The Torch - Issue 2 2012

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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.

Contents

Greetings!

At time of writing, Easter is not far off. What an amazing festival this is, giving us special opportunity to reflect on the greatest event ever in history.

What sacrifice, first of all by God the Father, sending his son to the cruel, wicked environment of Earth. What earthly father would cope with sending his son somewhere where he knew for sure that he was going to be brutally treated and finally executed? One can't even begin to think what that would be like. The ultimate rejection.

Then this morning as I woke, I was thinking, well at least God knew that it was all going to end victoriously. But then hang on. Is Jesus still suffering rejection? Yes. Is he still misunderstood? Yes. Is his love still unacceptable to many - or at the very least, overlooked? Yes. Is his longing to forgive disregarded? Yes.

My mind went back to a profound moment in my childhood when the element of rejection Jesus suffered after all he'd done for us bore in on me so deeply that I decided at that moment I was not going to be amongst those rejecting him, and I opened my heart to receive the love and forgiveness he longs to give. In my little child's heart, I felt as if I was giving him a hug and thereby easing his feeling of rejection!

This moment was in a children's event being run by my father. The verse he was centering his talk on was:

[Jesus' words when approaching Jerusalem for his final week on Earth:] "Jerusalem, Jerusalem! You kill the prophets, you stone the messengers God has sent you! How many times have I wanted to put my arms round all your people, just as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would not let me!" (Matthew 23:37).

What a picture! And what a wonderful thing to be able to reciprocate that loving embrace by simply letting him put his arms around us with all the outpouring of love and forgiveness he is "bursting" to give! And not just at our first receiving him into our lives, but day by day, moment by moment, opening our hearts to him in whatever situation we find ourselves.

Let's all make sure this Easter time - and beyond! - we're not found among those rejecting him!

God bless you all.

Jill Ferraby and the editors

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Old Testament characters

by Michael Stafford

11. Caleb

Caleb was a pattern of what a man of God should be: consistent in youth, middle-age and old age ...

1. He was Ardent in Youth

We first encounter Caleb, as a young man, in Numbers 13 where Moses had sent 12 men to spy out the land of Canaan and report back to him. Caleb was the representative from the tribe of Judah. The account of this story is a sad one: the spies discovered a wonderful, fruitful land which would make a great home for God's people but there were intimidating enemies who were so strong and fearsome that 10 of the spies felt they could never be overcome. Caleb alone spoke out, claiming that, with God's enabling, they could defeat the enemy and occupy the land. However, the people would not listen. They were like a crowd of frightened sheep and even tried to stone Caleb.

There have been many lone voices through the years, both in Christianity and politics. Christian examples would be William Carey, the father of the missionary movement who was opposed in his missionary plans by his own church, and William Wilberforce who lobbied parliament for many years to end slave trading.

The Lord said to Moses: "... not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times - not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No-one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it. But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it." (Numbers 14:22-24)

Joshua shared Caleb's optimism but this was not appreciated by the Israelites who wanted to go back to Egypt, but God intervened and declared his anger because of the lack of faith of his people. As a punishment the Israelites were to suffer 40 long years of wandering in the desert until all that generation had died. Only Joshua and Caleb survived to enter the land with the next generation.

2. He was Steadfast in Middle Age

As a young man Caleb was noted for courage, faith and determination. The enthusiasm of youth often wanes later in life, but this did not happen with Caleb who endured the next 40 years of wandering and suffering with the Israelites yet clung to the promises of God.

The hardest thing in the Christian life is not the challenges and exciting things, but the daily slog and apparent lack of God at work even though we pray. Unless, like Caleb, we cling to God's promises, we will go downhill in our Christian life. Jesus said, "Look up for your redemption draws near," and Caleb kept in mind the future possession of the land God was giving them. He was a man with vision, and we also need to keep in view the glorious future God has promised us.

3. He was Undaunted in Old Age

The next significant mention of Caleb is found in the book of Joshua when he was 85 years old! After the Israelites had entered the land, Joshua apportioned different areas among the tribes, and within those areas individual people were given pieces of land. Thus we find Caleb in chapter 14 petitioning Joshua for land in Hebron:

"... Here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I'm just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said." (Joshua 14:10-12)

Caleb did not have Hebron handed to him on a plate! He had to fight for it. It was the very place where the giants were - and it was a mountain! He succeeded in possessing this place because he wholly followed the Lord. There were no half-measures or compromises. To wholly follow is not to hold anything back from God, and to stand out as a man or woman of God.

We find the name Caleb mentioned again in the book of Judges, as his nephew Othniel became one of the judges who ruled Israel for 40 years. After that there is no more mention of him, but his spiritual legacy lives on. God commended him especially for his wholeheartedness along with Joshua, and in contrast to the wavering and fearfulness of the other Israelites. God's commendation of Caleb shows how important to God is faith. And Caleb's faith was not confined to a particular era of his life. He was consistent right through to old age.

God does not change, and is still insistent upon faith and wholeheartedness in his children. This is not surprising, when we consider what a compliment it is to a person to have trust placed in them. There can in fact be no greater compliment as it proclaims that the person trusted is one who is faithful and reliable and someone who we can safely depend on. Do you trust God like this? Do you depend utterly on him? He is able to save. He is able to keep. Paul could say: "I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day." (2 Timothy 1:12). Let us also seek to have this knowledge, so that we, like Caleb, can face the challenges of everyday life with peace in our hearts due to the confidence we have in a God who is able.

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My story

by Brian Nokes

I was well into my 40's and the year was 1977. My first wife Gay (who died in 1993) and I had decided to buy a little gift shop in Liskeard, Cornwall and turn our backs on the oil industry where I had spent the previous 25 years working. With our two young children we left Crawley Down in Sussex and made ourselves a new life in the county we both loved. Neither of us had any experience in running a shop, but we were determined to make a go of it. So we took over a shop selling gifts and settled into a new life.

Gay had experienced the touch of Torch whilst we were living in Rye in 1968, and was making fuzzy felt cards and copying extracts from the Bible into large print for Torch. The Bible Study group Gay attended was regularly visited by Mum and Dad Heath.

My Christian life was minimal, but I was attending the local C of E church in Liskeard.

Gay spoke to me about getting something started in Liskeard for people with sight loss, and contacted Torch who provided us with a set of slides of the work. I became the operator, while Gay sorted out various venues and spoke about Torch. All very interesting, lots of tea drunk, but very little true interest was shown.

I was tiring of the exercise and could see no point in it. Finally we went to a group of younger Christians who worshipped in the Vineyard church. This meeting was entirely different - they wanted to know more and their questions showed they were really interested.

Now started something I hadn't bargained for: Gay arranged monthly meetings, attended by about eight people, in our flat above the shop. The group prayed - but not me; I leaned against a wall and listened and made the tea. This went on for several months until one evening I could stand it no longer and said, "Why do you keep on praying, why not start the group? I know you have the skills here for music and other things." There was silence, and then one man said he wouldn't mind being chairman. Gay volunteered to be the secretary and before long we were planning the beginning of the group. I hadn't realised how the Lord had touched my life.

We started the first meeting with just a dozen or so visually impaired folks in one of the rooms in the cattle market, and Peter Richards (area co-ordinator) brought others up from West Cornwall. From there on things happened at an incredible rate. One of our new committee members worked for Cornwall County Council and had Christian contacts. Gay was by now a local preacher, and knew many chapels and their folk. We also knew churches where mini coaches could be hired.

Two other men and myself came fully to the Lord as we saw and experienced the power of prayer moving the whole operation. Within six months we were collecting people by cars and mini coaches from Polperro, Looe, Saltash, Callington and Launceston. Our numbers grew to approaching a hundred by the end of the first year - this included helpers - and after prayer the Callington group was formed.

My job was to welcome and seat folks at tables. By now many people liked to sit in the same seat and chat with their new friends. Our programme was simple, but we all tried to make everyone at home, and keep the afternoon interesting and entertaining, followed by a good tea.

In September 2000 I bade farewell to Cornwall and moved up to Hallaton, Leicestershire to marry Carol (nee Franklin). Though I am now well into retirement, we enjoy visiting Torch Fellowship Groups around the country, sometimes Carol and I singing together at the meetings. I also record the Every Day with Jesus Bible reading notes distributed in audio. Helping others hear and understand the Scriptures is a most worthwhile job which I just love.

I'm so thankful that the Lord used Torch to make himself real to me, and glad too to have the opportunity to give something back in return.

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Let the Scriptures speak!

John 1: 10-12 (Today's New International Version)

He [Jesus] was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.

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Wise Words (8)

Taking the long view

Mau a akulu-akulu akoma akagonera. (Chewa). This proverb means: The words of the elders become sweet the day after.

Wisdom

A child sees something it wants, a corn cob, an important letter, some money, a knife, It moves immediately to get it. The thing fills the child's horizon. The child is single-minded in its pursuit of the object with no thought of anything else. It will not stand opposition or advice.

We often behave like larger children. We set our minds on something here and now. The immediate occupies our thoughts and feelings, and blinds us to the consequences of what we intend to do. We do not see the larger picture. A hasty marriage is a good example. How often we hear, "If only I had known at the time", or, "I see now how right you were". It is often only later that the wisdom of good advice is seen.

Scripture

"When I was a child, my speech, feelings, and thinking were those of a child; now that I am a man, I have no more use for childish ways. What we see now is like a dim image in a mirror; then we shall see face to face." (1 Corinthians 13:11).

"I can easily pocket some money from this project or fund. John is away doing a course, so I can sleep with his wife. By bribing this official I can get my nephew a job". Attitudes like this are common. These attitudes reveal a great lack of vision and maturity. A person behaving like this thinks like a child - that happiness is something to be gained by grasping at something immediate and forbidden. There is little vision of what life, people, things are all about. It is only later when they see more clearly, that they learn how foolishly they have behaved. Advice at the time is always available. It might be the words of the elders or it might be the word of God heard in Scripture and church revealing God's whole plan for our lives which he formed before the beginning of the world. When we try to act with some vision of God's plan, then we are truly mature.

Prayer

Grant us, Lord, the wisdom to see what we ought to do and the strength to do it.

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Fan the Flame

by Gordon Temple

Fan the Flame is Torch's motto for the year. It's a reference to a passage in Paul's second letter to his protégé Timothy: "For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord ..." (2 Timothy 1:6-8a).

Paul recognises that there is already the glow of God's gift in Timothy and he wants to see the glow become a full-blown fire. The first stage in starting a fire is to get a patch in the firewood to glow, and then to blow or fan air across it until it bursts into flame. A fire that is fanned burns brightly, bringing light and warmth. This is what Paul is encouraging Timothy towards.

Similarly for Torch, we have seen the beginning of new things - a glow of God's presence on those activities and initiatives we believe he has planted in our minds and hearts. Now we sense the time is right to fan these into flame - to see them become a part of the main thrust of Torch's mission: to enable people with sight loss to discover Christian faith and lead fulfilling Christian lives.

Fan the Flame is an apt phrase in an Olympics year. The Games comprise two events: the Olympics and the Paralympics. And this time the Games are in the UK where Torch Trust is based. Soon the Olympic torch will progress around Britain, followed later in the year by the Paralympics flame.

The Paralympics

The Paralympics began during the 1948 Summer Olympics in England. Stoke Mandeville Hospital [in Buckinghamshire, UK] organised a competition for veterans of World War II with spinal cord injuries, so there's a lot of excitement about their return. The first official Paralympics were held in conjunction with the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome.

The challenge for the Paralympic athletes - some 8000 of them - is every bit as intense as the Olympics, competing in twenty sports. Many of these will be competed by blind and partially sighted contestants.

I was recently asked a question about the Paralympics to which I was stumped for an answer: The Paralympics award gold, silver, and bronze medals to one category of participant, none of whom have a disability - who are they?

The answer: the sighted guides for blind athletes who win medals are also awarded medals.

Another Paralympics question posed was: What is the motto of the Paralympics? The Olympic motto is: Faster, higher, stronger. The answer is Spirit in Motion. What a great phrase that is. It takes us right back to that passage in Paul's letter to Timothy: "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline" (verse 7).

Are we timid in our Christian lives? Some physically strong people, some who are generally assertive, can turn timid when talking about their Christian faith. Why is that? In church with song and sermon we enthusiastically and passionately express our praise of God yet outside we are often reluctant to talk of him.

Paul is clear. What God has given is not the faint and ineffectual glow of timidity but the flaming furnace of power, of love and of self-discipline! Let's look at the facets of this threefold spirit God has given.

Spirit of Power

Without power nothing changes. Scientist Newton's first law states that every object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless compelled to change by the action of an external force. Without power the car remains stationary and a football never reaches the goal. If we are going to change the world, even to the smallest degree, we need power. If we are to see spiritual motion, to see the kingdom of God break into our situation, to see lives changed, then we need the spirit of power that God has given. He wants to bring his power to bear through us.

But power can be dangerous too. Misdirected it can do harm. The car can crash. The football can hit someone in the face and knock them down. Power needs control and direction.

Spirit of love

Love wants the best for those who are loved. God loves us and he wants the best for us. We love our family and friends and want the best for them. So when we act we want to avoid harm and bring about good things. The spirit of love directs the power God has given us to where it can bless.

Spirit of Self-discipline

I like the idea of power and love working together - energy that changes things in a way that blesses. I'm not so keen on self-discipline. Controlling myself so I do only good and loving things implies hard work.

Discipline conjures up memories of school. Do this, do that now, don't do that again - always with the threat of punishment. But like it or not self-discipline is a sign of maturity - of growing up. And it's good.

Self-discipline turns the good intentions into action. Self-discipline makes sure the work is completed. Self-discipline comes back to say "thank you" ... and does the follow up. Self-discipline keeps us going for the long haul. And like the love and the power, the spirit of self-discipline - perhaps we might say, the inclination to self-discipline - can be traced back to the gift of God.

So that's why Paul groups these three very dissimilar things together! Power that changes things, love that directs the power and self-discipline that gets the job done. It makes sense. This is the spirit that God has given. This is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives that we might change things to conform to the kingdom of God, that we might act always and only in love and we'll keep going through the bad days as well as the good.

Is this not Spirit in Motion?

Stand up for Jesus

Having made this point to Timothy, Paul moves on to mission in which, with the God-given spirit of power, love and self discipline we are to be engaged: "So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord" (v. 8a). We need to overcome our timidity and tell people about Jesus outside the church as well as inside it.

As Jesus said, "Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men ..." (Matthew 5:15-16).

It makes no sense to fan the flame only to hide it from view. We need to fan the flame and then display it prominently so that the light may shine out ... bright and clear.

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