Richard Foster has for many years helped build up the lives of Christians with his work, especially, on the spiritual disciplines. I’ve been reading The Spiritual Formation Bible and enjoying it. “A Year With God” is another in a series of books by Foster related to the spiritual disciplines. While Foster’s “Celebration of Discipline” helped start the current revival of the spiritual disciplines by describing each of them, “A Year with God” takes the disciplines and matches them up with Scripture passages and devotions. There are a total of 365, or one for each day of the year.
Foster has organized the 365 one-page devotionals around the 17 spiritual disciplines: prayer, study, confession, worship, service, secrecy, guidance, meditation, solitude, fellowship, fasting, chastity, submission, sacrifice, simplicity, and celebration. This is a very profitable way to present the devotionals, and it helps to reinforce a life of spiritual discipline for those who are seeking spiritual formation in this manner. I also like the fact that, unlike some other devotionals, the Scripture passage is often more than just one isolated verse.
However, there are a few important ways in which this devotional book falls short of what it should have been. First, I should mention that it is most useful to those already familiar with Foster’s 17 spiritual disciplines, and less useful for those who are not. More importantly, the Scripture passage at the beginning of each devotional is often only loosely related to the devotional that follows. Because of this, and the fact that Scripture is not read continuously or in the larger context, the important aspect of having meditated deeply on Scripture is not fostered as much as it should have been. Also, the devotionals are often too short to provide adequate, deep reflection on the Scripture at hand. The Bible is therefore presented not as the basis and center of the spiritual disciplines but only as a prooftext or springboard for discussing them.
It seems almost as if Foster has written one more work related to his favorite topic of spiritual disciplines that is based more on the needs of the market (short, daily devotionals that don’t reflect deeply on Scripture as a whole) and the need to extend his franchise than to actually promote the very disciplines he writes so passionately about.
I know this devotional will be of great benefit to many, and it is better than many others out there. But it could and should have been much more.
Category: Book Reviews