Our Sunday Meetings
We meet every Sunday morning at 11:30.
Our meetings usually last just over an hour.
In our meetings we do the following:
Hear a short message from God's word (Bible Study)
Celebrate the Lord's table (Communion)
Nowadays, people usually see a Christian as someone who does good to other people but first and foremost, we are called to love God.
"`Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matthew 22:37)
Anyone in any kind of relationship knows how important communication is. Without communication, it is hardly a relationship at all. The other person might just as well not exist. The fact that God is invisible can make it difficult to pray but on the other hand, God is everywhere so wherever you are, he is only a prayer away. And he is all-powerful so if you bring your requests to him through Jesus his Son, he will only say 'no' if he has some better plan in the background. If we don't feel like praying, that shouldn't surprise us. Prayer requires faith and being aware of God's work in our world and in our lives day by day. Even at the best of times, it's easy to lose sight of all this.
Furthermore, by nature, deep down, we are not very good at loving God or loving others. The Bible teaches the doctrine of original sin - humankind has fallen. Our relationship with God has been damaged and there is a deep-seated disinterest or even hostility to the true and living God. Much of the Bible is about how we can rectify this. But even when a person truly commits their life to Christ, they still need to go to God everyday and ask him for help and strength. We can easily get into a vicious cycle of making ourselves so weak by not praying that we no longer have an appetite to pray. God becomes unreal to us and we focus on things that have no eternal significance.
The Our Father is an example of how we should pray:
Our Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.
A growing number of people are happy to believe in some sort of a force out there called God but they cannot understand how he could be a personal being who appreciates our love and listens to our prayers. The Bible tells us that we are made in God's image. We are a bit like God and God is a bit like us. Humans can do great things - God can do even greater things. One of the greatest things about humans is the capacity to love. Why should we think that God is missing this capacity? Why should we think that God isn't bothered with us? He created us with a desire to relate to him. What parent doesn't appreciate the love of a child? I remember looking down at my baby daughter and her smiling back up at me for the first time. It is amazing that God appreciates our affection but in another sense, we shouldn't be too surprised. If I were ten times as intelligent as I am, I would imagine that I would appreciate the smile of my daughter every bit as much.
We enjoy seeing our children grow and learn. We love to help them. Sometimes we can appear cruel and heartless - injections - making them go to school - saying 'no' to them but ultimately we have their best interests at heart.
"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" (Luke 11:9 ff)
Who of us can say that we love the Lord our God with all our hearts? Notice that in these verses, Jesus refers to his own followers as evil - he takes it for granted! But at least if we pray, we are making a start. Ultimately, only God can give us the power to change - to truly love. It isn't always easy to pray but part of the purpose of a Christian fellowship is to encourage one another in this.
Jesus assured his disciples again and again how important and how effective prayer is.
"Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. " (Luke 18:1)Nowadays, many are disillusioned with organized religion. Some would just prefer to be Christians on their own and not bother with any kind of a church or fellowship. There were those in the early church who felt the same way. But notice that Jesus, in the verse above and throughout the gospels, assumes that his followers will gather together. The writer of the book of Hebrews says
"Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven." (Matthew 18:19)
"Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching." (Hebrews 10:25)back to top
Have you ever known a person who will only talk to you when he wants something? Not very nice is it? As well as pray, a Christian praises God. As humans, we appreciate praise. An audience applauds when their favourite artist comes on stage. It would be a very cold world if no one ever said a good word about anyone. And if you have children - or even a dog, it's a lovely thing for them to run out and greet you when you arrive home.
As humans, we have the capacity to appreciate creation. Do you remember the song My Favorite Things from The Sound of Music? We might laugh at it now but all of us have things and memories that cause us to love life. We don't always appreciate these things at the time. It might be many years before we appreciate how magical some memory really is. But all these thoughts can be regarded as gifts from God, our Creator - a taste of things to come. The Bible teaches that we can know and love our Creator. Again, he is not some sort of a robot or Mr Spock character that doesn't understand love. That wouldn't be much of a god!
It's not always easy to string words together when we want to worship God. But we are helped by thousands of hymns that have been written through the ages by gifted Christians. These give us the opportunity to reflect on what God has done for us. For example, here are two well-known ones How Great Thou Art and Amazing Grace.
How Great Thou Art
O Lord my God! when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made,
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed:
When through the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze:
Then sings my soul, my saviour God, to Thee:
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul! my saviour God, to Thee:
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
And when I think that God, His Son not sparing,
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin:
When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration,
And there proclaim, my God, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my saviour God, to Thee:
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul! my saviour God, to Thee:
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.
Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.
Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promised good to me,
His Word my hope secures;
He will my Shield and Portion be,
As long as life endures.
Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.
The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, Who called me here below,
Shall be forever mine.
When we've been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we'd first begun.
Both of the writers of these focus on redemption as well as creation. They are delighted because the best is yet to come. Many people throughout the world are familiar with the song It's a long way to Tipperary. It's a happy little ditty but it is forever associated with the tragedy of the First World War. The words speak of someone wanting to get away from the coldness of the city to the place he loves and to the person he loves. Far from going to Tipperary, the soldiers were facing something that must have seemed like hell itself. A later song written by Johnny Cash also makes mention of Tipperary town - Forty Shades of Green where he sings "most of all I miss the girl from Tipperary town." Of course, human love can go wrong and often we return to our native towns to find that they bear little resemblance to the little paradise we created in our memory. But these speak of a greater love and a greater place. Many were written by people in very difficult circumstances. They too wrote about the place they love and the person they love or more importantly, the person that loves them. And they wrote about heaven, the real home of the Christian. Vance Havner said "If you are a Christian, you are not a citizen of this world trying to get to heaven; you are a citizen of heaven making your way through the world." Here are people who realise that they have been redeemed - rescued from eternity in hell. They are looking forward to the life to come. Now they know that whatever happiness this world offers is nothing compared to what is to come. And whatever sufferings they undergo will one day be forgotten forever. The Apostle Paul said
"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."(Romans 8:18)The last book of the Bible, Revelation says:
"He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, 'I am making everything new!' Then he said, 'Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.' He said to me: 'It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.'" (Revelation 21:4-6)back to top
If God wants us to speak to him through prayer, it should come as no surprise that God also wants to speak to us. The first disciples had the great privilege of having Jesus with them. They could ask him questions and hear him speak to them audibly. One day, Jesus will return to earth, but for the moment, he is absent from the world physically. He has returned to heaven. However, he did send his disciples to spread his message through the world. But what was his message? What did he teach? How should we live as individuals? What should our churches be like?
Nearly every kind of religion and sect claims Jesus as one of their own in some sense. All have their own understanding on who Jesus is. What hope has someone in Tipperary town (or anywhere else) of knowing what Jesus actually said?
Well, it would be very odd if the Son of God came into the world, spoke to the first generation of Christians and then left everyone else to guess he really taught. Although Jesus never wrote a word of the New Testament, his first disciples did. Luke begins his gospel with the following words:
"Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eye-witnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus" (Luke 1:1 )The apostle Peter assured the early gentile Christians that what they were being told wasn't just another story. There must have been many stories going around the Roman Empire about all kinds of religions, sects and cults. The apostles saw it as their task to convey the truth.
The apostles saw many more miracles than are recorded in the New Testament. What we have in the gospels is quite concise but is enough.
"We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eye-witnesses of his majesty." (2 Peter 1:16)
Although the care with which the writers undertook the task is important, what is even more important is that they said what God wanted to say. They were not inspired in a vague sort of way, the way a Christian poet might be inspired to write a poem about God's creation in the spring. The Bible would be of little use if it were written by a well-intentioned writer bumbling along giving his opinions. In such important matters, we really need to know that this is God speaking. Even though the writer is using his own words and style, it is literally out of the mouth of God.
"Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." (John 20:30)
"Jesus answered, 'It is written: `Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.''" (Matt 4:4)
"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16)
The Bible is central in our fellowship. People sometimes ask if we take it literally. Well, where something is presented as literal, we take it as literal. If a politician promised to lower taxes and refused after the election, would you be impressed if he said that he had been speaking figuratively when he made the promise? People generally know whether someone is speaking literally or figuratively. There are things that might be difficult to swallow in the Bible but it would probably be more honest just to say that you don't believe them rather than putting some strange interpretation on them. There is figurative language in the Bible (e.g. "I am the bread of life" John 6:35) but if it says that Jesus walked on water, we believe that he walked on water. It isn't a particularly difficult thing to do if you are the Creator of the world! Likewise, if the Bible says that Jesus physically rose from the dead, we believe it. If fact, even if you don't begin by believing the Bible, and view the New Testament as just another historical document, the evidence for the resurrection is quite convincing.
Another common view nowadays is that the Old Testament is less inspired than the New Testament. Theologian, Leon Morris, points out that "The Bible was the only book Jesus ever quoted, and then never as a basis for discussion but to decide the point at issue". When you read the gospels, you realise that Jesus and the apostles regarded the Old Testament as true. The Jews had legends like every other nation but these legends never made it into the Bible. Therefore, if you regard yourself as a follower of Jesus, it is wrong and foolish to take an 'a la carte' approach to the Bible. The fastest growing churches today are the ones that have rejected what was once the 'modern approach' of picking and choosing what to believe. There is a story of a modernist clergyman visiting an elderly lady and finding a Bible that was torn to shreds. He asked her how this happened and she told him that she cut out all the bits he said weren't really true!
Each Sunday, we have a short reading and a little inspirational talk or sermon. Those who attend are also encouraged to read the Bible for themselves and to read Christian books. Obviously we believe the Bible to be inspired, infallible and inerrant. A set of directions wouldn't be very helpful if it included mistakes! But we should always be prepared to question what humans teach, whether it is through books, sermons, TV or whatever. Although any church or fellowship needs to have a level of doctrinal agreement among its members, we make no claims to be infallible or exclusively correct in our teaching.back to top
The Lord's Supper
The cross of Christ is at the very heart of the Christian message. This is why the writers of the hymns rejoiced. That is what amazing grace is all about. That is why millions of Christians throughout the world know that they are saved and safe. A simple definition of grace is
To understand the cross, we need to see that God is a holy and just God who punishes sin as well as a loving God who forgives the repentant sinner. I remember watching a documentary in 1987 in which hippies remembered the 'summer of love' back in 1967. The question was asked - "Do you still believe that 'all you need is love'?" Some said "yes" but one man said "love AND justice". People want justice. It shouldn't upset us that God is a just God who will deal with evil. Here is an interesting quote from an atheist.
I do not believe in God because if he existed he would long ago have destroyed the human race for its cruelty and evil.
At a football match, people get very upset if the referee is unfair. A judge who gives an unduly lenient sentance is himself condemened by the general public. Our newspapers are full of stories of people crying out for justice. Of course, there are many different ideas on how lawbreakers should be dealt with. But ultimately, God is the one who is in the best position to decide.Although we are quick to give our opinion on the evil that others do, we don't always like the spotlight to focus on ourselves. Do you remember what Jesus said to those that were about to stone a woman caught in adultary?
When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. (John 8:7-9)It isn't that Jesus was soft on adultary. He does condemned it elsewhere and he did tell the woman not to sin anymore. But he wanted to expose the hypocrisy of those who pointed the finger. As Bob Marley sings
And you may stumble too
So while you point the finger
Someone else is judging you."
We like to categorize sin into mortal and venial - black lies and white lies. We'll happily be humble and point out our own 'little' faults but the real sins are committed by other people!
The truth is that we are all guilty. We might be able to reform to some degree but we are powerless to earn a place in heaven. It's a bit like making ten mistakes in our driving test and trying to make up for it by improving before the end of the test. We have already failed. There are no second chances as far as getting to heaven is concerned. The Bible says that "man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment" (Heb 9:27). So why does the word gospel mean 'good news'? What's the good news?
"You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly." (Romans 5:6)The Bible teaches that if we truly repent and trust in Jesus, all our sins are forgiven because Jesus paid our fine. Imagine being arrested in a foreign country and being sentanced to 30 years in prison or a million euro fine. Well, if someone was good enough to pay your fine you would go free. I never like using such glib illustrations when talking about the cross, but it important to know what happened. The cross wasn't an accident. It wasn't just to show how much Jesus loved us or to set us an example. It achieved something in heaven - the salvation of sinners. He bled and died to take away my sin. Jesus is the 'lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world'. (John 1:29) Those who believe in him will not be condemned on judgement day because he paid their 'fine'. What is more, the Father looks on them as if they never sinned and as if they had lived the kind of life that Christ lived. He adopts them and warmly welcomes them into his family.
Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12)But the sinner is treated like Christ only because Christ was treated like the sinner. Calvary was a dark time for Jesus. Not only was there the physical aspect which was portrayed in the film, 'The Passion'. That was just the tip of the iceberg. The spiritual aspect was something much deeper that we cannot understand. The doctrine of hell gives us some indication of how much God hates sin. If Jesus took our punishment, he suffered more than anyone has ever suffered. And yet, his death is celebrated by his disciples. In fact, even on the night before he died, he was delighted to break bread with his friends. He said "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer." (Luke 22:15) After he rose from the dead, proving that the sacrifice was accepted by the Father, he had many more happy times with his disciples. And, although he is no longer with us physically, we can still have fellowship with him spiritually and remember and celebrate that great day.
Before Jesus went to the cross, he told his disciples to meet together and share bread and wine.
For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. (1 Cor 11:23 ff)
Theologians have argued for centuries about the sense in which Christ is present when we do this. At Tipperary Christian Fellowship, we do not believe that the bread literally turns into the body of Christ. Instead, it represents his body, just as elsewhere a door, vine, light etc are pictures of Christ. However, it is a very precious time for us and we are very aware that Jesus himself is among us. In any given week, it is easy for us to drift away from God. The great thing about the Lord's Supper (or Communion as some call it) is that we are brought back to the cross and reminded of what it cost Christ to redeem us.
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. (2 Peter 2:24)
The message of the cross is summed up in a little hymn that we sometimes sing. It was written by an Irish woman at the bedside of her sick daughter, who later recovered.
There is a Green Hill
There is a green hill far away,
outside a city wall,
where our dear Lord was crucified
who died to save us all.
We may not know, we cannot tell,
what pains he had to bear,
but we believe it was for us
he hung and suffered there.
He died that we might be forgiven,
he died to make us good,
that we might go at last to heaven,
saved by his precious blood.
There was no other good enough
to pay the price of sin,
he only could unlock the gate
of heaven and let us in.
O dearly, dearly has he loved!
And we must love him too,
and trust in his redeeming blood,
and try his works to do.
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