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Friday, March 22, 2013

"The Way of the Wise" (Kevin Leman)

TITLE: Way of the Wise, The: Simple Truths for Living Well
AUTHOR: Kevin Leman
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 2013, (158 pages).

One popular question for people at different stages of their lives is to ask: "What is life all about?" That is usually about purpose. Other times, they will be asking about why they are doing certain things in life. That is a question about meaning. Still other times, they will ponder about where it all leads to, which is a question about destiny or a goal in life. Purpose helps us focus our lives. Meaning helps us understand the significance of our lives. Destiny enables us to establish hope for the future. How do all of these come into play in our present moments? This is what this book tries to do: To provide us some simple truths for living well, while on this earth. How many "simple truths?" Ten. All ten can be gleaned from Proverbs 3:1-6.

Leman shares about tumultuous early years in school that leaves him feel more like a drop-out or the odd one out of the school systems. At that time, he feels like he is of no use to God. It takes many years of trying to connect the promises of God and also to make sense of his own struggles. He summarizes them in ten principles to help readers learn from his experience so that they too can live well.

Focusing on specific words of a biblical verse, Leman tells his personal story. He begins with teachability,  where he uses the word "teaching" in Proverbs 3:1 to share about his own teachable moments, and his journey to becoming a teacher later on in life. He offers thoughts about how to connect our head knowledge with our heart through the keeping of God's Word in our hearts. He talks about stress and how we respond that make or break us, and how positive response, especially in God, can prolong our years. Prosperity comes not through cost-cutting or living life on the cheap, but is about a God who is lavish with us, and teaches us to be lavish with our love. In relationships, love and faithfulness is a big part of living well, and we are all called to let the uniqueness of our lives to be loving and to be faithful to let our trust in God become living actions of sharing love with all. Winning favour and a good name also adds mileage to living a good and meaningful life. Reputation, good influence, authenticity, and to be a person of character is critical to living well. Trust is also a necessary component, for it overcomes fear, helps us be bold, and to put control in the hands of God, as fully as possible. We live for God not on the basis of self understanding but submission to God's will. God is to be acknowledged in all we do. At the end of it all, we will learn that God will, has been, and is making our paths straight, as we let him do his wonderful work.

Leman whizzes in and out of his personal experiences as he reflects on the famous passage of Proverbs 3:1-6. Sometimes, it looks like a series of sermons on the biblical passage. Other times, it looks like a modern prescription for how to live well. The parts I appreciate more are his insights on the psychological makeup of people, like the chapter on stress management and motivational tips on thinking well. It is very light theologically, and the book provides light reading for people on a rush. Sometimes, I wonder whether we ought to make Proverbs 3:1-6 so prescriptive, like a set of do's and don'ts or a how-to manual. Building trust spiritually goes beyond simply being a determinant set of rules. After breaking them down into ten discrete "pills" of living well, I feel like the conclusion appears hurriedly put together. The synthesis at the end of the book needs more work. That said, if readers are keen to learn how one person reflects his own life through the mirror of Proverbs 3:1-6, they will find this book encouraging.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


This book has been provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications and Baker Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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