Strange Fire, The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship

Strange Fire, Coffee and galleta on backdrop of hand woven Guatemalan cloth.

Strange Fire, Coffee and galleta on backdrop of hand woven Guatemalan cloth.

Author John MacArthur; published in Nashville, TN, by Nelson Books, an imprint of Thomas Nelson.  Nelson Books and Thomas Nelson are registered trademarks of HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc.

After recent interaction between Dr. MacArthur and a couple of charismatic ‘leaders’ I wanted to purchase this book and read it, but never got around to ordering it.  When home in West Virginia (Dec 2013-Jan 2014) both my mother and brother-in-law offered it as a gift.  Dare I say, “a sign” that I should read it.  (sly evil grin Dr. John!).  I accepted Mom’s because she had read it already and I love her margin notes.  We have shared books a few times over the years.  I learn something of my past or her’s every time.

I have heard Dr. MacArthur’s sermons on occasion and read other material he has authored.  I enjoy and learn from his body of work to a great degree.  In this book MacArthur strongly, with reasoned argument opposes charismatic theology/doctrine.  If you must use man’s terms to define my belief system charismatic fits in there somewhere.  I strongly encourage my charismatic friends and pastors to read this book only if you will commit to read it entirely.  Dr. MacArthur considers many of us brothers and he cares deeply for our souls and the souls of others.  As hard as his words are sometimes, he comes at this with a passion for the church as a whole, and the edification of believers.  If you do take this book in hand read to the end and his closing letter.  Don’t through it down at chapter 4!  smile.

Technically there is some redundancy and heavy use of quotations.  Arguably he is confirming the opposition’s position – or complying with his publisher’s word count requirements.  The book is extensively footnoted and uses website/online sourcing which allows one to confirm the truth of his argument.  I learned much from reading Strange Fire.

Agreeing with much of what Dr. MacArthur says, I believe his error is that he lumps everyone that uses any tenant of charismatic movement together with the charismaniacs.  Every promise of God, every truth, every good and holy doctrine of God has in Satan’s realm and the realm of man’s mind and heart a hundred counterfeits.  We are fully capable of making God in our image in so many ways.  John MacArthur blunts his critique with compassion in the final chapter, ergo one reason to read the whole book.

The pastors I have worked with in the Calvary Chapel movement are continuationists by MacArthur’s definition.  But I have never seen abuse in any of the services I have been in.  To lump these men in with the likes of Benny Hinn and his ilk is pragmatically, intellectually and theologically an insult.  They are not guilty of the teaching that tongues are a sign of salvation that is linked with hyper-Pentecostalism.  These heresies are actively opposed by the charismatic pastors I have rubbed shoulders with.  But this is not a defense of such as these.

MacArthur does effectively and for the benefit of the church, the Bride of Christ go after the idolaters that take the tenants of charismatic movement and abuse their congregations.  Scripture and our God has not changed.  A false prophet is a false prophet and an abomination to our LORD.  Therefore when a pastor or one in the congregation makes a “prophetic word” that either immediately or in time becomes clear it is false, that one is a false prophet.  That brings harm to the true church and should be disciplined firmly and with haste.  I agree with MacArthur’s take on prophecy.  Why are we seeking a new revelation?  We are living in an age where we are seeing the prophectic words of existing canonized Scripture ‘ripening’ almost daily.  That’s enough excitement for me!!

In regard to healing – to take on this issue.  MacArthur is correct in that tele-evangelist showmanship is – struggling for the word here since this is a Christian blog.  It is done for show, pride of the man/woman leading the service and keeps them wealthy.  It is more than heresy.  Does that mean that healing does not occur?  NO!  First there is the healing that comes from God’s design of the human frame.  MacArthur and I agree on that I am sure.  From 40 years in surgery I am amazed at what surgeons can do and what response the body gives… it is miraculous but not a miracle.

On the other hand James encourages the sick to call the elders together to pray and to anoint with oil.  IT IS NOT DONE FOR SHOW, FOR MONEY, for the glory of man.  I have participated in and led these sessions.  I have seen tumor in breast tissue, with positive diagnostic imaging disappear after faithful prayer and anointing in obedience to Scripture not be found when our friend was sent for biopsy a couple days later.  In fact the primary doctor and the doctor to do the biopsy argued standing at the view box.  I led that particular prayer meeting of about 6 believers – I do not consider my self an anointed healer.  I did what James said in faith – to Jesus Christ be all the glory. I work in medical missions I know of other incidents that can not be explained away by ‘misdiagnosis’ etc.  NONE of these are bragged about publicly by the individuals involved.  When we get to the end of our resources, exhausting our skills and are left with only an out cry to God… we know that He did what we His child could never do.  The Holy Spirit is involved, but in these times I have only heard glory given to Christ Jesus.

So Dr. MacArthur I am a continuationist at least by degree… I actually hate the terms we come up with to divide, define, parse our theology.  Brother, I will join you in searching the Scripture and wrestle to get as close to truth as possible.  I thank you for caring for my soul and doctrine.

Mom, I read every word!  Actually, I enjoyed the ‘iron sharpening iron’ moments.

Again I encourage my Charismatic, Calvinist, Reformed, etc. friends to read this book.  Then get in the Bible and get as close to the Fountain of Truth to drink the Water of Life.

In Christ,

Dennis McCutcheon

humility, the forgotten virtue…

IMG_0039author Wayne A. Mack with Joshua Mack, publisher P&R Publishing Company, P.O. Box 817, Phillipsburg, NJ 08865-0817.

I am a Wayne Mack fan and use some of his counseling books for premarital counseling.  I find he sticks very tight to Scripture and have yet to find abuse of the Bible in his writings.  Always test man’s thoughts, writings, and teachings against God’s Word.  Dr. Mack, I am confident would agree with that encouragement.  One of my favorite philosopher’s Dick Lloyd says it this way, “Don’t drink downstream!”

It is understated to say the subject of this book is HUMILITY.  I did not know so much material existed in Scripture about this one subject.  It is obviously important to God, and an area man has difficulty understanding and walking in obedience.  Dr. Mack is a Bible based counselor.  He gives us practical ‘homework’.  If you will read this book spread out beside your study Bible and work out the questions at the end of each chapter, you will grow in your walk with the LORD.   I guarantee.

Each believer WILL descend the path into the Valley of Humiliation (The Pilgrim’s Progress).  This is where God destroys the pride of life that clings to us so stubbornly.  Abraham, Joseph and Moses all had extended periods of time being humiliated, misunderstood, ,maltreated before God used them in His Story.  God will rip it out of our lives and we will then be blessed… painful for a season perhaps, but our LORD has His Work and our best in His Mind.

This book is filled with Scripture, salted with biographical snippets of Bible heros and more modern missionaries.  I know of no other work where so much information on this subject is packed together.  One could race through it in few hours, but to do so would be to ‘audit the class’ and not take advantage of the meat that is here.  I encourage you to get this book, take the time to work through each chapter, its Biblical references and then to work through the questions and exercises at the end of each chapter.  One could use this as a Sunday School series, a pastor could work through  this in the pulpit in a month long (or more) series.  The class/congregation will benefit, but all the more if they will do so personally at the desk or dining room table.

I found myself once wondering why all this was not compiled together in one place in the  Scriptures.  The western mind wants everything in one pile (i.e. pile of potatoes, pile of onions, celery in another drawer), but the eastern mind stirs all these things together in one big stew.  We learn better by the stew model I am convinced.  In the Bible, we have teachings on pride contrasted with humility, then we have biographical stories where we see pride (Joseph revealing his dream in his youth) being stripped away and successfully being replaced with humility (Joseph comforting his brothers late in life that what they did, selling him into slavery, was used by God for good.  Further Joseph held no malice).  Our minds catch a piece here and another piece from another passage and these are sewn together in our minds for our benefit.  It takes time.  It takes being in the Word of God.  Pile in, dig deep and take your time with this book.  The development of humility in the life of the believer can not be emphasized enough.  Humility is key to compassion, loving the unlovable, accepting Godly rebuke from a brother, giving Glory to Jesus and not claiming that glory for ourselves, being ridiculed as we share with a friend his need for Jesus.  Humility defeats destructive pride, get as close to this truth as you can.

In Christ, Dennis McCutcheon

In The Near Loss of Everything

In The Near Loss of Everything, by Dale Slusser.

In The Near Loss of Everything, by Dale Slusser.

author Dale Wayne Slusser, Publisher Zossima Press ( 



This book will appeal to a limited audience.  If you are a lover of all things George MacDonald, or are a regional history buff (Asheville, NC, USA) you want to add this to your list.  If you like a good love story this tome may be for you.  It is real not fiction.  I have my very own signed copy.  I was one of Dale’s cheer leaders as I observed him collecting data and then doing the hard work of ‘shaving his baby’ I observed a friend expanding a brilliant mind.

Cindy and I operated a ministry called MedEquip Missions under the umbrella of Helps International Ministries (HIM) in Asheville NC.  Dale and I worked in separate cubicles at HIM –  REALLY separate after he heard some of my medical and dental conversations, during construction.  Dale did the construction and architectural drawing (I often call him my favorite cartoonist) for HIM.  A couple days after I started work and still during construction, I saw Dale pouring over the plans and the next morning the carpenters had a full wall framed between us just so Dale wouldn’t have to hear medical terms.  I am sitting here chuckling.  One of my first conversations with him was at the end of the office devotional time, where I asked if anyone had glasses for donation I was collecting and sending to Glasses for the Masses… I heard Dale say, “what about glass eyes?”  I said something smart alecky only to find out Dale has a glass eye and a drawer full of glass eyes he has collected over the years.  We are blessed to have Dale, he had huge medical problems at birth, heart lungs and loosing the eye at birth.  He and his brother grew up in Hershey Home for Boys (praise God for his house parents).  From some of the story’s Dale has shared, they had to be saints on earth.  If you get to meet this brother ask him to sing the Hershey version of the Nestle’s advertising jingle.

A note about the picture.  You will see it is not coffee.  This is Yorkshire tea an almost daily tradition in the Planning and Design ministry that Dale Slusser now leads an awesome crew of designers working in US, Europe, Asia, and I think a couple other continents.

My list of hero’s is short.  Dale is one of them.  If you have an interest in starting in missions and are in the Asheville area, considering talking with the staff at Helps International Ministries in Oakley on Fairview Road.

He is my second favorite Anglophile, after my mother.  Dale is an aficionado of George MacDonald.  One of MacDonald eleven children ended up in Asheville, NC and when Dale met the granddaughter of the head master of Ravenscroft School for Boys at his church where son Ronald MacDonald taught, the research and collecting started.  I was there when Dale flew off his chair after talking to libraries in England, figuring out exchange rates and postage rates to get yet another copy of a letter.  I imagine this book cost Dale more than he will make from it.  It is truly a labor of love.

And about love – Ronald loved the LORD, family, literature, writing and theater, the George MacDonald children could do little else being raised by that man. He had a talent for teaching.  He had one other love, his young wife Louise.  What follows is chic movie kind of stuff – but not made up for film.   Life lived out, life coming to an end, but must continue for the other when he has come to ‘the near loss of everything.’  The presentation is through Dale’s connecting prose with MacDonald family letters.  This is an almost too personal book and will stir your heart.  To share much would be to take away from the work.  Louise is buried in Riverside Cemetery in Asheville, NC.  The school building itself is on the Historic Registry and is the oldest extant building in Asheville.  The school proper started in early 1800’s was closed during the War Between the States, started back a few years later as a boys school and seminary.

If interested in local Asheville history, the MacDonald’s or life in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s when Asheville’s population was about 12,000 souls and the go to place for Yankees in the winter and southerners in the summer order a copy of Dale Slusser’s book.  There is a moving partially biographical letter from Ronald in regard to his father George in the appendices, for those of you who have lost an honorable dad it will have meaning.

Well off to finish that Yorkshire Tea y’all.

A Promise Kept – The Story of an Unforgettable Love

by Robertson McQuilkin, Tyndale House Publishers,Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois.



I am tempted to make this the smallest review ever by saying – ‘get it, read it.’  If a reviewer says anything demeaning of this book he is a cold heartless no count twit.

OK, I must say more – I read of McQuilkin some years ago in a separate book who referred to his letter of resignation from the Office of President of Columbia International University (formerly Columbia Bible College) to care for his wife Muriel.  [For my friends in Asheville NC region McQuilkin was head master of Ben Lippen School in his early years].

You will read very few books that are so deeply personal as this brother’s walk in caring for his wife during her slide into Alzheimer and its ravaging ways.  It can be read in one evening.  My copy has the spine broken and pages coming loose.  It was a gift to my wife, but I probably read it more often than she.

McQuilkin is a reluctant author in this matter.  I think I would be too.  He, not desiring to be, is the hero of a story that he was forced to live.  He would like NOT to be that hero, but a vow before God and wife had to be kept.  Many men and women flee in the same circumstance.  God walked with this humble brother and demonstratively proved His Word is true.
I cannot say much else except this is a book to be experienced by every man who says he will love his wife no matter what.  To love when love can’t be returned – how can Christ be demonstrated more to the world around us?  Christ loved us when were sinners, yes even the enemy of God…  we are back to ‘get it, read it.’

Why We’re Not Emergent (by two guys who should be)

Co-authors Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck, forward by David F. Wells, Moody Publishers Chicago.

Why We Are Not Emergent

Why We Are Not Emergent

None less than D.A. Carson and Albert Mohler praise this book.  If you are involved in an emergent church or are interested in what the emergent church is reading this book will edify you.  DeYoung and Kluck (D&K) have different writing styles.  They  alternated chapters… interesting experiment.  I predict you will like one over the other depending on your nature.  I applaud them in trying to reach a target audience with which they disagree while trying hard to not be disagreeable.  However, it is like grandma putting extra sugar in your tea when you were a wee one, at some point there is too much sugar.

On the positive side, D&K take the time to try to define a church movement that wiggles like warm jello.  In fact I find in trying to define the emergent/emerging church they are all over the dart board on their theology, doxology and etc.ologies.  It is a point in fact of which the emergent leadership seems proud.  D&K are kinder than I would be.  The attempt to tenderly define the movement finally became a cure for insomnia on several nights.  However the last three or four chapters where they finally nail the gelatinous blob of religious pablum to the wall is a worthy read for all.

As you can tell, I am no fan of the emergent movement.  I have the following divergence with Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck.   If they believe the leaders of the emergent church are believers and the teaching to be non orthodox in the least, heresy in some cases they should communicate with these leaders directly.  Seeing no fruit of repentance should take a brother as a witness, etc.  I believe those in emergent leadership understand their great divide with orthodox stands on Christ, the need for the cross, sin of man, and are actively engaged in tickling the ears of their constituents.  Therefore do not believe they are in truth believers.   If D&K believe their audience to be misguided congregants and are applying a little honey to the dialogue then I yield to gentler souls than I.

The emergent church in rebelling against orthodox age old Gospel preaching churches does point out a problem.  Orthodox doctrine taught as a series of factoids without relation with Christ and transformation due to Christ’s redemptive work makes legalists of us all = modern day Pharisees.  But the emergent church flees without effecting a cure.  The emergent movement changes the teachings (doctrine), there may be no hell, all will go to heaven, Christ on the cross is cosmic child abuse, Christ is a great teacher, moral example, a really good counselor / psychiatrist able to take the good in you and develop it for your benefit.  There is no need for the blood shed at the cross, come on in all are welcome.

Jeremiah 6:16a (ASV) Thus saith Jehovah, Stand ye in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way; and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls:

I know of no place in Scripture where doctrine and deed are divorced.  The word of God is truth, not mere containing of some truth for us to figure out with puny mortal minds.  It is not a moral list of good quotes and a list of things to do… one from column A (reject 2,3, 6, 8 and 9) and two from column B.  Rest for MY SOUL came when I finally believed what my mother, my dad and so many Godly pastors taught me over the first three decades of life.  Not a belief like the demons have, but one that came from a Holy Spirit convicted, Christ transformed mind and heart.  I cannot change Christ; add to or take away from perfection is to make it imperfect.  I am not free (nor are you) to change Christ.  The Bible does not teach there is a good ember in me for some great moralist to fan into flame.  Romans 5 teaches that I was the enemy of God yet Christ died for me.  One great irony is the Unchanged Christ frees me.

Jer. 6:16b… one of the saddest clauses in Scripture… “but they said, We will not walk therein. “
God desires to give us rest for our weary dead souls, and He gives us the Way, the Truth and the Life… God lays out the path – yes some pastors and churches fail miserably, being social and political organizations which Christ Himself will not recognize.  God lays out the path and requires YOU to stand in it, to ask where is the old path?  Where is the good way?  Once identified to walk in that way and find His rest.  I am not emergent either.  I am a sinner deserving an eternity in a very real Hell, once an enemy of God, Who loved me in spite of myself (truly in spite of myself) to make a way so that He could forgive my sin.  The cheap grace of this aberrant religion of men is offensive to God.  His Grace is costly.  The Very Son of God died in my place.  Jesus conquered the worst that Satan can hold over me and I serve a Risen Savior with joy and freedom that if you could but understand you would desire for your self and all you love.

LORD help me to stand in the old path, the good way.  I covet the rest that You offer.  Use me LORD to be a sign post for those who say for awhile “we will not walk” in Your path.  I ask this in Jesus Name Amen.

in Christ, Dennis McCutcheon

Ariel’s Bible Commentary – Judges and Ruth, Exposition from a Messianic Jewish Perspective

Ariel's Bible Commentary - Judges and Ruth

Ariel’s Bible Commentary – Judges and Ruth

by Arnold Fruchtenbaum Th.M., Ph.D.  publisher Ariel Ministries, P.O Box 792507, San Antonio, TX 78279-2507.

This is a commentary on Judges and Ruth.  Dr. Fruchtenbaum holds us to the Jewishness of Scripture for our edification and strengthening of our faith.  The details from his knowledge of geography, rabbinical writings, history of the nation Israel and his Messianic Jewish roots adds not only nuances of meaning but tons of joy in knowing the truth of the Word of God.

Technical aspects of the book i.e. coverage of author, title, date of writing, structure, systematic theology, purpose, theme, etc. are done with precision and are not wordy.  Dr. Fruchtenbaum is not writing for the white halls of academia but for the believer in the trenches.  One of the technical issues that I cheer is that the passage of Scripture is given before the comment.  One does not have to have his Bible open to compare the commentary as the passage is there on the page.  Few commentaries do this.  I understand it is space saving to exclude the Scripture. But, I carry Fruchtenbaum’s commentary in my “man-bag” and when waiting on next appointment I have both Scripture and the source of study in my hands in one book.  Thank you Dr. Fruchtenbaum.

If I get into the commentary deeply, I cannot see how I can control the length of this review.  So here are a couple of examples and allusions to some issues, but I will leave the joy of using this study resource to you.  As the Jews did what suited them and started worshiping the gods of the Canaanites they cyclically came under G-d’s wrath.  For example Judges 2:14a “and the anger of Jehovah was kindled against Israel…”  In the Hebrew original language this is an idiom literally translated means “His nose burned.”  Now ain’t that colorful?  I am a country boy used to colorful idioms, i.e. grandma once said of a bow legged man, “Why, that man couldn’t hem a hog in a ditch!”  Vivid language brings long lasting pictures to mind and help with memory of the points in a book.  Fruchtenbaum’s writings are full of these.

Fruchtenbaum ties Judges and Ruth together around the kingships of Saul and David and interestingly makes a case for Ruth being an appendix to Judges.  The evil of Saul is in his heritage and the goodness of (not perfection) David is supported by family heritage of a believing remnant in the land around Bethlehem but rather than reporting in detail I will challenge you to study this for yourself.

I will fill my library with Fruchtenbaum’s commentaries as they come available (Hebrews, I & II Peter, James and Jude are in one volume and available, there are others coming as I understand).  These are available through Ariel Ministries web site . 

May I encourage you to go listen to this man teach if he comes to your area.  Frankly he stands in the pulpit like a statue and is somewhat mono-tonal (sorry Dr. Fruchtenbaum) but his subject matter is so important to we who believe that he will hold your attention and you will be blessed.  His teaching on the Jewishness of the Messiah and the Gospels has encouraged and strengthened my faith and preaching.

A word about the photo… notice NO COFFEE.  My nephew and I recently discussed my dad’s (his grandad) love for books and especially those that add to our love of Christ and Creation.  But dad  always said no thank you to coffee.  “I am not old enough for coffee!” still rings in our ears doesn’t it Jeremiah?  Now dad made cheese sandwiches (three sandwiches could be made from one block of cheddar and he had stock in more than one mayonnaise company) and a can of Dr. Pepper was a common lunch.  The photo is a smile for Granddad McCutcheon’s grandkids.

In Christ, Dennis McCutcheon

The Cross Centered Life – Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing

The Cross Centered Life

The Cross Centered Life

By C. J. Mahaney with Keaven Meath, Lifechange Books Series, publish Multnomah Books.

CJ Mahaney is president of Sovereign Grace Ministry, co-founded with Larry Tomczak.  CJ cofounded Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg MD.  Joshua Harris (home schoolers will know that name) is now senior pastor of that church while CJ has planted Sovereign Grace Church in Louisville KY.  He lists Spurgeon and Calvin as influences in his theology tho’ most would refer to him as charismatic.  Interesting admixture of faith…

The book, The Cross Centered Life – Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing is a treatment of the simple title and thought.  A brief book, (an expanded sermon?) readable in one setting for most.  He opens with Paul’s message to Timothy, his last will and testament to one he considered his spiritual son.  Knowing death was imminent he gave his final words to a young man for which he cared passionately.  What pearl did Paul leave as an inheritance to the young preacher?

2Ti 2:8  Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, of the seed of David, according to my gospel:

OK so Paul points to theresurrection while CJ’s title points to the cross.  It’s a small thing.  You can’t have Christ resurrected without Christ crucified (quit nitpickin’ Dennis).  The main point is the Gospel, hold to what has been taught Timothy.  It is the cross.  Christ died on that cross, so that sinners would be reconciled to and forgiven by God.  Paul was a bull-dog on knowing “nothing… except Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2).”  I think about this as I read modern day theologians from the white halls of universities trying to come up with some new take on church growth, or some tele-evangelist firing up on a new thought, a new faith.  Paul got fired up about Jesus, the cross and resurrection at the end of life just as he did at the beginning.  The older I get the more I believe Paul would be offended at much done in the modern church.

From that point on, it is my opinion that CJ simply but powerfully makes his point.  The message is simple.  The message is powerful in its simplicity.  Shame on us for making this awesome gift something we seem to have to earn.  gag…  Legalism, condemnation, and subjectivism are joy robbers for the Christian.  Legalism bases my relationship with God on my ability to perform.  Condemnation subtly enters my life almost daily when I focus on my sin and give it more attention than I do God’s grace.  Oh and the last one is so deeply rooted in today’s culture it is a anchor to the Christian pulling him under the cesspool of culture.  My waffling heart, changing emotions control my view of God… subjectivism allows me to define God, create God in my own image which changes day to day depending on an argument with my wife, my boss, the traffic here in GUATEMALA CITY!!!

Mahaney plants The Cross in the middle of each of these heart defects.  Simply and precisely teaches the reader what the fault looks like and how the cross cures the wound.  This book is encouraging to the believer.  I actually plan on using some of the teaching on legalism during our Bible study this weekend.  We are studying Christ’s defiance of the Pharisee’s and the Sermon on the Mount.

CJ Mahaney would think this brief tome successful if the reader made the Gospel his passion and not Mahaney’s writings.  If Mahaney gets you closer to “May I never boast EXCEPT in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ”, he would be cheered.


In Christ, Dennis McCutcheon

Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands – People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change

by Paul David TrIMG_9186ipp.  Publisher The Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation, Glenside, PA.  Many other books, pamphlets in this series.  The publishing house is P&R Publishing –

Author bio – Dr. Tripp (M.Div., Philadelphia Theological Seminary; D.Min., Westminster Theological Seminary) is a counselor at the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation in Glenside, PA; director of its Changing Lives Ministries.  He is a lecturer in practical theology (counseling) at Westminster Theological Seminary.  Author of Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide to Parenting Teens,  War of Words: Getting to the Heart of Our Communication Struggles,  Suffering: Eternity Makes a Difference, Marriage: Whose Dream?,  Teens and Sex: How Should We Teach Them?  and many articles for the Journal of Biblical Counseling.  As a personal aside, I have heard Dr. Tripp speak on at least three occasions and find him to be equally engaging in lecture as he is in print.  That is not always true – smile.

This book is 362 pages long and filled with “meat”.  It is for Biblical Counseling.  Now you need to know who a counselor is…

Rom 15:13-14  Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, in the power of the Holy Spirit.  And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish (instruct, counsel) one another.

Paul (the apostle – not Dr. Tripp) wrote the letter to all who believed in Rome.  He excludes NO ONE from the act of counseling.  If we are in Christ ( Counselor Isaiah 9:6) and filled with the Holy Spirit ( called Comforter by Christ in Jn 14:16&26; 15:26) then according to Apostle Paul this is one of the believers functions.  Obviously we believe our pastors and Christian psychologists are counselors, but what Paul recognized is that if you are a husband, wife, parent, sibling, friend, neighbor indwelt by the Counselor Incarnate you will counsel.  Ain’t that something?  Right now you are doing this accidentally.  What Paul Tripp does in this book is teach us how to counsel with intention.  I bought this book years ago and read until page 250 and seeing his diagram for “trust and obey”, I had an ah ha moment.  I could use this in a situation at the time, ran straight way and was used by God to meet  a need.  Unfortunately I never made it back to the book.  So I have spent the last two weeks starting from the beginning and finished it this time.

You have read books where skimming first sentences of paragraphs gives you enough information that you understand the authors points and can respond to the teacher or professors test/discussion.  Come on, confess!  If you do that with Dr. Tripp’s work you will miss much.  This is also a book that you must lay your Bible along side and read where he encourages you to do so.  The appendixes are as valuable as the text.  In fact if you get into formal counseling you will wear this book out going to the homework sections in the back of the book.

Dr. Tripp does not let you the counselor, counsel in pride or as one in authority over the weaker brother.  Oh no, you are a wounded person in need of help called to help another in need of help.  The counselor is to take the counselee in tow and put their eyes on the Word of God and on Christ.  It is an issue of the heart and mind.  We need transforming in the recesses of the heart.  But we are not the Wonderful Counselor – Jesus is.  Dr. Tripp lays this out in detail in the early chapters.   We are good at looking for techniques, or systems that will deal with our problem or those for whom we care.  That is secular to the core.  Biblical counseling instead of offering a system of redemption, introduces them to The Redeemer.  “Hope rests in the grace of the Redeemer, the only real means of lasting change.” (p. 8)  Sin is the grand psychosis which none of us escape.  Sin produces rebellion and foolishness and renders us incapable of doing what God has ordained for us to do.  In sin we worship something else.  Every human is a worshiper actively pursuing that which pleases us.  We think we are in control but that which our heart desires captures, controls and enslaves us instead.   All suffer in this.  The one counseling is simply an ambassador of the suffering King, a sufferer himself called by God to minister to another in pain.  To date Dr. Tripp handles the issue of suffering better than any author I have read outside of Scripture.

The final two thirds of this book teach how to develop the skills of relating to others in need, speaking the truth in love, gaining data and knowledge and bringing those that God brings into your sphere to transforming redemption.  While he gives good tactile specifics he urges you to leave room for molding the conversation and homework to the specifics of the person to whom you are ministering.  Counseling is not a one size fits all.  They come to you spiritually blind and must be given sight before they see change.  This book will give you confidence and sharpen your skills.

As I read this book, I thought of my sons and daughters, of Sonia in university gaining education and degree so she can function as a counselor/psychologist, they could use this book.  Mike and Karen as they lead the group of children God has clearly called them to shepherd in the years ahead.  I so wish I had read this before I became husband and dad.  But now I am a grandad, so kids (grandkids) watch out.  There is meat for consumption on every page.  Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands is a book that will not leave my office (exception – Mike Rhea can borrow it ONE time.  He has returned books always.  The rest of you = don’t even ask).

In Christ, Dennis McCutcheon

Crazy Love – Overwhelmed by a Relentless God,


Crazy Love – Francis Chan

Author Francis Chan with Danae Yankoski; foreward by Chris Tomlin.  Published 2008, by David C Cook, 4050 Lee Vance View, Colorado Springs, CO 80918 USA.

Amazon (for reference only not an advertisement) 14.99 marked down to $11.18.   Kindle version $8.54.  There is a Spanish translation, study guides and support material.

I was challenged to read this book by Jose and Sonia Suarez here in Guatemala.  I had heard snippets of Francis Chan’s preaching via internet resources over the years but had not read any of his material.  I have held this book for two years now, actually started it twice but work of ministry has distracted me until lately.  The reason Pastor Chan wrote this book is stated rather bluntly on pp 168, “I wrote this book because much of our talk doesn’t match our lives.  We say things like, ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart.’  Then we live and plan like we don’t believe God even exists.  We try to set our lives up so everything will be fine even if God doesn’t come through.  But true faith means holding nothing back.  It means putting every hope in God’s fidelity to His promises.”   Hold nothing back, Pastor Chan says.  In order to do that we must come to know the radical, crazy love that God has for us.  We speak it… Do we believe it?

Chan and his publisher have combined book and internet in an interesting fashion.  At you will find a video introduction to the book and a series of brief videos that accompany each chapter.  Most of these will tweak you.  If you use them I suggest looking at the video for that specific chapter before reading that chapter.   The book will stand alone without the video interruptions for the book purist.

Pastor Chan does a good job of sharing the awe and characteristics of God.  It is foundational to his teaching.  How God loves His people is crazy, insane.  But Chan’s complaint is that we have made God common.  We pray with eyes on ourselves, our needs and expect God to come along side and support my plan for my life.  Chan chips away at this for the individual and corporately for the church.  He will for some be found offensive.  But a God of awe, loves awesomely beyond our understanding.  God desires (requires?) that kind of love in return.

I have read that Chan believes in Universal Atonement in fact delayed reading his work because of it… I wish someone would show me where this is present in Chan’s teaching, because I don’t see it.  In fact his treatment of Rev. 3 Christ spewing the luke-warm out of His mouth seems polar opposite of the above accusation.  Chan sees no wiggle room for a professing believer to be luke-warm.  He clearly states that these that are luke-warm are NOT believers and are not destined for heaven.  He is heart broken stating clearly in one of his sermons I watched that he believes there are those sitting under his teaching in Cornerstone Church that will not be in heaven.

I found this tome challenging and will read it again in a later season.  It is not works salvation but once we understand how radical the love of God is, and we believe truly our lives will change.  A proper and deep view of the Father will draw us ever deeper in relationship and repentance.  Our lives will show visible transformation in our giving of finances, time, compassion, etc.  Chan’s teaching using his father as example is very transparent.  I work with a group of men and women here in Guatemala that are among the most transparently transformed believers that I have ever worked with.  None of them had dad’s in their lives.  The leadership intentionally tries to demonstrate, as well as teach  proper fatherhood.  It is humbling and brings tears to my eyes to see these men who were fatherless growing up, led lives of crime and now transformed to watch them tenderly nurture, lovingly discipline and pour their faith into the children God has intrusted them with.  What I see as I minister here, is testimony to what Chan teaches in Crazy Love.

If you want to quit living the luke-warm nauseating, marking time til you die kind of life, then get close to the God Who is relentlessly pursuing you.  The God that gave His Son’s life to cover your sin, to demonstrate a love that defies our understanding, become intentional in your study of His word, intentional in obedience to what you read.  Chan says, “We never grow closer to God when we just live life; it takes deliberate pursuit and attentiveness.”

Lord may we come alive, may we be set a fire, may we understand the radical crazy love You have for us.

In Christ, Dennis McCutcheon

The Misery of Job and the Mercy of God – John Piper


The Misery of Job and the Mercy of God – John Piper

Photography by Ric Ergenbright.  Published by Crossway Books, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, 1300 Crescent Street, Wheaton,  Illinois.  Available at suggested price of 19.99

As I write this review, there are several families suffering loss of loved ones and patients with horrific wounds in the aftermath of the terrorist bombing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.  Texas is investigating an explosion at a fertilizer plant in Waco Texas area where several were killed, some bodies still not found.  Inconsolable grief is being met with insufferable cliches as I write.  Imagine Job’s pain.

John Piper, who retired recently, has done a splendid work in putting the book of Job, the pain of Job, the victory of Job and God’s hand in Job’s life in poetry form.  The Misery of Job and the Mercy of God is a beautiful piece of work.  Ergenbright’s photography is of such quality that on occasion it distracts the eye from reading.  I first “heard” this book riding with my brother-in-law on a cold day in February 2003.  There was CD version with Piper reading his own work.   I am glad David was driving for there were times I had trouble seeing the road through the tears.  I have since used this book for devotions, given it as gifts and I read it about once every four to six months.

Piper is a wordsmith.  He brings you into the story that most believer’s know well.  After describing Job’s family and possession’s we hear Job pray:

“O Lord, if this were lost instead,
And all I had was you, I would
Be rich, and have the greatest Good.
But I do love my…”

We know the loss that follows.  I have read Piper’s passage as Job explains to his wife what may kill her to speak it.  Job’s prayer to take the pain and spare his wife, I still cannot read  without a lump in my throat.

And then we get to the friends.  The right balance between the sacrifice of friends who would drop what they were doing to come serve and grieve with Job.  We sometimes forget that fact and scorn these men when they start searching Job’s life to find blame.  “Spare me your packages of God” sticks in my mind when I step up to the pulpit.  It challenges me to be cautious, to deliver the truth of what God says of Himself and not what my small mind molds Him to be.  The grandeur and supremacy of  God is not presented more powerfully than when God asks Job to stand before Him and reveals Himself.  When God speaks in the book of Job I still get goosebumps…  Often mortal men weaken the Word when they paraphrase passages, Piper does not.

In the closing stanza/chapter of Piper’s poem the superlative grace of our Sovereign God comes through.  Job’s misery while not forgotten is conquered by the Mercy of his God and that mercy flows out to the friends and to the next generation.

This is a worthy read, a book I will give as a gift, but not loan out my last copy ever.  If you know my love for good books, I am not sure I can give a higher praise than you can’t have MY COPY.  Enjoy the read.

I’ll end with the closing stanza to the first chapter:

“And now come, broken, to the cross,
Where Christ embraced all human loss,
And let us bow before the throne
Of God, who gives and takes his own,
And promises – whatever toll
He takes – to satisfy our soul.
Come, learn the lesson of the rod:
The treasure that we have in God.
He is not poor nor much enticed
Who loses everything but Christ.”

In Christ, Dennis McCutcheon