Jesus Had a Fool

It is a common saying; ‘the man who chooses himself as his own attorney has a fool to defend him’.

This describes the Lord of glory. He chose to defend himself. And in doing so, he remained silent before all of His accusers. He knew very well ‘everything He said would be held against Him’ so He chose to just be silent before His accusers. No matter what He said, He would be found guilty.

We live in an era of increasing demands for ‘human rights’. Children demand rights. Husbands and wives demand rights. Citizens demand rights from their governments. All of these are completely antithetical to the Bible as I read it.

There is not a single instance in the Bible that puts our sexual orientation, economic status, color or caste or any other single distinction as something that mandates others, not even God should accept and acknowledge who we are.

What I do see is the demand to be a fool. To be silent before our accusers and let God allow us to be crucified to our agendas so that His agenda will be fulfilled.

Jesus stated his case by His life. Here it is; John 15:25, They hated me without a cause.

Now to be truthful I have given many people many reasons to hate me. I have offended, disappointed, hurt, fallen short of expectations and even intentionally hurt many people. I confess that I did so with what seemed as completely legitimate, justifiable reasons, rational within my rights and I would defend myself even in God’s great court against anyone who would say otherwise.

The problem is, if I am to truly model Jesus, the sinless one (so noted by all who recorded his life, even Pontius Pilate three times) I have no defense that is true. I lie to cover my offense against others. I enjoy my sin so much that I am willing to use my ‘rights’ as a justification for my wrongs against God.

Jesus chose a fool. He defended Himself. He lost His case before men, but won it before God. He had every right to declare Himself innocent of any of the charges against Him. He replied; ‘Suffer it be so, so that the Father’s will be done.’

In this increasing age of addiction to our rights…, Christ would bid us to be addicted to our responsibilities.

I am responsible to minister to those who are hungry, in pain, lonely, naked and the host of things which I know nothing about as I peruse the safety net of family, friends and unlimited resources of prayer.

Get addicted. Get the right addiction. Get addicted to your responsibilities to meet the needs of those around you. Be a fool that is accused rightly of doing things that honor the Father. That pleases the Christ and in pleasing Him, you please His Father, whom you will meet one day soon.

Jesus had such an addiction. Joh 8:29 And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.

Greedy Grants

They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory. Mark 10:37

We want power. We want to be seen. We want our political objectives met. We want our financial institutions to give us great reward and we want God’s vengeance on anyone or anything that stands in our way. We have left our responsibilities so that we can assume our rights. We want God to grant that we sit on the right or left of Christ. We don’t ask that He would let us sit at His feet. The disciples had this greedy grant mentality.

The thing that makes this discourse so unnerving is that Jesus had just explained how he would soon be tortured and murdered for offending those who were on the right and left. These disciples were men who were close to the Savior. Maybe I should restate that. These were men who were near him in physical proximity, but very far removed from Him spiritually. They had their agendas. They had their aims. They wanted the kingdom to come to crush the Romans, the religious zealots, the unclean gentiles and of course, they wanted to be able to sit on the right and left hands of Jesus and watch it all unfold.

Author Jerry Bridges writes in Respectable Sins of the sin of moral Self-Righteousness. The pride of the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable was what we can call moral self righteousness. It expresses itself in a feeling of moral superiority with respect to other people…., It is found in the political and cultural realms among the liberals and conservatives. Anyone who behaves, for example, that he holds the moral high ground in any area such as politics, economics, or environmental policy is likely indulging in moral self-righteousness. Sadly, however, it is very common among conservative evangelical believers….the sin we fall into is the sin of moral self righteousness toward those who practice those sins (immorality, easy divorce, homosexual lifestyle, drug addiction).

Lest we forget, when Jesus spoke of the The Least of These My brethren, He also meant the Least worthy of these. The pedophile needs Christ just as much as the molested child. The battered woman neeeds Christ just as much as the man who battered her.

The drug addict and the pusher both need Jesus. The Wall Street Baron and the Main Street Bum are in need of the same salvation. The prostitute needs the same Jesus as does the man who uses him or her as an object. These least worthy of these are people like you and me…., all in need of salvation by grace and grace alone. That is neither a left or right issue. That is an at the feet service of surrender. Paul attested to such in his letter to Timothy;1 Timothy 1:15This [is] a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I AM chief.

I do believe we need extremists. We need them on the right and the left. As Martin Luther King Jr. said we need Creative Extremists. The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be… The nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists

The world needs creative extremists; people willing to create a dialogue that ministers to the poor and powerless without indicting the rich and powerful. Both groups feel entitled. While I do support the notion of human rights, as far as I can tell, it is not a Biblical mandate. The only thing that Christ mandates is that we love one another, care for one another, minister to the needs of one another. That is, we are called to serve. We are called not to sit on the right or left of any particular issue, but at the feet of those who feel left out. We are called to serve, wash the unclean feet of the homeless as well as apply lotion to the well heeled in our society. That is the work of creative extremists.

As long as the church thinks of itself as an organization to support causes, and not an organism to minister to people, we will ask God for our Greedy Grants. Grant that I should have this right, this wealth, this power, this position because after all, I deserve it. It is in the constitution, the UN human rights mandate, encoded in state and federal law and of course since I am a child of God, I deserve it.

Unless and until we surrender in service, until we become the creative extremists on the right and the left, we will never sit at the feet of Christ in surrender. That surrender is service.

No Spit in the Soup

First thing the man did before announcing lunch was to spit at my feet. Of course I am exaggerating. How else to keep your attention? However, it is true that he did manage to expel a big yellow tinged piece of slime from the recesses of his mouth with enough force to fall just a few feet shy of my feet. He then announced in broken English: ‘lunch is ready’. He was the cook and as a grey haired Sudanese in charge of the kitchen the only polite thing I could do after such a colorful invitation was to follow him to the dining area. The food was actually pretty good, or I was very hungry. Either way, I took second helpings of the beans and rice and the other visitors with me did likewise. The dirt floor and plywood walls gave the semblance of rustic décor made surreal by the flowers on the plastic bowls. The spoons and the fresh bread rolls made it clear that we were eating at one of Bor Sudan’s finest establishments.

This was midday of our first day in Sudan. It was the ‘meeting point’ for us and the driver to take us to the hospital. The night before was spent in Lokichogio Kenya. Lokichogio is known for being one of the busiest airports in East Africa as it serves a host of international relief and aid agencies. It is also known for its insecurity as related to me by the cook at the ‘Hotel California’ which is where we stayed that first night. He told me that it was common practice in Lokichogio for boys as young as ten years of age to carry AK47 rifles to defend their cattle and that the purpose of the police in the area was to write down reports of who was most recently killed, not necessarily by whom.

Hotel California had all of the charm of…, well it had no charm. It was really a series of tents with firm mattresses on the beds and electric bulbs and an outside shower and toilet connected via the back of the tent. I chose not to shower under the stars that night as I knew that God had seen all of me already and others would be shocked to see the rest. The water was just above ambient evening temperature of 80 degrees at 7 pm and the soap was new with the picture of the Lux woman on it.

At 6 a.m. that morning two crazy white girls and two crazy black guys got in the car and drove back to the Lokichogio airport. I say the girls are crazy because I can’t for the life of me figure out how they get the daring and guts to do what I shiver doing. I don’t get in little cabs in Philadelphia with two black guys. Here we are in a cab the size of a motorcycle, with potholes, better yet sinkholes filled with water coming one third way up the car doors. When the motor died out I was sure I was going to have to climb through the window to help pull us out. Well, the driver was used to this and after the carburetor rested a few seconds we were on our way to the Lokichogio airport bound for Bor Sudan just two hours on the other side of the southern Sudanese border.

Lokichogio airport is more like a conglomeration of shipping containers, brick buildings and straw huts in various stages of decay and renovation. It is hard to tell which is undergoing which process. It has its share of crashed airplanes on the side of the runways, against fences and in pieces on the ground. I am not sure why they never remove this stuff, except that maybe it serves as guideposts for take-off and landing.

We had arrived in Lokichogio on a flight called ALS which I understands means Airplane Leasing Service, but has since lost this acronym. I dubbed it Always Lands Someplace. The plane we boarded was as wide as a small van, with about the same amount of headroom. You had to bend yourself in half to walk down the aisle to get to your seat. If you were over 5 feet 9 like me, you would probably have to crawl.

We got on an African Inland Mission plane which had two of the seats removed so that we could carry the medical supplies and our personal belongings. It was a good flight as we were not near as high and at times it seemed like we were gliding and not flying. We could see the roads below where trucks were stranded in mud and small villages and vast swaths of green covered earth. It was pretty.

We landed in Bor Sudan at around 9 a.m. We were met as expected by our driver who was to take us to the planned meeting point for heading to Werekok hospital.

We stopped at a guesthouse to have tea and meet a few important people. I assume they were important as they were well dressed, arrived in motorized vehicles and spoke perfect English. If it were not for the nearby pond filled with dirty water, drinking cattle, car and motorcycles being washed, laundered clothing and bathing and playing children, the atmosphere could have been considered less than an experiment in public health challenges. This was no mere Petri-dish of growing microorganisms. This was an experiment of how far one could allow parasitic infestation proceed left unchecked without any significant intervention.

We left the fine establishment just briefly before lunch to tour the town of Bor. It you add an ‘e’ to the name it describes it more accurately. This was once the seat of rebellion against the northern Sudanese government and now serves as a hot seat of political and tribal rivalry. The only peace that exists now is the result of the multiple international oil companies that have come to de-mine the roads, fill in the larger craters on the streets and of course the ever present UN ‘peacekeepers’. The World Food Program has massive trucks, planes and storage facilities here which serve to keep the people in a watching and waiting position rather than a planning and moving posture. Such is development in Sudan. If we wait long enough, maybe another 50 years, someone will stop the Arab north from decimating the indigenous African south. Until then, we need the UN peacekeepers to keep a body count and the World Food Program to delay starvation of the entire populace. I did my fair share of hunger relief. I saw a woman boiling dough like doughnuts in hot oil and I thought I would be nice and purchase some from her to ‘improve her income’ for the day. I thought to myself these are boiled in oil so they can’t harm me if I eat them. I asked for one, only to be informed by sign language they only sold them by the dozen or so. I promptly paid for my dozen or so which were then hand-picked (who knows what else those hands had picked) and placed in a torn piece of local newspaper that was made easier to tear by adding a little spittle to the crease in the corner. Well the two crazy white girls I was walking with decided they would eat. One was a community health nurse and the other a trained laboratory technician whom I assumed both believed in the germ theory. So I ate one after seeing they did not drop dead. Later down the road, I did as most Americans do, give away what I don’t want to some snotty nosed kid who happened to wave at me with a smile. I was glad to give a gift, even if it was not tax season.

We were delayed in Bor because somehow the details of our arrival and departure were not specific enough given the 6 week transmission of precise communications. Hence rather than depart at 10 a.m. as planned, we left right on time at 3 p.m. I always say you can set your watch in Africa.., you just have to re-set it later.

Our trip from Bor to Werekok was a challenge both coming and going. The 30 kilometer or 20 mile trip takes about 90 minutes if you don’t get stuck in mud. We were assured there were no mines as I could see several men walking along the road with one leg and two crutches. I am sure they could point out the bad spots!

I had my sunglasses on as I sat in the back of the pick-up truck with anywhere from 4 to 11 people. The sunglasses served two purposes. The first was to keep the swinging thorn filled branches from eviscerating my eye from its socket. I have kind of grown attached to my eyes. The second was to keep the mud from my eyes. I had no such protection from my mouth as the tires which had the tread of a Rolaids spun in the mud and dug the car deeper, flinging the dark slush everywhere. Of course the mud did not have the minty taste of Rolaids, but more like that of the frogs, insects, snakes and animals who had traversed this path before us. I was glad I had my glasses. We were able to dig, push and pray our way out of many muddy holes. I have had a taste of Sudan literally.

The hospital was a site to behold. It needs a lot of work, but the progress thus far provides great hope and shows great vision and commitment on behalf of the locals and missionaries who have begun the work. Imagine men who have only recently lain down their AK 47 rifles and have taken up shovels, hammers and nails to build rather than kill or be killed. After 20-30 plus years of killing, inspiring people to dream of life is more than just a matter of memorizing a Bible verse.

At present the staff sees at least thirty to fifty people per day. It is the only facility within several snake filled, mosquito infested, swampy land of over 2 hours walk on a sunny day (110-127 degrees in the shade). So this hospital is not only needed for saving lives, but offering hope.

As I sat on the veranda after our brief tour of the facility I wondered again to myself just why God has been so good to me. The hospital staff prepared us a nice meal of beans and some meat. We slept in their quarters, free of scorpions, or snakes. I was assured by one woman that I only needed to worry about snakes in the rainy season. I thought to myself, ‘this is the rainy season’. Africans hate to tell you bad news.

We four visitors talked with the clinical staff that evening about buildings, food, water, medical supplies, community involvement, and oh yes…, how we would get out of there the next morning if it rained heavily. The pilot and I made a brief tour of the alternate landing strip should we be stranded by car and he would have to go into Bor to bring the plane to us in Werekok. This ‘brief tour’ by the two of us required us to wear ‘gum-boots’ or galoshes as I use to know them, that covered our lower legs. I was sure it would keep the snakes out and of course, my one pair of socks that I had brought with me clean. I did not plan well, I admit.

The landing strip was about 700 meters in length (less than half a mile) and was full of thorns and tall grass. I was reminded of the old poem ‘The Walrus and the Carpenter’ as I thought if 30 men with thirty grass slashers could cut this grass, fill in the holes and chase off the goats and keep they hyenas away, we could possibly land here in the morning. Oh well. Back to plan A.

It was an uneventful night. We ate well, slapping lots of mosquitoes in spite of the OFF, DEET and other repellants. We took our antimalaria medicines, put down our mosquito nets and I stuck my musty but dry socks inside of my sneakers to keep out the scorpions. I did plan well after all! I hate surprises like that in the morning.

We awakened had banana bread and coffee and retoured the hospital seeing one consult. It was a woman in severe congestive heart failure and I know for sure that if this facility were not here, she would die. I helped examine her, and advise on how we could make the diagnosis without the need for spending thousands of dollars on x-rays. Something I learned a long time ago in medical school was, listen, look, touch, feel, then treat. It still works.

We advised on where clinic offices should be placed, how the operating rooms should be organized and where the medical supplies should be stored. Triaging patients and advising where the waiting room should be placed were just as important. The Sudanese staff was enthusiastic and appreciative.

We made our way back to Bor to discover our small plane was still in place. One fear was the watchman on the dirt air strip might try to escape the rain that night by hiding under the wing and building a fire to keep himself warm. A hole in the wing that carries half the fuel of a small plane could have presented some real problems. Nonetheless, our fears were unfounded and we paid the going rate of $75 for this man to sit and make sure that no one touched our only sure means out of the area that would take fewer than a several days by land.

So he spat on the ground and not in the soup. Maybe it was just a way to say welcome. We took off from Bor, leaving behind many new friends and old wrecked aircraft on the ground. Thankful for the friends and curious about the wrecked aircraft. God has been good to allow us the privilege of seeing and being involved in delivering hope. Thank you for your prayers.

Feeding on Froth

I prefer to voice my disdain
To make all know my pain
I feed on my own sorrows
Feels good when I complain

I feed on my own spittle
I choke on what is little
When the feast is all around me
I chew on what is brittle

As a dying man’s death throttle
I collect my froth in bottle
When others come with struggles
I share with them these ‘bubbles’

So forgive me when I spit
Self-serving is my name
Feed on froth not satisfying
But it gives me cause to blame

God forgive me for my choking
Fixing things that are not broken
I confess my love for pity
My complaints make praise a token

Psalms 73:3 For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

Miriam Medical Clinics

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is home to six major health science research centers, several teaching universities, including five medical schools three schools of pharmacy, and several other healthcare disciplines, including nursing, physicians assistants and podiatry. Among the 10 most populous U.S. cities, Philadelphia has the highest unemployment and poverty rates. This factors serves as barrier to equitable health care in Philadelphia.

Those without healthcare access or limited financial resources use area emergency rooms as primary care facilities. This serves to further increase the cost and diminish the quality of healthcare.

Miriam Medical Clinics (MMC) was started in Philadelphia to address these needs by providing holistic, comprehensive and compassionate healthcare. Because of our central location in Philadelphia near the major health facilities Miriam will also serve as a teaching site for the various medical training institutions.

As of December 2012, Miriam Medical Clinics (MMC) was incorporated with the objective to provide health care to the underserved and many who may feel ‘undeserving’ within the Philadelphia Metropolitan area. Historically, MMC began as a vision of Dr. Cornelius Pitts, Patricia Imms, Dr.’s. Michael Johnson and Sandra Johnson. These principal parties have sought to serve the poor of Philadelphia metropolitan area based upon the passion of their faith and the desire to have a practical impact as an outgrowth of that passion.

Medical care is one practical, objectively measurable impact. To date, they have accomplished the recruitment of several volunteers from a variety of medical and paramedical professions. These volunteers have provided services principally in homeless shelters, gaining the exposure necessary to understand a very under-served population. MMC is currently underwritten by personal donations from the principals, and monetary gifts from World Gospel Mission Inc. of Marion Indiana.

MMC will provide services to its clients and patients without regard to any religious, social stratification or man-made classification, in accordance with Christ’s expectations that we are sent to be a light to the world (Matthew 5:16).

MMC will make no compromise of its Christian doctrine in order to obtain funding or other resources as this will ultimately erode not only the ‘who’ we are but ultimately the ‘what’ we do and ‘why’ we do it.

  • We are ambassadors for Christ
  • We minister in His name with His love
  • We do it to glorify the Father through the Son

Learn more about Miriam Medical Clinics

Those Peculiar Johnsons Go To Jail

We have been in prison from the middle of last year and even as the New Year has begun. To tell you the truth, we have been in and out of prison and we plan to buy guns. Yes indeed, these are peculiarly new things.

Out of Narazeth What a blessing to go to prison and then, to leave again. Our visits to the prisons have allowed us and the men of our home church Tasker Street Missionary Baptist Church in Philadelphia, to visit several men in Graterford Prison. It is a high security prison and the most of the men we visited have had not a single visitor for over 20-25 years. We plan to keep at it and we plan to buy guns! Lots of guns, if you can believe that!

This zeal for guns has come from our very joyous and informative symposium with 100 plus attendees on Prison Re-entry at our home church, on October 27, 2012. The symposium included a panel of Church, Christian charities, government and other civic minded organizations. The day was filled with people who wanted to know how they could better know and serve those who were incarcerated and their families. Our prison visits are becoming a habit, and we will soon involve the church youth group and women of the church. Again our plan is to buy guns! We want to buy guns and get them off the streets of Philadelphia. We have established a specific account for this purpose. Please give to the Out Of Nazareth Ministry so we can help those behind the walls and their families. We will raise at least $50,000 with your help to buy guns and trade them in for food and other purchase vouchers.

Dr Johnson’s Surprise 60th Birthday

Time flies when you are having fun! My family and friends gave me an incredibly rich experience with a surprise 60th Birthday Party this past December. Alicia our youngest granddaughter, looks on to see if I can blow out these candles myself.

Work in Kenya

Our work in Kenya continues, though Kay has not been able to travel because of her illness and is awaiting clearance from her pulmonologist. However, we still support the education and health care, and food for The Least of These. Children still need milk and for those with HIV goats milk is best.

New Clinic in Philadelphia

Within a week from our return we were already overseeing the startup of a new clinic in North Philadelphia for the under or uninsured. We are still in the negotiating stages which includes licensing and inspection, as well as interviewing and hiring new staff and finding the resources to pay for salaries, equipment and supplies. We have also had some renovations to the building and have enlisted the help of several community members to help us. One of the most important is installing a toilet that is accessible to handicapped. We will need to meet all of the government inspection and requirements for access and safety.

 

One of the most important is installing a toilet that is accessible to handicappe

By comparison of course, this compares quite favorably to our toilet in Haiti

Honorary Doctorates

President David Black; Arthur Hill Interim Chair Board of Trustees, Dr. Christopher Hall, Chancellor Eastern University, Dean Palmer Theological Seminary

As of 2012, we have decided to do something in our spare time. We graduated with honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degree, Honoris Causa from Eastern University. We also gave the commencement speech which served as an opportunity to share what God has been doing in our lives in family and ministry.