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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...


Connections: Phil Stacey

Into the Light

Husband … father … military man … recording artist … Phil Stacey finds a personal mission in each role. One of the Top 5 finalists on season six of American Idol, Stacey caught the attention of more than 30 million television viewers each week. That musical gift, combined with his passionate heart for God, fuels every moment of his Reunion Records debut Into the Light. Stacey met with Scott Harrup, senior associate editor.

evangel: Both your grandfathers were pastors, and your father was a pastor. Could you talk about that family heritage?
In fact, my father-in-law is also a pastor. Everyone that I’ve ever known with the title of “father” is a preacher. It seemed like every lesson I learned growing up had a Bible verse attached to it. I saw my parents as great examples of Christians. I knew my parents were grounded in their faith and it was the most important thing in their life.

evangel: You’ve had a lifelong goal of recording Christian music, and you almost signed with a Christian label when you graduated from college. But that dream was delayed for several years. What benefits do you see in the timing of your music ministry?
We don’t like to talk about it in church, but sometimes we get frustrated with the Lord. God is many things — loving, omnipotent, holy. But one thing He is not is predictable. Sometimes when we sense God leading us, we assume we know the direction He’s taking us.

I started talking with a Christian record label in 2002, but deep down I knew it wasn’t the right thing. My wife and I were both losing sleep because we realized God was moving us somewhere else. At the time, it broke my heart because that was all I had ever wanted and I thought my dreams were coming true with that offer. I got frustrated with God and said, “God, while You’re figuring out what You want me to do with my life, I need to pay the bills.” I ended up joining the military.

But a song I heard by Rich Mullins — that I ended up recording on my album because it means so much to me — really speaks to how I felt during that season. “Hard to Get” talks about being in a place where you don’t see how you got where you are, and you don’t see where your next step is, but you’re utterly dependent on God’s leading. That song got me to come back to an altar of repentance and say, “God, forgive me for letting my pride get in the way of my calling. I give You everything that is me.”

As a result of that prayer, when I joined the Navy they made me a singer. I traveled and sang and gained a lot of experience. Then God used that travel schedule to keep me from attending a friend’s wedding. My friend told me the only way he’d let me off the hook for missing his wedding was if I auditioned for American Idol.

God had a different route than I thought He did.

evangel: You’ve said, “I’ve never been able to watch myself on American Idol. I don’t like hearing myself.” That would probably surprise a lot of people.
Watching my performances on American Idol would just get me thinking about myself. I learned to sing in order to praise God with my voice. That’s what it’s about. During the competition, I wouldn’t watch myself. I figured if I started feeling good about myself, I’d let pride creep in. If I felt bad, I could let depression get the best of me.

But I can listen to this new album, Into the Light, and not have any qualms about it. It comes from a very personal place. Each song represents a lesson that changed me, a lesson God is still teaching me today. Every song is based on a Scripture that resonates in my spirit. So when I hear these songs, I’m hearing these lessons over and over again that God is teaching me.

evangel: Could you talk about some of those lessons — from the first song, for example?
“You’re Not Shaken” says that when the world around you is crumbling to the ground, it may frighten you, but take courage in the knowledge that God is never shaken by your situation. 

God sees us as His children, and He looks beyond the little dot of this life to the eternal home He is preparing for us. So, no matter what this life throws at us, we can be encouraged. Our reality is far beyond what we can see here. God is not shaken.

Just about every story of victory you read in Scripture starts with a story of fear or of doubt or of sorrow. But all along, God saw where He was taking those people. He sees the mountaintop of victory He is taking you to — and He sees why you have to go through the valley to get there.

evangel: How about your song “It’s Gotta Be Love”?
It’s based on 1 Corinthians 13. I admit, there’s a part of me that wants to stand and judge people who don’t know the Lord. There’s a part of me that wants to point my finger, even at other Christians who have issues going on in their lives. But I don’t believe God removes people’s chains of sin just to replace them with chains of religion. We need to be showing Jesus’ love — the kind of love that looked with compassion on an adulteress when the crowd around her was ready to stone her. And we need to always remember Jesus’ challenge: “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”

evangel: Can you point to a time on American Idol where God used that platform to allow you to minister to someone?
I received an e-mail from a woman who told me she and her husband had been on the verge of divorce. One of the few times they were even in the same room together, they turned on American Idol. It was a night where I was not performing at my best. “Simon was raking you over the coals,” she told me. But she said the camera flashed to my wife in the audience, and Kendra was smiling at me. And the camera caught me smiling back at her. The woman told me, “I felt this sense of godly love between the two of you, and my husband and I began to talk about that. We realized that if we didn’t build our relationship on a foundation, it would fall. We went to Christian marriage counseling, and I’m e-mailing you to tell you we’ve given our lives to Jesus.”

evangel: Can you talk about an experience of God’s provision that helped you grow in your faith?
Our Father in heaven owns the cattle on a thousand hills. There is no need He cannot supply. When I was attending Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn., and living with my brother, our parents were doing all they could to get us through college, but we were absolutely broke. So we didn’t bother them with the news that we hadn’t eaten in three days. And I woke up one morning thinking about Jesus’ promises of God’s provision in Matthew 6. And I told my brother, “I feel like God is telling us to go the store, and He’s going to provide our groceries for us.” And my brother felt the same way, and the feeling was so strong we got right in our car.

The funny thing was, we got to talking about all the great food we were going to buy, and we drove past our usual store all the way across town to a little store we never used. So, we’re going up and down the aisles filling our cart with groceries. And I wasn’t worried. All I could think was, I wonder how God is going to provide for us. We got all the way to the front of the store and we were scanning all those groceries in. And the door opened, and my aunt — who lived 2½ hours away — walked in. 

She was in town to visit a friend who also lived on our side of town. She was sent to get some groceries, got distracted, drove past our regular store, and came all the way across town to the store we were using. “Hi boys, how are you doing?” she said. “Oh, fine, Aunt Myra.” And she walked up to us and said, “Boys, you’ve got to let me take care of these groceries for you.” You know, she’s a preacher’s wife. She was being used by the Lord. That was not a coincidence. 


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