Unseen Footprints: Bible Meditations, Peter G. Feenstra, Xulon Press, 2012. Paperback, 274 pages, $16.99.
As a pastor, I frequently get asked about devotional books. To be honest, most of the time, I find it difficult to reply to these inquiries. It’s partly because I fear that devotionals are often a crutch used to replace the hard work of reading and studying the Bible for oneself. I would rather that believers engage the Bible directly for themselves. But the other difficulty is that there are so few good devotional books that can actually be recommended. This book of meditations by Rev. Peter Feenstra certainly provides a remedy to that last difficulty. This is a reliable set of reflections on Scripture.
The author is the pastor of the Canadian Reformed Church in Grand Valley, Ontario. He has also served a couple of other Canadian Reformed Churches. Rev. Feenstra is the author of several other books including a helpful little commentary on the Canons of Dort, Unspeakable Comfort.
Unseen Footprints contains 260 meditations based on various Scripture passages. At the rate of five per week, a family or individual reader could work through it in a year. In the process, the author will take you through most of the books of Bible in succession. Feenstra works closely with the Scriptures and brings biblical teaching to bear on believers as they live in today’s world. The book is replete with contemporary application. Most importantly of all, the author is careful to be Christ-centered and typically endeavours to steer readers towards the gospel. Let me give a couple of examples. This first one is from his meditation on Luke 13:23, entitled “Are You Saved?”:
God’s election to salvation is made effective through the covenant and through the church. Yet we all know that not every member in the church will be saved. We do not enter through the narrow gate in groups or because of our ancestry and family background; as members of the body of Christ we are called to a personal relationship with Jesus. We cannot be saved unless we live by faith in the Lord Jesus. He is our only hope for the future. Faith is the only means by which we are bound to Christ and receive assurance that we are saved. Faith is necessary for those who are in the church and for those who, at this point, are not gathering with Christ’s people. Are you responding to the gospel message and living by faith? (182)
The second example comes from Feenstra’s meditation on Romans 1:1, entitled “Wowed by the Gospel”:
The real, authentic and everlasting drawing card that separates true and false worship is the gospel. We need to be “wowed” and awed by the gospel. Those who are committed to the Christian faith believe a message regarding the work of Christ. The greatest desire and prayer of parents is that their children will believe the gospel of Jesus. The message we want people in the community to embrace is the gospel of Jesus, the Saviour, and that His coming into the world was necessary to grant forgiveness of our sins. (206)
Those two excerpts express well the emphases of Feenstra in this book and also illustrate his clear writing style.
Unseen Footprints has a Reformed pastor writing for Reformed believers. The meditations often connect with Reformed church life in its different aspects. For instance, the author speaks of how Reformed worship services begin with a salutation that should send shivers of joy down our spines. Elsewhere he writes about the ministry of mercy carried out by Reformed deacons. While certainly Presbyterian and other Christian readers might benefit from these devotionals, Reformed believers will appreciate having a book coming out of their world and intended for them.
As I conclude, let me come back to my first misgiving about books like this. There is no reason why a book of devotions cannot be used alongside regular Bible reading. My concern is simply that this would somehow replace regular Bible reading. But it doesn’t have to. Traditionally, books like this have been used around the dinner table by couples and families. They would be a part of daily family worship. That would be the ideal way to use it and it is, in fact, ideally suited for that. Read Unseen Footprints together, but then also still be reading and studying the Bible on your own. By doing that, you can daily benefit from your own efforts at digging into Scripture, as well as receiving some helpful teaching from a faithful Reformed minister.