Are you a farmer? Me neither

Often in Jesus’ teaching, he uses everyday terminology for his original listeners. And many times that “everyday terminology” is agrarian.  In Mark 4:3, we read that Jesus said,  “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow.”


But there’s a problem because most of you are like me.  I don’t know that much about farming. Do you?  How does a sower go out to sow? Many of us have never planted a seed let alone planted a whole field by hand. 

And yet we read our bibles casually as if we were an expert farmer from the Middle East who easily understands the “everyday terminology” that Jesus uses.

Christian, you are not a farmer.  (Even you are, you’re not from the ancient Near East!!)  You do not understand farming from your everyday life. This is just one example of the work to be done. Good work – rewarding work – but real work, if you are going to understand Jesus’ teaching. 

We call this work “hermeneutices” and here’s a short overview featuring  New City member, Israel Kolade.

Greg Beale’s Long Sentence

One of the best theology books I’ve ever read was Greg Beale’s A New Testament Biblical Theology.  Here’s a sentence (I know it’s really long!!) which summarizes the purpose of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.  Now that’s a Jesus, I can get excited about!!

Jesus’ life, trials,

death for sinners,

and especially resurrection by the Spirit

have launched the fulfilment

of the eschatological

already-not yet new-creational reign,

bestowed by grace through faith

and resulting in worldwide commission to the faithful

to advance this new-creational reign

and resulting in judgment for the unbelieving,

unto the triune God’s glory. 


Books I Finished in 2017

  1. The Parish Handbook – Bob Mayo (The A-Z of parish life from my friend)
  2. Simplicity in Preaching – J.C. Ryle (More of a booklet than a book but loads of golden nuggets here!)
  3. Letters to a Young Calvinist – James K.A. Smith (I’m going to be giving this one to a few young friends)
  4. The Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus – Alan J. Thompson (Biblical-theological look at Acts)
  5.  Seeking refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis – Stephan Bauman (How does the church respond to the current crisis?)
  6. Rudolf Bultmann ~ Ian Henderson (Brief book on the German theologian’s life & thought)
  7. Survive or Thrive: 6 Relationships Every Pastor Needs – Jimmy Dodd (It’s time for pastors to open up their lives)
  8. Church in Hard Places – Mez McConnell & Mike McKinley (How the local church brings life to the poor and needy)
  9. Prisoners of Geography – Tim Marshall (A fascinating look at how the physical features of a country impacts politics)
  10. The World on Our Doorstep – Dewi Hughes (UK evangelicals and other faiths)
  11.  Half of a Yellow Sun – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Novel set in the Nigerian civil war of the late 60’s)
  12. But Beautiful – Geoff Dyer  (Quirky look at the lives of jazz masters)
  13. Redemption Accomplished and Applied – John Murray (After 25 years, time to read again & still a classic reformed understanding of salvation)
  14. Like Father, Like Son – Pete Alwinson (How knowing God as father changes men)
  15. Quench Your Own Thirst – Jim Koch (Founder of Samuel Adams brewery shares a few business lessons)
  16. The Forgotten Spurgeon – Ian Murray  (A look at 3 great controversies during Spurgeon’s life)
  17. Leading Cross-Culturally – Sherwood G. Lingenfelter (Unique and not-so-unique issues facing multi-ethnic leaders)
  18. Leading with a Limp – Dan Allender (Best book on leadership I’ve ever read)
  19. Union with Christ – Rankin Wilbourne (Uncovering a key forgotten doctrine)
  20. Silence – Shusaku Endo (Japanese historical fiction set in the 1600’s)
  21. Praying with Paul – D. A. Carson (A Call to Spiritual Reformation)
  22. One to One Bible Reading – David Helm (Little book encouraging…)
  23. Getting Things Done (2nd Edition) – David Allen (the art of stress-free productivity)
  24. Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. 1 – John Calvin (Vitally important historic theology)
  25.  Destiny – David Gibson (Great book on Ecclesiastes by friend & fellow IPC pastor)
  26. Dispatches From Syria – Janine Di Giovanni (First-hand account of the war in Syria)
  27. Luther and the 9.5 Theses – Kenneth Brownell (Short book on Luther and the need for reformation today)
  28. The Meaning of Marriage – Tim & Kathy Keller (Great to read again for New City’s marriage class)
  29. Scary Close – Don Miller (Personal insights into revealing yourself & finding intimacy)
  30. Brothers, We are Not Professionals – John Piper (Personal cry for pastors to live radical lives)
  31. Preparation for Ministry – Allan Harman (Short book for those thinking about becoming pastors)
  32. Befriend – Scott Sauls (Jesus models a much richer vision of friendship)
  33. The Locust Effect – Gary Haugen (Violence keeps poor people poor. Yes – something can be done)
  34. Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates (A personal reflection on the American concept of “race”)
  35. Same-Sex Attraction and the Church – Ed Shaw (Personal & theological reflections on…)
  36. Blood Work – Anthony Carter (The cross is central to the faith)
  37. Hillbilly Elegy – J.D. Vance (Eye-opening and heartbreaking)
  38. This is London – Ben Judah (Stories and more stories from London)
  39. Kidnapped – Olaudah Equiano (Published in 1789; tells the story of an African kidnapped and forced into slavery)
  40. The Next Story – Tim Challies (How does technology impact your Christian walk?)
  41. Confessing the Faith – Chad Van Dixhoorn (Very helpful commentary on the WCF)
  42. The Church – Edmund Clowney (Doctrinal overview of the church)
  43. The Tech-Wise Family – Andy Crouch  (Live fully with technology instead of being used by it)
  44. God’s Leader – Andy Mason (Devotional chapters from an urban London pastor)
  45. White Awake – Daniel Hill (Profound book for Christians who are white)
  46. Forgive Us – Cannon, Harper, Jackson & Rah (The US church needs to lament)
  47. Reconciling All Things – Katongole & Rice (A Christian vision for justice, peace & healing)
  48. Christ and Reconciliation – Veli-Matti Karkkainen (An attempt to move “academic Christian theology from the slumber of Euro-American hegemony”)
  49. Barking Up the Wrong Tree – Eric Barker (The surprising science behind success)
  50. A Journey to Wholeness – Mark Belz (The gospel according to Naaman’s slave girl)
  51. Born A Crime – Trevor Noah (The comedian’s story of growing up mixed-race in South Africa)
  52. Finding Faithful Elders & Deacons – Thabiti Anyabwile (Helpful book breaking down 1 Tim 3 and Titus 1 into practical reality)
  53. The Incarnation in the Gospels – Doriani, Ryken & Phillips (Soul medicine during Advent)
  54. Evangelical Theology – Michael Bird (Highly recommended systematic theology written with the gospel at the center)
  55. The Good Immigrant – Edited by Nikesh Shukla (21 essays by 1st & 2nd gen British immigrants)
  56. Teaching: The Heart of God’s Redemptive Program – James “Buck” Hatch (Short book with my grandfather’s thoughts on teaching)
  57. Falling Upward – Richard Rohr (Franciscan priest shares lessons on the second half of life)

My Top 10 Books: 2017

“I am a firm believer that reading broadly is important for leaders, and especially for those of us who are preachers and teachers. Why? It enables us to enter into people’s lives and sub-cultures far different from our own.” ~ Pete Scazzero

Each year since 2010, I’ve been making a list of my favourite books of the year.  The following books probably weren’t published in 2017, nor do I agree with everything written in them.  But for various reasons, they stuck with me, challenged my thinking and were just enjoyable to read.

Here’s my 2017 top 10 in the order that I finished them:

1. Seeking refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis – Stephan Bauman

In light of the significant increase in refugees around the world the question remains, “How does the church respond to the current crisis?”  Bauman reminds us that not only was Jesus a refugee in his early years, but the people we see on the nightly news are all made in the image of God.  These are not just problems to be dealt with but fellow humans with dignity currently facing staggering challenges.

2. Prisoners of Geography – Tim Marshall 

This fascinating look at how the physical features of a country impacts politics has been one that’s come up in dinner conversation again and again.  Nations can’t escape their past nor the geography but must learn to adapt to the modern realities for the benefit of all.

3. Half of a Yellow Sun – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

A classic novel set in the Nigerian civil war of the late 60’s which opened my eyes to the history of this West African country.

4. Redemption Accomplished and Applied – John Murray 

I think this was the first proper theology book I read. After 25 years, it was time to read this classic again.

5. Union with Christ – Rankin Wilbourne 

Wilbourne calls “union with Christ” the forgotten doctrine.  I think he’s on the right track in helping renew its place at the centre of our theological understanding.

6. Destiny – David Gibson 

Grounded in the biblical book of Ecclesiastes, Gibson tackles life and death issues in a profound and yet readable way.

7. Hillbilly Elegy – J.D. Vance 

This eye-opening and heartbreaking story of one man growing up in a broken, dysfunctional, white working-class family.  We have to be careful extrapolating Vance’s story too far but he offers a window into the lower-income white American world.

8. This is London – Ben Judah 

This book is packed full of stories from London.  People we “see” every day and yet they tend to be invisible to most of us as we go about our business.

9. White Awake – Daniel Hill 

Most of us who are white don’t have to think about racial issues unless we decide to.  This is not the case for our minority brothers and sisters. Hill’s book forces white Christians to think about the implications of being white in America and the West today.

10. Evangelical Theology – Michael Bird 

I’d never read a systematic theology with jokes in it until I read this. Bird, an Australian, is not only funny, he’s a deep thinker who makes classic theological concepts understandable.  Written on a university level and generally from a Reformed perspective, I’d recommend this to all.


You can look through all the books I finished in 2016 here. 

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