In From Jim Lyon

For the last month, I have been reading daily from the Old Testament book of Jeremiah. It’s a sobering read; Jeremiah’s world was turbulent, his calling difficult to bear. His divinely appointed lot was to challenge the status quo, condemn the prevailing wisdom, and dare a people to change course. His was a prophetic office. His was a journey framed by hardship.

Still, Jeremiah is a triumphant and hopeful figure. His witness, fidelity, and obedience speak boldly across time to us today. He certainly has been speaking to me. Like his original audience, I am not always pleased by the dare, but I am also energized and inspired by it.

Jeremiah plants some important signposts pointing to heaven’s road, directing travelers in all generations. In chapter 22, the prophet addresses Jehoiakim, King of Judah (608–598 BC), but he also paves a way for us, as well. Jehoiakim was the second son of King Josiah; his father was famed for the restoration of godliness in Judah early in his reign, and counted as one of the country’s best. This apple-of-a-son, though, fell quite far away from Josiah’s tree; Jehoiakim believed he had a license to do as he willed, paying lip-service to Josiah’s faith, while nakedly pursuing self-centered pleasure and power.

“What sorrow awaits Jehoiakim…” Jeremiah cries out. “He says, ‘I will build a magnificent palace with huge rooms and many windows. I will panel it throughout with fragrant cedar and paint it a lovely red.’ But, a beautiful palace does not make a great king!”

Reading Jeremiah chapter 22 grabs me by the collar, as I imagine the prophet staring down the deeply flawed Jehoiakim: “Your father, Josiah, also had plenty to eat and drink. But, he was just and right in all his dealings. That is why God blessed him. He gave justice and help to the poor and needy, and everything went well for him.”

Pause, and then Jeremiah’s line is seared into my heart: “‘Isn’t that what it means to know Me?’ says the Lord.”

book of Jeremiah“‘Isn’t that what it means to know Me?’ says the Lord.” Here God underscores the evidence of faith, the fruit of knowing the Most High, the definition of holiness: being “just and right in all (your) dealings,” and giving “justice and help to the poor and needy.” It’s so Jesus, isn’t it? It’s so consistent through both testaments, Old and New. Jesus said (in Luke 4): “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, to preach Good News to the poor….”

Jehoiakim flunked the measure of heaven. His faith, his proclamations, his showing up at the temple, his feigned spirituality were all found wanting, because his conduct and ambition did not match the heart of God. His was not a heart after the Lord’s own and the way he spent his time and money proved it. Ouch.

Our comprehension of church life and discipleship in this twenty-first century can sometimes tumble here, too. I know mine has. More rooms and windows, more status, more of what pleases me, more protection of my turf and rights, and all the rest can cloud (and even completely block out) light from above. Building a church that looks like us and churning out disciples who live like us can take us off point: we need to build churches that look like Jesus and send out disciples that follow Him.

In the new year, I want to know the Lord more. I want more of Him and to become more like His Son. But, how? This is where Jeremiah is shaking me up.

I need to get my life into gear “giving justice and help to the poor and needy.” I need to be careful that all my dealings are “just and right.” Where to start?

ChoG Trafficklight 2.0. This is a terrific place to start. It is a chance for the Movement to stay a course launched with the Shelter project in India in 1914 that continues today. ChoG Trafficklight unifies us across the United States and Canada—and, indeed, across the world—in the righteous cause of rescue, redemption, and protection of the most vulnerable. It is life-giving. It is just like Jesus. It is His work.

In the first round of the ChoG Trafficklight (1.0), we helped expand the ministry of Berlin’s Pink Door to sex-trafficked women in Germany, including the opening of a residential way-station for victims set free. We also made a doubling of the Shelter’s residential capacity in Cuttack, India, possible, providing a safe, loving, Christian home to indigent girls whose fate might otherwise be sealed in the sex markets of south Asia. We funded gospel-liberating work in North America, too, coming alongside ministries rooted in the Church of God, like Stripped Love, One Heart, and Remerge (originally named Church on the Street). And, we inspired congregations from coast-to-coast to get involved in the human trafficking crisis at the local level, partnering with other members of the body of Christ to protect the helpless, speak up for the abused, and to set the captives free. The stories are legion.

In 2.0, we have set our sights on two new flagship ministries serving women and children, one at home and one abroad, and, at the same time, focused on a new initiative targeting men.

Hope Ranch in Wichita is a new residential program for women who have been set free from sexual slavery and abuse (yes, that’s strong language, but that’s the population Hope Ranch is built to serve). It provides a safe, Christian campus for the most vulnerable (“poor and needy”), giving them new hope and life in Christ. ChoG Trafficklight 2.0 will help operationally sustain the early years of the program; the beautiful ranch and buildings are debt-free. Hope Ranch was born in the vision of ChoG Christ Church in Wichita and is now led by a team of dynamic believers, networked nationally.

In Bangladesh, the Church of God is tackling six villages, bringing spiritual and material relief to some of the world’s most desperately poor. In each of these village, children are in danger of being sold—sold into the wretched traffic in human flesh. It’s hard for many of us to conceive how such darkness can stalk a community, but when survival is at the heart of every day’s routine, buying and selling children to survive comes into view. Many parents believe their children will be taken to school and cared for when they release them into the arms of outsiders; in fact, their children will be enslaved. ChoG Trafficklight 2.0, working with our local churches on the ground in Bangladesh and Children of Promise (which provides support for these impoverished children and their families) will protect and provide for them “justice and help to the poor and needy.”

Just weeks ago, I was on the border separating India and Bangladesh, visiting with Church of God leaders and pastors there. I heard the story of a young eight-year-old girl who had visited the village church, then was sold by a family member, into slavery. The young local Church of God pastor, men from the congregation, and other family members raced to intervene. In a few weeks, the child was tracked down and rescued. She now lives with the pastor and his family, safe in Jesus’ arms. Two days later, we visited that congregation (in the tea plantations of the Himalayan foothills) and met the little girl. Jaw-dropping moment. The need is real. The call from heaven is urgent.

As part of ChoG Trafficklight 2.0, we’re also providing materials for men—yes, men even in our churches. No woman or child would be sold for sex if there was not a man to buy. The equation is that simple. The first purchase most men make is porn. Yep, porn. And, even guys in our church pews are buying. In this world of #MeToo and the public conversation about sexual harassment, it is imperative that men in the body of Christ have their hearts and heads tuned to God’s design: for sex, for respecting women, and for honoring our Maker with their touch, speech, and relationships with women. Working with our friend Steve Arterburn (bestselling author, New Life Live radio host, and much-in-demand Christian teacher and speaker) and our publishing house, Warner Press, ChoG Trafficklight 2.0 has developed a resource kit to help you address the men in your local church on this spectrum of critical issues. Teaching men to understand their own sexuality and then manage it righteously will also permeate the culture all around them, like salt and light—at work, at school, in the world. Like Jeremiah, our men (and women, too, of course) can become voices for “justice and (helping) the poor and needy.”

Your next step? Get your church involved in Freedom Sunday 2018 (February 18), by visiting our website devoted to this year’s Freedom Fight: Breaking the Chains of Sexual Exploitation. The web address is You will find all the links you need there. Or, shoot an e-mail to our Trafficklight coordinator in the Church of God Ministries Anderson office, Ann Brandon, at

Want to engage younger generations? Get on this train. Want to change the world for heaven’s sake? Get involved. Want to actually give life? Sign up. Want to know God? By Jeremiah’s testimony, this will demonstrate that you are in communion with Him, building your faith.

I am still wrestling with the book of Jeremiah, as the new year dawns. But, with this, the Scripture has already transformed me: giving justice and help to the poor and the needy is how my knowledge of God can grow in the new year. I’m there. I’m on my way. Join the Movement. Jesus is the subject. He is right alongside.


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