Wednesday, March 08, 2017

The most unselfish prayer ever made

In the opening verses of Romans 9 the apostle Paul turns his thoughts to his Jewish countrymen and women and in particular their rejection of their own Messiah Jesus. As his heart breaks for his native people he utters one of the most extraordinary prayers in the entire Bible.

I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit— I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel.

It is an astonishing prayer, and one Paul is at pains to show was not a pious throwaway line or some holy flannel – ‘I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit’. In it Paul expresses that such is his love for his kinsfolk that he would be willing to forfeit his own salvation if it could save them.

A challenging & chilling prayer
It is a prayer that is both profoundly challenging and chilling. Challenging because it takes an axe to the root of self-love and asks us how much do we really care about the fate of others? Chilling because of what is being contemplated - to be ‘cursed and cut off from Christ’. For the Christian so aware of their sin, awed by God’s holiness, and sensible of the coming judgement, such a prospect is frankly terrifying. To be shut out of heaven and to face a lost eternity is everything we have fled to Christ to escape.

To lay down your life in the here and now for another would take love and courage enough – but to dam yourself for eternity – that’s a thought surely too dreadful even to consider. Could I ever be so unselfish, so sacrificial, so devoted to others and so pre-eminently concerned with their welfare to be willing to forgo my very soul?

An unattainable prayer
Yet, and much to my relief, such a scenario could only ever be rhetorical. Not that Paul wasn’t sincere but the reality is, for him and for me, that even if either of us were to dam ourselves it wouldn’t actually help anyone else. To think otherwise would be like a self-deluded life-prisoner volunteering to serve the sentences of others – nice offer, but you can only meaningfully serve one sentence, i.e. your own. My damnation would be no more than justice – it would have no power to absolve anyone else of their own sin.

A fulfilled prayer
There was one, however, who could fulfil Paul’s prayer – the only one who could genuinely offer innocence in exchange for guilt. Jesus the sinless, whose rightful place was to enjoy the blessings of untainted fellowship with God the Father. Only Jesus, the faultless Son of God sharing in our humanity, could ever take the place of another in a way that could uphold justice.

But if the thought of being cursed and cut-off from God is terrifying to me – it was all the more so for Jesus. He alone knew the unsullied blessings of God from eternity. He was the one whose fellowship with the Father was to share the very substance of deity. The one whose uncorrupted eyes could see the true vileness of sin, and the one who truly understood the implacable hostility of God towards it. For Jesus the prospect of being cursed and cut-off was unimaginable horror and incomprehensible loss.

And yet he went to the Cross – the place of curse. The one who knew no sin becoming sin, the closet companion of God forsaken by God.

The most unselfish prayer was fulfilled - by the most unselfish person. Jesus offering up his soul for others. Castaway and cursed that they might be rescued and blessed.

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood;
Hallelujah! What a Saviour!


Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Serving Churches & Pastors in Scotland

Video explaining some of the ways FIEC makes a real difference to helping Scottish churches and pastors in Mission, Training and Pastoral Care. 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

SCOTTISH MISSION FORUM - WED 22 MARCH

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10am -4pm @ Charlotte Chapel 
Booking link open: https://guestlist.co/events/446619 

Northern Lights - Dornoch & District Christian Fellowship

Northern Lights primary image


Written for the FIEC Website

The town of Dornoch sits in the far north of Scotland and is famous for the Royal Dornoch Golf Course, the exclusive Skibo Castle, and celebrity weddings. Andy Hunter introduces us to a growing gospel witness there.
Dornoch is an hour’s drive beyond Inverness. Madonna was famously married in Dornoch Cathedral but the town is also home to ‘Dornoch and District Christian Fellowship’ (DDCF) which became FIEC’s most northerly mainland church in 2015.
Dornoch banner
It was founded in October 1994 following a time of much prayer, heart searching and seeking the Lord’s guidance by a group of six Christians. The result of this process was a conviction that God was leading them to establish something new. Beginning with initial house group meetings they were quickly joined by other Christians in town and the communities around Dornoch.
The new church broke with more traditional churches in the area in having modern praise songs, guitar accompaniment, open prayer, informal fellowship and lay preachers. This, of course, reflected changes many churches were making at that time and was clearly a work of God’s Spirit. Over the years as DDCF has itself changed and become established it now works with other evangelical churches in the area.

A growing children’s work

Meetings began in the Council Chambers with the hope of attracting people from the local communities who had no particular attachment to existing local churches. God has blessed this desire and has brought into the church people from across the area. It has been in particular joy to see young families attending and the setting up of a healthy Sunday School.
Now established as a church, DDCF reaches out into the community with a weekly parents and toddlers group and weekly coffee mornings. These activities have been the entry point for a number of people attending the church and coming to faith.
An annual week long football camp at Easter, led by an ‘On Goal’ team from the USA and local volunteers, has attracted up to 100 children. The result is that the seed of the gospel has been sown among hundreds of children over the years and has resulted in DDCF being involved in a youth fellowship initiative.
the church congregation on a Sunday
A real blessing for the fellowship is the way that God has used gifted men from within the membership, together with others from different evangelical backgrounds, to preach God’s word week by week. This brings a sense of belonging to something bigger than DDCF along with a richness and diversity of Bible teaching in the church.

Praying for Dornoch

Looking forward the church would love to find a permanent facility that would be open every day for the glory of God. This has been the fellowship’s prayer for a number of years but so far the answer seems to be ‘not yet’.
Joining FIEC, and being part of family of more than 560 gospel churches, has been a huge encouragement to them.
Pastor Grant Fairns noted a quote from John Stevens expressing the gospel vision that DDCF shares with its fellow FIEC churches:
Grant Fairns
“It is a dynamic message that is to be lived and proclaimed so that men and women will come to repentance and faith and have their lives transformed by a new relationship with Jesus Christ.”
Please pray for DDCF:
  • that they may find a permanent building
  • that their testimony in Sutherland and Easter Ross will be to live and proclaim the gospel in such a way that God would be glorified by them.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Help! You need it.

Like many others the start of another January means the start of another read through of Genesis (six days in and so far so good. Honestly? I got to May last year before getting into major arrears).

Help needed
Once again though, in those opening chapters of the Bible we see the foundations of humanity being laid out – its origin, its purpose, its potential, and its limitations. Man (i.e. Adam) stands upon the earth but he is alone – a situation that is first identified by God Himself as not being good (Gen 2:18). The solution we are told is that he needs ‘a helper suitable for him’.

The animals are paraded by but despite all their variety none of them can be what Adam needs – ‘no suitable helper was found’ (v19). So God provides Eve – someone of whom Adam can say, ‘This is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh’ (v23). Eve is the ‘helper’ suitable for Adam.

Second fiddle?
But what exactly do we mean by ‘helper’ – after all such a title could be interpreted as being a little condescending – a bit ‘second fiddle’, a support act to the main event – the man! For me such thoughts arise thinking back to ‘helping’ my Dad do DIY – that is, me standing holding a packet of screws while my Dad did the important and interesting stuff like using the power drill. So is Eve (womankind) an afterthought of God’s – hastily put in place to provide an extra pair of hands. Well of course, if it was just about some extra manpower then some extra men would have sufficed.

Actually the title ‘helper’ tells us more about Adam than it does about Eve. So throughout the Bible ‘helper’ is a title given to God Himself, ‘The Lord is my helper’ (Heb 13:6); ‘The Lord is with me; he is my helper.’ (Ps 118:7); ‘My father’s God was my helper’ (Ex 18:4). And let’s be clear that God is no-one’s sidekick or go-for.

Adams' lack
You see in saying Adam needed a ‘helper’ – God is not so much commenting on Eve but making the point that Adam is not sufficient for the task He has been given. The issue being highlighted is Adam’s lack and incompleteness not Eve’s. Adam’s problem was that without Eve (and vice-versa) he could never have fulfilled humanity's calling and purpose.

Crucially, Eve is like Adam but different from him – equal but not the same. As John Piper put it you could write a list of all human attributes and two have columns against them, one for Adam and one for Eve, and put in the scores for both against those attributes. They might score differently on each individual attribute but the totals at the bottom of each column would be the same(i). Thus it’s only in male and female together that humanity is complete. Distinct but complementary.

The helper we all need
In the same way, to say God is your ‘helper’ – is not to claim superiority but to admit that you need help! It is to declare that I cannot be and do what I need to be and do solo – I’m just not up to that job alone. It means that if God isn’t your helper you’re doomed to fail and come up short in fulfilling the point of your existence.

Tragically just as pride and self-sufficiency created disharmony between the sexes it isolated men and women from God. So lives are lived dependent on ‘me’, my abilities, my good fortune, my self-belief – all of which is a very fragile basis for life and which leaves us hanging by nothing more than a thread of our own making. 

So in 2017 you need a Helper – you need God. You need what only Jesus Christ can provide – a Saviour and Friend to enable God’s purpose and calling in your life to be fulfilled.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to feel sympathy for our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)


(i) http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/affirming-the-goodness-of-manhood-and-womanhood-in-all-of-life

A Vision for Independent Churches in 2017

First published on CHRISTIAN TODAY

Andy Hunter introduces us to the ministry of FIEC (The Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches) – a grouping of more than 550 churches across Great Britain.

It’s essential to have a vision for the gospel.

That is, a godly ambition to see the gospel of Jesus Christ flourish in our day and setting. That desire for better things and better times helps drive us on in making Jesus known and serving the church with the best of our energies.

It stops us from settling for second best and becoming complacent or even negligent in our Great Commission calling.

So we serve, we plan, we expend our energies, we invest our money, we go out, we speak up, we keep pressing forward. Why? Because we want to see people reached with gospel, become disciples and live for the glory of Christ.

Everyone agrees on that kind of vision and the need to be active if it’s to be realised. But equally we also know that to be achievable it needs to be broken down into bite sized parts.

Three Questions for Independent Churches

1.      Does your vision include seeing the next generation of gospel workers being raised up and equipped for service in churches like yours? Would you want your next pastor to be well trained and have a genuine and tested call for such service?

2.      Does your Vision include seeing gospel workers in churches like yours being well supported, cared for and in good fellowship with others in similar positions? Would you want pastors and leaders to have some of the pastoral back-up enjoyed by those in formal denominations?

3.      Does your Vision include seeing unreached communities of Great Britain being evangelised and having their own gospel-centred churches? Would you want churches (like yours) to be encouraged in that task, and in the mission of church planting?

If the answer to those questions is ‘Yes’: what are you doing to make that Vision a reality rather than just a godly sentiment?

Is it even possible for an Independent Church to have such a vision? After all, how can a local church in the north of Scotland help a struggling pastor in Devon, or contribute to training an evangelist in Liverpool, or be assisting a church plant in Glasgow – and vice versa? It’s not feasible, is it? Isn’t Independency the poor relation of large centralised denomination when it comes to thinking big?

Well actually many Independent churches who have a big vision are actively making it happen. They’re involved in supporting hundreds of pastors across Britain, helping to raise up and train scores of men and women for gospel service, and enabling dozens of new church plants to become established. They do so by being part of FIEC – a family of more than 550 churches, who work in partnership to make possible what they simply couldn’t do alone.  

It means that an Independent church of whatever size or locality can say, ‘We’re contributing to the care of gospel workers; supporting church revitalisation and church planting; providing guidance and training across the nation’.

Because of their FIEC affiliation a potential women’s worker is receiving financial support to go to Bible college, a sick pastor is getting care and practical help, a church plant is getting legal advice on its new Constitution, and a trainee pastor is learning how Independent churches govern themselves. These are just some of the ministries that simply wouldn’t exist were it not for the commitment of FIEC churches to turn a big vision into concrete reality.

Of course there are other ways to express such vision but for many Independent churches it is belonging to FIEC that enables them to realise a big vision for the nation.

What about your church?


Andy Hunter is the Scotland Director for the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches (FIEC) and you can find out more about their work and ministry at fiec.org.uk