Jesus is Better than Ever

A Review of “And Now For Something Completely Different” by Matthew Martin, Hopkins Publishing, 2013.

As a lover of the Word, I was excited to read this verse-by-verse exposition of my favorite letter in the Bible, Hebrews, by Matthew Martin, a preacher of the Gospel, and a pastor. His book is indeed a labor of love, and also a faithful commentary on this very undervalued epistle. The First Century Jews who had accepted Jesus as their Messiah were still a fringe group in Israel, and had to endure persecution from brethren in the flesh who were the enemies of the Gospel. The author of Hebrews is known only to God, but brilliantly proves to his fellow Jews that the Messiah is “better than the prophets, better than the heavenly host, better than Moses, better than the Sabbath, better than the old high priests, better than the old ministry, better than the old sanctuary, and better than the old sacrifice”.

However as a self-published author, a dedicated writer, a constant reader, and a book reviewer,  I was very disappointed with the quality of Pastor Martin’s presentation. When Christians venture out into the public arena, they are representing their Savior, “who does all things well”. And so we should always strive for excellence. Martin has done an excellent job in presenting the truths of Hebrews for students of the Word, and relating them to Christians of the 21st Century. His insights are clear and God glorifying, but a plethora of small grammatical and spelling errors and typos plague the reader.

Martin’s passion for the Gospel is very evident and I pray he gets some editing help on his next book.

Boots on the Ground, Part Two



****A very special moment for me…Gabe hunted down the famous Nestorian Monument dating back to the sixth Century when Christianity was first introduced to China. I was able to touch this touchstone, and praise God for His Faithfulness.

 Wednesday, March 26. Prepared for a lecture on Creative Writing. Went with John and Mary T. to Eurasia U., and after some technical problems we projected my first ever ppt. I was happy that Martin, the assistant dean, was “taken” with my recitation of poetry. He wanted a copy of my book, and Sonnet 116. J&M said it gave them “face”, (i.e., increased their influence there).

Thursday, March 27. Visited the Terra Cotta Warriors (after 9 years) with the girls (Cindy, Michelle, Marguerite) this morning. There were shops lining sidewalks that once had been a huge vacant parking lot. We got back in time to meet John A. who took me to an English corner at Eurasia U. We had a great time with the students. I was able to give some their first English names. One student came to tell us it was raining heavily. We had come dressed for warm weather, so she bought us two umbrellas. Mary T., John and I waited in pouring rain for a taxi, hoping to link up with our team at the Muslim Qtr. But everyone was looking for one, so we stood there for ½ hour. Mary then directed us by taxi to a Pizza Hut, where we had dinner, and went back to the hotel.


Friday-Saturday, March 28-29. Changing gears. Packed up to go to Yan’an, the birthplace of the Revolution. Stayed in the cave hotel…and this time the rooms really smelled like caves. BUT we had a great time Friday and Saturday nights at the English corner in the Café, manned by Elaine. She is alone here on this campus and walks like a queen, but lives like a servant among these students who view her as a “noble woman”. We tried to make her 75th birthday memorable! Gabe brought her a refurbished computer, and we brought candy and a card.

The team visiting the Museum in Yan’an, honoring the birthplace of the Revolution.

Sunday, March 30. Back in Xi’an, via bus, bullet train, and subway. We started at 9:30 am Arrived for the 3pm ATM meeting on time in the XIS bus. Another long day of travel. Jeff B. spoke on Matt. 12, and John received prayer from him, calling him a good and faithful servant. The service was a much-needed spiritual uplift for all of us. They surprised us with an XIS mug as a TY gift for the work done on the school. Our day ended with a banquet to honor Jane Ann and Mike, the leaders, who encouraged us to come back again.

John being interviewed by a local TV station as we shopped in the Muslim Quarter downtown.

Monday, March 31. This morning we toured the Universities with John T. and had an English spot of tea in their apartment. He and Mary are so alive in the Spirit! They are training future leaders who will in turn train others. This evening we finally saw our friend Helen, and did some gift shopping. She’s still shining, and hugged us gratefully for our support. It’s a drizzly, foggy day in XTown.


Ever the flower child..enjoying the beauty of an ancient plum tree at a Buddhist Monastery.

Tuesday, April 1. “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose”. Changing gears again. The morning is spent in filling out our suitcases with building supplies. John T. comes at 9am to take us to a Chinese Christian bookstore near our hotel. We leave at 11am to board a plane with a ton of luggage to Nanchung, after stopping first in Beijing, rechecking baggage, and enduring a very tight security check point, to arrive at 9:30pm met by Shawn Lee, and two vans. I was surprised to see one star shining, and breathe cooler fresher air. His wife Dawn was at home putting their adopted son, Thomas, to sleep.


Wednesday-Friday, April 2-4. Arrived to help at ETC (English Training Center). It had been years since I had seen them, and the first time to see their facility. What a beautiful place for teaching and for English corners. Dawn invited me to share in two classes, as a “Guest author”. It was a great opportunity to share my story, and God gave me great grace. John and the team repaired a leaking roof, and painted walls in an apartment. Every evening we met students to practice their oral English. This was the favorite part of our day. The Café was jammed packed with an array of eager Chinese sweet-hearts…they made us feel like rock stars.

The next day we went into the city of Nanchang to do some porcelain shopping. Sadly, the prices were too high for my budget. I was on the hunt for blue and white plates for my red kitchen wall. Our breakfast was secured from a street market jammed with college students. The Lees made us fabulous western-style lunches (spaghetti and green salad, barbequed hamburgers, etc.) We blessed them with some Almond Roca from Costco, and gave Thomas a big gift bag filled with toys. We got to bed early as 5am came soon, and we were packed and on the road by 6am. We blessed Gabe, our host and fearless guide, with a personal offering for his family!! Tears came, and lots of hugs as we traveled in different directions: he to Xi’an, we to Shanghai.


Saying a tearful farewell at the Nanchang airport to our host and friend, Gabe. We were able to bless him and his family with an offering.

Saturday, April 5. After a cooperative juggling of luggage we got through security and made our flight. They had strict rules for weight, even for a carryon, so we all shared the weight exchange. John got a Holy Spirit nudge to check our flight to SF. Just in time!! The gate had been changed from 16 to 215, and we thought it was a time change. The board flashed “last call” as we ran to catch the bus, to catch the waiting plane. Missing that flight would have been a near tragedy. We were planning to see our granddaughter star in the musical “Annie” that evening. Tom picked us up in the church van, and deposited John and I at the Groen ranchero. We rested in our trailer, and were dazzled by the evening performance of MJC students, and our little Viki, sporting a red curly wig, and singing and dancing with such ease and delight.


Viktoria Grace Grown wowing us with her talent in her role as “Annie”.