God in a brothel

In this book Daniel Walker describes how sex abuse of children sucks their souls out leaving an empty body – like J.K. Rowling’s Dementors but even more terrifying because it is not make believe. Every man who has battled lust should read this book and fight that demon sin with renewed vigour as a result. Sex trafficking is a many-headed monster but we must fight it on all fronts.

There are some books that I don’t especially want to read but know I need to read them. God in a Brothel by Daniel Walker is such a book. My reason for reading it was that if I am to understand the situation for the Shan people of Burma then it is important to comprehend how sex trafficking occurs in South East Asia. This book is well written and the words are easy to read. However, what the words are saying is not at all easy to stomach.

Daniel Walker is a Kiwi police officer who worked undercover as an investigator of human trafficking in the global sex industry. It is a sickening trade in the bodies and souls of women and children.

I would recommend all men to read this book – it shows the degrading horror of what lust does when indulged without thought to its effect upon others. The darkness of sex trafficking is everywhere, because lust is everywhere and internet porn is feeding its voracious appetite. Daniel Walker describes its effect upon the victims:

I noticed that many of the older girls, twelve and thirteen years old, had lost all life in their eyes. They appeared to be in a trance or under some dark magician’s spell. They moved with a slow resignation; no amount of smiling, warmth or kindness on my part could draw them out. The systematic and prolonged sexual abuse of children and young people is perhaps the very worst crime against humanity because, as I saw day after day, it strips them of their heart and soul. It murders the person but leaves their bodies alive.

…These empty bodies existed in the netherworld of prostitution and in the vacuum of an indifferent world. I met them in every room of every brothel, and they all had the same look in their dark, empty eyes.
God in a Brothel, p89 (emphasis mine)

This man has an integrity, moral strength and toughness way beyond what I have. To face the temptations he did and the suffering he saw without falling down or falling apart is astonishing. He does discuss the issues of what support is ideal for people doing such work in order to maintain their personal wellbeing longterm and is candid about his own failing on one occasion.

He also admits to struggling on an emotional level with wanting to summarily execute some of the “predatory sex tourists, sadistic pedophiles cunning traffickers and greedy pimps” he encountered. He opens that chapter with the following:

It is easy to hate men. Men create the demand for sex trafficking, which the criminals involved in human trafficking are only too eager to supply. Without these men and their personal pursuit of pleasure, the simple fact is there would be no forced prostitution.  God in a Brothel, p79.

Remember this guys – lust is not an innocent desire. Left unchecked it is a selfish, destructive force. When the lust of multitudes of men rampages through a society it is a demonically ruthless force of evil. You cannot stop sex slavery, but you are responsible for killing your own lust.

Slavery can happen here too:

The Malaysian sex worker, who was in New Zealand on a visitor’s permit but has since returned home, told another prostitute there she had been paid $5600 to come to Auckland, and had been made to work 16-hour shifts with few breaks on most days.

Another Malaysian sex worker said she had been lured here with a $4500 cash offer, plus airfares, but was later told that it was a loan she had to repay.

Her passport was also taken from her soon after she arrived.
(NZ’s sex-slave cases ‘slip under radar’)

A case of forced labour in Auckland: Slave labour probe in central Auckland

Relevant Links


Looking at the gritty mess of life, do I have the determination to keep striding towards the destiny held out to me in Christ or will I shrink back because it all seems to hard or painful?

Wow, another week gone and it is 5 minute Friday again.
The task – write for 5 minutes based on the prompt grit:

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.
(Luke 9:51 ESV)

Grit, immediately makes me think of gravel and the gravel rash from falling off my bike going fast down a hill. That pain and stinging of grit in an open wound, then the additional pain of having all that grit removed so the wound can heal.

The muck which gets into our open wounds from the bumps and scrapes of life does need to be removed so we can heal rather than letting it fester and rot.

But grit can be put to work also – as sandpaper for smoothing wood, in polishing stones to make beautiful gems. Starting with course grit and progressively using finer and finer grit until a sparkling polish results. The abrasiveness that destroys skin can be used to make beauty.

Then there is the other meaning of grit – to be resolute. As Jesus resolutely set His face toward Jerusalem – to meet the awful destiny awaiting Him. He did not shrink back, if He had we would all perish.

So, in the gritty mess and woundedness of life today, I need to resolutely set my face towards God, get back on my bike and pedal fast to meet the destiny God has for me.

Image of graze on leg: iStock

Marching into Lent with candle in hand

Advent wreath

I did not grow up in a Christian home. The number of times I went inside a church as a child can be counted on one hand and although my Mum did make some early attempts to teach my older sister and I some of her Catholic faith that didn’t last long.

I became a Christian when 18 years old, single, with no kids. My first child changed my life when I was 32 and had already spent over a dozen years as an adult learning about God. Also, none of the churches I have been a member of use a liturgical calendar so there are elements of church traditions I know very little about.

So while I understand how important it is to teach my children about God and model faith to them, I have very little idea how to make it happen in practise. My wife and I are slowly gathering various ideas which we try out, adapt and use as the basis of faith-filled family traditions. Fortunately with young children it only takes several repetitions for them to gain an expectation for such stumbling traditions to continue.

With this in mind I ordered one of Caleb Voskamp’s Advent to Lent wreaths in October last year, unfortunately too late for it to arrive before Christmas. After a 12 week journey across the Pacific ocean it did arrive last Saturday, in time for the Lent countdown to Easter.

With it’s beautifully finished oak spiral and figure of Christ hauling his cross, our wreath has begun counting down to the dawning light of resurrection at Easter.

I am excited to have this visual and tactile aid as we endeavour to incorporate the living symbolism of Christianity into our family life.

A purist might say that props should be unnecessary; I am simply filling my life with more stuff and indulging in the human penchant for replacing interaction with God with man-made traditions. My reply to this is that I know my weakness. Materialism is unnecessary but inevitable because I have a physical body living in a materialistic social framework. Therefore I manipulate this natural tendency such that my heart is turned towards God by the stuff in my life rather than away from God by the independence that comfort brings automatically.

The physical presence of a wooden spiral in the middle of our dining table with a candle and figure of Christ carrying a cross on it is already reminding me that there is a meaning to life far beyond the usual daily grind. That is gain.

Lent candles

John the Baptist gets high

Imagine spending thirty years of your life intensely focussed on what you are convinced is your entire purpose for being. The enormity of the task sometimes causes you to quiver and seriously doubt yourself, can you really pull it off? What if, in the crucial moment, you fail to perform what is expected of you? If this job is not done properly history will hate you for it!
It is the preparation which costs so much; constant vigilance, total discipline and self control, being unable to participate in most of the entertainments your peers enjoy. Every day – preparing and waiting – Oh the seemingly endless waiting.

Finally, after years of study and setting yourself aside for the task you know you are ready and the time is right to begin. With faltering voice at first you start speaking out, attempting to convince others of the message you have been given. Surprisingly the people respond. They see your sincerity, look past your idiosyncrasies and understand the message.

Well, the common people that is. The educated and wealthy start mocking and debating. They cannot see why your teaching is applicable to them, especially given their inherited position.

Yet, despite this opposition even your reputation grows until crowds are gathering to listen and act. People are taking it seriously, asking sensible questions about how to change injustice. Things are happening!

However, with the success your anxiety mounts. Things are surely going to come to a head soon but you still haven’t done the most important thing. What if you’ve missed it? What if dealing with so many people coming to listen and be changed has blinded you to the most important part of the task?

With such doubts in your mind every night you rehearse your message. Your tone is getting more strident and uncompromising. The ‘debates’ with the authorities are getting less like debates and becoming more like tirades against them. Someone is going to get real upset before too much longer!

Then it happens, after yet another heated exchange with the scribes. Looking up, the man walking towards you matches what others have described but more importantly you recognize in him an air of uncompromising sincerity. Now, after so many public speeches your words tumble out awkwardly and you hear yourself wondering out loud whether what you’d been planning to do is actually the right thing.

He smiles and reassures. Yes, your concerns are valid but stick to the plan. So it is done.


Well, words cannot describe it. Nothing you had imagined came near the actual event. But it happened, just as you had been told. Good thing the water was fairly shallow or you’d have nearly drowned! Not only the dove, but the voice also! The sign! YOU HAD JUST BAPTIZED THE SON OF GOD!

I am speculating here, but it is my guess that John the baptist – a young 30-year-old man – found it difficult to focus on his work for the rest of that day and probably was buzzing too much to sleep very well that night! The purpose God had given him in life had now been achieved!

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:29–34 ESV)

Image of man jumping: iStock]

Connecting my delight in chocolate with God

After a couple of weeks working nights, I am back on normal time and blogging again, kicking off with 5 minute Friday.
The task – write for 5 minutes based on the prompt delight:

Delight yourself in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
(Psalm 37:4 ESV)

When you think about it, this verse is quite typical of God’s way of doing things – if I delight in God then the desire of my heart will be to get more of God – He is happy to give me this.

But am I? Do I?

My greatest delight is usually in what God has made or what He gives me rather than in Him. How do I delight in God who I cannot see?

In 5 minutes I cannot explore this in depth, but it would seem that the idea (from C.S. Lewis, I think) of ‘running up the sunbeam’ to it’s source applies here. Look at the gifts that I do delight in and then understand something about who God is that He gives such delights to me and from increasing understanding of what God is like my delight shifts to be in Him.

It seems to need constant effort though to even keep mindful of the true character of God when easy fixes such as TV, internet, and chocolate are within reach.

What will you reach for?

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 1:20 ESV)

Ordinary me and ordinary you

There are many, many days that I question why I blog. I read the blogs of some very talented people – great writers who lead busy lives and seem to walk much closer to Jesus than I do. Many of these folks have suffered much, travelled, served Christ and overcome obstacles beyond my comprehension.
Whereas I am just plain old average. I was going to write ‘very average’ but that would be overstating the case and adding the idea of excelling at being average, I don’t, I’m just average. My academic record is average (all B’s and C’s, not many ‘pointy grades’), my income is average, even the size of my family is average! The main points of difference about me are my height (short) and my house (small). One of my struggles in life is finding anything interesting to write in my Twitter bio.

Point of difference

So what purpose does an ordinary person like me have in writing stuff for the whole world to see? (If they chose to look – they don’t!)

Marketing gurus like to tell us that whatever we are trying to publish needs to have a ‘point of difference’ so that people will be interested. This makes good sense in a marketplace crowded with stuff and an internet congested with blogs.

Within contemporary New Zealand culture my point of difference is that I am a Christian. In our very secular society a person has to be pretty committed to be an active church goer with a deep faith in Jesus Christ. Still, there are plenty of other Christians in NZ, some of whom write blogs and most of those folks are more educated, opinionated and articulate than me.

So I suppose my ‘point of difference’ is that I’m just an ordinary Christian living in a secular society and trying to figure out what it means to trust Jesus while working to pay the bills.

Ordinary folks welcome!

Given that I’m just an ordinary guy with no special training in theology or such like, I do not set out to teach deep theological truths on this blog or argue about fine points of doctrine. Theology and doctrine are important to me but I have learned over the years that God uses people with inadequate understanding about Him – He has to because nobody fully understands God.

All I’m really aiming to do is share the reality of striving to live for Christ in an ordinary life. Not the life of a missionary or pastor or scholar, just plain old making ends meet in the context of work and family.

 I’m not the only person to think this way:

Because your story matters more than your stats

Image of me: taken by my wife

The real, real world


That time again: 5 minute Friday. This week’s word is real.
The task: Write for 5 minutes, no fixing and fiddling, just write.

Learning to be real and realistic:

Real: actual, genuine.
Realistic: seeing or accepting things as they really are, practical.

The first eighteen years of my life were based on these ideas. I liked to stick with the facts, to look for truth, be practical; and my parents drummed into me that it is foolhardy to be anything other than realistic – one must accept things as they are.

What is the real world?

But there is more to life than what folks like to call the real world, what we can see and touch. There is One, who John and the other apostles saw and touched, who cannot be seen or touched right now but is no less real for it (1 John 1:1–2).

The real real world is much bigger than what we can see and touch here and now. It includes wars, refugees, children and old people hiding in jungles from soldiers who should protect them. The real, real world contains ideas bigger and cleverer and stupider than any I encountered in small town Central Otago, NZ. It includes God – and evil – chariots of fire and legions of angels (see 2 Kings 6:17, Matthew 26:53).

Intangible but really dangerous

In the real, real world there are demons in my head that will do real damage if let loose. There is selfishness in my heart that would destroy my marriage if given free reign. There is frustration and anger in my soul that will destroy my children if released. These things cannot be touched, but they touch me and those I love.

In this world I need the Jesus I cannot see or touch.


Confession: I did do a little editing after my 5 minutes. The bold and italics, headings and scripture references were all added later.

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
(1 John 1:1-4 ESV)

Image of enraged man: iStock

Pray for your kids – responsibility

I need to try doing more ‘praying for’ rather than ‘grumping at’ my kids in attempting to convince them to do stuff to help around our home.

For each will have to bear his own load. (Galatians 6:5 ESV)

The parent fairies will do it

Teaching our kids to responsibly do their share of jobs around the home is one of our big struggles at the moment. They still think the world exists for them and don’t comprehend that work doesn’t do itself (or maybe they are smart enough to know the ‘parent fairies’ will always do it if left long enough).

In my attempts to ‘encourage’ them do a bit more to help I commonly end up quite grouchy at them and probably achieve little other than making everyone upset. The stupid one is clearly me because despite the technique clearly being ineffective, I still use it as my default parenting mode.

Raised voices don’t work

For children to take responsibility for their share of household chores and learn a ‘good work ethic’ is an internal process deep within their hearts. I’m sure there are developmental stages they must pass through before the concept of helping others will stick, and there are certainly spiritual issues such as sin and selfishness.

Because the change must occur within the heart of a child, my power to influence the process from outside is limited, more so if shouting or frustration characterize my approach. My best tool is to pray for my kids. To ask God to work in their hearts and in my heart so we can all work together rather than against each other. I need all the prayer I can get!

Download the prayer prompts:

Image of girl carrying sticks: iStockphoto 

Men, you need to get thankful

Refusing to give thanks to God puts us on a slide towards idolatry. Praising God for His blessings lets us see past evil and view the perfections of Christ. Why then are so few men making a habit of gratitude? The girls are leaving the guys way behind in spiritual maturity!

Yesterday I read from Ann Voskamp (quoting Chesterton) that “thanks is the highest form of thought”.  She asserts that the great thinkers are grateful thinkers.
Initially I thought this is taking it a bit far, placing gratitude on a pedestal and elevating into a dangerously idolatrous position.

On Consideration

However, when I give thanks for stuff I am not giving thanks to gratitude, I am giving thanks to God. If I were just cultivating ‘an attitude of gratitude’ in an attempt to make myself happier it would be idolatry, worship of myself. In contrast, by continually giving thanks (and praise) to God I am living prayerfully, as Paul exhorts (Ephesians 5:20, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Colossians 3:17).

If I cannot be bothered glorifying God for all He gives then I edge ever closer to a precipice of idolatry, foolishness and a darkened heart:

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:21 ESV)

Escape from idolatry

Each day we encounter events, situations and interactions which occur under God’s sovereign supervision. If the weather upsets my plans to do something I can get grouchy because my day has been messed up, or I can look beyond myself to ask what there may be to thank God for in this? Perhaps I am better to be doing something other than what I had planned. Maybe this weather is a blessing to others and those of us who don’t like it will get the sort of weather we do like on another day. Or it is so terrible that nobody is blessed and many suffer – in this case it is a chance to put aside my selfishness and help somehow.

I don’t thank God for what is evil, but I do look for the other blessings God gives despite evil occurring. Without this there remains only despair. Purposely looking for what I can genuinely thank God for refocuses my attention beyond the veil of evil and corruption cloaking the world and onto the perfection of Christ who remains Lord over all.

A society of fools

What happens when millions of people refuse to thank God for what He gives or to give Him glory? That society becomes darkened and foolish, chasing after delusions. As the church of Christ we are called to be light in the world. One way in which the world around us will see the light of Christ is when we remain thankful to God in situations that leave most people moaning and grumpy.

The joy of the Lord may be our strength, but how do we get it? We grow in joy as we grow in knowledge of God. God is spirit, we cannot see Him. What we can see is God’s acts in our lives – if we look. This is what I’m doing when I list eucharisteo, I am looking for the works of God in my life. And His touches are everywhere.

If the church of Christ spent more time thanking and praising God for what we have been blessed with instead of moaning about what we want the world would notice big time. Why then are so few leaders of families and churches and ministries promoting thanksgiving? Why are so few men praising God for His blessings?

Get with the game guys!

Listen up guys, it is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Praising God for what He gives is not the sole domain of Christian women, yet they seem to be the only people talking about in the blogosphere.

You don’t have to be a soccer Mom, homeschool your kids, bake your own bread and knit your own socks to give thanks in all things. In fact, Paul’s exhortations to give thanks in Ephesians and Colossians are both closely followed by direct commands to both wives and husbands.

Theoretically you can do this silently in your head while going about your work. A bit like your praying hey? You know, where you decide to pray silently and start of well, discovering minutes later that you are actually wondering if it is OK to ask God for a new car like the one you’re following now.

I’d encourage you to record what you thank God for. It needn’t be on a blog. It could be in a notebook. Or let the gadget freak in you go wild – try the iPhone app, or Evernote, Tweet your thanks, photograph it, podcast it, make a Youtube video – whatever, go nuts. By making a point of recording what you are thanking God for you force it back to the forefront of your thinking and remain aware of the need to keep at it.

C’mon men, the women are whipping your ass in giving glory to God! Perhaps we need a more hairy and testosterone laden version of the ‘gratitude community’?

Gifts I have noticed today:

827) My 19 year old expresso maker – broken, welded back together, broken again – but it still works!
828) A book I wanted to read conveniently placed in my hands.
829) A quiet day at home alone.
830) The simple lunch I am enjoying.
831) Beginning to enjoy my jogging.
832) Daughters excited to start a new school year.
833) God promises to supply all I need (Philippians 4:19)
834) Reinstatement of our child disability allowance.
835) My wife’s persistence in dealing with bureauracracy.
836) Cheap 2nd hand stereo.
837) Lots of cheap plants to go where the hedge used to be.
838) Finishing my run despite being stung on the ankle by a bee.
839) Renewed sympathy for the kids when they get bee stings!
840) Starting a prayer journal for my daughter as we pray together.

Image of runners: iStock