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Book Review

Getting to Grips with God’s Word by David J Newell; published by and available from John Ritchie Ltd; 79pp. Price £4.99. (9781907731235)

The twelve chapters that comprise Getting to Grips with God’s Word, were originally published in The Believer’s Magazine during 2008/09. The Publishers are to be congratulated for issuing this 79-page book at this time, when the value of the original articles is still fresh in readers’ minds. This more permanent format should ensure that future generations will benefit from the author’s guidance to young (and not-so-young) Christians. The value of the twelve chapters to others is enhanced by their having been penned first to provide the guidance in writing to a young friend. That the guidance extended to twelve episodes commends both sides of the correspondence.

Throughout the twelve chapters the author’s deep love of Scripture is evident. He cites passages like Psalm 119 with considerable relish, leaving the reader in little doubt as to his appreciation of the value of Scripture. This appreciation is not exclusively of the New Testament. He commends, indeed insists upon, the Old Testament as part of the Christian’s diet: "Believers who do not study the Old Testament …run the risk of spiritual malnutrition." Consequently, we find Newell’s overview of the Bible takes in both Testaments.

One valuable feature of Getting to Grips with God’s Word is the chapter entitled "Recognising the Genre". Most guides to Bible study seem unaware of the difficulties that may arise in the mind of someone beginning to read the Bible earnestly for the first time. Distinguishing narrative, poetry and doctrine is essential to an understanding of the text, not only to avoid misinterpreting a verse like Job 41.8! Particularly in studying the poetic passages of Scripture, the "new" reader does need some help. Not surprisingly the helpful chapter "Studying Bible Poetry" is the most demanding in Getting to Grips with God’s Word.

There is also much practical guidance in Getting to Grips with God’s Word. The author insists on a disciplined approach to Bible study and the outworking of what the student learns. Readers of all ages would benefit from such advice.


You Shall Go Out With Joy by Robert Muir; published by and available from John Ritchie Ltd; 135 pages. Price £6.99. (9781907731112)

The Publishers describe this book as "a graphic first-hand account of some of the joys and sorrows, the tasks and toils of missionary work in south east Congo and north-east Zambia". Older readers will have met those who could recall the esteemed Dan Crawford’s long connection with Luanza in Zambia from 1898. They may have read his book Thinking Black. Parents and teachers who are familiar with Mairi Hedderwick’s Katie Morag series and her other writings for children will enjoy the chapter on "Links with Dan Crawford". Hedderwick, Crawford’s granddaughter, had never met the great man who served the Lord in Africa. She "had always been told he was a big ogre … too busy saving the people of Africa to care for his own child, the boy who became her father".

Robert Muir’s account of the range of issues normally encountered in an African country provides an insight into "some of the joys and sorrows, the tasks and toils" to be expected. We meet a number of fascinating individuals as well as their problems. But the period covered in You Shall Go Out With Joy was undoubtedly eventful in Zambia’s recent history. The Congo civil war made refugees of the Muirs and others, and brought thousands of needy refugees to Zambia. The author’s report is understated but leaves a deep impression that the Zambian saints and the missionaries among them did rise to the considerable challenges the Congo crisis presented.

An additional feature of the period is the expansion of both medical and educational provision (including special needs provision despite a measure of opposition in the command structure of the district) in north-east Zambia in which the Muirs and Brass Tacks played important roles. The contribution to the development of the community is obvious, but undoubtedly the testimony of Christ would be enhanced by the good works of the Lord’s servants.

From a number of standpoints this is a book that will interest many and provide a record of what the Lord has done in Africa.



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