When the Darkness Seems too Strong

This week many of us were completely outraged - first of all by the fact that robot brothels even exist in the world - and secondly that our city was being targeted as a host city for such a business. One day this week I called a friend for prayer because besides the robot brothel ordeal, I was confronted by two other very troublesome realities that are dark beyond belief. There was a heaviness in my soul. As we prayed, my friend reminded me of something very important that I want to pass along to someone else who may be feeling a bit hopeless by the condition of our culture.

In the fight against human trafficking, there is a temptation to get overly preoccupied with the darkness. I’m sure Satan enjoys the attention, and the subtle danger is that we begin to unconsciously ascribe too much power to the enemy and the dark forces at work in the world. John 1:5 says, “Light (Jesus) shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it.” This means that though sin is disastrous and has unleashed so much gloom and pain and perversion, it will not be triumphant. The darkness will never be able to snuff out or overtake the light. We are fighting from a place of victory. The enemy knows his ship is going down, and we are with Jesus on a rescue mission to get as many people off that ship as possible. Jesus stretched out his arms and let himself be nailed to a cross so that anyone and everyone who believes on His name will know what it means to be rescued from the kingdom of darkness and brought into the kingdom of His marvelous light.

My friend’s challenge to me was, for every minute I’m listening, reading or confronting the darkness in some way, I spend double the amount of time worshipping, praying, reading and meditating on the Word -  focusing my gaze on Jesus. 

It’s also important to remember that there is wisdom we need to apply in this battle. Scripture tells us to be, “shrewd as serpents, but innocent as doves(Matt. 10:16). We are also instructed to, take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them” (Eph. 5:11). This means there are issues The Church must face and discuss - like robot brothels, pornography, prostitution - and at the same time guard our hearts and minds so as not to have our hearts stained by the world (James 1:27). The enemy would love to take us out and render us useless and ineffective. This is another important reason for keeping our gaze on Jesus – so that we can know His will and walk in discernment as we go (Romans 12:1-2).

May God help us be immovable in our belief that we gain the victory as we set our gaze and affections on the might, the power, the goodness, the glory, the justice, the mercy, the love, the grace and the beauty of our God!  This is our protection from the enemy, this is where we find our confidence and courage, this is where the daily victories will be secured.

I have asked one thing from the LORD; it is what I desire: to dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, gazing on the beauty of the LORD and seeking Him in His temple. For He will conceal me in His shelter in the day of adversity; He will hide me under the cover of His tent: He will set me high on a rock. Then my head will be high above my enemies who surround me.  – Psalm 27:4-5

Leigh Kohler

Executive Director

The Light of Truth in an Age of Darkness

Last spring I had the opportunity to attend and speak at a breakout session at the National Center for Sexual Exploitation Global Summit in Washington D.C.. Leaders from organizations all over the U.S. and the globe gathered to learn, collaborate and discuss strategies to put an end to all forms of sexual exploitation. Sex trafficking, prostitution and pornography are all heads of the same monster and are destroying lives.

I was particularly grieved to hear from one of the speakers about the date rape epidemic happening on college campuses. She gave several examples, from disturbing slogans on T-shirts and banners hanging from frat houses, to very specific stories of girls being raped while unconscious. In one particular instance, guys put special bracelets on girls as they came in the door of a frat party as a signal for their drinks to get spiked with a date rape drug so that they could have sex with them later while they were unconscious. While shocking and disturbing, this is only the tip of the iceberg. The perversions coming down the pipeline are nothing short of frightening and demonic.

When you look beneath the surface of this growing violence and abuse, you find that we are facing a porn epidemic that is unlike anything the world has ever seen. What’s more disturbing is how violent and perverted porn has become, and yet how widespread and accepted it is. We are only just beginning to see the effects of a generation that has grown up being assaulted and infused by the porn industry. Research shows that the average age a kid sees porn for the first time is 11. According to a survey by Covenant Eyes, 93% of boys and 62% of girls are exposed to Internet porn before the age of 18. Shame keeps many kids from saying anything, and as they keep watching and get in deeper and deeper, that destructive seed gets nurtured and grows into something very destructive. Kid on kid assault is increasing all over the world as kids act out on siblings or neighbors what they see in porn. Porn trains boys to see girls as sex objects rather than people to be valued and treated with honor and respect. And while not every person who looks at porn is going to act out in violence, what has become very apparent is that we are seeing the devastating effects of a pornified culture.

The Church must awake to the enemy’s schemes and sound the alarm so that we can take seriously the high calling we’ve been given to walk worthy of the calling we’ve received in Christ Jesus. The enemy is devouring hearts, but God is coming after them to redeem and restore. You and I must not lose sight of the spiritual battle we are in and the truth that Jesus is the solution to every evil in the world.

Perhaps some of the most lasting grief for me has come from watching even those so adamantly speak out against the effects of pornography, remain so blindly adherent to the philosophy that opens to door to its use. I can’t get out of my mind the tentacles of Satan’s teaching, his false philosophy, on “freedom”. This root is not being touched. Many who hate the porn industry, trafficking and other forms of exploitation, at the same time adhere to moral relativism. Many in academia applaud women standing up for their self-worth, while teaching students that there is no such thing as absolute truth and that right and wrong are subjective. The recklessness and danger of abandoning all logic and truth, blind to the connection between this philosophy and the evil and oppression in the world, is tragic. Underneath the reckless abandon is the false belief that moral relativism produces “freedom” for all. People believe that sexual “liberation” and the pursuit of pleasure at any expense leads to freedom. Nothing could be further from the truth. Rom. 6:16. That pervasive lie, from the Father of lies, is unleashing all sorts of hell on earth.

It is a troubled history repeating itself. The book of Judges is the history of God’s people neglecting God’s Word and turning away from His commands to do what they want in the name of “freedom”. Judges 21:25 says, “In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.” God kept sending judges like Deborah and Gideon to rescue His people from their enemies and lead them back to the Lord. But the downward spiral continues, and by the end of the book something grotesque happens (see Judges 19). The truth is that everyone doing what is right in their own eyes does not lead to greater freedom and happiness, it leads to the exploitation, destruction and oppression of people. Proverbs 12:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” In other words, not every path leads to God or to life. Lots of people are on the path of their truth, their choosing, but the Bible says if it’s not God’s path, in the end it will lead to death. This is weighty. There is too much at stake to embarrassed or afraid of speaking God’s truth in love. Souls are at stake, and lives are being crushed by the devastation of sin.

The Church has always been God’s plan A for redemption in the world. The Church has by no means been perfect. We are saints who were former sinners, who still have the capacity to be deceived and walk in the flesh. But it is important to understand that in the wake of The Church what you find are orphanages, hospitals, schools, freedom fighters and much more. This is because of the Spirit of God who indwells His people and fills them with love, compassion and a passion to see righteousness and justice fill the earth.

In the time of Rome, perversion and depravity was the norm. The Romans valued pleasure above all else, and they put no restrictions on their appetites. Excavated household items like bowls, cups and utensils, reveal drawings of all kind of sexual acts, many very obscene. Pedophilia was common. Nero had a young boy, named Sporus, castrated and then married him. This was not an uncommon practice in that day. Seriously, anything went, no matter how barbaric and grotesque, and sadly the women, men and children who were the sexual objects of the day, suffered immensely. When the Christians came along, they had entirely different values on sex and marriage. Hebrews 13:4 says, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” Paul told the believers, “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God” (I Thess. 4:3-5). He also reminded them that their bodies were “a temple of the Holy Spirit” (I Cor. 6:19). Many of the early Christians were coming out of that lifestyle, which is why Paul talks so much about sexual immorality and the need to flee from it and pursue purity. The Holy Spirit lives in us and we’ve been called to walk in the light and in purity. We’ve been called to love one another and lift people up, not use them to get our desires met. As Christians, we believe that every women, man and child has inherent value and dignity because they are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27).

We must heed the warnings of the apostle Paul to not be deceived by the many false teachings and philosophies of the world. In America, as I’m sure elsewhere, we tend to bottle up things that are evil and package them as light. Scripture says the days are going to get darker before Jesus returns. We are not to put our hope in anything but the Lord. The enemy counterfeits everything God does. We must be committed to doing things God’s way, and to know God’s way we must be men and women of the Word, cherishing God’s every word and holding it close to our heart. He is leading the way to life and happiness, or as God puts it, to “love life and see good days” (1 Pet. 3:10).

The good news is that Scripture says that where sin abounds, grace abounds more (Romans 5:20). We have the power, through the Holy Spirit, to overcome sin. Many men (and women) who have been in bondage to porn and sexual immorality are walking in freedom. Men are telling their stories and encouraging others to walk in freedom. Bringing light into the darkness. It will take a commitment to fight and rigorously renew, re-train, the mind (Rom. 12:1-2), and it will take accountability (James 5:16). We cannot walk in real freedom alone. Let’s encourage each other to not grow weary doing good. Let’s keep fighting the good fight. Let’s keep encouraging one another to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Heb. 12:1). Let’s continue to fight oppression and injustice with spiritual weapons like prayer, obedience, and grace. Let’s be a voice of truth is a world of lies. Light in an ever-darker world. May the Word of God, not empty philosophies, be the “lamp unto our feet and the light unto our path.”

You are so loved by God, and He wants you and I to walk in abundant life today. Let’s press on!

Men in Boats: A Response to #MeToo

Just a couple of months ago, our great city was turned upside down by the arrival of Hurricane Harvey. Time has passed, but the images and implications of Harvey are still with us and will perhaps be engrained in our minds forever. The images of fellow Houstonians, thousands of them, emerging from the floodwaters from rescue boats, trucks and helicopters were overwhelming. Harvey hit both rich and poor and impacted every stream of society.

On the Monday after Hurricane Harvey, I tore myself away from the news to take some much-needed time to pray for my city. My mind was filled with images of my husband, sons, first aid responders, and even the Cajun Navy! My heart grew tender thinking about them refusing to do nothing in the midst of danger, panic and fear. I had been watching with wide eyes and a full heart as good men (and women) were risking their own safety to rescue people stranded in flooding cars or hanging on to tree branches and street signs. People saw the damage and the needs, and immediately took action.

Our boys were becoming men right before our eyes, and we blessed them to go and help because the time and opportunity had come for them to take their place as good men in this city who – in that moment of truth – chose to do the right thing.

God used Hurricane Harvey to remind me, confirm in me, the truth that men were wired to defend and protect. This was the heart and soul of the City of Defenders campaign.  City of Defenders was launched by our Alliance at the beginning of 2016 as a response to the demand for sex trafficking and exploitation in our city and in cities around the world. It is a call to men to acknowledge that if systemic sexual abuse, exploitation and trafficking are to ever end, more men, in all sectors of society, must rise up and use their spheres of influence to affect change.

What I did not see coming was another kind of devastating storm that had been brewing and was about to make landfall. Another “Harvey” emerged in the news, which led to unprecedented revelations of sexual abuse and harassment. The Harvey Weinstein story sparked the #metoo campaign on social media that suddenly provided a space for hundreds and thousands of women to gain the courage to speak up and tell their own stories of painful abuse. The act of sharing stories and realizing how many other women have had similar experiences was cathartic and powerful for many survivors. Yet in all likelihood, it barely scratched the surface. The reality is that there are masses of women and young girls and boys around the world who are silently drowning in sexual abuse and violence – and their voices are silent.

For many men, the revelation that their wives, their sisters, their mothers and their daughters and friends were victims of sexual harassment, abuse and exploitation was deeply shocking. There was a palpable sadness, with the question left hanging, “How did I not know?”  Likewise, you wouldn’t know it just from looking at the surface, but Houston, like every city in the world, is full of sexual abuse, exploitation and trafficking. There are women in our backyards being sold in brothels disguised as “massage parlors.” There are traffickers using social media to woo and manipulate high school girls right from under our noses. There is an epidemic of pornography addiction unlike anything the world has ever seen. Kid on kid violence has escalated because of the horrific violent pornographic scenes they are watching that they then act out. There are thousands of men buying sex off of backpage daily. Over a year ago, a father was arrested for selling his own four-year-old daughter off of Craigslist. The ad was titled, “Play with Daddy’s little girl.”  And while it is easy to point fingers at such extremes of moral deprivation – at that total stripping away of all dignity and respect – at what point, when it is no longer so extreme, do we tolerate it?  At what point do we become complicit?

The Church needs to be engaged and leading these conversations. Change must begin with us because the truth is that pornography addiction and the victimization of women is alive and well in the Church, and this should not be. Sexual sin is so grievous because it perverts what was meant to be good and makes it something damaging. It starts off in disguise, in what is deemed culturally acceptable. But somewhere along the way, courage becomes cowardice, sacrifice turns to selfishness, protection turns into oppression, and the consequences are spiritually and emotionally devastating – like the force of a relentless hurricane.

The goods news we find in scripture is that, “Where sin abounds, grace abounds more” (Romans 5:20). Because of Christ, there is hope and there is healing. My prayer and hope for Houston is that in the aftermath of these storms we would do things differently and rebuild a better city – one without an underbelly. One with nothing to hide or be ashamed of. One where men are defenders and protectors of women and children, not just in boats, but in the way they refuse to participate in jokes or words that deny the intrinsic value of women, or tolerate women and little girls being made objects of lust and abuse in pornography.

Men of God have a unique and powerful opportunity in the world right now to rise up and speak out against what is happening.  In a Christ-exalted culture, the oppressed are defended and lifted up. Women are honored and treated with dignity. Let’s build a perpetual shelter of protection in our city that says we honor the women in our city, and it’s never okay to buy or sell a woman or child off the street or online; it’s never okay to talk about women and girls as sexual objects in the locker room; it’s never ok to stay silent when you know what just happened was wrong. This is about following hard after Jesus. It’s about our deepest moral values. It’s about those men who refuse to do nothing.

Thankfully, these men exist. But many more heroes are needed to aid the devastation that isn’t as obvious to see with the naked eye – or that we don’t want to see. We need a culture change, and this will mean letting change begin in our own hearts.  We need to let our grief and brokenness lead to repentance and a deep moral and spiritual revival throughout our nation.

This can begin here in Houston. It can start with us. Let us pray that our city will be known, not as a hub for strip clubs and sexual exploitation, but instead as a city where its men will brave a storm and launch a mission to rescue, help and protect the honor and dignity of every man, woman and child. More men of courage are needed at this hour!

Written by Leigh Kohler
Executive Director