Recently, I’ve been killing it with eBooks. Like I commented on Twitter, I’m usually feast or famine. If I’m reading 1 eBook (using the Kindle app on my iPad) then I’m probably reading a dozen.

I had the idea that instead of reviewing the books as I finish them (since I usually only review print books), I’d post my highlights from the book and a short summary.

First up for this little experiment is David K. Naugle’s Philosophy: A Student’s Guide (also on Kindle). It’s a fairly short introduction to the landscape of philosophy (which is what the books in the Reclaiming The Christian Intellectual Tradition are supposed to be), and I found it a good review of the subject. I wasn’t totally blown away, but I did read the bulk of it in a day (which it means it kept my interest over a Labor Day weekend).

Anyway, as I was reading, here’s some of the quotes that caught my eye. I apologize that they tend to be out of context, but I’m just trying to give a preview to pique your interest.

Prolegomena is derived from the neuter present passive participial form of the Greek verb prolegein, which means “to speak beforehand or predict.” A prolegomena, or a word spoken beforehand, is a preliminary exercise to any subject matter or discussion. Its purpose is to spell out the fundamental assumptions, methods, principles, and relationships that guide any specific inquiry, especially academic ones. (Loc. 256)

If we are creatures living naturally in a God-given, faith-based mode, this means at least two things. First, we cannot divide the world between believers and nonbelievers since all people have faith and everyone believes. To be sure, objects of faith differ, and we can still divide the human race between those who possess saving faith and those who do not. Saving faith itself, however, is best understood as a graciously redirected function of the faith-based nature we all possess.(Loc. 297)

Second, in light of this we cannot say that religious philosophers have faith and nonreligious philosophers do not. Or that the former are biased because of faith and the latter are unbiased.(Loc. 301)

Various and sundry controlling stories and control beliefs quietly guide the thoughts and lives of philosophers, even if the philosophers themselves claim to bracket their prejudices when doing philosophy.(Loc. 307)

Regardless of the name, Christian philosophers ought to be Christ followers, and Christian faith ought to be the primary source of Christian philosophers’ philosophy in metaphysics, anthropology, epistemology, ethics, aesthetics, and other subdisciplines.(Loc. 322)

The next basic principle of a Christian prolegomena is that grace restores nature (GRN). GRN is established on the inherent connections and theological unity that exists between cosmology (nature) and soteriology (grace) in the biblical story. The doctrines of creation and redemption are deeply connected(Loc. 335)

This has tremendous philosophical implications, for if grace restores nature, or salvation renews culture, and philosophy is part of culture or nature, then salvation and grace restores philosophy. In other words, Christ restores philosophy. Saving faith enables Christian philosophers to seek philosophical understanding in him.(Loc. 346)

A third feature of a Christian philosophical prolegomena is the distinction between structure and direction and the associated notion of antithesis.(Loc. 349)

A fourth feature of this Christian prolegomena is common grace. By it, God shows nonsaving favor to all by bestowing natural gifts such as rain, sunshine, and food, on all creatures, by preserving creation and restraining sin in human affairs, and by giving diverse gifts and capacities to all people who are able to make distinctive contributions to the common good.(Loc. 363)

Common grace is an antidote to taking the wrong direction at the antithetical fork in the road. Even if people go astray and misuse God’s good things, common grace means that these very same people, regardless of their spiritual state, do things well and make remarkable contributions to life and the world.(Loc. 367)

Fifth and finally, Christian scholarship is primarily Hebraic rather than Hellenic or something else. (Loc. 379)

Hence, we have a biblically established prolegomena for Christian philosophy if we prioritize the dispositions of the Hebrew mind over those of the Greeks, if we retain the idea of common grace, if we recall that grace restores nature, if we recognize the difference between the good creational structure and its possible antithetical directions, if we remember the ontological distinction between the creator and the creation, if we base Christian philosophy on canonical Trinitarian theism, and if we remember that faith is a universal structural component of human nature. In any case, Christian philosophy is theological in character, “under the constant restraint of the Biblical presentation of the faith.” Christian philosophers will need pluck to be countercultural. This prolegomena often stands in critical, corrective, and creative contrast to today’s approaches.(Loc. 404)

If God did use the medium of his deeds and words in history to make himself known, then to reason abstractly about him could rightly be called “faithless rebellion.” This is a significant charge and some in the Christian philosophical community may need to think through this.(Loc. 553)

Though God revealed himself in particular ways in Israel and through Jesus and his church, his words and deeds have universal implications in light of the comprehensive character of the biblical story—the grand narrative of canonical Trinitarian theism.(Loc. 559)

Is not the explanation for the singularity and plurality of reality to be found in the Trinitarian God? In God himself, there is a unified diversity, or a diversified unity—a threeness and a oneness, a oneness and a threeness—and the whole world of many parts (its many-ness) finds its coherence in the one God, the creator and redeemer of heaven and earth. God is thus the reference point for all reality. He is the interpretive key who provides the meaning for all things. He ties it all together in himself.(Loc. 703)

If human beings as God’s image are embodied, communal, narratively based creatures of love, affection, and desire, then what implications might this sort of human identity have on both movie making and movie viewing? In other words, a holistic view of human persons as God’s image has holistic consequences when it comes to movies.(Loc. 1724)

First, we shouldn’t try to justify fallen artistic expressions or aesthetic participation on the basis of God’s good creation. At the same time we should not reject artistic expressions or participation outright because of the world. We need deep spiritual insight on what to accept on the basis of common grace and what to reject in light of the antithesis. Second, we should commit, as Paul instructs in Romans 14:13, never to “pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.” In the end, no work of art is more important than the Christian life, and we need to support each other in weaving together a fabric of Christian faithfulness.(Loc. 1759)

Plato was concerned that if young philosophers are exposed to “dialectic” or “arguments,” they might misuse their newly acquired philosophical powers to argue with others and refute them purely for argument’s sake. For Plato, the problem wasn’t lodged in philosophical knowledge or skills per se, but in their use merely to win arguments.(Loc. 1858)

Hopefully that gives you a good snapshot, I thought this was a helpful introduction. If you’re interested in philosophy, this could be a good starting point. There are maybe better ones out there, but I really appreciated Naugle’s insistence on grounding philosophy in biblical revelation and categories. When you do that, it really makes it a love of Wisdom.

As a side note, let me know if you’d like me to do this sort of thing as I finish up eBooks I’m reading. I can’t promise this many quotes all the time, but I can offer what I highlighted and some summary comments. If that sounds good, let me know and I’ll keep doing this!


Not too long ago, but in various times and various ways, I lamented that there was no Old Testament counterpart to Zondervan’s Exegetical Commentary on the NT. There are good commentaries from a technical point of view and good commentaries for application, but there wasn’t really anything on par with the ZECNT series. That is, until now.

Looks like the first two installments of the Hearing The Message of Scripture commentary series come out in January. It’s edited by Daniel Block, and he is writing the volume on Obadiah (yes, Obadiah gets his own volume). The other volume (pictured above) is by Kevin Youngblood on Jonah.

From the Amazon description (and also in the fall Zondervan Academic catalog), here’s what readers will have in store:

The Hearing the Message of Scripture series serves pastors and teachers by providing them with a careful analysis and interpretation of the biblical text, rooted in a study of the Hebrew text of the Old Testament and intended to track the flow of the argument in each book and passage. In our effort to serve pastors and teachers in their study of the text of the Old Testament for ministry, Zondervan has developed a set of distinctive features for this series.

A Graphical Display of the Text of Each Passage This visual ‘thought flow’ of the passage will enable the reader to grasp quickly and accurately the main idea of the text, its development, and supporting ideas. For readability, the graphical display will be done in the commentator’s own English translation of the passage. A few paragraphs of discussion following this display will seek to enable the reader to understand how the commentator arrived at this depiction and interpretation of the passage.

Identification and Discussion of the Main Idea of Each Passage Special emphasis will be placed on identifying and discussing the main thrust of each passage and showing how it contributes to the development of the whole composition.The main idea will be illustrated in the graphical display, discussed in the introduction to the passage, and reflected upon in the Theological and Canonical Significance section of the commentary.

Help in Drawing Out the Meaning of the Hebrew for Interpretation The goal of this exegetical commentary series will be to draw on Hebrew grammar in the service of meaning. Hebrew will not be discussed for the sake of better understanding Hebrew alone. Whenever a Hebrew construction affects the interpretation of the text, this feature will be discussed and explained.

Theological and Canonical Significance This portion of the commentary will focus on providing a theological and applicational discussion of the main thrust of the passage. This section will build the theological discussion on the exegesis of the text by synthesizing the theology of the passage and elaborating on it.

Sounds pretty sweet right? When I was taking Hebrew at Dallas, my prof for the first two semesters, Brian Webster, mentioned working on a Psalms commentary, and now I can see that it was for this series. Also, it’ll be 4 volumes on the Psalms, and judging from what he taught us in class, it’ll be one to add to your library.

There’s some other great volumes too, so be sure and click thru the link above to the fall catalog and see for yourself (plus there’s an embedded video). Also, as a sidenote, it looks like the Word Biblical Commentaries are going to be published by Zondervan now and some of those volumes will be revised (and a 2 volume Acts and 1 Corinthians installments will be published).



Brian Vickers is Associate Professor of New Testament Interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. While Justification by Grace through Faith: Finding Freedom from Legalism, Lawlessness, Pride, and Despair is not technically a sequel to Jesus’ Blood and Righteousness: Paul’s Theology of Imputation, it does cover some overlap material. As Vickers differentiates:

That book deals specifically with the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, and this book focuses more generally on justification, but it was inevitable that many of the biblical texts studied in that book (e.g. Rom. 4:1-8; 5:12-21; 2 Cor. 5:17-21; Phil. 3:8-10) would appear here too. When those texts come up in the course of this book, I often refer readers to specific sections in Jesus’ Blood. I realize that doing so suns the risk of giving the impression it is necessary to read that book first, but that is certainly not the case. I tried to keep such references to a minimum, and they are meant only to point readers to the more detailed and technical exegesis that lies behind many of the conclusions and assertions found here. (9n4)

As far as how this book related to contemporary debates about justification (a hot topic in recent years to say the least), Vickers does not “devote either chapters or major sections to direct engagement in the contemporary debates,” but “many of the emphases found here are clearly influenced from the context and climate in which they are written, and the debates are undoubtedly beneath the surface of this book in several places.” (8) If you’re familiar then with the conversation that has been happening regarding justification and specifically the New Perspective on Paul (Wright, et al.) then you’ll likely here “echoes,” but that is not the focal point in Vickers exposition. What is the focal point is tracing the “basic contours of justification in the Bible from Adam to Abraham, through Israel, and into the New Testament.” (4) Hence, it is a biblical theology of justification. Rather than drawing a strictly straight line through the Bible, Vickers adopts a cyclical approach. Explaining how this works he says,

For instance, the chapter on Adam is followed by a chapter on Christ as the second Adam. In this way, the events in the garden, particularly Adam’s disobedience, are followed directly by a study of Christ, with particular focus on hsi obedience. So the primary covenantal heads, one the head of the human race and the other the head of the new covenant, are considered side by side without recounting the entire Old Testament history that lies between them. (4-5)

This format continues on with a chapter on Abraham in the Old Testament (chapter 3) and Paul’s interpretation of Abraham in the New (chapter 4); the establishment of the Mosaic covenant in the Old (chapter 5) and a chapter on God’s righteousness available through Christ by faith (chapter 6). The final two chapters looks at the life of the justified, first from the perspective of how our faith “works” (chapter 7) and then from the perspective of how freedom is our justification applied (chapter 8). Along with the expected conclusion, Vickers also offers study/reflection questions, a list of resources related to justification, and then an additional list of resources for further study. And all this in just over 200 pages.

As far as the tone and feel of the book, this series (Explorations in Biblical Theology) is similar to New Studies in Biblical Theology. While both are series dedicated to offering evangelical (and broadly Reformed) studies in biblical theology, this series (if this book is any indication) seems more accessible to the average interested lay person. Since the occasional volume in the NSBT is a reworked dissertation and other volumes can be a big taxing in their exegetical thoroughness, they do not make for light reading. Profitable reading yes, but light reading, hardly. Though I did read some of Justification by Grace through Faith at the beach (something I would never attempt with a NSBT volume), it is not light so much as it is more clear and concise and a bit easier to follow. While not lacking exegetical detail, it is not as detailed, but it is still rich in biblical wisdom and theological ruminations.

For Vickers’ book, it would make a great companion reading for engaging N. T. Wright. Though as he said he is not writing polemically, he draw different conclusions in his exegetical journeys through Romans and is doing so aware of arguments made by authors like Wright. As Tom Schreiner is quoted as saying on the front cover, “This is the first book I would give to a scholar or a layperson desiring to learn more about justification.” I’m inclined to agree regarding the layperson and I’ll take his word for it on the scholar part (not sure I could think of a better starting point, I’m just not sure if this is what I’d give an asking scholar). It has the added benefit of also serving as a kind of intro to covenant theology, in the lower case sense. Maybe a “theology of covenants” is better since Vickers, being at SBTS, is probably a New Covenant guy (at least many of his colleagues are). 1 In any case, his choice to arrange the topic of justification by alternating between old covenant heads (Adam, Abraham, Moses) and our single new covenant superior head (Jesus) makes the topic much easier to follow and being to digest. That’s probably why (in addition to Vickers’ clarity of writing) this is good starting point for exploring the subject (which obviously helps it fit well into the series it is a part of).


So, if you’re enjoy a good book on biblical theology in general, and/or are interested in justification in particular, I’d recommend giving this book a try. It is definitely a starting point in your study, but not necessarily a final word. The lists at the end of the book imply as much. But as far as starting points go, this is a good one. Vickers is attentive to the flow of redemptive history and the implications of Christ’s person and work. He situates the doctrine of justification into that larger picture and truly does deliver on the subtitle of the book. If that sounds like something you’d be into, then go ahead and add this book to your list.

Book Details

Purchase Info

Buy through Amazon to support Marturo!


  1. If nothing else, he is not a paedobaptist, which per a conversation I had with Burk Parsons, means you cannot truly hold to covenant theology. If you deny the practical implications of covenant theology when it comes to the sacrament of baptism, you don’t truly hold to the theological system underlying and leading to those implications.

Why Mondays Are The Best

September 2, 2013 — Leave a comment

A couple of months back, two things occurred to me. 1) I’ve lived in Florida for over 2 years now and 2) I hardly ever go to the beach even though its only an hour to Daytona.

With the prospect of God providing full time work in a state that might be aesthetically challenged, I thought it would be shame to live that close to the ocean and not take it in on a regular basis.

Technically there were three things 1that occurred to me: 3) I’m not doing a good job of guarding my Sabbath refresh time.

These three things conspired together to form a single plan: every Monday I make the drive up to Daytona 2 and just veg out for a day (and hopefully not get too sunburned).

I’ve been doing this for almost a couple of months now (well, consistently for the past month) and it has been both relaxing and refreshing. It’s a legitimate all-day commitment so if anyone tries to encroach on the time I can say I have a previous commitment. I need this on a weekly basis to stay sane and to keep stress at bay. Its both good for my body and soul 3 and I think good for my external relationships as well.

Even now, I’m typing this from the porch of a Holiday Inn overlooking a pool overlooking the ocean. The weather is perfect and we’re here with Ali’s family and family friends. 4 It’s been a perfectly relaxing Labor Day weekend.

I think this is an example of Sabbath rest at its finest. I mean, everything in my external life is not exactly how I would want it (see previous post Running Without A Title). I have an awful lot on my plate right now, and though my wife and I would like to start having kids, we need her income right now and she doesn’t want to work after having kids. But today, and this weekend, that’s not what we’re focused on.

This illustrates perhaps the hardest part of my weekly getaways. I speak of course of guarding my thoughts so concerns don’t creep in and start their own “Occupy Nate’s Mind” movement. Reading helps with that, but sometimes reading exacerbates it. If I’m reading books on ministry, it’s good for reflecting and checking my heart, but it also turns my thoughts towards my frustrations with my current local church 5 and with my lack of a full time job. So clearly there is a need for balance since I need the day off to recalibrate, but I also want to be refreshed by my reading and not unduly introspected by it.

Overall, I think I do a good job with this. Reading fiction on Mondays helps, as does reading for fun more than for review or for school (see my upcoming post on how I organize my reading). I also tend to follow my own advice for how to have a better day off. The whole process helps me to reset and to re-think. It’s a time of mostly silence (except for what’s jamming in my headphones) and solitude, and that’s just plain good for my soul on a regular basis.

In the end, things swimming under the surface tend to emerge on my weekly trip to the beach. 6 It gives me an opportunity to process them, but then turn them over to God and not be overly preoccupied with them. This weekend, while longer, has been just like the other trips. A time to relax, to enjoy some college football and reading by a hotel pool. A time to get some sun and eat carbs before going paleo tomorrow, to spend time with Ali and think about the upcoming fall and plan and enjoy a long date.

And that is why Mondays are the best, and for me at least, it’s kind of been that way almost 10 years. But to explain why that is, I’ll need another post, so until next Monday…


  1. “There’s always three things.” – John Frame
  2. Technically Ormond which is the next beach to the north and has a superb public park with beach access, free parking, and exquisitely clean restrooms (and fewer tourists)
  3. Technically “spirit” but I like the literary associations of body + soul
  4. Although clearly the fact that I’m writing this means they are all sitting at a group table talking amongst themselves and I am at a separate table being all introverted as is my custom.
  5. I’ll post more on this at another time. I think most of the frustrations are on my end, and its just something I’ll have to deal with.
  6. Which when not-metaphorical, is my fear every time I get into the ocean


Over the next several weeks, I’m going to be posting occasional thoughts on the art of reading and reviewing. Lately, I’ve been using the Drafts app on my iPhone to capture short ideas that I have for blog posts. As I’m looking through them, I see that many cluster around how I approach reading and reviewing books (something we both know I do a lot of). I’ve been toying with the idea of putting together and eBook, but I want to test the waters and if I can, get some feedback from you the readers as to whether it’s something I should seriously pursue.

Part of me thinks it is, since a) there is really not a eBook I know of written by a semi-prominent blogger (not that I fit that description) on how to read and review well and b) it’s something I think I’m good at, have a reputation for, and am currently using a platform to spread my ideas on the subject. I’m no expert, but I did go from casually blogging to aggressively blogging and from no book reviews to weekly book reviews on free books I’ve gotten from a variety of big name Christian publishers. I imagine other bloggers might like to do the same, but there’s not really a go-to resource on the topic.

I’d like to provide that source.

As a way of kind of limbering up for such an endeavor, I’m going to start blogging through the various thoughts I have about reading in general, and reading for reviewing purposes in particular. The posts won’t follow a logical progression, but it’s just a way for me to get my thoughts out in the open and start organizing them. I’m also going to streamline my archives and gradually bring it up to date over the next several months so that back reviews are more accessible.

That makes this the introduction of a new series, so here’s a preview of ideas I’ve had for upcoming posts, as well as the few posts I’ve made that already kind of fit into the series:

I’m also open to reader suggestions for things you’d like me to write about on these kinds of topics. What would be helpful? What do you want to know but just haven’t asked yet? Do you think there’s interest in a full-blown (albeit short) eBook on the topic?

Jesus On Every Page

August 27, 2013 — 3 Comments


David Murray was a pastor in Scotland for a dozen years before crossing “the pond” in 2007 to take up his present position as Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary (246). He is also one of my favorite bloggers and blogs regularly at headhearthand.org (and has a Tumblr as well). He has written other books, 1 but Jesus On Every Page: 10 Simple Ways to Seek and Find Christ in The Old Testament is the first one I’ve read and I’ll just start by saying I’d highly recommend it (it’s one of those elusive 5-star books).

First off, it is very conversational, the first 6 chapters detailing Murrary’s own journey toward seeing Christ more clearly in the Old Testament. There first two of these chapters kind of set the stage and address the problem (Christian neglect of OT, you know how it is). Then, the following four chapters move from Jesus, to Peter, to Paul, to John, to show the kind of emphasis each placed on the OT in their NT writings (or quoted sayings in Jesus’ case). With the case clearly made that Jesus and our beloved NT authors think the OT is both important for Christians and revelatory of Jesus’ person and work, Murray then presents his 10 ways of seeking and finding Christ in the OT.

With an alliteration scheme that feels surprisingly unforced, Murray walks us through the following focal points in our Old Testament reading:

  • Christ’s Planet: Discovering Jesus in the creation
  • Christ’s People: Discovering Jesus in the Old Testament characters
  • Christ’s Presence: Discovering Jesus in His Old Testament appearances
  • Christ’s Precepts: Discovering Jesus in the Old Testament law
  • Christ’s Past: Discovering Jesus in Old Testament history
  • Christ’s Prophets: Discovering Jesus in Old Testament prophets
  • Christ’s Pictures: Discovering Jesus in the Old Testament types
  • Christ’s Promises: Discovering Jesus in the Old Testament covenants
  • Christ’s Proverbs: Discovering Jesus in the Old Testament proverbs
  • Christ’s Poets: Discovering Jesus in the Old Testament poems

Within each chapter, Murray unpacks how to best discover Christ in that particular aspect of the Old Testament. He does so with the skill of a homiletitian 2 in his element. He originally wrote a more academic book (223), but thanks to Nancy Guthrie, it became the more accessible and popular level treatment that it now is.

For many readers, this book will not only be an entry-point into seeing Christ in the Old Testament, but will be a crash course in Old Testament theology and structure as well. He covers a lot of ground and touches on a lot of issue in interpreting the Old Testament. Readers who want to dig further have only to consult the endnotes to continue their journey. I was not entirely convinced we should identify the angel of the Lord in the OT with Christ, but Murray makes a compelling case that is leading me to revisit the question as I teach through the Old Testament with my 9th grade Bible class and our college Bible study.


All in all, this is an excellent book and it covers an important subject well. Because of that, I’m excited to be able to offer it as a giveaway. If you’re in RSS, you’ll probably need to click thru to see the giveaway widget. I encourage you to enter the giveaway, but I’d really encourage you to go about and buy the book before the end of the month since you’ll be able to get over $100 worth of free resources. That makes it well worth investment, especially since this is the kind of book you should buy and read anyway even if there weren’t additional free stuff involved. I think you’ll find that it helps you be a better Christian reader of the Old Testament and that’s something all of us could benefit from.


Book Details

Purchase Info

Buy through Amazon to support Marturo!


  1. Christians Get Depressed Too (which my wife said was very helpful) and How Sermons Work
  2. I’m not actually sure if this is a word, but Murray alliterates in a way that helps you remember his points and headings, but not in a way that is abrasive. He teaches preaching and Old Testament, and in this book those two disciplines leave and cleave and operate as one flesh throughout

Running Without A Title

August 26, 2013 — 4 Comments

You may have noticed (if you click through RSS) that there is no header anymore on the blog. Technically, that means the blog has no particular title, which given the history of my blogging makes it another phase in my search for a title. For now at least, I’ve decide to run without a title, which is kind of the story of my life for the past couple of years, at least when it comes to my relationship with the local church.

I’m pulling the phrase “running without a title” from a conversation I had with our pastor back in Dec/Jan. He had just greenlighted having a doctrine class on Sunday nights which would basically be the extent of Christian education in our church. I also still had fleeting hopes of being able to secure a staff position since our church was clearly understaffed (and still is) and I had been faithfully serving in many and various capacities since day one (which was early June 2011) and had come straight from finishing seminary training.

Those hopes would quickly be dashed, though if I were going off body language, I should have never had hopes in the first place. The ins and outs of that is probably another post entirely, and maybe one I’ll write one day. The result of the particular conversation in question was that I would be continuing to “run without a title” for a season, meaning I would be doing more than the average lay leader in the church, but with no staff association or particular recognition. The individual activities weren’t necessarily staff caliber, but when you’re teaching the only doctrine class, leading a small group, playing every other week in the worship band, and discipling a half dozen young leaders, you’re pulling at least a part-time staff workload.

I realized in the midst of it all that it was too much for a person to be doing who was looking for full-time work elsewhere (as a result of those aforementioned dashed hopes). Also, it was a disservice to my wife since none of it was helping to provide and was actually interfering with my ability to do other things that would help provide. That led to some much needed changes, but I’m still in a season of life where I’m running without a title, regardless of what exactly I do at church.

If you notice in the sidebar, I call myself a disciple, teacher, musician, and thinker. I’d love to add pastor, and really think it is a fair label since I shepherd and pastor. But at the same time, I’m not recognized as a pastor by my own church so it seems unfair to claim the label (even if I have the degree for it). I am actively looking for full-time pastoral work (and you are welcome to download my resume if you like), but in the meantime, I’m laboring titleless in the ministry. It’s awkward and I don’t like it, but that’s where God has me. There’s a lesson in here somewhere, and if nothing else, it’s great for deconstructing your pride.

And maybe, just maybe, that’s exactly what I need right now.

Back In Business

August 24, 2013 — 1 Comment

You may or may not have noticed earlier today, but the website was temporarily down.

I’m pretty sure I warned you it would happen at some point, and sure enough it did.

But now, things are mostly back to normal. I was able to import all of my posts and pages, though there was some difficulty with the media I had uploaded (still trying to figure that out). All of my visual settings and back-end widgets needed to be reconfigured, and so I’ve been doing some of that this afternoon. Poke around a bit and let me know what you think I missed. I mean, I know what I missed for the most part, but much of it is things I am debating the value of in the meantime.

I think since most people read this blog in RSS you don’t necessarily poke around the site itself unless you’re going to comment. If you wouldn’t mind though, give a quick lookover and tell if you noticed anything amiss. The only major thing I think I’m missing is the pictures that go in pretty much all but the last post.

Other than that, I should be up and running now and hopefully will not be seeing the “No Data Received” page for a good while, maybe even ever. Posting should be back on track and I even have a giveaway for Tuesday for David Murray’s Jesus on Every Page (which is a 5-star book if I do say so myself).

Until then…I’ll keep trying to be productive and not watch too many episodes of Breaking Bad.



For the past several weeks, I’ve been getting this screen, more often than not, when I try to make updates from the WordPress Admin panel. I realize some of you all might have gotten this screen when you try to access other secure sites, but I found out, after a call to GoDaddy, that it is an issue with how WordPress interacts with GoDaddy’s servers (or something along those lines).

If this were the first issue I’ve had with my webhosting, it might be forgivable. But, alas, many occasions last year my site would go down at inopportune times (is there an opportune time?) and it also loads rather slowly in general.

That being the case, I’ve decided to switch to BlueHost and initiated the domain transfer yesterday. It could take up to a week, and it also might take me an afternoon to transfer content once the domain has made the switch. Because of that, I’m going to take a blogging break this week since a) it’s been a total pain trying to update a post to begin with and b) I might get something posted only to have the site go down once the domain transfer happens and not be able to transfer content immediately. So if you get a blank blog, that’s what’s happening. Hopefully by this time next week, it will be all smoothed out and I can close this chapter in my blogging history.

And also hopefully this will just one more step toward making this blog better and more user-friendly. If my phone calls with BlueHost so far are any indication, I think we’re on the right track!


Earlier in the week, I thought now would be a good time to explain why I don’t rate more books 5-stars. I mean read a lot. And because I track my reading with Goodreads, 1 almost every book I complete gets a 1-5 star rating.

Then, just earlier today, I found out that a publisher I work with was only going to offer books through NetGalley from now on, and so I was going to rant about how awful and useless NetGalley is for actually reviewing books. But when I declined to review any further books from this publisher, I was offered an ePub when available. That’s actually do-able for reviews (though definitely not preferable in my book) and so my rage against NetGalley subsided briefly. 2

So, back to my original post idea, which I think you’ll find helpful.

You may or may not have wondered why I often will give a book 4 stars that everyone else seems to be giving 5 stars. Recently, I was having a conversation over Chipotle with a friend of mine, and we concluded a 10-star rating system would actually be better. Many times, a book that I give 4-stars to would really be a 9 on a 10 scale system. Occasionally, a book that I give a 5 to would also probably only be a 9, but I have to decide whether to round up or down. In both cases, having a 10 star system would help gauge things better, I think. But we’re stuck with 1-5 stars, so here’s how I deal with that.

In general, I don’t give many books 5 stars (though I’ve done it twice this week and it’s not even the weekend yet), and here’s why:

Most books don’t deserve it.

I realize that’s not a satisfactory answer since most people will concede that most books are not in fact 5-star quality. If you were curious about this at all, you were probably curious why I don’t give many 5-star ratings, not why there aren’t more books out that deserve 5 stars.

So, here’s the deal. 3

According to Amazon, if you like a book, it should be 4 stars. Since I like most of the books I read (and I generally know I’ll probably like it before I read it), my usual rating is 4 stars. To me, 4 stars is a winner. That’s me saying, “this is a quality book and I’m glad I spent the time reading it.”

3-stars means “it’s ok,” which in terms of book evaluation means, either “I liked this book, but it has significant shortcomings,” or “I didn’t really like this book, but there’s nothing particularly wrong with it.”

2-stars means “I don’t like it,” and 1-star means, “I hate it.” 4 I don’t read a lot of books that get 1 or 2 stars because I can usually tell that might get that rating before I waste the time reading them. Or, in some cases, I am blown away with the awfulness of a book I expected more from. If I disliked reading a book and it had shortcomings, I give it 2 stars. If I simply loathed it (probably because it was riddled with shortcomings), it gets a 1 star. 5

That still leaves 5-stars, which again, according to Amazon, means “I love it.”

So, how does a book move from “like” to “love” in my book?

Usually it’s one of two things:

  • It met the requirements of a 4-star and it was significantly well-written such that it was a joy to read
  • It was mind-blowing in some kind of significant way

The more I read, the more I’m finding that that latter reason is harder to come by. For instance, one of the books I finished this week that I gave 5-stars to, In the Beginning…We Misunderstood: Interpreting Genesis 1 in Its Original Context, was more for retroactive reasons. Most of the material in it I had presented to me during my Hebrews classes and at the time, it was mind-blowing. Since this book collected many of those insights into a handy, under-200pgs format designed for a popular audience, I felt like it deserved 5 stars.

The other book was Jared Wilson’s The Pastor’s Justification: Applying The Life and Work of Christ in Your Life and Ministry. For me, it was soul-nourishing, but also, and if you’ve read Wilson’s other books you know this, his turn of the phrase makes his writing a joy to read. So it while it wasn’t revolutionary, it was very enjoyable, very helpful, and very timely.

Basically, I will give a book 5 stars if I can’t put it down and/or it totally re-frames the way I think about something (or many things). If it doesn’t do that, it’s just a 4-star book, but that still is a quality rating in my book. If you give everything 5-stars, then 5 stars really doesn’t mean anything (also, I think you’re either new to the subject you’re reading, or just not good at evaluation). I try to use it sparingly so that when I do actually give a book 5 stars, you can know that it means I think that particular book is excellent. Since I tend to give most books I review a positive review (because I kind of knew I’d recommend it before I read it), this is a way you can tell which of those books are really good.

Luckily, there is not a rating system on blog posts, so I’m just going to assume you felt like this was at least a 4 star explanation. I’m gonna get back to reading a couple of 4’s and a potential 5, and leave you to scroll through my Goodreads rating history to figure out which books to now add to your library.


  1. Though useful, I actually don’t really like Goodreads as a reading tool. I’ll have to explain this in another post
  2. Just kidding, there was no actually rage. If you’ve met me in real life, you’ll understand there is no possible way I was raging against NetGalley.
  3. As in, this is how I do things, not necessarily how I’ve always done things. There are books on Amazon I’ve rated 5 stars that don’t deserve it because they don’t meet my current criteria. But, at least there aren’t any travesties. Like once upon a time I liked Joel Osteen or something like that.
  4. NetGalley gets 1 star
  5. The only book I’ve reviewed that I gave 1 star to was The Shack and you can read my abrasive review by clicking the link, and also free free to read why (I think) people like awful Christian books.