Live Smart: Preparing For The Future God Wants for You, by Dan Dumas
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.]
I must admit that I do not remember asking for this book, nor had I heard anything about its author beforehand, but this book was a very pleasant surprise and a book to warmly recommend and apply. With a mixture of self-effacing wit, confidence, and scriptural backing, the author has written a guide to practical Christianity for fairly young Christians with an eye towards encouraging them to be leaders in faith, service, friendship, and evangelism. Containing a blend of humorous personal anecdotes and a restrained but confessional honesty about his own personal background along with quotes from other Christian leaders (besides a goodly amount of biblical quotations and citations), this is a book that is written to be read, at less than 140 pages not including its endnotes, and applied. This book is the sort of book that would make for an excellent graduation gift for a young Christian leaving high school or college and looking for practical guidance on how to live life such that one can be useful for God’s purposes, and this is a book that delivers the goods with blunt honesty but also a great deal of warm empathy as well.
In terms of its structure and contents, the book is well-organized to make its points plain. Opening with a forward and an introduction about a bear, a lion, and the reader, the book immediately sets up a combination of personal and biblical stories. The book is divided into four parts and fourteen chapters. The first part, “You + God,” examines such subjects as the fear of God, prayer and Bible study, and loving the Church. The second part, “You + Others,” contains chapters on submission to authority, serving others, seeking mentors, and choosing friends wisely. The third part, “You + Yourself,” encourages readers to take more risks, work hard, make improving character of pivotal importance, fleeing sexual immorality, and embracing correction. The fourth and final part, “You + The Gospel,” encourages readers to know the Gospel and also to speak, defend, and spread it, before concluding with a note of encouragement for the reader to be willing to follow God into the deep, and be focused on continual improvement.
Although there is a great deal about this book that will likely strike many readers are very familiar, the book succeeds in multiple ways. For one, the book is written with a focus on instructing its readers, including on matters such as imputation . For another, the book is written with such a great deal of humor that the writer is able to overcome a great deal of latent cynicism on the part of readers so long as they are remotely receptive to his work. For example, when speaking about himself as a young man, he has this to say about respecting authority: “On December 26, 1984, I stepped off a bus and realized I was not as smart as I thought. That day was my first day of boot camp with the US Navy. It was still dark when I arrived, but I could see enough to know I was in a heap of trouble. See, I went into the military because I wanted to get away from my parents. I didn’t like having them tell me what to do. Well, guess what happens when you go to boot camp? They told us when to sleep, when to eat, how long to eat, how to dress, where to stand, how to make our bed, how to shine our shoes, and everything else. This may surprise you, but they didn’t use soft voices and kind words when they told us to do those things. Here I was, running away from authority structures, only to find myself in the most structured environment on the planet. Genius. (49)” Whether one is looking for a practical guide on how to live righteously and further the interests of God on this earth, or whether one believes that someone else may benefit from such shrewd and well-spoken advice, this is a worthwhile book to read, and one I would happily loan to any young person of my own acquaintance who wanted sound advice told with a gentle sense of humor, and that made its point quickly and without any unnecessary padding.
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