The Torch

Issue 2, 2019

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

Torch House, Torch Way,
Market Harborough, Leics
LE16 9HL, UK
t: +44 (0)1858 438260
e: info@torchtrust.org – w: torchtrust.org

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

Editorial – The power of prayer

Dear reader, welcome to this edition of The Torch. In this magazine, we have compiled scriptures and articles that remind us of the amazing power of prayer, and how we are invited, and called urgently, to make conversation with our Lord Jesus Christ frequently and faithfully. “Pray without ceasing” says 1 Thessalonians 5:17 – which by the way doesn’t mean continuously, but rather constantly recurring in the original Greek.

This theme of the power of prayer feels right to us, because this summer we celebrate the 60 year anniversary of Torch Trust. Prayer is the power behind everything we do for the Lord. The heart of Torch has always been for people with sight loss to grow in faith and thrive in Christian community. In the UK, during our anniversary, we will launch our Sight Loss Friendly Church work, which will help support UK churches to better welcome and include people with sight loss. We want to say to you, our readers, that we value the gifts and talents each one of you has, and we are grateful that we are able to provide Christian encouragement to many thousands of Braille readers around the world. We honour God for gifting us the mission of The Torch, and we celebrate each of our brothers and sisters in Christ who are transformed by it.

As part of our 60 year celebrations, we would love to hear stories about The Torch and what it means for people, so if you have any way of getting word to the UK Torch team we would be glad to hear from you. We know just how difficult that is, though.

Being invited to pray is one of God’s greatest gifts to us. With Him, we work together through our prayers for the bringing of his Kingdom, quite literally calling heaven to open up on earth. How many times have you been inspired to pray for a certain thing or person, where God has burdened your heart with the need to pray? God stirs us up to work with him through prayer. Paul talks in Romans 8 about Christians being co-heirs of the glory of Christ when they share in his suffering. Prayer is part of our work as co-heirs on the earth. Our own hearts and minds join in with the Holy Spirit’s petitions within us. We, as men and women with free will, must do our part and be devoted to prayer.

Friend, are you faithful and devoted in prayer? Let us inspire you today, to a fresh calling and energy in prayer. Be a part of the church across the world, breaking the power of sin and death. Our prayers are really that powerful. Prayers change our communities, change our circumstances, and bring the Kingdom of Heaven. Prayers enrich our giftings and our lives with Godly character, to withstand all storms. Prayers help us to find godly joy whatever the circumstances. Prayers bring people to know the Lord Jeus. What more reason do we need to pray?

With many blessings on you from all the team at Torch,

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.

Phillipians 4:4–7

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”

Ephesians 6:18

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How to pray

By John Piper

[John Piper is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College and Seminary. For more than thirty years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis. He is author of more than 50 books, and his sermons, articles, books and more are available free of charge at desiringGod.org. This article is abridged for copyright reasons.]

Why Pray? 1) God commands us to pray. 2) The needs are great, and eternal things are at stake. 3) God acts when we pray and often does more in seconds than we could do in hours or weeks or sometimes years. But I want to talk about the how of prayer. I want to try to inspire you with practical, biblical possibilities you may have never considered.

Being devoted to prayer will mean that what you say in your times of prayer will often be free and unstructured, and often be formed and structured. If you are only free in your prayers, you will probably become shallow. If you are only formed in your prayers, you will probably become mechanical.

By free, I mean that you will regularly feel like pouring out your soul to God and you will do it. You will not want any script or guidelines or lists or books. You will have so many needs that they tumble out freely. This is good. Without this it is doubtful that we have any true relation with Christ at all. Can you really imagine a marriage or a friendship where all the communication is read from lists or spoken only in rigid texts. On the other hand, I plead with you not to think you are so spiritually deep or resourceful or rich or disciplined that you can do without the help of forms. I have in mind some forms I hope you all make use of:

1. Pray the Bible. Memorize it and pray it often. Pray the Lord’s Prayer and as you pray it, put each phrase in your own words and apply it to the people you are burdened about. Pray the commands of the Bible. Pray the promises of the Bible. Pray the warnings of the Bible. Open the Bible in front of you and pray over every paragraph.

2. Pray Lists. I have in mind lists of people to pray for and lists of needs to pray about. If you can remember all the people and needs you should be praying for without a list, you are God. I must have lists, some in my head and some on paper. I have memorized about 70 people that I pray for by name every day.

3. Pray Patterns. Develop patterns of prayer that give you some guidance of what to do first and second and third when you get down on your knees. One pattern would be to structure your prayers around each of the petitions of the Lords prayer.

Being devoted to prayer will mean that you come to God in prayer often desperate and often delighted. I simply mean that prayer is a place for meeting God with your deepest fears and prayer is a place for meeting God with your highest joys. The pillow you use for your elbows when you kneel daily before the Father, will be a tear-stained pillow. And yet because God is a prayer-hearing God, you will say with the apostle Paul, “sorrowful yet always rejoicing” And often that joy will overwhelm the burdens of this world and make you want to leap for joy. The Father wants to meet you at those times too. Be devoted to prayer in desperation and in delight, in fasting and feasting.

Being devoted to prayer will mean that you will regularly pray alone, and regularly pray in the assembly of other Christians. Oh how crucial it is that we meet God alone through Jesus. There is no Christianity without a personal trust in, and communion with God through Jesus. Susana Wesley with her 16 children used to pull her apron over her head in the kitchen and all the children had learned that this meant silence in the kitchen. Children need to learn that their parents have times with Jesus that are sacred and may not be interrupted. Find the place, plan the time, teach the children discipline.

But I think that praying in the assembly of other believers is more neglected than praying alone. Alone and assembled. The New Testament is full of corporate prayer gatherings. How are you doing this? If assembling for prayer is not part of your devotion to prayer, make 2019 a breakthrough year.

May the Lord give you a spirit of grace and supplication all year long.

[Copyright Desiring God Foundation Source: desiringGod.org]

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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 Isaiah.

Isaiah

Many years passed and kings came and went. In this small land of Israel, the priests, who were the sons of Aaron – chosen from the tribe of Levi to be specially committed to God’s work – lived together in towns which God had given them. These were difficult times for them, for, like the other Israelites, they had their sorrows.

However, if we look carefully at the life of a young man named Isaiah, we will be amazed at what we can discover about him.

The youth

Isaiah was born and raised in Israel, having the opportunity to learn from childhood the duties and customs of his parents. Isaiah’s father was one of the most important men in the land, being both a prince and a priest, so his son became a member of the great priestly order of the Court of the Sons of Aaron.

It was a time of change, for after reigning for 52 years, King Uzziah had died; what would happen next? The young man Isaiah was very moved as he had a tremendous vision. He saw the Lord himself sitting on a lofty throne, and the temple was filled with his glory. As Isaiah watched, he saw mighty six-winged seraphs (angelic beings) singing in chorus, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts; the whole earth is filled with his glory.”

Isaiah felt very sinful; how could he look upon the Lord of Heaven? Then one of the seraphs flew over to the altar (where a sacrifice was being burnt) and with a pair of tongs picked out a burning coal. He touched Isaiah’s lips with it, and said, “Your sins are all forgiven”.

Then Isaiah heard the Lord asking, “Whom shall I send as a messenger to my people? Who will go for us?” Then Isaiah said, “Lord, I’ll go! Send me” (Isaiah 6:1–8).

The Lord warned him that the Israelites would not listen. It was very true; Ahaz, the grandson of Uzziah had been appointed as king, and had turned away from the Lord.

But Isaiah still preached to him and his people, but at last he said, “You exhaust the Lord’s patience, so he will give you a sign – a child shall be born to a virgin! She shall call him Immanuel (meaning, God is with us)” (Isaiah 7:14).

Then there would be real rejoicing for the Lord revealed, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. They lived in a land of shadows, but now light is shining on them. You have given them great joy, Lord... A child is born to us! A son given to us! And he will be our ruler. He will be called, ‘Wonderful Counsellor,’ ‘Mighty God,’ ‘Eternal Father,’ ‘Prince of peace’. His royal power will continue to grow; his kingdom will always be at peace. He will rule as King David’s successor, basing his power on right and justice, from now until the end of time” (Isaiah 9:2–3, 6–7 GNB).

What a wonderful message! God was looking forward to the time when Jesus, the Light of the world, would be born.

The man

Isaiah was consistently growing in the Lord. He had entered the priesthood and God called him to be a prophet. In due time, Isaiah was to become one of the most faithful teachers of Israel, for he served the Lord faithfully all his life.

The Lord gave him many wonderful messages to give to the people. Among them God described his Chosen Servant – the Spirit of God was upon him – a beautiful picture of the work of the Lord Jesus (Isaiah 61:1). This Servant would not break a bruised reed, nor blow out the light from a dim candle. He would not be disheartened or crushed; instead he would be ready to establish justice in the earth (Isaiah 42:3–4).

The Lord reassured His people: “Do not be afraid, I will save you, I have called you by name – you are mine!” (Isaiah 43:1 GNB).

And, as we continue to hear the Lord’s word, his beauty will bring peace. “How lovely on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news”. There will be joy and gladness, comfort and restoration then, for the Lord promised to go before them (Isaiah 52:7).

Yet, deep sorrows and shameful reproaches made Isaiah sad. His part was to watch and wait. How few would believe his message! Who would listen? To whom was God going to reveal his saving power? The coming Messiah would be like a tiny plant, sprouting from the dry ground, despised and rejected. He would be a man of sorrows, acquainted with bitter grief. There seemed to be no attractiveness to make his people want him. They didn’t care!

Yet, he bore our grief and sorrow. He was wounded and bruised for our sins; he was brought like a lamb to be killed, yet he was silent before those who were condemning him. He suffered and died bearing the punishment of others. He was treated like a criminal, yet buried in a rich man’s grave!

The Lord God planned to bruise him and fill him with sorrow and grief. His soul was made an offering for our sin, not his own (Isaiah chapter 53). We can see that this was written about the Lord Jesus. He went through it all, in spite of the sorrow and suffering, because he knew that was the only way his people could be saved.

What a mighty and gracious Saviour he is! Oh the joy when God gives him the highest place in Heaven! Hallelujah! What a Saviour!

The prophet

Over the years, Isaiah gave the people many messages from the Lord. Here is a selection of them:

“Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink – even if you have no money! Take your choice – it’s all free! ... Seek the Lord while you can find him. Call upon him now while he is near... This plan of mine is not like yours, nor are my thoughts the same as yours, for just as the Heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than yours, and my thoughts higher than anything you can think, for I am the Lord God... You will live in joy and peace. The mountains and hills, the trees of the field – the entire world around you will rejoice. This miracle will make the Lord’s name very great” (Isaiah 55:1, 6, 8–9, 12–13).

“If you keep the Sabbath holy, not pleasing yourself nor working on that day, but enjoying the Sabbath and speaking of it with delight as the Lord’s holy day, and honouring him in what you do, then the Lord will be your delight” (Isaiah 58:13–14).

When the Lord Jesus was preaching in Nazareth, he quoted from Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the broken-hearted, to give liberty to the captives and to open the eyes of the blind.” This caused consternation – was this local lad actually claiming to be the Messiah? (Luke 4:16–22).

Isaiah had continued: “To all who mourn in Israel, God will give beauty for ashes; joy instead of mourning; praise instead of heaviness. They will rebuild the ancient ruins, and they will be fed with the treasures of the nations, and shall glory in their riches” (Isaiah 61:1–6).

The future

Although Isaiah had to warn of God’s judgement, he also gave wonderful messages of hope. “The Lord God will create a new Heavens and earth. Gladness and rejoicing will be shown forever; there will be no weeping, nor crying, Before the people call, the Lord will answer, while they are still speaking the Lord will hear. The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like an ox, while the serpent will have to eat dust! There will be no hurt or destruction in God’s holy place. The people will be able to enjoy the Lord’s peace, flowing like a river, and the Gentiles (all who are not Jews) will see the glory of God” (Isaiah 65:17–25).

What a wonderful future the Lord has prepared for all of those who have trusted the Lord Jesus Christ! He is the Lord, and he will fulfil all that he has promised. Many future joys are already awaiting us, and fullness of joy will be in our hearts for evermore.

The saga of Isaiah brings home the divine origin of the message to Israel. Although Isaiah was a prince and a priest, he did not live a privileged life but served God humbly and faithfully for a long time – he was statesmanlike to the end.

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God’s Special People: Samuel

Michael Stafford

Samson and Samuel shared a similar birth situation—they both had mothers who were barren, but God miraculously answered their prayers and gave each of them a son, both of whom were dedicated to the Lord’s service. In other ways however they were completely different: Samson, a spoilt child who grew up to be a sensual and selfish man; Samuel who became a great man of God, who lived an exemplary life and was a great inspiration to others.

Samuel’s call

Samuel’s mother, in gratitude to the Lord for giving her a son, gave him back to the Lord to serve in the Tabernacle. So, right from the time he was a young child, Samuel learned to love and worship God, but he had never heard God speaking to him until one night he heard a voice calling his name. He thought it was the High Priest, Eli, calling him. This happened twice more, but Eli at last realised that it must be the Lord who was speaking to Samuel. Samuel then said ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening’ (1 Sam 3:10). God did speak, and gave him a sombre message concerning judgement for the High Priest’s family, as they had despised God and His law and misused the animal sacrifices, which had been brought into contempt by their corrupt actions.

The lesson we can learn from Samuel’s experience is that we need to be careful, in the midst of serving God, to give Him time and opportunity to speak to us. Unlike Samuel, we do not normally hear God speaking in an audible voice, but we do hear Him speaking when we read His Word in the Bible, and ponder it in our hearts. May we be able to say, as Samuel did, ‘speak Lord for your servant is listening’.

It took a great deal of courage for this boy to relate to Eli the awful message from God, which meant the downfall of Eli’s family, but God enabled him to do it, and Eli recognised that God is sovereign and His will must take place.

Samuel’s ministry

‘The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognised that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the Lord. The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word.’ (1 Samuel 3:19–21)

As in Samson’s day, the Philistines continued to be a threat and danger to the Israelites, but in Samuel they had a spiritual and temporal leader who knew that the only way the Philistines could be subdued was by the Lord’s hand. Thus we find him praying and offering sacrifices, having first turned the Israelites away from their obsession with foreign gods, and brought them to repentance. God answered his prayer and give them a wonderful victory: ‘While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the Lord thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites.’ (1 Samuel 7:10).

Samuel exercised a very long ministry as a leader of Israel, a prophet and a judge. As an old man he knew his days were numbered and that he must make provision for the future. Naturally he considered that his two sons should take over the leadership of the country from him but, as in the case of Eli and his sons, Samuel’s sons were dishonest and corrupt. This led to such discontent among the people that they decided they wanted to have a king as leader, like all the nations round about them. This was not God’s way—He was their leader and king—but the people wanted to be like their neighbours and insisted that Samuel should give them a king to rule over them.

Israel was different to all the other nations. God had chosen them and set them apart to be special and to be a witness to His power and glory. Sadly, they didn’t want to be different and special—they wanted to be like everyone else.

Is it not true that we also want to be like everyone else, even though, as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are set apart and special to Him? We are designed to be witnesses to God’s love and power to save, among those we come into contact with. Let’s not be afraid to be different in our behaviour from those around us, when others are living in ways that are not pleasing to God.

Samuel the king maker

Samuel got the go ahead from God to give them a king, though he had to warn them about the problems that would result, because the king would put many demands upon them. Saul appeared to be the ideal man for the job—tall, strong and handsome. However, although he started his reign well, he proved eventually to be a disappointment, doing his own thing instead of following God’s will. In the end God rejected Saul and told Samuel to go to Bethlehem and anoint one of the sons of Jesse as the new king. Samuel was now a very old man, but he still had an important lesson to learn from God. Jesse had seven sons, Samuel knew that one of them was to be the new king, but which one? The first six all looked very promising, but God said none of them were His choice. The least likely one was the youngest—David, who was out in the fields looking after the sheep. God said ‘The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’ (1 Samuel 16:7)

Although David was the youngest in his family he had proved himself as a humble shepherd, and shown great courage and skill in dealing with the dangers to the sheep from wild animals. God said ‘this is the man, anoint him’. He was certainly the right man for the job, and proved to be the greatest king that Israel ever had: a man who walked closely with his God, and who was a courageous military leader also.

Samuel had proved himself to be a fearless and faithful servant of God throughout his long life, and had remained teachable to the end. May he be an example to all of us, to be like him—a person God can rely on and who is always ready to learn from Him.

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Cry out to God!

Bob Gass, Word For Today

There are times in life when the best thing you can do is cry out to God from the depths of your being. Don’t worry about looking undignified, or having people think you have no faith. The psalmist said, ‘In my distress I cried out to the Lord... [and] He heard me.’ Every parent knows that cry. It’s different; it’s not a temper tantrum or a whine for attention, it’s a cry of distress. And though it comes in the dead of night, before you know it your feet hit the floor and you’re at your child’s side holding them, changing them, feeding them, and comforting them. That’s how God feels about you. When you get so low that you’re reaching up just to touch bottom, cry out to God! David said: ‘He reached down... and drew me out of my great trials. He rescued me... On the day... I was weakest, they attacked. But the Lord held me steady. He led me to a place of safety, for he delights in me’ (vv. 16–19 TLB). David discovered that God was his ‘high tower’ (v. 2 KJV). In Bible times a high tower was a place of safety where the enemy couldn’t get to you. Proverbs 18:10 says, ‘The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe’ (NKJV). It represents a place of security in God where you’re lifted above the threat and the circumstances. It’s where you regain your perspective; a place where you can look ahead and know this trial will soon be over. Go ahead, cry out to God and He will answer you.

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A prayer and hymn of worship

Edwin Hatch

Breathe on me, Breath of God
Fill me with life anew,
That I may love what you do love,
And do what you would do.
Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Until my heart is pure,
Until my will is one with yours,
To do and to endure.
Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Until I am all yours,
Until this earthly part of me
Glows with your fire divine.
Breathe on me, Breath of God
So that I never die,
But live with you, the perfect life
Of your eternity.

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