Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Korn and Brian Welch and Spock's Beard and Neal Morse

Now that we are done with the Beatitudes and the whole rest of the Sermon on the Mount lies ahead of us, I am going to take a short break until next week before attacking the next section.  I am fighting off yet another nasty cold today, so I am going to do something a little lighter today.  Sometimes when we read the Bible, we build a wall between our own lives and the heroes of the faith featured in God's word.  We learn about the Apostles leaving all and following Jesus.  We learn of all of Nineveh repenting after Jonah's preached a coming judgment.  We read of Saul of Tarsus meeting Jesus on the Damascus Road. We hear about God radically changing the lives in all these men. The problem is that reading about them makes it hard to make them real to us.  Those men were very real men, though, and very much like you or me.  Just as God changed their lives radically, He wants to change our lives as well.  With that, today I want to talk about two men who have met God and God transformed their lives.  We are all a new creation in Christ, and that new creation is very much different from what we once were.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.   2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV
This week I purchased 2 albums with an iTunes gift card that I received for Christmas.  I purchased a Neal Morse album I did not have and the album by Brian "Head" Welch, formerly of Korn.  I listened to both albums on trips to work this week.  I am not here to do a music review as each will have their own taste and whether or not I like something has no bearing (and should have no bearing) on whether or not you enjoy that kind of music.  When I was driving yesterday, it kind of just hit me that each of them left successful secular music careers and redirected their talents for the Lord.  They gave up fame and fortune for the much less lucrative Christian music market.  Korn (Brian Welch's former band) is a very successful metal band, touring around the world, having several hits songs Grammy awards, and platinum albums.  Neal Morse was a musical prodigy from a young age and after touring with some successful acts he founded his own band playing a kind of music called Progressive Rock.  Progressive Rock is king of a niche genre, but he was very successful within that genre. 

The first person I want to talk about is Brian "Head" Welch of Korn.  Korn had platinum albums and Grammy awards and played to hundreds of thousands of fans.  Their music is angry, violent, sexual, and full of vulgarity.  Despite the filth, the band enjoyed huge success and Brian Welch had everything he had ever dreamed of.  Here are a few snippets from a CNN interview he did about having it all:
ZAHN: Korn's songs topped music charts. Their albums went
multi-platinum and they struck Grammy gold not once, but twice.

WELCH: We played in front of like 200,000 people and they were all
going nuts. And we were like: Wow!

I dreamed about this when I was a kid. A 100 percent of it came true.
All the fame and money and touring. It was crazy.

ZAHN: But Brian wasn't happy.

WELCH: To the outside world, I was just -- I had it all. I had money,
Grammys. I had the house, cars, anything I wanted, but the whole time I
was with Korn, when we had success, something at home was failing. Source: CNN
Anyone who thinks that their "dreams" coming true or having all the money in the world will make them happy needs to read this closely.  There is no joy in that.  There is no contentment.  In fact, it is the frustration of that lack of contentment that leads so many who seem to have it all to do such destructive things. 

Continuing on in his interview.
ZAHN: Life on the road took its toll: Brian's wife left, his marriage
fell apart and he became a single father to their little girl, Jenayah
(ph). The pressure, he says, led to a deep depression and dependency on
highly addictive crystal meth, or speed.

WELCH: I started doing speed full-time, every day. I was addicted to
Xanax, too; sleeping pills. It's just like living in pure hell. I was
so miserable. I was like: I just want to go to sleep and never wake up.
Never. And I really wanted to die. I really did.
And here we have a man who had it all who came to the end of himself.  It was at this point, the lowest of low that God got a hold of him.  It was at this point that a concerned friend took him to church and that is what made all the difference.  Brian went on to give his heart to the Lord, he got off drugs, he walked away from the band that made him famous, and he accepted full well the persecution from his former fans who ridiculed him for his choice to give it all up.  Soon after he came to the Lord, he went on a trip to Israel with a group led by Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa.  On that trip, he told Pastor Chuck “Since I have accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I have never felt this wonderful, None of the band’s successes ever gave me fulfillment.”  Here is a man who spent his whole life seeking fame and fortune and was able to ultimately find that fame.  He was a rock star living only for himself and being very destructive in the process.  He met  God and gave it all up for the sake of the Cross and in the end he gained more than he ever lost. 

This leads me into the second artist I was listening to this week, that being Neal Morse.  Neal Morse had a very similar story in that he had success in secular music, but he was also empty.  His salvation ultimately came through a miraculous healing of his daughter.  She was diagnosed with a hole in her heart and would require open heart surgery once she was strong enough to be able to survive it.  His wife went to a prayer service at church for his daughter, and I will let his own lyrics describe what happened.
my wife and me in a hospital room
the doctor came in on a pale afternoon
“with your new babies heart something's gone wrong
we'll do an operation if she can get strong”
but a few month later my wife called on the phone
Jesus has healed her, they're sending her home
and the doctors were baffled but I can explain - "There's Nothing That God Can't Change", Neal Morse
Neal learned that fame and fortune could not save his daughter, he also learned that it could not save his soul.  He tried for a long time to be successful and once he was, he was still unhappy. Seeing the reality of what God can do to his daughter's physical heart, he understood what God could do to his spiritual heart.  He left the world of secular music and began playing music for the Lord.  His music revisits several times the theme of giving up that former life for a much better life, saying that it is better to spend one day with God than live a life of musical success.

So what is the point this today's post?  I think there is value in hearing the testimonies of others in order to better appreciate our faith and to see just how transforming the work of God can be.  Sometimes we grow a little lukewarm in our faith and forget just where the Lord took us from.  Sometimes we forget just how horrible the world really is and desire to go back into it.  There is something inspiring about newborn babes in Christ and their enthusiasm and deep abiding love for what God is doing in their lives.  Please know that God still is working just as much in our lives even now, but sometimes we just take it for granted.  Sometimes we choose to focus on what God is not doing and not what He is doing. 

Another lesson we can learn is from the lives these men left behind.  So many of us hold onto junk in our lives that holds us back from really following the Lord.  We hold onto jobs that make us compromise our principles or keep us away from our family for too long.  We hold onto material wealth.  We hold onto friendships that draw us away from our walk.  We hold onto so many things in our lives, things that may not even be sinful, but things that keep us from totally relying on God.  We think that those things are holding us up, but they are really holding us back.  Give up whatever you put your faith in rather than God.  Give it up in the faith that God will not only hold you up, but raise you even higher.  It is scary to think about it, but truly the best place to be is when you only have God to rely on.  I will close with one more life to look at.  This was a man who was a Roman citizen and a man of authority in the religious community of his day.  He had intellect, power, and influence, but he gave it all up for the sake of Christ.  That man was Paul.
though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.  Philippians 3:4-12 NKJV

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