Worship Thoughts: The Solid Rock

As a worship pastor at my local church [New Life], I get the privilege of piecing together a selection of songs each week that can be collectively sung by a group of people in worship. In a very real sense, the songs we sing together represent what we believe about God. They make up the voice of our people collectively.

As I have grown as a leader of worship, I’ve really seen the importance of what it means to tap into the voice of our particular group of people and make sure that what we are singing is an accurate reflection of what our people believe and what we are going through. This is why I am passionate about writing songs for our church to sing corporately as well as bringing in more mainstream songs.

I believe that it’s really important to make sure that we sing things that give an accurate view of what it really means to follow Christ. Yes… it’s a lot of fun to get excited and sing at the top of our lungs about how awesome it is to be in love with God… how every day is better than the last… how our joy is overwhelming. But, the reality is, if you follow Christ for more than a few years, you’ll find yourself in seasons that make you wonder, if every day is supposed to be better than the last, then why am I experiencing so many increasingly worse days right now?

I find great solace in some of the hymns of our faith that, thankfully, are being brought back into our church’s voice.

One of the hymns that most resonates with me as I lead our church body is The Solid Rock.

I had sung this song countless times in my life. But, it wasn’t until this past year that I began to identify with it.

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

When darkness seems to hide His face, I rest on his unchanging grace. In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, His covenant, His blood, support me in the whelming flood. When all around my soul gives way, he then is all my hope and stay.

On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand

As we have found ourselves on this messy journey of fostering and adoption over the past year and a half, I’ve found that I have been relating to the Lord in a completely different way than I did before. As we swim in a sea of uncertainty and deal with behaviors in our child and in our own hearts that we wouldn’t have imagined dealing with at any point in our life, I find it difficult to sing songs that tell only one side of the story.

There is little hope for me to sing “every day with you is sweeter than the day before”… because all that makes me do is doubt that this God exists… or better yet, feel guilty that my life doesn’t match those lyrics.

But, when I can stand [or lay flat on my face] and muster up the words “when all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay”, I’m reminded of the bigger picture.

I can honestly worship a God that calls us to hard things and brings us through what seems like end-of-the-world storms… and be left with nothing else to say but, “All my hope is in You. All my strength is in You.”

It has been a beautiful thing to stand in front of a group of people whose stories I know… Parents dealing with bringing kids from hard places into their family and wondering where the light at the end of the tunnel is… Couples searching frantically for jobs and coming up dry… Women struggling to see the goodness of the Lord in light of their recent miscarriage… Students seeing for the first time that this world is broken. And yet, when we begin singing this song… when those different voices with all sorts of different stories combine, I can feel the energy from our people. A desperate cling to the hope found in our Savior.

It’s a really tremendous thing to be able encounter.

May our churches be filled with sounds and words that resonate with where we are and that point us to a God that is firm through the fiercest droughts and storms.

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Tribute to a Great Man.

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For those of you who followed my blog while I was in Malawi and have an exceptional memory, you may remember a post from last February about a Pastor friend of mine. Here is the transcript of that post… (it’s worth your read)…

Abusa (Pastor) Prince Stazio

A young guy in his 30s

Overseeing numerous churches in the district of Chikwawa, Malawi

Husband and Father of 2 (Yanko and Prince Jr.)

Living in a small, but adequate house in the town of Chikwawa that is never lacking in traffic.

Church members throughout the denomination drop in to see this man of God on a regular basis.

After picking Stazio up last week and accompanying him to a remote village, I got to know a little bit more about this man.

Each week, he has the responsibility of looking out for a number of churches within the denomination that have no pastor.

On this particular instance, he was hitching a ride with us in order to visit a church member that had recently lost one of his young children.

He is one of those guys that just makes you smile when you around him. You would never assume that he is a man of importance.

Over a meal of goat and nsima, I figured I would try and get to know him a little better.

“Stazio, what were the circumstances of you realizing that you were called to be a pastor?”, I asked.

“Well,” he replied, “after receiving my education in Blantyre, I was a businessman working down in Nsanje. I was doing pretty well, but as I was going to church, I realized that God was wanting me to be a pastor. When I told my family that I was going to go to Bible School, they were not very happy. I was the responsible person for all of my extended family. I was about to go from a well paying job to the small salary that a village pastor receives.”

Yet, he was faithful to the Lord.

Even though this decision meant certain sacrifice, he knew that when you are called by God, you don’t just say no.

Sacrifice for a pastor like Stazio means, hopping on a bicycle on Saturdays and riding at times up to 50 Kilometers to get to the church where he will be preaching Sunday morning

In a country that does not have a church on every street corner with 5 staff members and the majority of the people sitting in the pew possessing enough Bible knowledge to be a leader themselves, such sacrifices are simply necessary.

When he was asked whether the demands of his job ever discourage him, he replied:

“I’ve been chosen by God, so I can’t resign.”

Late last week I received word that this dear friend was in the hospital suffering from some severe damage to his liver that was not treated in time. The vibrant, smiling man that I once knew apparently looked very different now.

Last night, Pastor Stazio passed away at his home in Chikwawa village.

I have been wrestling with God about this every since I found out about it on Friday night. I have shed many tears and spent lots of time begging God to heal Stazio.

The first thing that I did was seriously question the sovereignty of God. If God is really in control of everything… and He appoints all things for His glory… why in a million years would He see fit to take away this man that is doing so much good for His Kingdom and is so young and has little children? I wish I could say that God revealed to me some amazing answer for His purposes, but it hasn’t come to me yet.

I’m trusting that the Lord is in control. I’m trusting that He is faithful. I’m trusting that He will use this to bring an incredible amount of glory to His name in Malawi.

Through this I have become so keenly aware of how poorly I suffer. When I read the Bible… or even when I read what Christians all around the world are going through today because of what they believe… but, yet I see resilient brothers and sisters that refuse to deny the Lord when their child is tortured for something that they believe in. Then I look at this circumstance that is relatively distant from my day to day personal life and see how I react… I have got a long way to go.

I pray for more faith.

I pray for the abilty to suffer well when I don’t understand the reasons behind anything.

Please pray for Stazio’s wife and 2 children as well as the numerous people that are affected by this.