The Torch – Issue 2 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.

Contents

Greetings!

This issue of The Torch comes with Easter greetings, as you will hopefully be receiving it either just before or soon after Easter.

I was thinking how the blessing of peace comes to the fore both at Christmas and at Easter. At Christmas, Jesus came to this world to bring peace, and at Easter, after rising from the dead, he appeared to his disciples and said, "Peace be with you!"

What sort of peace are we talking about? It's a very special sort - in fact, it's a peace that can't be found anywhere but in Jesus. And it's a deep down inner peace.

Some of you will remember the SARS virus (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) which threatened parts of the world in 2003. One of my sons was teaching in China at the time, and when the virus erupted in Beijing, he was surrounded with scared, panicking people, who hardly dared move for fear of coming into contact with the virus. They shut themselves away in their houses.

This reminded me of the time when Jesus' disciples shut themselves behind locked doors. We read in John 20 that after Jesus had been crucified, the disciples locked the doors of the room where they gathered, simply because they were so fearful - not of a deadly virus, but of being subjected to the same fate that their Lord and Master had been subjected to at the hand of the Jews. And it was then that Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!"

How wonderful! And even more wonderful, that he still does the same today. Whatever situation we find ourselves in, whatever fears bombard us, he comes to us, stands in the midst of the situation and says "PEACE be with you!"

What love! Let's open our hearts to him and the peace he offers as we enjoy this Easter time.

Jill Ferraby and the editors

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Old Testament characters

by Michael Stafford

19. Solomon

God made a promise to King David which is recorded in Psalm 132:11 - "One of your descendants I will place on your throne". In England, over the past 500 years, it has always been the oldest son of the sovereign who has succeeded to the throne, but this was not necessarily so in Israel in Bible times. In fact, Solomon was the youngest of David's many sons, but was destined to be king in David's place.

Other sons of David had presumed to take on the kingship: Absolom rebelled against his father, but eventually died in the attempt to replace him; another son, Adonijah, made himself king when David was very old and unaware of what was going on. But God had other plans, and when David knew what had happened he declared Solomon to be the rightful heir. "Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anointed Solomon king." This statement was made into a great anthem by George Handel, and is still used in the coronation service of British kings and queens.

1. Solomon's promising start

Before he died, David exhorted Solomon to be strong, and to walk in the ways of God and obey his laws. Solomon began as a humble man, feeling inadequate for the immense task he was taking on. God was pleased with Solomon's humility and asked him what he most wanted. Many people in that situation would have asked for great wealth and power and long life. Solomon, though, realised his lack of experience in governing his people and asked for wisdom to have discernment in his judgments and to govern righteously.

God answered Solomon's prayer abundantly, so that he became famous for his wisdom. Even today we sometimes say that we need the "wisdom of Solomon" in regard to a certain problem.

Famously, an example is given us in 1 Kings 3:16-28 of his wisdom when two women came to him and told him that they both lived in the same house and both had babies. One woman lay on her baby in the night and it died. Then in the middle of the night she swapped the dead baby with that of the other sleeping woman who, on waking, realised that the dead baby was not hers.

The two women then both claimed the living baby as their own, and brought the matter to Solomon for his judgment. His response was to call for a sword and instruct his servant to cut the living child in two, giving half to each woman! Naturally, the true mother said "give the other woman the baby, don't kill him". But the other woman said "Neither of us shall have him, cut him in two". Solomon then gave the baby to the true mother, and verse 28 says: "When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice."

2. Solomon's successes

Solomon had the advantage of inheriting from David his father a land which extended further than it had ever done before - from the Euphrates river (modern Iraq) to the Mediterranean Sea. He governed wisely, making use of trusted officials to look after various areas of the country and keeping the population happy and at peace.

"God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore" (1 Kings 4:29). News of his wisdom and greatness spread far and wide, and in chapter 10 we can read of the visit to him by the Queen of Sheba, and how she was overwhelmed by what she saw and heard in Jerusalem.

Solomon was also a great builder, and his greatest achievement was the building of the Temple in Jerusalem, where he placed the Ark and offered a wonderful prayer of dedication, in which he acknowledged that God could never be confined to a building. However, it was built to give glory to God and to provide a focus for the people to worship God, offer sacrifices, and pray to him.

Solomon became fabulously wealthy because of his fame and the gifts which kings of other nations brought to him. Sadly, all the fame and riches eventually turned him away from a single-hearted worship of God.

3. Solomon's failures

In 1 Kings chapter 9 we read of God speaking to Solomon and giving him both a promise and a warning: "... if you walk before me in Integrity of heart and uprightness ... I will establish your royal throne over Israel for ever ... But if you or your sons turn away from me ... and serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land I have given them ..."

From the original creation of mankind in the Garden of Eden, God had always intended that a man should have one wife. Sadly, his people soon forgot that, and did as the other nations did - taking several wives. However, Solomon outdid them all by having 700 wives and 300 concubines! They were to prove his undoing, as they mostly came from heathen nations, and continued to serve and worship their idols. Worse still, they lured Solomon into doing the same thing and even building temples for the idols. He never actually abandoned the true God, but compromised loyalty to God by worshipping many other gods as well.

For David's sake, God did not abandon Solomon, but did punish him by raising up many enemies from other nations. Also, one of his own officials, Jeroboam, rebelled against him and would later cause the whole country to split in two, after Solomon died.

We will do well to learn a strong lesson from Solomon's experiences. God will bless us as long as we are single-hearted in our devotion to him. However, when we let other things enter our lives and we become devoted to them as well as God, he will not abandon us, but will allow our Christian lives to be blighted and ineffective.

What are the things which can compromise our devotion to God? Love of money, love of power, jealousy, lust, greed; these are just some of the things that can enslave us. Basically, anything which we make equal with God in our affections is an idol. Remember, "It is for freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery" (Galatians 5:1).

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My Story

By Beth Bromham, Personnel Co-ordinator

My first experience of the Torch Trust was when my father took me to a Torch Fellowship Group in Daventry when I was a young child. I remember feeling quite daunted by the prospect of talking to a blind lady over tea, and my father encouraged me to hold her hand and talk to her normally. Having never met a blind person, I felt afraid that she would not want me to talk to her, but this early experience taught me how much it means to overcome barriers of communication and the value of stepping out of our comfort zone to encourage other people.

Having truly loved God as a child, I really committed my life to Jesus and followed him wholeheartedly from the time I went to Leicester University to study Psychology. I had gone through the time of teenage rebellion, and by this time I had realised that a life without God is miserable, and had experienced the power of forgiveness and a fresh revelation of the Word of God in my life. I was active in the Christian Union and found a great church to go to and have never looked back.

I got married weeks after graduating, and my career for the following ten years took me round some different universities, where I did a mixture of research and teaching in the area of Occupational Psychology - which is the study of how organisations work and all aspects of work behaviour.

By the time I was 30 I was expecting my first child, and now have two daughters, Amelia and Esme. Parenthood has taught me more than any degree ever could, and the delights and challenges have changed who I am to some extent. For example I have a clearer grasp of God's unconditional love for us as his children. Also, I sometimes see my children get very concerned about a seemingly small issue in life, and I just want to tell them that it will all be alright, and for them to trust me. I imagine that God looks on us with our daily problems and just longs for us to trust him that it will all be OK.

Once both girls were really settled into school, I looked to God to see what I should do with the spare time I had. I came across a voluntary opportunity at Torch, which is only a 15-minute drive from my home. I committed to working in Client Services for two mornings a week, and really enjoyed being part of the work and being part of a team after time out of the workplace. After a year or so, I was offered a job working as Personnel Co-ordinator.

The work is so varied and involves looking after the staff as well as a large number of volunteers that come to help at Torch. It is great to be part of an organisation that has Christ at the centre of all it does, reflected in daily worship and prayer times. Over the last six months of doing this job, I have grown to love the people I work with, and have deepened in my spiritual life. Although times are not always easy, it is an honour to do my part in reaching out to those in need - just as I did when I chatted to that blind lady over tea as a young child.

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Do I really need to forgive?

by Gordon Temple

Jesus' enthusiasm for forgiveness took the religious leaders of his day by surprise. Jesus seemed to prefer the company of the people on the margins of society - people whose lives were marked by disease, disability, failure and poverty - people dismissed as "sinners" by self-righteous citizens. But Jesus not only healed them, he treated them with respect and gave them self-respect - he forgave them.

Forgiveness sometimes appears to be out of place in our modern world. It strikes me there is no such thing as an accident any more. Somebody has to be held accountable. They must pay - suffer as I have suffered. This was an issue in Jesus' time too. He refuted the "eye for an eye" thinking of his day and told his disciples to "turn the other cheek" (Matthew 5:38-39).

But it's not always easy to forgive. Think, for example, of when a family member has been killed or maimed. Have you heard someone say, "I cannot move on with my life until the one who did this to me is brought to justice". Trapped in a cycle of self-pity and bitterness they dry out and shrivel as people. Compare that to those who forgive the wrongdoer and, although bearing just the same pain, release themselves to live again. "The first and often the only person to be healed by forgiveness is the person who does the forgiveness", wrote Lewis Smedes.

Having a real faith in God helps us to keep perspective. In Romans 12 we read, "Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord". Whether we are tempted to vengeance or frustrated by our powerlessness, we can leave the justice to God - he will see to it.

Jesus was big on forgiveness. He not only practised forgiveness - He taught it too! Forgiveness is something to be passed on. Jesus told a story of a servant who owed millions of dollars to his master but was forgiven his debt by the master in response to his pleadings. The forgiven man then acted deaf to the pleadings of another and had him imprisoned for a debt of a few dollars. With the chain of forgiveness broken, the master has the first servant thrown into prison for his unpaid debt. (Matthew 18:21-35).

When Jesus responded to the disciples' request that he should teach them to pray, he put forgiveness right at the centre of his model prayer - the Lord's Prayer - that is so familiar to us all: "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us". In repeating this prayer we ask God's forgiveness but make it conditional upon our own readiness to forgive. In case this did not come across clearly enough, Jesus expands on just this one line of the prayer: "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." (Matthew 6:9-15)

Jesus surely knew this was a lesson we would need teaching over and over again. Central to the gospel we preach is the offer of forgiveness that Jesus makes to those who will turn to him. Yet how often is it that we fail in this area ourselves: accepting Jesus' forgiveness but not forgiving others. How many families - even Christian families are scarred with unforgiveness - and how many churches dogged by it? The Jesus who offers forgiveness demands forgiveness. It's not "suffer as I have suffered" but "be forgiven as I have been forgiven" that should mark the Christian response to wrongs suffered. How many times should I forgive, ask the disciples. "No counting" is the essence of Jesus reply. (Matthew 18:22)

It's certainly not easy. There is a cost to forgiveness and it's the forgiver who gets to pay up. In Jesus' story the master said goodbye to millions of dollars which were rightfully his when he forgave his servant.

Those religious leaders were so offended when Jesus restored broken people with the words "your sins are forgiven", and they questioned Jesus' authority to forgive. "No one has authority to forgive sins but God alone," they protested. What they failed to recognise was Jesus' rightful authority as the Son of God. He truly did have the right to forgive sins.

But there was another basis on which Jesus had the undeniable right to forgive sins. Jesus paid the price. When he died on the cross he cleared our debt for us. The forgiveness he offered then and offers us now cost him - cost him everything. How can we hold back our forgiveness?

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Let the Scriptures speak!

Psalm 103 verses 8-18 (NIV)

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will He harbour His anger for ever; He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.

But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord's love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with their children's children - with those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts.

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Penfriends bulletin

Here are some people who would like to correspond with others. Introduce yourself by giving your name, your full postal address, your email address, your age, and some information about yourself, your family and your country.

Anybody reading this who would like us to include their name and information in our next bulletin, send in your full name, postal address, age, and tell us about the things you enjoy doing. The aim of having a penfriend is to develop a friendship and exchange information and ideas.

HEATHER GALKO, New York. I'm Heather totally blind and live in the United States in upstate New York. I like to horse ride downhill, ski during the winter and being on the computer. I work part time at Pizza Hut taking phone orders. I'm looking for people to correspond with. My email address is hgalal@twcny.rr.com

MARYJANE GRIFFITH, Louisiana. Hello my name is maryjane and I am 42 from Louisiana. I would like to befriend others who like to email. I love to read e-books and audio books, listen to music, cook and clean. If anyone would like to chat please email me at timbersgirl219@gmail.com

RASHEDUR RAHMAN, Bangladesh. I'm totally blind and male. Aged 47 and married with two kids. I work in a multinational organisation called HSBC as a receptionist. I like to make friends all over the world. My hobbies are: collecting skype contacts for chatting, listening to BBC, practising English, reading magazines, newspapers etc. My skype is rashed.rahaman1

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Partners

[Peter Ngunjiri Mbaka tells us of his work amongst blind people in Kenya.]

God has given me a burden for the blind people in my country Kenya to be their mentor, their teacher, their comforter and a father to them like David in 1Samuel 22:2 - "All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around David and he became Captain over them." These men had all sorts of problems, but in just a few years they became David's mighty men - stalwart, brave, courageous. God used them to bring great victories.

I strongly believe even the blind people here in Kenya God can use, however inadequate they may be right now. In this way they realise they are very important before God and their future is very bright and God cares for them. God has revealed to them that "disability is not inability". Hence they can do exploits for Jesus and for our society in general. (Daniel 11:32).

So far God has given me favour with blind people, because whenever I pray to meet one blind person, God fulfils it. In most cases they are not resistant to me as I share the love of God and the gospel in general.

I visit blind people on a regular basis, praying with them, teaching them, and having fellowship with them as we eat with them in my house and in their homes. I also help them to meet their physical as well as their spiritual needs, and where possible I supply them with the books sent to me from Torch and they are very grateful to God and to Torch. I phone them every day to see how they are doing. Sometimes they call me at night and I have to encourage them and counsel where applicable through the Word of God. God has changed them and comforted them through his Word, from verses like Jeremiah 29:11 which states: "I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, I want you to enjoy success, I do not plan to harm you. I will give you a hope for the years to come."

Our Lord Jesus is increasing in me a divine love towards the blind people as I am serving them, and I want my talents and skills to blossom and to become useful tools for God here in Kenya and beyond. As God's people we are all role models whether we realise it or not. It's an awesome responsibility.

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