Book Review: Psalms in 30 Days

Rating: Must read

Level: Quick, easy; over 300 pages, but meant to be spread over 90 readings


This is a 30 day devotional through all the Psalms, with Morning, Midday, and Evening readings, based on the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) and other prayer books. All reading start with a call to prayer, include Psalms, and the Gloria Patri. The Morning and Evening readings are slightly longer and include Confession, Blessing, Canticle, Lord’ Prayer, and what he labels Prayers of the Church, which is a prayer from either the BCP or someone in Church History – Augustine, Luther, etc.

My Thoughts

This may be my favorite devotional of all time. At least the format, and prayers, etc. outside of the Psalms; I’m not a huge fan of the CSB Psalms, but it certainly isn’t a bad version (there are worse ones that are far more popular). If you have ever used the BCP, this will be pretty familiar by mixing the Daily Offices (all four – Morning, Midday, Evening, & Compline) with the daily prayer (Psalms), but in a daily devotional format (not reading Psalms, then flipping to various canticles, collects). I really enjoyed Wax’s collection of prayers of the church; it was a solid mix of old, very old, newer, prayer book, and also famous and less known prayers. 

If you have never used the BCP, you may want to after this book. Being something of a BCP light, but with just the Psalms and not the full office readings (the whole Bible in a year) is a great introduction. This devotional is also a good way to introduce someone to Psalms readings. Reading through the Psalms monthly dates back hundreds, if not thousands of years, and has been practiced by millions of Christians. 

I am more used to the Morning/Evening breakdown, but the Midday was a nice touch, it was shorter than the others, so if I couldn’t get to it at lunch, I’d either read it when I got home from work or add it to the Evening (which I think is shorter than the Morning, but not by much). On average, you read five Psalms a day, so it works to something like a 2-1-2 (though obviously not that nice and easy as sometimes you may read up 9 in a day as in the 140’s, or may spend days in one Psalm, as in 119).

There is no commentary or thoughts written regarding the Psalms, as this follows the prayer book model, which may seem different to those more used to the modern ‘daily devotional’ style. I personally prefer this style, as the ‘daily devotion’ can be hit or miss and oftentimes it seems the author had a short passage in mind before picking a verse (or whichever Psalm, if it is one of the many Psalms devotionals). If you want to keep reading the Psalms, but prefer that style, Keller’s is probably the best and he stretches it to last a whole year. However, the prayer book style has been lost and often it seems daily reading/devotionals have become overly complicated. Martin Luther reportedly told people to say/read a Psalm and then say the Lord’s Prayer and get on with your day. Luckily, we are more literate and have infinitely more access to books/materials than even the richest parishioner from 500 years ago. That doesn’t mean we have to over complicate it, but being able to read all the Psalms (not just recite the few we have memorized from church) and other prayers/confessions is the best of both worlds. If you have any interest in the Psalms or daily prayer, this is a must read. If you already reading the Psalms on a monthly basis, swap this in for a month a year to great benefit. 

Book Review: From the Manger to the Throne

My Rating: Must Read

Level: Moderate, written at popular level but Biblical knowledge is helpful; short (less than 200 pages).


The book is broken into seven chapters – The Great Reversal; Peace on Earth as in Heaven; Israel, the Gentiles, and Isaiah’s Servant; The Way of Life; The Success of the Last Adam; The Son of Man’s Rule and the Ancient of Days; and The Year of Jubilee. There is also the series preface, book preface, intro, and an epilogue. If they chapters don’t look chronological to you, it is because they aren’t. The unique aspect of this series is that it seeks to catch all the major theological themes, but in commentary style.

My Thoughts

This is the first book I’ve read in Crossway’s New Testament Theology series, and I think it is a fairy unique angle for study. I’ve seen this book (or series) occasionally referred to as a commentary (not by Crossway) and while that isn’t technically correct, I can see where people are coming from. If you took a true scholarly commentary on Luke (e.g. Baker’s) and stripped out just the sections on theological themes or maybe an excurses on angels, you’d end up with something like this book. The series preface says they are seeking, in this series, to take a Biblical Theological approach to the major themes of each book covered. If you aren’t as familiar with the term Biblical, it is as opposed to the more common Systematic way of handling theology; the latter being focused on topics first (sin, the church, etc.), while the former looks at overarching themes that unfold as you read through the Bible (or individual book in this case).

Now, the seven themes Gladd has chosen are probably not the consensus themes among theologians/scholars. I imagine if you asked 10 people to pick seven themes, they might agree on three or four of them. Even as I read, I caught myself wondering whether one or two of the topics really belonged. That being said, I actually think this adds to the potential use for the book. As I read, I kept thinking about how great this would work as a small group or other Bible study. I would have loved to hear others’ feedback on some of the threads Gladd pick’s up on. He obviously makes compelling cases in each chapter and backs up each point with scripture from all over the Bible, so I don’t think any of them are ‘wrong.’ For a pastor a bible study leader, that gives you some compelling material to challenge people.

I was pretty much hooked on this after the intro while long for an intro to a book this size (over 10% of the pages) it makes sense once you read it. Gladd takes you through a quick summary of all of Luke. It was probably one of the most concise, while still being dense and comprehensive, overviews of any book of the Bible I’ve ever read. It really would be a great way to start off a Bible study.

I wouldn’t recommend this book as the first thing someone reads on Luke, or even for a new believer. To be as short as it is, you need some level of scripture to begin. This book would best be used in self study as a supplement to a regular commentary or, as I mentioned, an eight part Bible study with a group. I think getting everyone caught up on Luke from the intro, then spending a study time on each chapter would be a great use of this book and lead to some interesting discussion. For pastors preaching through all of Luke, this would certainly give you some ideas to focus on and themes to pull out and make sure are coming out in your sermons. While being somewhat technical, it is well and is a fair quick and easy read; it is also short at under 200 pages. If you are already familiar with Luke and look for another way to study, or leading a study, or are a preacher, this book is a must read.

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Updates and Recommendation

Posting was spotty in 2022 due to a new job in my real life and a focus on our podcast – Modern Cloister – but I’m hoping to be back more often this year with fairly regular book reviews and a project I am starting on the Psalms. I should have a steady stream of book reviews, as I am way behind, starting Monday with one of Crossway’s new commentary series on Luke. I’m trying to get it up quickly, so I can grab their version on Mark will advanced copies are still available. It isn’t a full on commentary, but I think it is pretty unique and a great addition to any library or Bible Study. I have a very long term (probably years) plan on the Psalms that I hope to start sometime this Spring. If things are actually going well, I’m going to try to start an occasional series that will come out on Wednesdays that may be posted here and streamed through the Modern Cloister, for as long as we keep that going.

I also wanted to recommend a few books for anyone looking for something to read this year. I have reviewed either yet, but hopefully soon. If you are look for a good fiction book, try Lonesome Dove. I checked it out of the library. It is on the longer side, maybe 800+, but it is a quick/easy read and probably one of the best works of fiction I’ve ever read (easily top 5). Those looking for a devotional should check out Psalms in 30 Days: CSB edition. I’m not a huge fan of CSB for the Psalms, though better than others, but if you’ve taken the habit of reading the whole Psalter in 30 days, this is a really interesting twist. The author breaks the readings into three instead of two, but instead of just reading, there is essentially a mini-BCP (Book of Common Prayer) with calls to worship, gloria patria, and additional prayers. It is probably my favorite devotional of all time.

Two heavier books, on Systematic and on non-fiction. Evangelical Theology from Michael Bird is now probably at the top of my list for a systematic theology text. I’ll have more to say when I review it, but it is reformed-ish and evangelical in the theological sense (not political, as he is not American), easy to read, offers great depth, and maybe most interesting: funny. If you are looking for non-fiction, I finally got around to reading Fukuyama’s Origins of Political Order. This is the first (beginning of time to French Revolution) of a two volume work on society/political organization, and if that is an interesting topic to you, this book is fascinating.

Looking back through my Goodreads, you can kind of forget what you read, and I realized I’d planned to do a post on a slew of ‘controversial’ books from the past few years – Making of Biblical Womanhood (review), Recovering from Biblical Womanhood , Jesus and John Wayne, and Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self. I need to finish these reviews, and either a write-up with how they interact or a pod on them. Speaking of which, does anyone listen to podcast that review books? I am thinking of making a few episodes specially on book reviews and wasn’t sure how interesting that may be.

Final recommendation to start the year is a substack (because blogs and people who have them are old and outdated) called Common Grace, Common Schools (check it out here). I found it via, of all places, LinkedIn, but the author was a friend of mine back in high school/church growing up, and actually we were almost roommates in college, which is a long story. He has a PhD in education policy and works in that arena now. The series is (going to be) about a Christian view of public school and (I assume) homeschooling. Stephen is an extremely intelligent guy and pretty good writer and I think the series will be interesting for anyone who has every considered the public/home school debate/issues. I’ve considered writing a series myself, but his will almost certainly be better. I went to public schools (including college and grad) and my parents could have never afford home/private schools and I am a bit biased due to two/maybe three different incidences. First, after college I actually worked at a ‘home school’, this could be a post itself, but I’ll just say it was past embarrassing and into shameful. Second, through some very crossed wires, I had an interview with ‘definitely not the Heritage Foundation’ think tank on ‘school choice’ (this is your reminder if someone is arguing ‘choice’ they’ve already lost on merits). Their legislative director explained to me their goal of undermining and defunding public schools in Georgia. I’m generally fine with most sincerely held political beliefs, so if you want to defund schools and end education in America, I guess that is fine, but I very much hate that Christians are the ones used to do this and they method the organizations use is fear. Third, I knew basically no one homeschooled (before fear was used around the millennium, and of course the reason the school I know started was not what they said, but because one of their children were kicked out of school), mostly because I lived in a middle class area. This is similar to my current situation. However for the past 15 years or so, I’ve worked in and attended church in a rich area, and there, where it doesn’t take two incomes to live, homeschooling is seen as the ‘correct’ and ‘most Christian’ way, which I find frustrating.

Anyway, I could write quite a bit more on this, but I think Stephen will hit most of it, and maybe I’ll have some reactions. I’d also recommend anyone who doesn’t know, go check out the history of homeschools (which wasn’t legalized in Georgia until the mid-80’s).

Alright, that should do it for now. Hopefully, I’ll be back to posting regularly in 2023. If not, y’all probably wont hear from me in anymore 2024.

Edit: Two things I need to add that I forgot. First, Stephen received his PhD from the two time defending national champs – the University of Georgia. Second, I should have caveated – not all homeschools. There are legit reasons to home school, and some schools (or consortiums, or whatever they call themselves) are quite good; I know at least two great people who teach at some of those. However, that being said, the history and people’s reasons are often shaky, and I will probably always remain skeptical.

Book Review: In the Lord I Take Refuge

My Rating: If you are looking for something

Level: The devotions are short and easy; ESV is somewhat awkward for Psalms; long (400+), but meant to be read over 150 days


A full Psalm, then a short (usually less than a page) devotion/commentary follows. There is a short introduction, but I do wish it was longer, and went into a little more depth how to use the Psalms or the different types, etc. 

My Thoughts

For thousands of years Christians (and Jews, thousands before them) have used Psalms for devotions, prayers, songs, and meditations, so you have find dozens of devotionals like this on the market. Honestly, this one is kind of odd. You may notice the subheading ‘150 daily devotions through the Psalms’ and remember that there are 150 Psalms. If you are like me, you may think, surely it’s isn’t a one to one ratio. Some Psalms are only a few lines, while Psalm 119 is longer than some other books in the Bible. However, that is what they have chosen to do. The actual devotion is relatively similar in length, regardless of the length of the Psalm, so if you are setting time apart each day to read, it will vary wildly. 

The devotions seem to have a bit of a theme with in each of the five books, but maybe that was just my mind looking for a pattern. Ultimately, it is always going to be interesting to get someone else’s thoughts, as one line may have stuck out to you, but the author has chosen something else to focus on. Ortlund seems to go a little more narrow/specific, while other devotions will speak of the Psalms (or portion) as a whole. This isn’t necessarily bad or good, but I did catch myself sometimes not even remembering the line he decided to write on and having to go back and read it. This can be helpful, as it teaches you something you missed, but I had the sense, reading through this, that it might have been better to have the notes first. I don’t think I’ve seen that done, so maybe it isn’t a good idea. That would work for more of a commentary, but these devotions are more on the reflective side. They are well written and often insightful and certainly comes from a strong pastoral mind/heart. 

The book is published by Crossway, so it uses the English Standard Version (ESV). I’m not a big fan of the ESV for Psalms, as it is often too literal, while at other times still attempts to use ‘traditional’ or poetic language. I’ve heard rumors that Crossway is going to write an independent Psalter, which I think would be incredible, but until then, I think there are better options than this translation. 

Overall, I’d highly recommend any devotional on the Psalms, or just reading them all the way though in a month (the various Book of Common Prayer editions out there have reading plans in them, or just search). As I mentioned, I found the one to one Psalm/devotion to be an odd editorial decision, one I wouldn’t really recommend. However, most of the devotions are strong, and if you’ve read many of the others, and are looking for something, this would be an edition to add to your list. 

Modern Cloister Interview: Fatcat Books

Check out the interview Mrs. MMT did with Natasha Kennedy and Todd Hains about there book series ‘Fatcat’, which includes children’s book on the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and Christmas (with more to come). You can watch the video below or listen to the Pod format (and download wherever you subscribe).

Book Review: The Beauty and Power of Biblical Exposition

My Rating: Put it on your list

Level: Easy read, some Biblical knowledge needed; moderate length (under 300)


As the subtitle indicates, the book is about preaching the genres of the Bible. It is written to pastors, but I think anyone leading a Bible study, or interested in getting a better understanding of genres can benefit. The book is broken into six chapters – The Greatest Story Ever Told (Preaching Narrative), Let Him Who Has Ears Hear (Preaching Parables), Love Letters (Preaching Epistles), The Beauty of Simple (Preaching Poetry), Words of Wisdom (Preaching Proverbs), And I Saw (Preaching Visionary Writings). Each chapter is broken into two parts, reading and preaching. Additionally, each chapter ends with resources for deeper dives into the genre. There is also an introduction and a conclusion. 

My Thoughts

This book is a great introduction to the genres (broadly defined) of the Bible. While it is geared toward preachers, with additional notes about preaching and parts of sermons in various chapters, it is still a helpful book for any Bible teachers or anyone interested in a better understand of the Bible. If you haven’t been exposed to literary aspects or genres of the Bible, this will help you read it well, and I think the book could also be used by itself as part of a study for a community group. People are generally familiar with narrative, you’ve probably heard a sermon/teaching on parables, but most people have not had much introduction to proverbs or visionary wittings, and certainly not much about poetry. The poetry chapter alone is probably worth the price of the book. 

The author does a good job of not being too narrow (explaining how much poetry is throughout the Bible, and looking into proverbs that aren’t just the book of Proverbs). This is especially true in the visionary writings chapter, while heavy on Revelation, the chapter didn’t focus on it only. The split of each chapter on reading, then preaching is valuable. The first part offers a great intro to the genre, with the second part being on preaching (or teaching). 

In some ways, it was odd that this is written for preaching, as I would expect most preachers/pastors to have learned these structures in seminary or somewhere else before preaching. That said, I think it is great that genre is getting some publicity, and it’s focus is getting to more people, especially those interested in teaching. Too many errors in interpreting various verses/chapters in the Bible come from not having even a basic understanding of literature. 

Overall, the book is valuable and a good place to start for those wanting to learn more about writings of the Bible, the end of each chapter gives additional resources (books) you can look into to expand your understanding. For those who aren’t preachers, it is still a book to add to your list. I’m not sure you’ll find a better intro to genres of the Bible. O’Donnell has a bit of a ‘preaching’ stick that gets a little long/redundant, but most points are still applicable to regular teachers and Bible study leaders. 


*I received a free copy of this book from Crossway, in exchange for an honest review.

Modern Cloister: God’s Glory Alone

This is our last episode in the Five Solas Series. If you are just catching this on for the first time, this Sola functions almost like a summary of the previous three, so if you like what you hear, please go back through and listen for a deeper dive (plus our other two episodes, what lead to the Reformation and Sola Scripture, which means we hold Scripture as our final authority). Ultimately, we are saved by God to His Glory alone. Listen below, find us on YouTube and wherever podcasts are found, or listen on our home page at Modern Cloister.

Book Review: The Making of Biblical Womanhood

My Rating – If you are looking for something

Level – quick, easy read; relatively short (just over 200)


The book is broken into eight chapters – The Beginning of Patriarchy; What if Biblical Womanhood Doesn’t Come from Paul?; Out Selective Medieval Memory; The Cost of the Reformation for Evangelical Women; Writing Women Out of the English Bible; Sanctifying Subordination; Making Biblical Womanhood Gospel Truth; Isn’t it Time to Set Women Free? – plus an introduction that is a tough read if you’ve ever experienced church loss. 

The chapters are broadly congruent with the name, though there is overlap with each, and personal narrative as well. The first two chapters focus on early church context/history. The medieval (her specialty) is interesting as is the Reformation impact on women. The next two constitute the issues of the ‘Biblical Manhood/Womanhood’ movement and the final chapter is really more of a conclusion/call to action. 

My Thoughts

This book is incredibly popular and mostly well received (many of the negative reviews come from hardline complementarians), but honestly, I’m not sure why. The book could have been three different, more fully fleshed out books. Perhaps the issue is more editorial than Barr’s. The three parts are her personal story (and that of her husband’s, a Southern Baptist (SBC) pastor who changed on women’s ordination and was forced out of the church), what I’ll call historical/theological developments, and issues with the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW). 

Her personal narrative is hard, it is always brutal to be fired/forced out/leave a church community under negative circumstances. The loss of community can be devastating and happens far more than we’d like to admit and too often people impact do not return to any church. It is truly unfortunate that she could not leave on friendly terms and was basically shunned, this is one of the damaging impact of the CBMW, making women’s ordination a first order theological issue. That being said, and this is an unpopular opinion, they are the ones that changed their view and could no longer subscribe to their church’s confession; the SBC uses Baptist Faith & Message (BF&M). While there should have been an amicable leaving of the church, I’m not sure what they expected to happen. This reminds me of those occasional news stories where someone sues a Catholic school for being fired for not agree with Catholic doctrine. I understand the urge to reform the church, but this is not a new issue, instead it is one that has been forefront in the SBC since before the conservative takeover. I have experienced the pain of lost community, but if your convictions change and are against your church, it is time to find a new church. It is with no sense of irony that she writes as an employee at Baylor. One of the departments at Baylor is  Truett Seminary, which is affiliated with the Texas Baptist Convention and the World Baptist Alliance, both of which supports the ordination of women. 

Which leads me to my next point, her Biblical/theological arguments for could use some work. There are number of fairly known ones that people use, include the Baptist groups above, and a few that require serious discussion and consideration. She did not use these; and I’m not sure why. Similar, while her discussion of medieval history or the history of women in the church was interesting, I don’t feel it made the point she think it made. I don’t think there is anyone who denies that there were women who preached/prophesied/had a following, I think there are just those who argue that they shouldn’t, and since most of her examples were condemned as heretics, this didn’t make a strong argument for her point. The idea that getting rid of monasteries/convents took away religious opportunities is an interesting and compelling one.

Finally, chapters six and seven cover some of the damage that has been done by groups like the CBMW who elevate ‘complementarianism’ to the Gospel. I think most of her critiques/conclusions are good, except she seems to be making the mistake of equating ‘Calvinism’ with CBMW. I guess because they are broadly reformedish (or at least ‘Calvinist’ in soteriology). In the Presbyterian strain of American churches, the largest, third and fourth largest of the five denominations ordain women as elders; in the Reformed grouping of churches, two of the three (with the largest included) ordain women as elders. In one critique, she is surprised that John Calvin writes on one theological topic the way he does, solely because she assumed he would disagree, I guess do to her misunderstanding of the various strains of reformed churches. I don’t want to digress too much, but this is a common problem when someone you disagree with says something basic and you find yourself ‘surprised to agree’, as if everyone involved didn’t at least agree on the basics of the Gospel. Similarly, she seems to confuse Eternal Subordination of the Son (ESS) with Arianism. ESS is wrong, but more aptly described as unorthodox or heterodox than full on heresy, such as Arianism. Now, Grudem is wrong to support ESS (as are a few of the other presidents of CBMW), but I do think a distinction between ESS and modalism needs to be made. Criticism is valid, as one author (I forgot who) pointed out that if you have to change our view of the Trinity to support your view of women, your view of women may be wrong. 

Overall, it really depends on what you are looking for in this book. It is great as a personal narrative, but somewhat surprising in the theological category, especially with her department being adjacent to a seminary. If you want strong arguments for women ordinations I’d recommend Michael Bird’s book on the subject, or the compilations book ‘How I changed my mind on Women’s Ordination’, or go read the scriptural proofs as put forward by any of the denominations that ordain women. I much more coherent and pointed critique of the CMBW would be Aimee Byrd’s ‘Recovering From Biblical Womanhood’, which is excellent. I’d certainly say if you are pastor/leader in your church, regardless of the position you take, you may want to read this due to it’s popularity. This book has enters the discussion often on the topic of women, so that it interest you, you would put it on your list.