Dr. Matthew V. Johnson Spirit Matters Journal

Sharing the Fire As It Grows

S P I R I T   M A T T E R S

Spirit Matters Journal

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“American society and culture is being drawn down to the size, and shrunken to the minuscule dimensions of the depleted imaginations of the crude merchants and nabobs that wield perverse influence through obscene wealth. As long as they convince us to measure the meaning and value of life by the abundance of possessions we will remain captive and bemused. But if a person would be free, let him or her liberate themselves from the compelling conventions of common assumption and embrace the inherent value of life and beauty, including that of an ennobling idea; and find that for which they are truly willing to live and die. An Idea big enough to escape the manifold insecurities of hysterical fanaticism but clear enough to appeal to that which is genuinely human in us all.”

Dr. Matthew V. Johnson, July 9, 2013

Spirit Matters Journal

March 14, 2013

The Kingdom Under Siege

“And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffered violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matthew 11:12)


            The Kingdom of Heaven is under siege from all quarters. Whether it’s the Church, the interrelated values implicit in the Kingdom, the Gospel, the Will of God as symbol, however it is conceived, the Kingdom of Heaven is under siege! It has become a cultural cash cow. Everyone wants to lay hold of the cultural capital of the Kingdom for their own purposes. They strive to take possession of the prestige of the Kingdom for their own private and political agendas. The Kingdom is under siege! Some want to use it to satisfy their need for expiation, to take it over in order to protect themselves from the crisis of judgment it implies. They want to use it to shield themselves from the very challenge it brings to their comfort zone and life styles. Still others want to take hold of its inherent goodness to clothe themselves in a righteousness they will not strive to attain. Others recognize that in it are the resources that provide access to the vulnerabilities of  humanity that they can exploit for private gain and advantage. Some want to capture it to take hold of the highest aspirations of the race so they can hold them within the limits of their own dwarfed spirituality and minimalist vision of life and human possibility. Still others wish to harness its great power  and lash it to the fortunes of a failing system.

In all of this the Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence, and the violent seek to take it by FORCE! Even in the local church the violent wish to harness, manage, control the Kingdom for their own personal aggrandizement. The Kingdom is under siege! Its would be friends but certain foes want it for their private possession. They use the power of the Kingdom’s language to turn it against its true purpose, changing the truth of God into a lie. It is a violent degradation of the Faith.

But in all of this the Kingdom will not be contained. It will break every bridle and snap every lash. The matchless majesty of true life will swell beyond human limitations and swallow the very prisons in which men thought to keep it chained. Spiritual cowardice will not contain it. Superior political power can not defeat it. Violent suppression can not discourage it. The prison house of language will not harness it. Fear and intimidation in all their manifold forms will not stifle it. For not even death could defeat it. Stay true to the Faith as we have received it. We are more than conquerors through Him that loves us. (Romans 8:37) Be of good cheer, for in Him we have overcome the world! (John 16:33)

A Friend of the Crucified,

Pastor Johnson

March 9, 2013

Where are you?

“And the Lord called unto Adam, and said, Where art thou?” (Genesis 3:9)

            Although we sometimes individualize the story of Adam and Eve, it is clear on any sensible reading that the story is addressing all of us. “Where are you?” is the perennial question addressed to each of us and the collective race of human beings. “Where are you?” We get lost in our activities, plans and daily routine. We drift through the reeds on life’s river but unlike Moses we have no particular direction or destination. We fail to orient ourselves with definite purpose and consequently end up like Saul hidden in our own baggage when God would summon us to a higher calling. “Where are YOU?” While the question is directed at all of us, it is indeed directed to EACH of us. Do you really know where you are in life, on your journey?  Where is your head? What are you preoccupied with? Who and what captures your imagination, your focus and attention? “Where are you?”

The implication of God’s address to Adam in this question is that he, Adam, is out of God’s sight. Or to say it differently, he is out of God’s view; away from God, outside of God’s will. “Where are YOU?”  Adam is hiding or better yet hidden among the trees. He is in the foliage, the undergrowth; among the bushes and the shrubs. He is hiding in the low growth, the thicket-lost in the thick of thin things. “Where are YOU?” Where are you at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday morning when the church bells toll? Are you somewhere asking, “FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS”? The answer is always the same. IT TOLLS FOR THEE! Where are you on Tuesday evenings at 7:00 when the Word of God is being taught, interrogated and explored; when it goes forth with the power to lift, inform, transfigure, and transform? Where are you hiding, in the thick of thin excuses? What could be more important to your life or in your life than your life with God? “Where are you?” What are you thinking about? Where are you really going? Is the road you are on the one that will get you there? Finally, it is not just a question of where you are but, indeed, where you are in relation to God. Put you mind and body squarely where they should be-on God’s Kingdom and in His Church. Shouldn’t your life be in God’s hands? Where is it? “Where are YOU?”

A Friend of the Crucified,

Pastor Johnson

February 24, 2013

The Walking Dead

Ephesians 2:1


            The power of sin is death. Those of us who walk under its power walk in death as death walks in us. Sin manifests itself not in this or that dead, but rather in a state of mind and being. We are too wrapped up in thinking of sin as in rule infraction, a violation of this or that obligation or commandment. I would to God that sin was so simple or its power to so slight. No, sin manifests itself in the chains of hopelessness and the fetters of fear. The power of sin manifests itself in death, in the power to kill. It kills the spirit of children through abuse, multigenerational ignorance and parent’s willful stupidity. The power of sin is death. It destroys the aspiring imagination that would enrich the life of all through worthy projects in science learning, literature and art. It kills the good of faith and trust in the worthwhileness of life and human institutions with the poison of cynicism, sarcasm, envy and hate. The power of sin is death. It kills churches and other institutions committed to the advance of humanity and its relation to God with the venom of division, strife, petty jealousies and a spirit of contention. The power of sin is death. It kills yes, and even more engulfs would-be life in an atmosphere of death, so that the living become little if anything more than the walking dead. Hopelessness, violence, ignorance, hatred, emotional toxicity and fear are all indications that the human spirit has succumbed. People whose lives have narrowed to these confines are the walking dead, the hollow folk, whose spirits have died. And these symptoms are the noxious fumes of its decay.

Death is all around. You may be dead yourself and not know it. You are not in Bible Study. You stagger haphazardly in and out of church. It is no wonder that you don’t hunger after the word. If you are dead, you don’t need sustenance. It is the living who must be sustained by the Bread of Life, the Word of God. Let us walk in the newness of life, quickened and made alive in Christ. You need not remain dead or lead a life of decay and endless deterioration. In Him is life and He is the Light of men!

A Friend of the Crucified,

Pastor Johnson

About Reverend Dr.  Matthew V. Johnson

Author    Scholar    Pastor

Matthew V. Johnson, Sr., is a graduate of Morehouse College and earned his Masters and Ph.D. degrees in Philosophical Theology from the University of Chicago. He has done post-graduate studies in Psychoanalysis and is a member in training at the Institute of Contemporary Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis. In the ministry for thirty years, Dr. Johnson is the Pastor of Church of the Good Shepherd-Baptist located in Atlanta, GA. In the course of a thirty year ministerial and pastoral career, he served three ministries in Greensboro, NC.  He was pastor of United Institutional Baptist Church in Greensboro, NC and was Founder and Pastor of Manasseh Baptist Church.

He is the author of three major theological works.  They include, “The Tragic Vision of African American Religion”, an analysis of African American religious subjectivity and understanding of the religious experience and its theological implications. “The Passion of the Lord: African American Reflections” a book which presents the biblical, historical, and theological roots of African American views, and, mostly recently “Onesimus Our Brother” examining the letter which contains so many of our unconscious assumptions about religion, race, and culture.

Soul Afire is a new and urgent broadcast experience . . . Soul Afire.

Soul Afire is a live talk radio program hosted by Dr. Matthew V. Johnson, Sr. The program Inspires and Incites the personal spirit to come alive and reach for the fire within. Whether your life moves in the nests of tumbleweed against desert dryness or flows quietly in the sanctuary of lush foliage of a tropical riverbed, you live by the realm a claimed or neglected human spirit.  Soul Afire is about the human Spirit and how it navigates Blackness.


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