The Torch – Issue 1 2014

From:-
TORCH TRUST, Torch House, Torch Way, Market Harborough, Leicestershire, LE16 9HL, U.K.
Telephone: +44(0)1858 438260, Fax: +44(0)1858 438275, email: info@torchtrust.org
The Torch Trust for the Blind, registered charity number 1095904.

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Greetings

How do you feel at the beginning of this new year? I expect all of us have mixed feelings as we look ahead. I've been thinking about two important words: trust and obey.

Some of us will remember a hymn, the chorus of which starts, "Trust and obey". Well, I've been thinking about the significance of those two words of command being linked together, and their importance in terms of our ongoing walk with God. Maybe we often give attention to the trust bit, but what about the obeying?

I recall the situation recorded in John's Gospel when two of the disciples who were fishermen had toiled all night to catch fish but had caught nothing. When they responded to Jesus' instruction to cast their net on the other side of the boat, they caught so much fish they could hardly haul in the net.

So what's the lesson for us? I believe this incident was not about how to fish. Not about those fishermen having got it wrong; after all, they were skilled and experienced, and night time was the best time to fish, whereas now it was day time when they would normally be cleaning their nets etc. Rather, it occurs to me that it was about obedience. When Jesus told them to cast on the other side, they could so easily have said, "What difference will that make? What good will that do?" But instead they trusted ... and obeyed - with awesome results!

We all have situations in our lives where Jesus is requiring of us trust and obedience. Situations where the alternative is fear, apprehension, perplexity, frustration and all manner of negative feelings. And isn't it wonderful that, as with everything else required of us by God, his help is there in order to meet that requirement; first in terms of the sensitivity to discern what he wants us to do, and then the grace to obey. "It is God that worketh in us, both to will and to do his good pleasure." How wonderful is that; he not only equips us to do his will, but to want to do his will.

And somehow, the trusting bit seems all the easier when we give due attendance to the obeying bit!

So may we all know God's grace, enabling and help in this coming year as together we seek to trust and obey.

Jill Ferraby and the editors

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Old Testament characters

by Michael Stafford

18. David (part two)

We began to look at King David's life back in the autumn edition of The Torch. Now, at the beginning of 2014, we look again at David, who lived 3000 years ago but whose character and experiences are still relevant for teaching us today in our Christian lives.

David was described as "a man after God's own heart", and previously we saw how he was humble, believing, patient, seeking God's glory and victorious in battle. Now we can look at some other aspects of his life:

6. David was faithful to his friends

David and Jonathan (King Saul's son) were good friends. Jonathan on more than one occasion saved David from the wrath of his father and David never forgot what he owed to his friend. But Jonathan was killed in battle so it seemed that David would never be able to repay him for his kindness. However, Jonathan had a son called Mephibosheth who was disabled in both feet at the age of five when his nurse dropped him while fleeing from a dangerous situation. (2 Samuel 4:4)

Some years later, David expressed a desire to show kindness to anyone left of Saul's family. He was told that Mephibosheth was living in hiding in a place called Lo-Debar. David had him brought to him and quickly calmed his fears by assuring him that he would receive back all his land, and that he would become part of David's household, even eating at David's table. (2 Samuel 9:1-13)

Faithfulness is an important Christian virtue. Sadly, most of Jesus' disciples initially were unfaithful to Jesus and "forsook him and fled" when he was taken to be crucified. However, many of them later faced danger and even death in order to be faithful to him. Today there are many Christians in some parts of the world whose faithfulness is daily challenged through persecution. Let's remember them in our prayers.

7. David was willing to repent

The Bible never tries to cover up the failings of even its great heroes like David. It is realistic about our failings as well as successes. David had had many great victories, and the time came when he felt it was time for him to relax and enjoy life in his palace. He no longer went out with his army to fight battles, and on one occasion his idleness led to great sin.

He saw a beautiful woman, Bathsheba, taking a bath in a nearby house, and ordered his servant to fetch her to him. After sleeping with her David resumed his normal life until he heard that she was pregnant. In a panic he schemed to make it look as if the pregnancy resulted from a time when her husband was home from the army for a few days. When this failed, in desperation, he arranged that the husband, Uriah, be sent to the front line so that he would probably be killed. This happened, and David thought for some time that he was safe from any accusation. But he forgot that God had seen all that happened and was not going to let David get away with it.

The prophet Nathan came to David and said, "Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah ... with the sword and took his wife to be your own ..." then David replied, "I have sinned against the Lord". Nathan replied, "The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But ... the son born to you will die". (2 Samuel 12:9-14). David was humble enough to recognise his sin and repent. The New Testament word to us today is in 1 John 1:9 - "If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness".

8. David, a man of grace and love

God forgave David for his terrible sins with Bathsheba and Uriah, but also punished him. This may sound like a contradiction, but while God graciously forgives, he also wants to teach a lesson so that the sin will not be repeated. In Hebrews 12:6 we read: "the Lord disciplines those he loves, and punishes everyone he accepts as a son". Nathan the prophet predicted David's punishment when he said in 2 Samuel 12:11, "Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you ..." We can read about that calamity in 2 Samuel chapters 15 to 19. David's own beloved son Absalom rebelled against him - "he stole the hearts of the men of Israel" (2 Samuel 15:6).

David was forced to flee from Jerusalem and to fight against the supporters of his own son. In doing so he learned of the treachery of many he had previously trusted. Eventually Absalom was killed when the donkey he was riding ran under low tree branches in which his head became caught. He was thus vulnerable to his enemies, and Joab the army commander quickly killed him, despite being warned that David had expressly commanded that the young man should be spared.

David might have been relieved that the one who had endangered him and his kingdom was no longer alive but, as a man of love and grace, he wept and mourned for Absalom and cried aloud, "O my son Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!" (2 Samuel 18:33). David also showed grace and forgiveness to many of those who had joined Absalom's rebellion, as he recognised that what had happened had been the Lord's will.

9. David, a man of worship

We have David to thank for at least 72 of the Psalms in our Bible. They are wonderful expressions of David's worship, and of his experiences of God. They are remarkably open and honest, sometimes even expressing anger with God as well as many other emotions. Unlike so many of his successors in the kingship of Israel and Judah, David revered God and honoured his temple in Jerusalem.

He was a gifted musician, no doubt setting many of his own Psalms to musical accompaniment. His talent was appreciated by King Saul who appointed him as his harpist and was calmed by his playing during times when Saul suffered mental illness.

We today worship "Great David's Greater Son" - Jesus, who was born of David's line. In this sense we see the meaning of God's promise: "Your house and your kingdom shall endure for ever before me, your throne shall be established for ever" (2 Samuel 7:16).

Jesus is King for all eternity. Have you enthroned him in your heart?

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Let the scriptures speak

Psalm 42:8-11

By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me – a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to my Rock, "Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?" My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, "Where is your God?"

Why are you down cast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.

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Here's a thought

Psalm 62:5

My soul, wait thou only upon God, for my expectation is from him. (KJV)

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Partners

National co-ordinator of the New Zealand Torch ministry

(taken from The Encourager – June 2013)

At a recent Torch houseparty in Cambridge, New Zealand, Allen Little of Levin was commissioned as National Co-ordinator promoting Torch throughout New Zealand. Along with his wife Margaret and their family he has lived in Levin since 1984 after graduation from Bible College of NZ and has been a long-time supporter of the Christian Ministries with Disabled Trust ministry. Prior to their Bible College days Allen had trained as a community nurse at Wanganui Hospital and worked in Disability and Human Services until his retirement last year.

There are many experiences in his life which make him so suitable for this role. His interest in radio and broadcasting began with the Pirate Radio Hauraki.

Over the years he's established various broadcast projects including the "Radio Reading Service" which still broadcasts from Levin and can be heard on www.radioreading.org.nz. Allen also runs a local station "88fm" which broadcasts gospel programmes in Chinese to Levin's Chinese people. He's a licensed Radio Ham with the call ZL2GB.

Allen, who grew up in an anti-Christian home, struggled as a child with illiteracy because of inability to see print. On returning from Athol to live at Milton he was desperately lonely, alienated and had a huge identity issue with low self esteem. This changed when he was befriended by the young people of the Presbyterian Bible Class who sponsored him to their Easter camp at Tuapeka; here, he heard he was LOVED despite all. On the last night of camp (50 years ago), an "altar call" was made and Allen went forward to accept Jesus who loved him.

"My whole being," he said, "seemed to undergo a radical change with a deep hunger for learning and discovery replacing the darkness of ignorance."

Returning home Allen told his mother and siblings he had become a Christian and Jesus loved him. This news brought a hostile response, with clothing, books etc destroyed amidst a barrage of expletives, and Allen was kicked out.

"The church women found me an alternative place to stay," he said, "and the Bible class youth plus a church elder befriended me. It was the time when television was first being viewed in New Zealand and I would go to Jimmy's home 'ta watch a wee bit da telly'. Jimmy (Mr Spence) who was a widower, welcomed me and would tell me stories from his Bible. He took a sheet of newsprint paper, pinned it on his wall and showed me some marks. With a big thick pencil he made the letter 'J', then showed me what it was - a letter, of which there were 25 others. He showed me letters and how they made words, how words come together to make sentences, and these were what we talk."

This was how he learnt to read! Allen affirms the Holy Spirit began an amazing enriching, transforming work in his life which continues every day, and he testifies to the fact that "God loves all people always equally".

Allen is passionate about communicating the Christian gospel to blind and sight-impaired citizens. "Helping people to understand the relevance of scripture plus their right to fully participate in and enjoy their local church is something we should all do," says Allen. "Whilst we are comfortable in our blindness many well-meaning Christians don't know how to cope with us and have superficial 'needs-be' contact. They fear offending and tend to keep us on the side-line. My vision is to identify blind and sight-impaired Christians wherever they live and encourage them to grow in and enjoy Christian fellowship. The account of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:26-40) is a perfect example of how a life can be changed when people take time to respond, care and share. The Eunuch 'heard', 'asked' and 'responded', just like a blind person could if given the opportunity."

[Allen is a Justice of the Peace (JP), has a wide interest in not-for-profit organisations, and was awarded the Queens Service Medal (QSM) in 1989. He believes a full and active life in church and community where blind people are genuinely included is what living is about. To connect with Allen simply email vision@inspire.net.nz]

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My story

By Michael Stafford

It was in November 1963 that I embarked on the SS Ebani which took me to Nigeria to begin missionary service among the Igala, Idoma and Bassa people. My main purpose was to manage the literature ministry at Ika, where I joined a team of 16 missionaries on a mission base from which we reached out to those three tribes in the Benue River basin area. Four years later I was married to Janet and together we served in Nigeria until 1979.

As a printer, I oversaw and trained a Nigerian staff of 11 who worked a printing press, setting type by hand and printing on an old platen machine which was driven by a bicycle, as there was no other means of power! The bicycle was firmly fixed to the floor and the chain was linked to the drive shaft of the press. From that old machine came hymnbooks, tracts, booklets and even a local newspaper. Later the equipment was updated, and the press "Nigerianised", meaning that I worked myself out of a job in the interests of Nigerian Christians assuming responsibility for the work.

There was a huge demand for Christian books, and the most popular of all was Pilgrim's Progress in the Igala language. That, and more importantly the Igala Bible, had been translated by pioneer missionary Raymond Dibble. Mainly because of the Bible, there grew up hundreds of churches in the Igala and Idoma areas. Many Christians trekked long distances to the monthly Bible conferences, where we taught the great Scripture truths to very attentive audiences.

When Janet and I left Nigeria in 1979 we managed a Christian Conference Centre for a time and then, in 1987, got involved in the work of Torch Trust, and eventually were back in Africa again on a regular basis as we developed the ministry in Malawi. At first the braille Bible volumes in Chichewa were produced by Torch at Hallaton (previous headquarters of Torch Trust) and sent out to Malawi, but in the year 2000 I set up the braille production work at the Torch base in Blantyre and since then the Malawian staff have produced and sent out Scriptures in nine languages to various African countries.

It has been a privilege to have been involved in God's work in Africa over the past 50 years, and encouraging to see how literature, especially the Bible in the language of the people, has been the means of transforming many lives as they have discovered Jesus Christ, the Living Word, and accepted him into their lives.

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Taking Hold

By Gordon Temple

At the outset of each year we prayerfully think about a theme that we can use as a banner over our work in God's service for the year and we adopt a Bible verse that supports the theme. We have made 2014 our Year of Taking Hold and have adopted a verse from Philippians - the apostle Paul's letter to first century Christians living in the Macedonian city of Philippi, from Chapter 3, verse 12: "I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me."

There's an appealing balance in this snippet of text. Jesus has taken hold of Paul for a purpose and Paul is determined to take hold of that purpose.

In this chapter Paul is reflecting upon his own life of missionary service, just as Michael Stafford has done for this edition of The Torch. Though Paul writes from prison in Rome, his letter is positively bursting with joy and he wants to infect his readers with the same joy that he has found in Jesus: "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice!" (4:4).

Paul looks back to the time before his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, to a time when his name was Saul and when he was striving to stamp out the church. Like a teacher listing degrees and diplomas Paul lists his qualifications for approval before God: "circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless" (verses 5-6).

How dramatically he changed as a result of his Damascus Road meeting with the Lord. The things that had seemed so important to him, to his status and standing, now meant nothing: "I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord" (v8). This reminds me of the parable of Jesus concerning a merchant who sells all his stock that he might get just one extraordinary pearl.

The sergeant forcing his will onto a junior points to the sleeve of his uniform and says "count the stripes". For Paul the stripes were on his back. In another of his letters, Paul tells us that he has received thirty-nine lashes no less than five times. In that passage he gives another list of credentials, this time in support of his standing as a servant of the Lord. It's a very different list. It's a litany of suffering and labour. "If I must boast", he writes, "I will boast of the things that show my weakness" (2 Corinthians 11:30).

Thinking about the change to Paul's life I noticed something that has never occurred to me before. In the Gospels we read of a number of meetings between Jesus and blind people. After their encounter with Jesus they can see. But when Paul (actually named Saul at that stage) meets the risen Jesus he ends up blind. As a blind man he needs a guide to complete his journey. He was blind for just three days but it's in his time of blindness that Paul sees what he has stubbornly refused to see before: that Jesus is the Son of God.

In a way Torch's ministry today is an echo of Paul's experience: that blind and partially sighted people get to meet Jesus and come to know that he is the glorious Son of God.

Paul's eyes opened to a new life and a new mission. One in which all the things that seemed so important in his former life no longer counted for anything. From here on his passion for God is redirected. Instead of trying to prevent the spread of the church he spends his life spreading its reach throughout the known world.

And so many years later, and in prison in Rome, Paul is still striving to know more of Jesus. Like someone leaning into the wind Paul presses on towards the goal. Since his conversion his life is no longer defined by the past but by its destination - to heaven to be with the Jesus who came specially to meet him on the road. Paul's life of travel, preaching, church planting, teaching and writing - and of suffering, persecution and imprisonment - has a driving purposefulness: "forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead ... I press on ..." (verses 13-14).

We often reflect upon what God in Christ has saved us from - our sin and guilt - but I wonder if we think enough about what God has saved us for. Jeremiah tells us that God has plans for us: "plans to give you hope and a future" (29:11).

The challenge for each of us who are committed to following Jesus - and for Torch Trust - is to inhabit those plans and take hold of all for which he has taken hold of us - to be caught up in serving his purposes and seeking his glory.

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