Reading the whole bible in 2019 (Part 2)

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This is the second in our New Year bible reading series. It follows on from Pete Jackson’s first post.

I want to encourage you to try and read the whole bible in a year in 2019. Here are a few follow-up thoughts to the previous post…

First of all, Trevin Wax builds on some of the things I said before in this post here, which also has some suggestions for schemes to use at the bottom.

Secondly, here’s a post arguing that we all have more time to do this than we think. Amongst other things, it shows that if you give only 12 minutes per day to your bible reading, you could read through the whole bible in a year. (And it uses an infographic to show this, which means it must be true.)

Thirdly, there are loads of good schemes or plans to try. Here is the link to the one I did this past year. I liked this scheme for a number of reasons, including

  • There being only 25 readings a month, so if you fall behind it is not a disaster, you can catch up. There were several times when this kept me going during the past year. In the latter part of the year I used this feature to get ahead and finish by the end of November. This means I have been doing something different for my bible reading during December and can return to the same scheme fresh in the new year.

  • Each day has four readings of varied lengths and across different types of bible book. I found it encouraging to be able to make rapid progress in some books, plus the shorter readings for those books makes it easy to achieve quite a lot if you need to catch up. It also made the experience each day less like slogging through heaps of text, which I sometimes found to be the case in the schemes that get you to read chunks of equal size from three books. 

Finally, I think it is worth giving it a go even if you are fearful that you will soon fall woefully behind. Even just trying to do this sort of reading plan and ‘failing’ might well mean you read more of the bible in a year (and more of a variety of the bible) than if you hadn’t bothered. Plus, if you start out and end up so behind that you take a year and a half instead, that will still be so much to your benefit than if you hadn’t even bothered at all. 

Reading the whole bible in 2019

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This is the first post in our series on reading the bible and praying in 2019. This one is written by Pete Jackson - look out for his next one with links to various bible reading resources.

I have failed at reading the whole bible in a year schemes on many occasions. However I am delighted to say that this year I successfully completed the new one I tried - and a month early at that. I don’t say this so that you will congratulate me, but to point out that it can be done. 

As I look back over the year, here are some of the reasons I think reading the whole bible in a year is a worthwhile practice, even though it is hard. 

It means you read the less familiar parts of God’s word…

One danger of sticking to the parts we know well or find ‘easier’ is that we are muting the voice of God and missing perhaps the very parts that will be most stretching or the most challenging to the way we naturally think and live.  

It means reading across a variety of types of writing each day…

God’s communication to us in scripture comes in a rich variety of literary genres, and each affect us in different ways. The bible communicates to us not just by conveying information alone. Most days there’s been some kind of story/history, poetry and song or proverbs, and letters.

It makes sure we are reading the 71% as well as the 29%…

That’s the split between Old and New Testaments. Let’s face it, we often neglect the Old Testament in all sorts of ways, which means we are regularly tuning out of over two thirds of what God has to say to us. 

It trains us in reading the bible for its own sake…

Sometimes we judge the value of our time in scripture from our immediate reactions or emotional responses, or a sense of what we have ‘got out of it’ there and then. At best that’s because we are expecting God to speak through his word, and for that word to be ever relevant. But at worst, this can descend into a search for a ‘blessed thought’ for the day. This is a misunderstanding of how scripture works and of how God’s word changes us. We are mistaken to look for ‘instant gratification,’ we must expect God to form us through constant and regular exposure to his word over the long haul. What’s more, we don’t just need tweet-sized nuggets of God’s word that we can instantly apply, we also need to know the big story arc and the repeated themes that recur page after page, so that gradually over time we learn to place our lives and understand our world from within that story.

It helps us join the dots differently…

Reading passages side by side that you wouldn’t necessarily have put together yourself will help you make connections you would never have made otherwise. This is important because the best tool for understanding the bible is the rest of the bible - God intends us to come to his word as one interconnected and diverse whole which reveals Christ in his many-faceted glory. 

111 Songs for Advent

Brett McCracken of The Gospel Coalition has compiled a playlist on Spotify of ‘111 Great Songs for Advent’. He explains the playlist here:

...I have curated a new playlist of 111 Advent songs. Not “holiday” songs, mind you. Advent songs. You won’t find “Deck the Halls” or “Let It Snow” on this list (lovely as they are). But you will find songs that beautifully capture the theological gravitas of this season in the Christian calendar—a season that is about both joy and longing, celebration and expectation, gratitude and petition.

If you are a Spotify user, you can follow this link to start listening to his playlist.

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He will quiet you... with loud singing!

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Any other reason to sing? God Sings!

A good friend of mine encouraged me to choose a few Christian songs to regularly sing with our daughter Delilah at bedtime. Initially I thought, “oh great, I'll add it to the ‘how to be the perfect parent’ task list which already tallies around 100 things to ‘spend-a-quarter-of-an-hour-with-your-child-doing’ between getting home from work and bedtime.” However, I was persuaded to try it and did give it a go.

It doesn’t happen every night, and it doesn’t always go to plan (i.e. she’s wide awake tonight, well after we've finished singing several songs!) but sometimes, just sometimes, she falls asleep and I finish singing over her and then quietly leave her to snooze away.

Zephaniah, one of the Old Testament Prophets, prophesied about the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and then its full future restoration not just for the people of Israel, but for all nations. He wrote these words about a day when God will bring all people who trust in him into a new city safe from harm:

Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout O Israel!...
...The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.
— Zephaniah 3:14-17

Our God sings to us! He rejoices over us, His children. He demonstrates His love with loud singing. I think it's an incredible audio-visual image, and if ever there was a reason to sing, surely this is it: our God sings!

This is an idea I think Will Reagan and United Pursuit capture really well in their song ‘I Can Tell’;

You’ll be singing that sweet, sweet melody and I’m listening 
to You singing out life, love and peace

Christmas Music Gift Ideas

Here are 3 albums to request for yourself, to gift someone else (or preferably both) this Christmas:

Behold (A Christmas Collection) -  Lauren Daigle

If you could imagine Adele accompanied by Louis Armstrong covering Christmas classics, you’d be somewhere close to the experience of listening to Lauren Daigle’s ‘Behold’ album. It starts with standards like ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’, ‘Winter Wonderland’ and ‘Jingle Bells’ and with a jazz tinge it goes in directions you wouldn’t expect. There are Christmas carols throughout such as ‘Silent Night’ and ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’, but the highlight of the album is surprisingly the most stripped back of them all, it’s an original called ‘Light of the World’

Glory to the light of the world,
for all who wait, for all who hunger,
for all who’ve prayed, for all who wonder,
Behold your King, Behold Messiah
Emmanuel, Emmanuel

This is an album you could buy for anyone you know or have playing when you have friends and family round this Christmas. It’s fun, it’s nostalgic, but at it’s heart it celebrates God’s plan for us in Jesus, which is the reason for the season, right?


Good News - Rend Collective

As the title suggests, this album is about the ‘Good News’ or ‘Gospel’ presented in a folk-roots style. The tone of the album is joy and hope in Jesus. 

Like all the Rend Collective albums it’s low-fi, not in terms of quality (which is excellent) but in everything they do they manage to keep their close-knit, campfire sound - as if you are right in there with the band. Expect lots of banjo, fiddle, singing, stomping, shouting and general raucous joy. 

I think the song “Resurrection Day” epitomises the album, the joy of salvation today, and the sure hope of the life to come in Jesus. 

Because You’re risen I can rise, 
Because You’re living I’m alive...
This is my resurrection day, 
nothing’s gonna hold me in the grave

Songs Of Common Prayer - Greg Lafollette

Lord open our lips, 
and our mouths shall sing your praise

These are the first words sung on the album, lifted from Psalm 51 and used in Anglican Liturgy as an invitation to worship. This sets the theme for this album of ten songs based on the Book of Common Prayer (clue in the title again). These are simple, short songs with interesting melodies and harmonies; it has an acoustic feel but there are synths and electric organ on this record as well.

This album certainly was a grower for me and was my wildcard choice for this recommendation. Whatever your opinion on liturgy, for me, this setting helped me see the words anew and gave me a new love for the great Bible based summaries of the gospel. I hope it will for you too, and maybe you could think of someone who might appreciate this as well.

Why bother with Advent?

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’
— Mark 1:2–3

Chocolate Advent calendars quickly come to mind when I think of Advent: finding the door each day and counting down the days until Christmas. It brings back memories of being a child - that hopeful, expectant, excited, rarely patient, waiting for Christmas day itself. But despite still loving a good Advent calendar, this season has taken on much more significance to me over the last few years. The Advent calendar is just a very faint shadow of the real coming that Advent looks forward to. 

Advent is a time when the church is waiting for the promised coming of Jesus, remembering his first coming and waiting for his second. God’s people had spent thousands of years expectantly waiting for their promised Messiah. Then, a little over 2000 years ago, one night in Bethlehem, God’s promise was fulfilled as Jesus the Saviour of the world was born – God became man.  The first season of waiting was over. A few years later John proclaimed the coming of the Messiah, ‘prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’

Yet when Jesus left us and returned to his Father, he promised that he will come again to “save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:28) and so the second period of waiting began. Advent is a time of hopeful, expectant, eager, and faithful waiting for the day when Jesus comes again. We wait remembering the time God first fulfilled his promise to send a saviour, trusting that Jesus will fulfil his promise to return. 

So this Advent, as we eat our chocolate, light our candles and sing our carols let’s be remembering the fulfilled promises of Jesus’ first coming and eagerly waiting for his second. 

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Songs for real people in real situations

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A few weeks ago I met a guy called Sol Fenne, and apart from having an incredible name, Sol is a real inspiration. He works for an organisation called 20schemes which is a gospel church planting organisation reaching the poorest communities on council estates (or schemes) in Scotland.

I met Sol at the Sovereign Grace conference I blogged about a couple of weeks ago. Sol is a songwriter and has written songs/hymns for the 20schemes churches to sing. He has written them with specific people in various life situations in mind. He performed a couple of these songs at the conference with his wife Carlie and Devon Kauflin.

Recently I have been doing some distance learning Bible study and trying to think about this very issue: how we use music in our church. In the apostle Paul’s letter to the christians in Ephesus he says he wants them to be “speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit” and what better way to do that than with songs founded in scripture with real life situations woven in.

‘Revelation Hymn’ is written from the book of Revelation in the Bible. The song is focussed on the final day, when Jesus will judge all people, and “some will shout with joy, some will fall in fear.” The challenge in the final verse of the song is which one these will you be; “time is running out, are we safe in Christ to stand before the throne?”

‘Flee From Sin/Run To Jesus’ is written to reassure us that though trusting Jesus is a daily war, we have victory when we flee from sin and run to Jesus: “when I fear my addictions won’t be overcome, there is hope through Christ’s resurrection day”

Songs written for real people in real situations, trying to trust Jesus despite the daily doubts and difficulties. Different people, yes, different situations, yes, but all of us brothers and sisters in Jesus. “God provides all the help I need to persevere, Praise His name! That my life is found in Him!”

For it is good to sing praises to our God

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Why worship with singing? Worship isn't just singing, but it is part of it.

When I’m singing worship in my church...

I heard someone say this on a podcast recentlywhat do you think when you hear a phrase like that? Do you think “I’m not sure that’s right, 'worship' is a whole life attitude not just something we do on a Sunday?”

Or do you think, “Well 'worship' is singing, right?"

Or do you think something else entirely? Well the apostle Paul wrote a letter in the first century AD to instruct the church in Rome to 

...present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
— Romans 12:1-2

Worship is to be a sacrifice of our whole bodies, our whole lives, and we need to consider all the things we do as acts of worship. That has big implications for how we worship God; in our jobs, with our families, through our illnesses, in rest and celebration. So praising God in church is worship, just as honouring God at work is, or thanking God at mealtimes.

So some might think, “great, I’ll tick the ‘worshiping God at home and work’ box and I won’t have to do the ‘singing worship’ part.” A trip to any church on a Sunday would provide loud vocal evidence to suggest this isn’t a biblical conclusion! In the Bible we see time and time again that part of what we present to God in worship should be singing, Psalm 147:1 puts it like this: 

Praise the Lord! 
For it is good to sing praises to our God

I actually enjoy singing. Perhaps it’s the frequencies, resonance, interesting song melodies and words, I couldn't pinpoint it; I have just always found playing guitar and singing to be cathartic.

However, I know that’s not true for all of us, singing is definitely a sacrifice for some people. Whether that’s because society imposes a certain view of singing being acceptable (especially for men) or whether it’s because you’re not good at it you don’t enjoy it, it is part of our spiritual worship, presenting sacrifices to God.

Something that I learnt from a talk by Bob Kauflin on worship is that the Bible has over four hundred references to singing and fifty direct commands to sing: you can’t get away from it! If someone asked you 400 times to do something, you'd maybe get the hint that it was important to them.

So I hope you’ll join me in ‘singing worship to God this Sunday’, even if you don’t necessarily want to, knowing that living lives of worship means sacrifice, and for some of us, part of that sacrifice includes singing on Sunday. 

On the theme of sacrifice, this is a song by Dustin Kensrue based on the famous ‘Suffering Servant’ passage in the book of Isaiah: 

Though all of us have gone astray…
His punishment has brought us peace…
He died to save His people from their sin

You can listen to or read that full Bob Kauflin talk here.


Sovereign Grace Conference

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Matt Wiltshire recently went to a music conference in Bristol and tells us about it here:

Sovereign Grace is a large organisation of churches in the US who produce a lot of good quality Christian music and some great resources for church music leaders. We have been using their songs and resources at CCW for years, so when I heard they were putting on a worship conference in the UK I thought it would be worth a trip to Bristol to see what we could learn from them.

The day I attended was pretty full on (9am-9pm!) It covered a lot of topics such as planning services, arranging music and the centrality of God’s word, and we spent plenty of time of singing and praising God together. It was massively encouraging: the musicianship was excellent and the band lead us well so that the priority of God’s words was really obvious when we were singing together.

There were several parts of the day that were particularly encouraging and I’ll blog about them in future, but one of the highlights was a talk by a pastor of a Sovereign Grace church in Minneapolis. He drew our attention to some words from the Bible from the first letter of Peter to Christians in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey):

You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
— 1 Peter 2v5

It’s a bit of a weird one, telling us we are like living stones, especially strange when I was in a room full of people with whom, apart from the music leader connection, I had very little else in common. Some were a lot older, from other countries, speaking different languages, representing various religious denominations and all sorts of different professions and careers. But that was kind of the point, we were a bunch of odd, funny shaped stones, that on the face of it didn’t fit together, but when we came together before God’s word, to sing, pray and worship our creator God, we were being built into God’s house in order to “proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you” as Peter put in his letter just a few verses later.

A house can’t be built with just one stone and we cant come to God and just be on our own. In a wall, each stone depends on the others to hold it up, and in God’s house, each stone is hewn and shaped with intention to look its best when it is placed alongside and connected with others. What’s more, Peter tells us that Christ is the cornerstone, not just part of this building - he sets the dimensions, shape and layout of the whole thing! So we are not just a pile of stones, we are sculpted stones built together into something that is much greater than it’s constituent parts.

It means that sometimes, when we feel like we have very little in common with others in our church - different professions, personalities (and musical preferences!) - we shouldn’t be surprised. The reality is we are all odd shaped stones. But we are living stones, being built into a spiritual house, God's house, where He dwells and where we have one joy to proclaim the excellencies of our God. How incredible is it, that as we meet in worship this Sunday, together we are a hand-crafted, architectural masterpiece, a stunning edifice being built for God’s glory!

The full CV...

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On the blog we’re starting a new series called ‘Music Mondays’ which will feature a post written by one of our musicians, or relating to our music or worship. Below is the first, written by Matt Wiltshire:

Why do we worship? God reveals himself, so we respond.

Have you ever met your idol? I'm not talking about someone or something you hold in higher esteem than God (though if that is what sprang to mind then there are some previous blog posts on the 10 Commandments that you should read!) but have you ever met someone you truly admire? How did the conversation go?

When I was a teenager I remember unexpectedly meeting Steve. He introduced himself and then mentioned he was in The Stands, one of my favourite bands at the time. I was awestruck, and after I pulled myself together I started to tell him how much I loved his album, especially one particular song. Thankfully he graciously humoured me.

Steve had revealed a part of who he was, something I was in awe of, and I responded, maybe a little over the top. I'm sure you can think of similar experiences, though I imagine you probably composed yourself better than me!

When it comes to meeting God, there is a legitimate sense of awe, and the revelation and response go much further. One of the places we see this is when Moses experiences the glory of God recounted in Exodus 34:6-8:

The Lord passed before him and proclaimed “The Lord, The Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness...” And Moses quickly bowed his head towards the earth and worshiped

God stated who He is and Moses worshipped. Moses knew who to worship as he had just been given a mini CV, a LinkedIn profile: God the merciful, gracious, patient, loving, faithful and just. We have a much more complete CV to draw on in our worship, as in the Bible we have the full revelation of God in Jesus. 

We can learn from Moses; when God reveals himself, our response should be worship. This song by Manchester band Rivers and Robots encourages us, just as Moses did, to bow our heads to the earth before God and worship;

To Your name alone belongs all the glory... 

and in Your presence we will fall down

Christian Concern and Dr Joe Boot  

We live in interesting times for Christian witness. Whereas a short while ago apathy or mockery was a common response to authentic Christian preaching and living, now there is increasing suspicion and even hostility in some quarters of society. With this change in temperature comes many opportunities, though the costs are always high.

I have been personally very thankful for the work of Christian Concern over the past ten years and was very pleased to be able to attend their birthday celebrations in London the other weekend. As well as their work in defending Christian freedoms, they have spoken gospel truth in places and into issues all too often abandoned by evangelical Christians. 

On top of this, they also have an eye on the longer and arguably more foundational task of re-building Christian cultural influence from the ground up. It’s in that context that I’ve come to know the ministry of Dr Joe Boot, who visited and preached for us this past Sunday. His work with Christian Concern on the Wilberforce Academy aims to equip Christians to think and act with full-blooded Christian faith in a variety of spheres and public callings. 

For an example of the theological clarity and cultural analysis Joe brings to this role and his work with Christian Concern, you might find this article a challenging and encouraging read.

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Bishops, Mission and Missionary Bishops

This past Sunday we thought about the leadership God’s people need in order to be faithful to the mission God has given us. In particular we considered how the Anglican (though not exclusively Anglican) model of oversight by a Bishop can be an important part of such leadership.

The background to this is the visit later this year of our new Bishop Andy Lines, who was appointed by GAFCON as a ‘Missionary Bishop for Europe’ last year. We are looking forward to having him preach God’s word for us and get to know CCW a little better. 

In the mean time, for those who want to see and know a little bit more, the first 24 minutes of this video is an interview with Andy:


Christ Church Walkley - 6 years on...

Jennie Jones, one of our church members looks back at God’s faithfulness to us as a church over the last 6 years…

I can still remember the day we left Christ Church Central.  I was 6 months pregnant, so prone to be on the emotional side, but it was nonetheless a scary moment.  There we were, a smallish group, walking out of the church family many of us had been part of since it started, to begin something new.  We were leaving good friends behind and it felt as if we were on our own.  But of course, we weren’t.  God was with us on that first day, and has been with us ever since, providing for us in ways we didn’t even know we’d need.  

It takes a while to call a group of people you don’t know very well “family”, but that’s what we’ve become with God’s help.  As we’ve grown numerically, we’ve grown together, helped by meeting in groups mid-week and getting to know a small group of people better, by studying God’s word and praying for one another regularly.  I’ve found it encouraging to see the many ways our church family supports and cares for each other, whether it be through practical help with meals and moving house, or more emotional support with encouraging texts and prayer when someone is struggling.  This kind of sacrificial love isn’t easy, but God gives us his grace to bear with one another as we try to follow Christ’s example.  I am so thankful to God for this church family and I know that whenever I’m away and go to a different church, I’m always grateful to come back “home” the week after.

One of the things which I’ve found has helped me in “becoming family” is the growth of the women’s ministry.  From meeting for social and crafty Friday evenings once a month, to establishing more formal times of prayer and study, we’ve got to know each other better, been able to share our lives together and been there to support one another as we strive to live as Christian women in whatever role God has given us.  We were encouraged by the series on the family to follow the example Paul gives in Titus where the older women teach the younger ones.  In a congregation with a fairly low average age, some of us have had to step up to the “older” role before we may have felt ready!  One to ones and a mid week Bible study have also enabled some of us to spend more time encouraging and challenging one another as we think through how we should live in this world to glorify God and share our faith with others.

We started 6 years ago with a group of less than 10 children and we now have 3 groups in Sunday School! As one of the growing number of parents in our church family, I am very thankful to God for the children’s ministry which is always having to expand as the babies keep coming and as our children grow and require different kinds of teaching.  I am so grateful for those who teach and look after our children, supporting us, as parents, as we try to model Christian living so our children develop a living faith of their own.

I am also grateful to God for our church leaders who teach the Bible faithfully every week and help us to think through different areas of the Christian life and challenge us to live in a way that shows Jesus to those we spend time with.  It is so encouraging to see the ways people are growing and changing as they get to grips with God’s word and try to put it into practice in the way they live.

Looking back, God has blessed us in so many ways.  He provided the Library for us to meet in on Sundays, which has been a great space for us over the past 6 years.  And now, with the purchase of Forbes Road, he has given us more than we thought in a building with so many possibilities.  I pray that we dream big, knowing our God is “able to do more than we can ask or imagine.”

Why re-read the Psalms?

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This month we returned to regularly reading through the Psalms together on a Sunday. For some people this might seem like a strange practice. Aren’t the psalms a little bit random and archaic, and isn’t it confusing to be reading parts of the bible that we’re not then going on to explain?

Well, here are some brief thoughts of mine to help us understand why we’re doing this, and to help us engage with the Psalms. 

Firstly, there’s the general principle that it is good for us to have plenty of bible in our gatherings

We believe that the bible is the word of God, the Father’s testimony about and through his Son, breathed by the Spirit. Therefore our Sunday gatherings should be saturated in the bible. Moreover, it would be odd if our services gave the overall impression that our words spoken to God are more important than his words to us. Or that the only time the bible can be read is when someone is going to preach from it. This is one of the reasons we try to have scripture read, taught and sung at various points throughout our gatherings. 

But why the Psalms in particular? Here are three of the many reasons:

The Psalms are significant for piecing the bible together

In some ways the Psalms is like a poetic reflection on the history, laws and wisdom of the rest of the OT. It’s no surprise that Psalms is one of the most-quoted books in the New Testament. Jesus and the apostles clearly saw them as fundamental to understanding Jesus’s identity, life and mission. 

The Psalms are a help to us in the reality of life

The 150 songs and prayers in the Psalms cover an incredibly broad range of circumstances and emotions. This makes them of immense value pastorally, helping us work through anger, loss, fear, doubt, joy, sickness, all within covenant relationship with God our Father.

The Psalms are important for prayer and worship

(Almost) unique amongst the whole of the bible, the Psalms aren’t simply God’s words to us, many of them are also words given to us by God for us to say back to him. As such the Psalms are the prayer or song book of the bible – the place where God teaches us how to speak with him. It is no surprise that for centuries the Psalms have been pretty crucial to the corporate worship of God’s people. 

The Bible Project has a helpful video giving an overview of the content and message of the Psalms...

... and we did a short series on Psalms 1 & 2 which can be found here.