I’m not sure there is anything quite as delightful as watching a little munchkin take their first steps. Here’s a short clip of our little man, Hudson:
Did you notice how Hudson is looking toward his mommy’s face and listening to her voice? With deep love for him and joy in each movement, my wife Stephanie (and the rest of the family) cheered on, “Take that step, you can do it! Great job, Hudson!”
God calls us to take steps of faith – even when we’re scared to take the steps. He beckons us forward when we don’t know where we’re going and sometimes everything inside us screams, “No! I can’t do this!”
Yet we must look toward His face and listen to His voice. But how does God call us to take steps of faith?
God calls us to take steps of faith …often contrary to human wisdom, often contrary to human obligations, often contrary to where we would choose to go on our own.
Dear North Park Family,
When God called Abraham to step forward in faith, he didn’t give all the specifics about the destination. He said:
“Go forth from your country… to the land which I will show you” (Gen. 12:1).
The writer of Hebrews recorded the example of Abraham’s faith with the same truth,
“By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going” (Heb. 1:8).
As I said in my very first message to you three years ago, “God often takes us where we would never choose to go in order to produce in us what we could never achieve on our own” (Paul Tripp). I also believe he leads us where we would not choose to go in order to open our eyes to what we could never see on our own. And why?? So ultimately that His glory will be known and His power will be shown in and through our lives… to the praise of His grace in Jesus Christ. Over the past 6 months and especially in the last 6 weeks, Stephanie and I have been gripped by God’s Spirit on how He is calling us to directly apply this truth to our lives.
Reflecting on the Past…
We don’t doubt for one second that God called us to the North Park family three years ago. My heart is filled with deeply fond memories of God’s work among us. I’m filled with praise and thanks when I think about the many baptisms of men, women, and children we’ve witnessed, the joys of officiating Pastor Tom and Connie’s wedding, holding the microphone as our dear brother Gordy sang “Sweet Little Jesus Boy,” being sent out on a mission team to India with such vibrant support, celebrating each Christmas Eve and Resurrection Sunday, sending the Shepherd family out as full-time missionaries, watching the church grow by new conversions but also through new births… there are adorable infants everywhere! From the sheer delight of preaching the good news of God each week to such a responsive, attentive congregation, to quietly walking with you as loved ones passed on into the presence of the Savior – these are moments I will never forget.
Stephanie, Hudson, Everlynn, our soon-coming little boy, and I feel so blessed to be loved by you. We are so thankful to God for the opportunity to do life together with you. We also love the incredibly beautiful community of Grand Rapids. The tapestry of culture, parks, hills, shops (esp. Baker Book House), schools, gardens, and events is a rare combination.
Taking the Step…
However, we have been unable to wrangle free from the difficult yet sweet conviction of the Spirit – that God is calling us to go… to leave for a place, in which only God knows the outcome.
Through seeking God’s direction in prayer, counsel, His Word, and observing remarkably arranged circumstances, Stephanie and I have a resolute, abiding peace about our decision to take this step of faith.
What plans do we know? Well, over the past 10 years, numerous friends, teachers, and mentors have encouraged me to consider both church-planting and doctoral studies. With this in view, God has opened our eyes to the possibility of both entering a church-planting residency and pursuing entrance into a Ph.D. program in the north metro area of Raleigh, North Carolina. However, we also remain open to God leading us in a new direction of pastoral ministry that we may not currently see. Stephanie’s parents have offered a place for us in their home during the immediate time of transition. This season of change will also grant us some focused time as a couple and as parents to continue progressing in what we learned during our time at the Alongside Counseling Retreat.
Please know that I have not been asked to resign nor do I feel pressured by anyone to do so. Our decision is with the mutual agreement and blessing of our team of pastors and deacons. They have lovingly expressed their care for us in this transition to a new ministry role.
Would you please pray for our house to sell, for Hudson to be accepted into a good school in N.C., and for our baby boy to be delivered safely? Thank you.
We deeply love all of you. Our hearts feel so closely knit to yours. In collaboration with the other pastors and deacons, we plan to stay among you until our baby boy is born. God has also laid on my heart five more messages from His Word to deliver to you. So although our time with you is coming to a close, it is not yet quite finished. Our hope is also for our friendships with you to continue for many, many years to come.
My fervent prayer is that your faith will be strengthened, not fractured; that your hope will be deepened, not disappointed; and that your love will increase all the more as we together behold the glory of our Savior Jesus Christ, the Chief and all-wise Shepherd for all His sheep. Because of who Jesus is, I’m filled with anticipation about what He will do through you as you look to Him. He is your compass, your Guide, and your Savior.
Therefore, lean into Him. Take risky, bold steps of faith. Believe God for the impossible. Walk by faith in the faithful God.
As I am learning, faithfulness to Jesus isn’t determined by location but by obedience. So no matter your age, your schooling, your job, or your location, you can be faithful as you obey all that Jesus has commanded us. And, behold, He is with us always, even to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:20)
Our hearts are overflowing with care for each one of you. We are grateful for each memory. And one day we will worship together around the throne of the Lamb in endless hallelujahs to the King.
In God’s Vineyard,
Pastor Michael, Stephanie, Hudson, Everlynn, and Baby Boy