Monthly Archives: December 2018

Christmas Greetings

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Dear friends,

Some of you will have already received our Christmas letter, but others will not have seen it. It comes to you all with our best wishes for a truly happy Christmas and the Father’s rich blessings throughout 2019.

My father died five months before I was born, so I have no background knowledge of a father. On the other hand, Elizabeth’s father was a wonderful person who Elizabeth loved and looked up to. This year we have both grown in our appreciation of God as our heavenly Father who loves us, cares for us, provides for us and protects us. And he is “our Father in heaven”, so he has the power to fulfil all a true father’s desires and purposes. At Christmas we remember again the coming of Jesus, sent by the Father to make the Father known to us. Through Jesus we can know and relate closely with our heavenly Father. What good news!


Since July we have been specially grateful that we have God as our heavenly Father. Elizabeth took our daughter Margaret’s Labrador dog for a walk, it spotted a fox, darted after it and pulled Elizabeth over. As a result she developed sub-dural haematoma (blood in the skull) with the ever-present danger of a stroke as she has had to come off warfarin. She is getting stronger, the skull blood is reducing and we very much hope in the New Year that she will be back to normal. Meanwhile we rely very much on our Father in heaven, and are grateful for your prayers.

Speaking and preaching

Our Father knew in advance that with Elizabeth’s situation I should not be away too much. So the diary until July was pleasantly full with a good range of engagements in different churches, retreats and conferences. But since July the diary has been very light. In March Interserve had a special weekend conference for their staff and workers at which they asked me to be the speaker.

The theme allowed me to share my current hobby-horse that our evangelical ‘Gospel’ has been too Pauline and related to salvation from sin (few people today have a sense of sin). I feel strongly that John’s message of life, life abundant and eternal life relates better for our contemporary society. When people learn to worship the all-holy God, then they will appreciate better Paul’s message of redemption and justification.


Two visits to Scotland also stand out specially. Dornoch in the north (near Inverness) and Banchory (near Aberdeen) both gave us a warm welcome and we much enjoyed ministry in churches there. In Dornoch Elizabeth had the joy of meeting an old school friend who she had not seen for 65 years! In Banchory we were hosted and treated royally by the Brodies, warm-hearted ex-All Nations friends (a big thank-you to them).


We very much appreciated a week in Chichester in February for Chichester Baptist Church. It was encouraging to see this large church flourishing and growing. While there we also taught one day at Moorlands Bible College and another day with Friends International. How good too to meet up with Sir Richard Jolly who had been with Elizabeth back in 1957 when her brother John led an exploratory trip to determine which route Hannibal took over the Alps. Thank-you to our good friends, Mike and Celia Askwith (also ex-All Nations), for arranging that fascinating day at their home by the sea together with a nice swim. Mike’s father was the officer in charge of the inter-service Russian course where I trained as a naval interpreter in Russian.

Overseas travel


This year there have only been two overseas trips. The first was a lovely week’s holiday in Teneriffe. The second was my usual annual trip to Norway. I started in Trondheim at the Ga Ut Senteret, a mission training school that was much influenced by the All Nations model at first. I have taught at this school every year since it started some 35 years ago and always enjoy being there. This visit I had just two days teaching, giving eight lectures plus having times with the students. Then I flew down to Oslo for two days’ lecturing at the Fjellhaug theological college. After the second day’s lecturing our very good friend Nora Gimse picked me up and we had a delightful dinner together with two of her sons and their wives plus one baby grandchild. It was such a joy to be back together with them. Nora then drove me back to her home in Porsgrunn where she is the Free Lutheran minister. It was, as always, a special joy to be with Nora and her husband Per (who bravely copes with advanced MS) as well as her parents who live two minutes’ walk away. It has been with Nora and her father that Elizabeth and I have had our China visits.

While I was away in Norway, Elizabeth stayed with our son Andrew and his family. They welcomed her so lovingly and cared for her, so I felt very much at ease leaving her.

Other ministries


1)    All Nations  Living so close to the college, it is a privilege still to have close relations with All Nations although it is now 24 years since we left the full-time staff. But they still call us ‘Associate Lecturers’ and we much enjoy teaching a couple of mornings each term on their 10-week En Route course. This is such a brilliant course and I would recommend it warmly to anyone wanting to be involved in anything cross-cultural.

We much enjoy welcoming students coming down to our house for coffee and chat. This also helps keep us more up-to-date on other countries – just recently we have had visits from Egypt, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Norway.

Approximately once a month a small group of former All Nations lecturers gathers together to pray for the college and for each other. We also always take some relevant subject to discuss together. These are such good times of friendship and fellowship.


2)    Local Church  We continue to be very much involved with our village parish  church. Normally Elizabeth leads Services and preaches regularly, but of course just at present that has to be on hold. I am allowed to preach four times a year. Elizabeth is responsible for preparing young couples who want their children ‘welcomed’ or baptised – a great opportunity to share the good news of Jesus with them. On Thursday mornings we much appreciate an informal coffee morning with no fixed agenda in our local garden centre. This plays a significant part in helping some of us to get to know each other so much more closely.

Sadly the church has declined considerably, but Elizabeth and I very much enjoy the friendship and fellowship of the other church members.

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3)    Blogs  Feeling that the message of John’s Gospel is more relevant to contemporary society than the traditional Pauline ‘Gospel’, I wanted to do a fresh study of John. Of course I had read and studied this Gospel so often before. It seemed good therefore  just to use the Greek and only refer to English translations and commentaries just before writing my blogs. My aim is to avoid my previously rather traditionally western and Gentile view of John’s Gospel. In this way God’s Word has come to me with an exciting freshness and I have become more than ever convinced that we need today to reemphasize John in our understanding and communication of ‘the Gospel/good news’.

I owe a real debt to Richard Harvey, a good friend and leading Jewish scholar, who persuaded me to write these weekly blogs on John ( and who now adds the illustrations and posts them for me. It is such a joy to get emails and other feedback from various countries and to know that some 350 people follow them each week as well as all those who just ‘access’ them. May the Holy Spirit use these blogs for his glory and to encourage, stimulate and challenge many who read them!


As we get older, we appreciate even more the enormous privilege of having such a loving family. And with Elizabeth’s illness they have all been tremendous in loving care and concern. Andrew continues his work in the City and his three girls are growing up so attractively and doing very well at school. Margaret now works more and more with Aberkyn, teaching on leadership and relations with top business leaders. Wonderfully, Chloe can now work three days a week, and progress after her major brain tumour operation two years ago is steady but slow. We are deeply grateful to God for the amazing recovery she has experienced. James has completed his studies and now has a good job. Our younger daughter Ruth is now in leadership with Tear Fund and travels widely, speaking at various conferences all over Britain and overseas. Her Mali has just finished school and is now beginning her gap year before starting at university. Jemba continues at school and is developing into a lovely young lady.

We much look forward to hearing from so many of you over Christmas.

Happy Christmas and our best wishes for the Father’s rich gift of abundant life in 2019,

Martin and Elizabeth

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In my Father’s name (John 10.22-30)

In my Father’s name (John 10.22-30)

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I started writing these blogs when my study of John’s Gospel had already reached John Chapter 10. So you may find it helpful to refer to earlier blogs while also using the current ones. Thus in August 2016 I wrote a blog about John 10 which you will find in the ‘Archive’ list on the right-hand side of the screen.
Jews have just finished celebrating Hanukkah, the Festival of Dedication and of Lights. Happy Hanukkah! Two thousand years ago Jesus came to Jerusalem at Hanukkah (10.22) and walked about in the temple. The Greek word used for ‘Hanukkah’/’Dedication’ literally means ‘renewal’. How significant! This chapter of teaching comes between Jesus giving sight to the blind in Chapter 9 and his raising the dead Lazarus to new life in Chapter 11! In this Hanukkah season let us dedicate our lives anew to the Messiah!
Are you the Messiah? (10.24)
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“If you are the Messiah, tell us boldly” (10.24), the Jews demand. For the meaning of the word ‘boldly’ please refer to our previous blog on John 7 which is dated September 2018. Are the Jews questioning whether Jesus is so convinced of his call as Messiah that he will have the courage/boldness to declare it?
In John 10.24 an unusual expression is used for ‘keep in suspense’; literally it means ‘take away our life’. Was John’s use of this expression hinting at the sad fact that they didn’t believe and therefore they would suffer judgment and fail to attain life? What a contrast with the life-giving work of Jesus!
Jesus’ sheep (10.27-29)
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In answer to the Jewish leaders’ demand, Jesus points out that he had told them, but they didn’t believe (10.25/26). Perhaps he had not told them verbally, but his works made it abundantly clear that he was indeed the Messiah. He then returns to his previous theme of the good shepherd, declaring that their lack of faith stems from the fact that they are not from among his sheep. In 10.27-29 Jesus follows this with a glorious sequence – his sheep hear his voice, he knows and relates to them, they follow him, he gives them eternal life, they will never perish even into eternity, no-one shall snatch them from his hand. Each phrase should elicit tremendous rejoicing and deserves our  careful meditation. The list contains six phrases; it might be good to concentrate on one each day during the next week.
Much debate has arisen from the assurance of the final phrase. ‘Once saved, always saved’ became a slogan among more traditional Reformed Christians who used these words to support a strong doctrine of predestination. In verse 29 Jesus reminds his hearers that our Father is greater than all other forces, so we can trust him not to allow Satan or his agents to plunder us out of his hand. His hold on us is so strong.
Our Reformed friends some times fail to notice that the previous verse has the verb translated ‘perish’ in a more reflexive form which literally means ‘release/dismiss themselves’. Even into eternity Jesus’ sheep will not release themselves from his gift of eternal life. The threat to our continuing salvation lies not only with external powers, but also within ourselves. Neither by our own sinful neglect or rejection of Jesus, nor by the demonic power of Satan and his agents can Jesus’ sheep be separated from Jesus and his Father. Hallelujah!
Somehow, however, this heart-warming assurance has to be brought together with the so-called ‘warning passages’ in Hebrews (e.g. Hebrews 6.4-6). While the spiritually unsure will rejoice and be strengthened by the promises of John 10, those who are in danger of undue self-confidence may need the threat of the warning passages.
The Messiah and the Father (10.25, 30)

Is Jesus the Messiah? Does he have the right to see himself as the lovely (see the August 2016 blog) shepherd? In answer, Jesus testifies that all his miraculous and loving works of healing are done in the Father’s name. He does not act alone or glorify himself. He does the works of the Father in the Father’s name. All he does reflects the nature of the Father and fulfills the Father’s will and purpose. As a result, Jesus just assumes that his sheep don’t only live in secure relationship with him, but are also in the Father’s hand. And no-one can prise open the strong hand of the Father, so Jesus’ sheep can go in and out of his sheepfold with security.
As the climax to all this teaching, these thoughts lead on to the vital statement, “I and the Father are one”. The word ‘one’ is in the neuter = ‘one thing’. Is Jesus basically thinking of his own works and miracles being really also the Father’s? All he does is the Father in action. Jesus’ wonderful doings are a manifestation of the Father. While the words “the Father and I are one” particularly relate to Jesus’ works, they would seem also to indicate a unity of nature and being. The Father and the Son together form a total oneness of relationship and essential being. In knowing Jesus, we know the Father; in worshiping Jesus, we worship the Father; in trusting and believing in Jesus, we come to the Father. Jesus is therefore the unique and perfect way to the Father.
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Life Abundant (John 10.10)

Life Abundant (John 10.10)
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Right at the heart of the passage for last week’s blog comes Jesus’ vital promise that a main purpose of Jesus’ coming is that his people might have life and have it abundantly (10.10). As we have already noted again and again, John’s Gospel frequently asserts that Jesus is in himself the resurrection and the life. He is not only the way and the truth, but also the life (14.6). Already in the Prologue John states that ‘In him was life and that life was for all humanity’ (1.4). Now John goes one step further and declares that we should possess and enjoy that life of Jesus ‘more abundantly’.


Due to our various cultural backgrounds and our own personal failure, we all fail to experience and live out the fullness of this perfect ‘abundant life’. For example, traditional British culture pushes many of us into a fundamental negativity. The weather is always too wet or too hot! Refectory food is always disgusting! The inadequacies of the church and its leadership take precedence in our thought over their good qualities. When asked how we are, the traditional answer has been at best “o.k., thanks”, if we are doing well. Happily, more modern English has moved and now we reply, “Good, thanks”. ‘Good’ is definitely more positive than just “o.k.” In the Bible ‘good’ describes the very nature of God himself – “God is good”. When God looked therefore at his creation, he pronounced that it was ‘good’. So, although people may not be aware of its significance, when we say that we are ‘good’, we are actually declaring that our lives are reflecting the abundant resurrection life of God himself!

ὁ κλέπτης οὐκ ἔρχεται εἰ μὴ ἵνα κλέψῃ καὶ θύσῃ καὶ ἀπολέσῃ· ἐγὼ ἦλθον ἵνα ζωὴν ἔχωσιν καὶ περισσὸν ἔχωσιν.

When the Father raised the dead body of Jesus to new resurrection life on earth, Jesus came into all the joys and glories of what we as human beings were originally created for. God created us in his own image. Amazingly, John’s Gospel declares that we have (present tense) this life of Christ, but of course we very much need to grow in it and we shall only attain it fully in eternity. Through faith and trust in Jesus, therefore, we are joined with Jesus and are now called to share the wonder of his perfect life. ‘Life abundant’ is very much an under-statement! How glorious to start on that life which knows no sin or blemishes! And we delight in that growing intimacy of loving relationship with Jesus and his Father. Such union with God results also in a loving fellowship between us as Christians, for we are now sisters and brothers together in God’s beautiful family. So Jesus brings us into the palace of his sheepfold and he goes before us as our guide and companion as we follow him out into the world to graze and to engage in mission. All this ‘life abundant’ is made available to us because of Jesus’ cross and resurrection. Wonderful! Hallelujah!
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“The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside the quiet waters”(Psalm 23.1/2).
Jesus announces, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full ” (John 10.10).
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