Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Voice Silenced

Just a few days ago the entertainment industry lost one of its brightest stars, Whitney Houston at the young age of 48.

Houston was an American recording artist, actress, producer, and model. In 2009, the Guinness World Records cited her as the most-awarded female act of all time. Her awards include two Emmy Awards, six Grammy Awards, 30 Billboard Music Awards, and 22 American Music Awards, among a total of 415 career awards in her lifetime. Houston was also one of the world's best-selling music artists, having sold more than 170 million albums, singles and videos worldwide.

On February 11, she was found dead in a suite at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, in Beverly Hills, California, submerged in the bathtub. The cause of death is still being determined.

Few people may know that Whitney Houston was raised a Baptist. She was born in a middle-income neighborhood in Newark, New Jersey, the third and youngest child of Army serviceman and entertainment executive John Russell Houston, Jr. and gospel singer Cissy Houston (née Emily Drinkard). Her mother, along with cousins Dionne Warwick and Dee Dee Warwick and godmother Aretha Franklin were all notable figures in the gospel, rhythm and blues, pop, and soul genres.

At the age of 11, Houston began to follow in her mother's footsteps and started performing as a soloist in the junior gospel choir at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, where she also learned to play the piano. Her first solo performance in the church was “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah.” In addition to her mother, Franklin, and Warwick, Houston was also exposed to the music of Chaka Khan, Gladys Knight, and Roberta Flack, most of whom would have an impact on her as a singer and performer.

But as is this case with so many American pop stars, she chose a life of addiction at a young age. She admitted that she began experimenting with drugs during the filming of the movie The Bodyguard in 1992. When filming was finished she began doing hard core drugs like cocaine on a regular basis. It was also during this time that she met her future husband Bobby Brown formerly of the pop star band New Edition, who was also a drug addict himself. What ensued were many years of drug abuse that ruined her vocal chords and ultimately led to her death this past week. She is survived by her only daughter, Bobby Kristina who is 18 and was last seen checking herself into a hospital to deal with the trauma of losing her mother so unexpectantly.

Throughout her career, Houston often spoke of Jesus and her upbringing as a Baptist. Her friends said that before she passed she spoke about looking forward to meeting Jesus in person upon her death. I do not pretend to know when it was that Houston departed from the faith that she was raised with but it undoubtedly happened along the way to fame and fortune that led her to a life of misery and stole her most precious gift – her voice. The Bible talks about a path in life that many people choose that seems right in their own eyes but it ultimately leads to death (Proverbs 14:12).

Life is full of choices. One well known author once said, “In the end, our life will be a sum of our choices.” For Whitney Houston, she made far too many poor choices and reaped the cost at the age of 48.

Just a couple of years ago, Houston said on the Oprah Winfrey show that she began taking drugs not for fun but to mask her pain. It was such a tragic statement that it had me scratching my head as to what pain she was speaking of. But as I thought further, the answer became obvious. When a person is raised with the truth of the gospel and then rejects it, they spend the rest of their lives trying to fill the void that is only satisfied by a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Houston, of course, due to her fame and money had the opportunity to fill her life with things that most people can only dream about – a private jet, vacations to the most luxurious vacation spots in the world, access to the drugs of her choice with no limitations. This is why King Solomon who was the riches man to ever walk the earth and denied himself nothing that his eyes laid upon, said in the Book of Ecclesiastes 1:14, “I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind.” As he looked back over his life, he concluded the book with the following statement, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)

Just two years ago, the entertainment industry lost pop icon and R&B king Michael Jackson at the age of 50. Jackson, like Houston, also died because of repeated drug abuse.

The story seems all too common in our culture today but it still points us back as believers to the words of Christ in John 10:10b, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” Jesus is not just offering eternal life but the abundant life right here, right now to all those who will put their faith and trust in Him. Within His commands one finds true liberty and freedom and the blessings of God. I pray if you do not know Him that you come to know the Prince of Peace today (Romans 10:9-10). If you do know him as Savior and Lord of your life, please make it a point to tell others to keep them off the broad road that leads to destruction.

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