful counterbalancing thought. It is with an ever more grateful heart that we can enjoy all the things He pours out on us and share that joy with others, always pointing to the Giver.

  • Happy 64th birthday Bill, despite being rather belatedly. On the other hand, this well-wishing is apropos as the Chinese Lunar New Year has just been ushered in.

    I also shared this Beatles’ 1967 hit, “When I’m 64”, with my friends when I reached this age last year. Back in those days half a century ago, as a teenage boy I was treating this song as something of a lark, I would never have imaged myself coming to this old age back then. I asked: are you kidding? After all, for me the age of 64 is still a lo….ng way off. Probably 25-year-old Paul McCartney was singing it for a bit of fun. But then 49 years later, what he sang about has become life’s reality for me, and Sir Paul McCartney is now aged 75 also!

    Both being baby boomers, we have been hanging around on this planet earth for over six decades. I’m slightly senior than you chronologically, yet you are much mature in spirituality and advanced in biblical knowledge than me. Apart from inducing in me a host of reminiscence of the good old days, this great pensive piece of yours has so forcefully roused my soul and driven me into deep reflection: “How much time have I wasted, frittered away on trivial pursuits and that which does not matter?” It’s a sad thing to see too many people who’ve grown older but not wiser. How encouraging and uplifting your words are: “I cannot go back and relive my days. All I can do now is seek to live what days I do have left fully for Christ and for the glory of God.” “it is never too late to rededicate yourself to Christ and to living a worthwhile life.” Thank you Bill.

    By the grace of God, this mortal body of mine is still up to snuff, not having to tackle the problem of having “all sorts of aches and pains and illnesses creep up on” me. I sincerely hope that your wife who’s had a hip replacement will be well looked after by our Lord, especailly when she had been through an experience in hospital six months ago. And I will continue to hold you and your family in prayers. May our Great God Almighty richly bless you that you’ll be strong and fit enough to continually serve Him in your work of contending for the truth and of culture watching.

    To many Chinese, ‘6’ and ‘4’ can be very sensitive numbers because it was on June 4, 1989 that the devilish, notorious TianAnMen Square Massacre that has wounded a multitude of hearts took place. I briefly touched on this tragedy in modern Chinese history in one of my inferior writings.

    You shouldn’t have forgotten another Beatles’ hit (released two years earlier, in 1965), “In My Life”, which is thought to be one the best Beatles’ songs and was written by the later-assassinated John Lennon about his own life. It has many cover versions, but I prefer the rendition by Judith Durham (this quondam flower-like beaut is now also 73 years old!) of my favourite group The Seekers, in 2013. So let me dedicate the musical video of this song https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wI1KZhoj_g to you Bill as a birthday gift. Some of its lyrics can quite touch my heart:
    “There are places I’ll remember
    All my life, though some have changed
    Some forever, not for better
    Some have gone and some remain
    · · ·
    Some are dead and some are living
    In my life, I have loved them all
    · ·
    For people and things that went before
    I know I’ll often stop and think about them
    In my life, I love you more”

    I’m a bit emotionally stirred when I listened to it once more. But that’s life.

    Besides Psalm 90, which is my favourite, the biblical passages below are also very good aphorisms:

    For who knows what is good for a man in life, during the few and
    meaningless days he passess through like a shadow? Who can tell him
    what will happen under the sun after he is gone? (Ecclesiastes 6:12)

    “Ask the former generations and find out what their fathers learned,
    “for we were born only yesterday and know nothing, and our days on earth
    are but a shadow.” (Job 8:8,9)

    “Show me, O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me
    know how fleeting is my life.
    “You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as
    nothing before You. Each man’s life is but a breath.
    “Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro: he bustles about, but only
    in vain; he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it.
    “But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in You.” (Psalm:4-7)

    Now that we have entered the Year of the Rooster, the familiar phrase from our youth that you quoted in your another great piece ‘Life is short’ (penned on 27 July 2016) sounds all the more relevant: “you’re not a spring chicken anymore”. Yes, our time on earth is brief, we should use it wisely in glorifying His name.

    Paul Au, a sojourner of Chinese origin in New Zealand

  • Many thanks for that Paul. Blessings.

  • Happy birthday Bill and thank you so much for the work that you do for our Lord.

    As a previous post said; “Oh to be 64 again.”

  • Happy 64th Bill. The nostalgic in me really enjoyed this article.

    I love John Piper’s “Don’t Waste Your Life” have given it to my children and use the tracts based on the book in our local missions. While I’m not quite 64 discovering the Beatles as a boy and playing their songs as I grew up, these songs all have a special place in my heart as well, and likewise much meaning to me. Can’t change the past but am thankful I learned not to waste my life on the ephemeral things of this world 10 years ago, around when you were starting this site. I hadn’t calculated it but didn’t realise it had been that long ago that we first met in Canberra at the Marriage conference in Parliament House, must be around 14 years ago. And to think that my daughter who also attended was 10 or 11 at the time is now leaving on permanent mission for Ecuador this year. How time flies.

  • Thanks for that Garth.

  • Happy birthday mate, I have such a similar life testimony its almost amusing. I turned 64 in July of this year and almost drove my wife and children crazy singing the song on too many occasions…funny how I take notice of few words in songs yet I can remember almost every word on the Sgt Peppers album, Yellow Submarine (which I used as a marching song for my squad during my national service) and Rocky Raccoon. They are almost like the chorus songs we sung during the late 70’s and early eighties as newly saved hippies. Love your stuff…keep up the 1 Peter 3:15 ministry it is vital if somewhat frustrating.

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