Dr. Ralph Speer submitted the following writing by an online Christian Ministries student, Mark Stewart, which was selected for publication.
“I am the Bread of Life,” Journey Christian Devotions, March 8, 2013
John 6:35, “Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’
It is strange and glorious to me that God the Father is always reaching outward to His children. He made us to be with Him and enjoy Him as He enjoys us, to glorify Him, to love Him. He calls us to Himself in the beauty of His creation and in the quiet of our souls. He has sent prophets to tell of His glory and He has written His word for us to know Him. It is said that we can’t out give God. That stands as a proven fact, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). God gave His best to us, for us, that we, through the redemptive blood of Jesus, can be with Him always.
I have always been a worshiper, not necessarily a worshiper of God, the creator of the universe. While I have called myself a Christian for most all of my life, I have rarely been a follower of Christ. I was very involved with religion as a young person, but I wavered at times between actual love for God and love for the outward form of being a Christian. What I mean by that is, I have always been a competitive person. The youth Bible groups gave me place to strive for awards and accolades, to show off my memorized Bible verses and my leadership capabilities. While it gave me a solid base of learning, it was more times than not, done for my own edification, not Gods. When I was baptized at fourteen I had a surreal vision of me preaching to a large audience. I knew I was called to the pastorate, but in sheer terror of public speaking I ran from that vision for many years.
There is a religion that I found myself very good at practicing; it is called me-ism. Religious practice is about priorities, and I became very good at putting myself first. My wants, needs, passions and desires consumed many years and in retrospect, brought me nothing but trouble in broken trusts, failed relationships, and empty promises. My ego was fat and my soul was lean, I searched for ways to fill my empty soul. Many were fun for a time, but not fulfilling. I looked at alternative religious practices, Buddhism, New Age Mysticism, and Native American Shamanism. None of them could fill that dreadful emptiness inside. I started going to church again, and for a year or so, I sat on the pew, raised my voice in song, put a five dollar bill in the offering and went home to practice me-ism.
It has been said that God pursues us relentlessly, I can attest to the truth of that statement. One morning a little over two years ago, I was working in my office at home. The Walton’s was on TV behind me and I was half paying attention to it. The episode was about John Walton’s 25th high school reunion. He had been voted most likely to succeed while in school and now at the reunion, it was decided that he had. It made me start to think about my life. I have never done anything to make my mark on life, I was not a great husband or father, I never completed anything I started, I have been a taker, not a giver, I was disconnected from God, from my kids, from my wife, in short, I was a mess.
God took advantage of the moment and flooded into my soul like a tsunami. The next thing I knew, I was on my knees, crying my heart out, while God started a work in me, opening the doors of compassion and love that had been sealed tight. I cried out “What do you want with me?” I strongly felt, and clearly knew in my heart that God wanted me to get my education, to be a pastor. After praying and searching online for colleges I applied to NNU without much hope of being accepted. However, God made a way for me and now I am a full-time college student and starting my junior year. God can move mountains, and He does if we let Him.
–Mark Stewart, Meridian, Idaho