The Torch

Issue 1 2019

Produced and published by Torch Trust the Christian organisation with a worldwide vision for people with sight loss

Torch House, Torch Way,
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LE16 9HL, UK
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The Torch Trust for the Blind a charity registered in England and Wales no. 1095904. A company limited by guarantee no. 4616526

The Torch is available on audio CD, in braille, email and large print and can be downloaded from the Torch website as an HTML file.

Note: all extracts and articles appearing in The Torch are used with permission and do not necessarily reflect the views of Torch Trust.

Contents

Welcome

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.”

1 Timothy 1:7

Welcome to this edition of The Torch! As I write, it’s December and we at Torch are thinking about Christmas and the start of 2019. Christmas is a time when Christians often pause to reflect on the meaning of the amazing and precious birth of Jesus, as God arrived to live as man and take away the sins of the world. This incredible, mystical birth was a truly special event – it happened only once.

Did you ever think, though, that your life is also a truly special event that will only happen once in the whole span of God’s creation?

There is a proverb about a coat with two pockets. Inside one pocket is a note that reads, “You are nothing but one of millions upon millions of grains of sand in the universe.” Inside the other pocket is another note, which reads, “I made the universe just for you.” Both these messages are true. God’s universe is vast and we are tiny. The psalmist says that we are like flowers in a field, that we flourish briefly and then pass away, forgotten... But each person is also precious to God, with a life to live that God has given just to that one person.

Your life is a wonderful gift. Through you, God shows the world something about Himself. Something that has never been seen before, and will never be seen again in quite this same way. You are precious to God our Father.

When someone gives a gift, it is natural to be joyful and thankful. Are you fully joyful and thankful for the gift of your life today, no matter what your circumstances? Do you know and use the gifts he has given just to you – are you walking in the power of Christ and showing His light to a dark world?

The excerpt from Hearts Aflame in this edition looks at the life of Daniel. Daniel was an exile in Babylon, a hostile place. He held on to the fact his life belonged to God. He bravely, wisely and effectively used his gifts for God’s purposes, in service of the heathen King, despite enemies, plots and living far from his own people. God honoured and rewarded Daniel with great stature and maturity. The more freely you give yourself to God, even in hostile places and times, the more God will use your life to build his Kingdom.

It’s our prayer that this edition of The Torch will inspire you to commit yourself again to a new adventure with God, finding out who he made you to be, and growing in joy, and faith, and love. With every blessing from your friends at Torch Trust in the UK.

Julia Hyde, Chief Executive Officer

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Let The Scriptures Speak

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

Philippians 4:4–8

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Use Your Gifts!

A Word of Encouragement from United Christian Broadcasters (UCB)

God’s given us all gifts and skills. Even when we struggle to see them, or put ourselves down, it’s the truth. The question is:

What are we doing with them?

Maybe we’re using them already, maybe there’s some that we’ve put to one side. Fear can make us hide our talents and abilities. But that’s not what God’s given them to us for. We’re supposed to use them, for His glory. Paul told Timothy: ‘The special gift of ministry you received when I laid hands on you and prayed – keep that ablaze! God doesn’t want us to be shy with his gifts, but bold and loving and sensible’ (2 Timothy 1:6–7 MSG). We need to develop our gifts, and we can only do that by practising rather than hiding them away. Christian writer and preacher Rick Warren says: ‘God expects us to make the most of what He gives us... to keep our hearts aflame, grow our character and personality, and broaden our experiences so we’ll be increasingly more effective...

Don’t be afraid. Put your gifts and abilities to work and they’ll become enlarged and developed through practice. No one reaches full development all at once... Take advantage of every opportunity to develop and sharpen your skills. Remember, in heaven we’re going to serve God forever, and we prepare by practising here on earth. Like athletes getting ready for the Olympics, we’re training for the big day.’

Using our gifts and skills, even just telling others about them, can be challenging. But God’s given them to us for a reason, and we need to be stepping out and using them to bring Him glory and to lead other people closer to Him.

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Hearts Aflame

Stella Heath

Stella Heath, who co-founded Torch Trust and edited this magazine for many years, wrote many articles and books. A manuscript left unfinished at her death in 2009 has now been completed by her companion of many years, Eileen Cole. The theme – opening up the Old Testament to today’s readers – is a vital one. Hearts Aflame has been published by Torch and is available in standard print, Braille, large print and audio. In this extract, Stella looks at the life of Gideon.

Standing for God: Daniel

When King Nebuchadnezzar attacked Jerusalem and defeated the Israelites, he took some of the most sacred cups from the temple of God and put them into the treasury of his own god in Babylon.

He also brought the most promising of the Jewish young men to teach them his language and literature. These strong, healthy, good-looking lads were being educated so that they could become palace officials and counsellors when they grew up. The king ordered them to have the best food and wine from his own kitchens.

Among these captives were four young men, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who made up their minds not to eat the food and wine given to them by the king because these would first have been offered to the idols. They asked for permission to eat vegetables instead. Although the superintendent from the palace was sympathetic, he was worried. “You will become pale and thin compared to the other young men,” he said, “and then the king will kill me!”

The lads suggested they be allowed to try it for ten days. At the end of this time, these four young men were much healthier than the others, so they were allowed to stay on their special diet.

As they continued their training God gave them particular ability and when the three-year course was finished, they passed their exams with flying colours and entered the royal service. The king discovered that they were ten times better than any of his other advisers (Daniel chapter 1).

One night King Nebuchadnezzar had a nightmare; he woke up, trembling with fear. In the morning he was still frightened, but could not remember the details. He called for his magicians and astrologers and ordered them to tell him his dream!

“How can we tell you what the dream means unless you tell us what it was?” they objected.

“You are tricking me!” Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed. “Unless you tell me my dream, you will all be killed!”

“This is an impossible thing the king requires, and there isn’t a king in the whole world that would ask such a thing. Only the gods could do that, and they do not live with humans!”

Upon hearing this, the king was furious, and sent out orders to execute all the wise men of Babylon. Daniel and his companions were rounded up with the others to be killed. However, Daniel handled the situation with great wisdom and got permission to speak with the king. So he went in to see Nebuchadnezzar and promised to tell the king his dream if he was given a little time. Then he went back to speak to his three friends and they all prayed earnestly.

That night, in a vision, God told Daniel what the king had dreamed. Then Daniel praised God, who had shown his power and might by revealing the dream.

In the morning Daniel went to the king. ”Your Majesty, the God of heaven has shown you what will happen in the future.” Then Daniel told the king his dream, and explained the meaning of it.

King Nebuchadnezzar was awe-struck. “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a Revealer of mysteries” (Daniel 2:47, TNIV). Daniel was promoted as ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and he begged the king to allow his three friends to assist him.

Later, King Nebuchadnezzar made a statue of himself, and ordered everyone to worship this. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to do this, for they loved God and would only worship him. Presumably Daniel had been sent elsewhere on the king’s business, for he would never have worshipped an idol.

The three friends were brought before the king, who was very angry, and ordered them to worship the image. “If not, you will be thrown into the burning fiery furnace – and what god can deliver you out of my hands?”

Fearlessly they replied: “Our God is able to deliver us, but even if he doesn’t, we will never worship your image!”

King Nebuchadnezzar was furious and ordered his soldiers to throw the three men into the flames. But God was working in wonder and power, and he showed his might even in the fire itself. Suddenly a fourth man appeared in the furnace walking through the flames, alive and well along with the three lads! The fire had not even touched them, because the fourth man was the very Son of God!

King Nebuchadnezzar called to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to come out of the furnace, and his officials crowded round them, amazed that they had come to no harm. They had to realise that this great miracle was from God Himself.

So the King made a proclamation that no one was to speak against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego for, as he said, “no other god can save his people like this!” (Daniel 3:29, NCV). Then the king promoted them.

A little later King Nebuchadnezzar had a strange dream; he told it to all his wise men, but they could not explain it. At last, Daniel came and he was horrified when the king told him the dream. No wonder, for God was warning Nebuchadnezzar that unless he repented of his sins and changed his behaviour, he would become mad for a time.

The proud king took no notice and it happened just as God had said. For seven years the king lived out in the open, behaving like an animal, until he turned to God who restored his mind. Then King Nebuchadnezzar wrote a letter to all his people, telling them what had happened. He ended it by saying, “Now I praise and honour the King of Heaven, who always does what is right,” and from his own experience, the king added, “he humbles those who are proud!” (Daniel chapter 4).

Years passed and Nebuchadnezzar was succeeded by his son Belshazzar, who showed his contempt for God by ordering that the silver cups from the temple in Jerusalem be brought to his feast. While the king and his guests were drinking from these, and praising their gods for the victory, God gave Belshazzar a solemn warning that he would be killed and the country taken over by the Medes and Persians.

This happened that very night, and the new king, Darius, promoted Daniel to a high position, and considered making him his prime minister. The other officials were very jealous and wondered how they could discredit Daniel, but though they examined his life closely, they could not find any fault that they could bring to the attention of the king. At last they worked out a clever plot. They went to King Darius and suggested that he send out a decree that no one should pray to any god except the king for a month. The king was flattered and signed the necessary documents, without thinking to consult Daniel!

When Daniel heard of this decree, he did not falter, but went to his room three times a day and knelt in front of the open window to pray, just as he had always done. His enemies were watching and gleefully went to report to the king. Darius was horrified and distressed; all day he tried to find a way out, but even as king, he could not alter the decree.

Late that night the king gave in and ordered Daniel to be thrown to the lions, saying, “May your God, whom you serve so faithfully, deliver you!”

But the king did not really believe this could happen; he lay awake all night worrying and very early in the morning he went to the lions´ den. In anguish, he called, “Daniel, is your God able to deliver you?”

How amazed and delighted he was to get a reply! “Your Majesty, my God sent his angel and shut the mouths of the lions!” So the king ordered Daniel to be released and sentenced his enemies to be thrown into the den.

King Darius wrote to all his people and made a decree (which could not be altered!) that everyone should respect Daniel’s God, because “he is the one who saved Daniel from the power of the lions” (Daniel 6:27 NCV).

After this, Daniel was a valued counsellor to King Darius and his successors.

Over the years God gave Daniel strange dreams and visions of what was going to happen in the future. In one of these he saw the world ruled by beastly powers until finally God Almighty intervened. He was sitting on a throne, surrounded by millions of angels, judging the people of the world.

Then someone who looked like the Son of Man came to God, who gave him eternal power and glory. Everyone all over the world worshipped him, and he ruled over them for ever! (Daniel 7:13–14).

Who is this Son of Man? The Lord Jesus, of course. What a glorious time it will be when he reigns for ever and ever!

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God’s Good Design in Disability

Jenny Hill and Krista Horning

[This piece is from a website blog called The Walk. You can find this by searching the internet for “Krista Horning blog The Walk”.]

I am 25 years old, and was born with a disability called Apert Syndrome. It makes the bones in my body fused – my skull, shoulders, elbows, wrists, fingers and feet. There are also many other problems including hearing loss and learning challenges.

I’ve had over 50 surgeries to correct some of the problems, but none of them can be totally fixed. When I was four months old, a doctor cut my head from ear to ear, took my skull apart, and put it back together in a different way.

Even though I’ve had all these surgeries, I still look different. When I’m out in public, I get stared at a lot. Sometimes people even point or laugh or say, “Look at her,” or “What’s wrong with your face?” People judge me because I look different. It makes them think that I’m stupid or I won’t make a good friend.

After I was born, my parents began teaching me Bible verses. The promises of God helped me when I was afraid or sad or wondered why I was disabled. They didn’t make the hurts or the questions go away, but God’s word filled my mind and heart with amazing truths. Like... God is always with me. He is faithful. He is in control of the whole world and He has a special plan for my life.

I was a teenager when I began to really wonder why God made me this way. I asked my pastor some hard questions and he reminded me that the answers are in God’s word. I will never forget when he looked me in the eyes and told me I was beautiful.

It’s easy to think God made me this way because he doesn’t care. Suffering is hard. I don’t like to suffer; I don’t want to suffer. Sometimes I’m ashamed of my suffering. But God’s word says, “If we suffer we should not be ashamed or surprised, but glorify God.” (1 Peter 4:16)

He made me to glorify Him. I have to trust him more than I would if I was a typical person. I have to trust Him every time I have surgery or every time I go shopping. When I trust Him, I glorify Him. When I am weak, He is strong.

Every day I’m reminded of how weak I am. I can’t take my own shower or make quick decisions. I don’t like weakness. But I love what God has done in my life because of it. God has used my weakness to teach me to depend on Him more. If I didn’t have any weakness, I wouldn’t have any need for God. God uses all our weakness to show us how much we need Him.

I trust Him with how He made me. I love Him and He loves me just the way I am.

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God’s Special People: Joshua

Michael Stafford

Joshua, like Caleb, had the faith to believe that God would give the Israelites success in possessing the promised land of Canaan. Joshua as a young man became Moses´ assistant, and was by his side throughout the wilderness journey, even accompanying him up Mount Sinai to meet with God and receive the commandments.

A proven faith

With Caleb, he was one of the 12 spies who were sent into Canaan to discover both its value and its difficulties. Only these two determined that Israel could overcome the fearsome enemies they found there, with God’s enabling.

Joshua therefore travelled with the Israelites during the 40 long years of their wandering and proved himself faithful. Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land because of his failure at the Desert of Zin, and pleaded with God to appoint a successor:

Moses said to the Lord, ‘May the Lord, the God of the spirits of all mankind, appoint a man over this community to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so that the Lord’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd’.

So the Lord said to Moses, ‘Take Joshua son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay your hand on him. Make him stand before Eleazar the priest and the entire assembly and commission him in their presence. Give him some of your authority so that the whole Israelite community will obey him.’ (Numbers 27:15–20)

An awesome task

After Moses died, God said to Joshua: ‘Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them...’ (Joshua 1:2). Although God had promised success in conquering the land, Joshua faced an awesome task in leading a million people and organising armies to fight the many battles that would follow. However, the first city, Jericho, was taken without a battle, but by Joshua obeying the Lord’s instructions to do what seemed to be a foolish thing – to march around the city once a day for six days, in silence, and then, on the seventh day to march around it seven times with the priests blowing trumpets and the people shouting. God honoured Joshua’s faith and obedience, and the walls fell down flat so the army could enter and take the city.

Success could have gone to his head, but he was soon to be brought down to reality, as the army failed to take the next city – Ai – due to self-confidence and sin in the camp. Joshua learned that sin must be rooted out and dealt with, and that he and the Israelites could never expect to win victories in their own strength. His experience is also ours in the Christian life – we can only overcome life’s battles in God’s strength, not our own.

A promise kept

Later, Joshua was deceived by the men of Gibeon, who were among those tribes that he was instructed to destroy. They cleverly pretended to be from a far country, and persuaded Joshua to make a peace treaty with them. When Joshua discovered their deception he was angry, but because of his oath to them he protected them, and when they faced destruction by the combined armies of several other tribes he went to their defence. Joshua would not go back on his promise, even despite their deception.

It is always important for us as the Lord’s people, to keep the promises we make – especially those we might make to God. But Joshua should have sought God before being taken in by them. We too should not make hasty promises, which we may not be able to keep. One thing is clear, though: God’s promises to us never fail, as Joshua was to find out. God promised him that the combined armies he was fighting would be defeated, and a great victory was gained. This battle was marked by an extraordinary event. Joshua needed more daylight to complete his victory, and asked God to make the sun stand still for a full day. This actually happened – an event never to be repeated.

A choice to be made

After many successes in both the north and south of the country, Joshua neared the end of his life and called together all the leaders of the nation: ‘Now I am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed...’ (Joshua 23:14). Joshua then gathered all Israel together to speak to them before he died. He knew that many of them still worshipped idols, and that many were confused about who they should worship, so he said: ‘Now fear the Lord and serve him... throw away the gods your forefathers worshipped... and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve... but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord’. (Joshua 24:14, 15)

The people spoke out strongly to say they would not forsake the Lord to serve other gods, and Joshua told them to throw away the foreign gods they had been worshipping. The problem they had in the past was that they were dithering about who to serve. There were many ‘foreign’ gods – which one should they serve? Their problem really was that they wavered in their opinions and for safety’s sake worshipped the Lord and other gods. Joshua tells them to make up their minds and decide who they would serve. Likewise, we need to give ourselves whole-heartedly to worshipping and serving the Lord, who loves us and who gave himself for us on the cross, to free us from condemnation and guilt by paying the price for our sins.

After a long life of experiencing God’s love and power, Joshua died at the age of 110. However long we live, may we serve faithfully as he did.

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You See Coal, God Sees Diamonds

Gerard Kelly

We believe...
... every human being
has a worth worth seeing
Every name
Is a sound worth saying
Your potential
A prayer worth praying
You see coal – God sees diamonds

We believe in the grace
Of the gifts God gives
His breath in everything that lives
Greater gifts to be discovered
Deep in you
Hidden, dust-covered
You see coal – God sees diamonds

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