Dragon’s Breath

I bent hard into the wind. The hot desert sun beat down upon my back and shoulder with no mercy. Dust flew into my eyes and mouth and up my nostrils drawing all the moisture out of my body. Moisture is water. Water gives life. Every now and then when I was able to lift my head and look forward, I would catch a glimpse of something, desperately hoping it was water. But it wasn’t. It never was. I plodded on barely placing one foot in front of the other. Stumbling and falling, ever walking straight into the wind, wind like dragon’s breath.

It seemed like I was in the desert all alone. I felt forsaken, deceived. Nothing can go on forever. I knew the desert would end. But that’s hard to believe when you have traveled for days and there is still no end in sight. My hair had grown long, my skin was dry and flaking, and my feet were swollen from all the walking. I felt dirty and messy and ready to die.When I could walk no further, a gust of dragon’s breath rushed passed and I fell helplessly backwards to the ground on my back. It hurt to have all the  air forced through my lungs and out my  parched throat. I groaned in my misery, there in the sand, all alone with my hair a tangled mess all over my face. I closed my eyes.

I could almost feel time stand still. The wind stopped, my heart pounded in my ears, my mind went blank.

“Help!” I tried to yell, but couldn’t. “Dear God, help!” I screamed to the shadows of my brain.

Slowly, inside my head, I could see a light glimmering. It was like watching creation happen all over again. Slowly, so slowly the light grew and glimmered. Eventually it had grown so bright that all the shadows with their secrets fled to somewhere I did not know. Finally, I began to make out the source of the light. It was a man and I knew the man! It was Jesus! But then it changed. Jesus was in pain. I saw this, in my head I saw Jesus on the cross! It changed again suddenly, while the light got brighter until it was blindingly white. Now I saw a throne and on the throne sat the Father and by the Father, on His right, I saw a warrior ready for battle. It was Jesus the King, standing with His sword drawn. And then I felt the dragon’s breath and it was all gone.

I opened my eyes and saw the dry, pale blue sky. I stood up trembling in my weakness. Before me stretched the desert long into the horizon, but beside was a little stream. I had not noticed it in my hallucinating state or maybe Someone had just put it there. In any case, there it was, more of a trickle than a stream. But it was water–and water gives life.

C.D.

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It’s a Jesus Story

I honestly do not know what people will think of me after this post, because humans naturally tend to like super-people who serve God perfectly and hardly struggle [with real issues]. Sure, we talk about struggle, we admit to the general idea of failure in our past or present—but few ever publicly admit to the actual, specific, day-by-day struggles of ordinary people.

But the book of Revelation says that we conquer Satan by the Blood of the Lamb [Jesus] and the word of our testimony (Rev. 12:11). So here is my testimony.

First, I will give you a quick synopsis of my life:

Most people reading this probably know that I am a white, Mennonite kid, originally from Minnesota, whose family moved to Los Angeles, when I was twelve, to work for the Southern California district of Choice Books and to plant inner-city churches. Most people also know that my mother, my sister, and I were in a car accident which left my beautiful mother fatally injured and she died in the rescue helicopter moments after take-off. This was four days before my brother’s wedding, just four months ago.

So that is the synoptic of my life, now let me tell you my story. I do not write this because I love to spill my guts on the internet. I write this because Jesus has done a wonderful work in my life, and I have become convinced that not to share my story is denying Jesus’ redemption of my life. Jesus has given me a story, now it is my job to share it. I also share it because I think there are a lot of guys out there who need to hear others talk about their stories. I have nothing to hide. My story is true and my redemption is true, so why would I not tell it?

I “accepted Jesus into my heart” several times when I was young, the two most significant being at age seven and nine. Although I do believe I was sincere, I do not think I completely understood the entirety of who Jesus is. To me He was the God-Man in white clothes who died on the cross to save me from Hell. So I said a prayer in order to escape Hell and satisfy my conscience. I believe Jesus heard my childish prayer and set me on a journey to more fully understand who He is. Why? Because He loves me. Unfortunately, sometimes in the process of getting better, we become worse.

When I was eleven years old, I realized that I liked to lust. And in my foolish weakness, I chose to look at pornography. I cannot say that I just happened to fall into it; I chose to walk into it, and everything that comes with it. And I became a slave to it. I quietly worshiped and served the addiction for three years and was powerless to rid myself of its clutches.

It was during this time that my family moved to Los Angeles in April of 2008. Looking back with my limited perspective, our move was probably a life saver for me, but at the time I hated it. The year 2008, my twelfth year of life, was probably the darkest year I have ever lived. I believe even darker than the last four months. Then, I was a slave to sin (Satan); now, I am a slave to Christ (which is the most freeing situation in the whole world because His burden is light). My slavery, added with the intense loneliness I felt in L.A., affected my whole lifestyle and I quickly became a recluse who only desired to please myself.

All throughout these years, I knew I was not obeying God. I hated it and I pleaded with God to do a miracle and to give me courage to confess. But everyday I awoke and was forced to serve the master I had given myself to. I was living like God’s good son, but I was truly eating pig’s food (Luke 15:11-32).

On Christmas Eve, 2008, I and my parents had a conversation which ended in my recommitting my life to Christ, but I still did not confess my addiction. I sometimes question the sincerity of my experience, but that night marks a point in time when my life began to turn around.

The spring of 2009 was a huge leap for me. Back then, Choice Books sold the “Read the Bible in 90 Days” Bible. Being the type of person who likes a reading challenge, I attempted it. Those three months of ingesting God’s word did something that I cannot explain. It all culminated on June 27, 2009, when I wrote my Dad a letter which explained everything about me that I could think. After having him read it, I felt a relief that I will never forget. I believe it was then, at the moment when I released my idol, that Jesus was able to flood my soul with Himself. But I still had a long journey ahead of me. It took about another year before I was really free from the bonds of pornography—a year of surrendering to Jesus, and strong accountability to my parents. (Let me insert that I credit my parents trust in me as one of the greatest enablers in my surrender. They trusted me to surrender and make right choices.)

I still need to surrender to Jesus, I still have struggles and temptations of various sorts, and I am still a choice away from falling once again; but Christ’s grace is sufficient for me. I do not need to fear temptation or Satan. All I want now is to worship Jesus because He has freed me and justified me before the Father. He is my advocate and I am His child. I can come boldly before His throne and I can look to Him for strength. This is who I am. I have nothing to hide because Jesus has forgiven me of everything, and it is only because of His grace and strength that I can walk in victory today.

Jesus, I am grateful.

This is my story, my song. I hope that anyone reading this who struggles with sin in any way, will realize that they are not alone. I hope they will see that Jesus can save them and redeem them.

If you want peace with God—if you want freedom from sin, if you want the light of Christ in your life, if you want strength to walk through any trial—you must surrender to Jesus. Jesus wants to help you, because He loves you.

Half of surrender is realizing that without Jesus we are monsters but with Him we are weak sheep that need protecting and guiding. (And with Jesus protecting us, we are strong and safe.) The other half is just letting go of whatever is keeping us from worshiping Jesus.

We can either continue in what our flesh says is good or we can surrender to Jesus and His love. We can either worship Satan or we can worship Jesus. There are no other options. When we worship Satan, we become monsters; but when we surrender to Jesus and worship before His throne, we become His precious sheep—His beloved children.

I want to be a sheep, not a monster. What about you?

The avoidance of this topic bothers me. The fact that we act surprised when people confess to struggling with this issue, really bothers me. Anyone who is remotely engaged in western culture and knows anything about human nature should not be surprised. Look all around us. Immorality is everywhere. Let’s not close our eyes to it, let’s not plug our ears! Apart from Jesus Christ that is you, that is me. It’s in our neighborhoods, it’s in our governments, and it’s in our families and churches.

Struggles with sin cannot be legislated out of us. They cannot be pulled, pushed, or shoved out of our lives. We are who we are and we are completely unable to change. Do we get it? We or anyone else cannot change us. So let’s quit trying.

Enter Jesus Christ.

For our sin the just Father demands a payment [retribution]. Our sentence is eternity in hell. We cannot escape it; we cannot pay it off any other way. Yet, God loves us tremendously. So He became a human and lived a perfect life, therefore He had no sentence to hell. Having lived a perfect life He then offered His life as payment to the just Father. He shed His blood and paid hell for each of us. But God being pleased with the payment raised Jesus (the God-Man) up from the dead and set Him at His right hand in Heaven. We now have no sentencing. God is satisfied; we are justified. Jesus now invites us to relate directly with the Father because the Father no longer demands payment from us. All we have to do is surrender and say “Yes, Jesus, yes! I accept you as the payment for my own sin. I am at your mercy! I worship you! I am yours forever. Yes, Lord, I say yes!”

This is the Gospel. This is the power of salvation [from pornography, bitterness, rebellion, pride, and from every bondage of Satan].

One day, because Jesus has done all this for us, we are going to stand before God’s throne and out of perfect, eternal gratitude we will throw ourselves before the throne, caste our crowns [our rewards] at Christ’s feet and cry “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12).

So what will it be, my friend? Is your temporary pleasure really worth what Jesus can give you eternally? I pray that you will surrender and abandon your earthly life, at the cross.

C.D.