THE TORCH - ISSUE 3 2011

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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.

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Greetings!

Hello again, readers of The Torch magazine! We greet you all in the name of our wonderful Lord Jesus Christ.

We marvel that this magazine now goes to people in 98 countries around the world, everyone receiving it in the accessible medium of their choice - braille, giant print, audio CD, audio cassette, email - and it is also accessible on the website in either text or mp3 audio form (www.torchtrust.org). Every time the magazine goes out (five times a year) we pray that it will bless every single person who receives it. We regard you as part of the Torch family - what a family! Those of us who live in the western world are fortunate to have it delivered right to our doors by our postal service, but we know that many of you in other countries walk, possibly many kilometres, to collect your magazine from the nearest mail depot. Your perseverance and keenness to receive it blesses us - and we trust that your endeavours are rewarded as you read the magazine.

So we trust that this particular issue will bless you all and draw you closer to our wonderful Lord.

Jill Ferraby and the editors.

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Old Testament Characters

by Michael Stafford

8. Joseph (continued)

Last time we left Joseph in Egypt, having rightly interpreted Pharaoh's dream, been released from prison, and put in an exalted position. Pharaoh's dream was of events of great significance for Egypt and for Joseph:

When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream: He was standing by the Nile, when out of the river there came up seven cows, sleek and fat, and they grazed among the reeds. After them, seven other cows, ugly and gaunt, came up out of the Nile and stood beside those on the riverbank. And the cows that were ugly and gaunt ate up the seven sleek, fat cows. Then Pharaoh woke up.

He fell asleep again and had a second dream: Seven ears of corn, healthy and good, were growing on a single stalk. After them, seven other ears of corn sprouted – thin and scorched by the east wind. The thin ears of corn swallowed up the seven healthy, full ears. Then Pharaoh woke up; it had been a dream. (Genesis 41:1-7)

Pharaoh was a worried man - what did the dreams mean? None of his wise men could tell him the meaning, but his chief cup-bearer who had been in prison with Joseph, at last remembered Joseph's request to him that he should put in a good word to Pharaoh on Joseph's behalf. The cupbearer had forgotten to do this, but now remembered and told Pharaoh that Joseph was skilled at interpreting dreams. Joseph was brought into Pharaoh's presence and asked to interpret the dreams:

Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, 'The dreams of Pharaoh are one and the same. God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good ears of corn are seven years, it is one and the same dream. The seven lean, ugly cows that came up afterwards are seven years, and so are the seven worthless ears of corn ... Seven years of great abundance are coming throughout the land of Egypt, but seven years of famine will follow them. Then all the abundance in Egypt will be forgotten, and the famine will ravage the land.' (Genesis 41:25-30).

Joseph suggested to Pharaoh that he should choose a man who could manage the affairs of Egypt and make provision for the famine years during the years when there would be plenty. Pharaoh could think of no-one better than Joseph himself to do this. Thus Joseph was highly exalted to a position over Egypt which was only just less than Pharaoh himself. So the earlier dreams which Joseph had in Canaan came true - he was exalted above his father and brothers.

Joseph's wisdom and ability, given him by God, resulted in vast quantities of grain being stored up during the seven years of plenty. These were sufficient, not only to provide for Egypt during the famine years, but also to help those coming from other countries which had been affected by the famine. Thus it was that Jacob, back in Canaan, heard there was corn in Egypt and decided to send Joseph's brothers, apart from Benjamin, to buy some.

On arrival, the brothers approached Joseph, whom they did not recognise, to plead for grain. Joseph recognised them but didn't reveal who he was. It was a very emotional time for Joseph, who was determined to find out if the brothers had changed their attitudes and behaviour for the better. So he tested them, accusing them of being spies and telling them that they could go back to their father but that they must leave one brother in prison in Egypt, and that when they returned they must bring with them Benjamin. He sent them off with the grain they had purchased, but on the way back to Canaan they discovered, to their dismay, that the money they had paid had been put back in the sacks of grain.

Not surprisingly, Jacob was distraught to learn that he had 'lost' another son, and refused to consider sending Benjamin. Later, the brothers had to return to Egypt to get more grain, and insisted on taking Benjamin. This time Joseph tested them again, by putting his special silver cup in Benjamin's sack of grain. Then he sent his steward after them and arrested them for theft. Having been brought back to Egypt, Joseph then said that Benjamin must be kept in prison and the other brothers could go. The brothers pleaded on Benjamin's behalf and Judah offered to remain as a slave in place of Benjamin. Joseph could now see that the brothers had truly repented and changed from their former evil ways.

At this point, Joseph revealed himself to his brothers, with great emotion and tears. When the brothers responded in terror he assured them that the way they had treated him was overruled by God, who 'sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance' (Genesis 45:7). He now commanded them to return to Jacob and bring him back to Egypt with them, where they would live in peace and plenty in an area of the land set apart for them.

So began the long period of Israel's sojourn in Egypt which lasted 400 years and later became a captivity from which God would deliver them by the hand of Moses, whom we will consider in the next issue of The Torch.

Meanwhile, we can learn from the life of Joseph that God sometimes takes us through hard times to prepare us for serving him and others, and that he can overrule our situation to accomplish his good purposes. Blessing came to the whole of Egypt and to other nations due to Joseph's wisdom and ability, but he himself attributed it to God. He said to his brothers, after Jacob had died: 'You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives' (Genesis 50:20).

Joseph later died in Egypt, after having said to his brothers: 'God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham ...' (Genesis 50:24).

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My Story

by Graham Moody - Torch Production Team Leader

Well, here I am at Torch Trust.

I remember looking into the mirror around three decades ago as a spotty eighteen-year-old youth and wondering if God was real and true. Having grown up so far in a Christian family, with regular attendance to our local Church of England, I was questioning the activity of all the singing and prayers and the amount of effort that actually went into a busy church weekend. With singing in the choir for many weddings on a Saturday, (on one occasion we had five in a row and being paid for them all!) most weekends were taken up, especially as my father played the church organ.

Matthew Ch.7 vs.7 - 8 says, 'Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it shall be opened.'

Giving my life to God at the age of eighteen was a long time ago now, but he does a new thing every day and every day is new in him.

I was also encouraged to take along my guitar and join in with other youth members of the church who then proceeded to mentor me in worship. Many broken guitar strings later, praise and worship soon became a focal point of my Christian life and to this day I lead worship within our local Baptist church. I still play for the occasional wedding, but the wages are not what they used to be!

Through an active church social life in my early twenties, I met my wife to be, Rebecca. I was one of the few with a car, so this is probably the reason for so many trips to concerts, meetings and greenbelt etc, (I am glad it was then and not today with the price of petrol). We have been married for twenty years this year and have two boys, Joel aged 14 and Tim aged 11.

More recently I have been on mission with BMS to South Africa. Helping to head up a team of ten from our church, we went to the town of George on the Garden Route. Little did I know that July was about the coldest month in South Africa! Staying with local families in the community, with no heating or running hot water, we did some work alongside a very lively Baptist Church, ministering in an aids hospice and working with the children. The flea ridden damp beds and the dogs roaming the dusty streets at night all added to the feeling of helplessness and insignificance. But our God is a great big God, and it was and is our prayer that our visit would help to make a difference.

My trade background has been in the printing industry. Leaving school at the tender age of 16 and gaining an apprenticeship with a printing company in Leicester, I trained at college and worked on the presses at the factory. This gave me a good grounding in the industry and I also learnt how to make the perfect cup of tea. I have worked for various companies through my career, progressing to production manager until being made redundant in 2001. It was at this point I took on some of the machinery from the company I worked for and started my own business. This grew; with seven staff and a number of presses I had my work cut out. But after several years of trading, due to a large unpaid debt due to the company, sadly, it had to be wound up.

It is often through our trials that if we turn to God and trust in him we are strengthened and equipped. As God provided the manna to the Israelites (Exodus 16), he sustains us daily to do his work and live for him.

After a period of unemployment I worked in a sales position, but didn't feel settled or fulfilled in this role. My application to Torch Trust resulted from someone in our church sending the details in an email. Even though they did not fully know my situation or specific skills, they did feel that it was for me.

So here I am at Torch Trust. It is good to be working to help make the word of God more accessible, serving him and being part of such an encouraging team.

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Let the Scriptures Speak

Acts 3:1-11

One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer - at three in the afternoon. Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, 'Look at us!' So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.

Then Peter said, 'Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.' Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man's feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

While the beggar held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon's Colonnade.

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No Entry?

by Gordon Temple

[This devotional study is based on Acts 3:1-11 and Leviticus 21:16-23.]

The encounter between Peter and John and the man 'crippled from birth' (recounted in Let the Scriptures Speak) happens at three in the afternoon, at a time of prayer when there's a peak in traffic into the temple courts. The disabled man is carried (presumably by friends like those who lowered the paralysed man through the roof of a house to meet Jesus) to a pinch point in the flow of people. Everyone going into the temple courts would pass him. He's there every day, begging for small change. Unable to work or farm he needs money to support himself. Everyone knew him.

We might wonder how often Jesus had seen him and walked past him on his way into the temple. Now there's a question to ponder: Did Jesus heal every sick or disabled person he met? We read of Jesus healing just one man at the pool of Bethesda, where a 'great number' of disabled people would wait around for the mysterious stirring of the water (John 5:2-15).

The setting for the encounter is highly significant. Herod's Temple was a huge place. The outer wall enclosed an area the size of 18 football fields. The Gate called Beautiful was the entrance into the inner Temple courts. While anyone could come within the outer wall there were strict rules about who could pass the Beautiful Gate. Though it was the so called Court of Woman into which only those who were Jews, both men and women, could pass. But only Israelite men could progress further into the court of Israel. Beyond this were courts restricted to the priesthood. At the heart of the Temple was an ancient skyscraper of a building. Standing fifteen storeys tall it had two chambers divided by an enormous curtain: the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. The latter was understood to be God's dwelling place on earth and it could be entered but once a year by just one person, the serving High Priest.

Progressing through the Temple courts was like passing a sequence of 'No Entry' signs. It was an exclusion system that modelled in masonry the Jewish understanding of holiness and 'cleanness'.

It was not just because the density of traffic in and out of the inner Temple courts the disabled man was begging at the Beautiful Gate. He would not have been allowed to go further. The entrance restrictions did not allow disabled people into the inner courts.

The issue can be traced back to the Law, to the books of Moses, to Leviticus where in chapter 21 are some words that seem well out of order in our human rights conscious age. They prohibited a hereditary priest from priestly duties if he was, or became, disabled or disfigured.

Surely, we might react, this was grossly unfair. Why should those who were rightfully priests be excluded from service in a priestly role simply because of genetics, injury or disease - especially in the light of Exodus 4:11: 'Who makes the mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?' And just a little earlier in Leviticus we find a prohibition against treating either deaf or blind people inappropriately (Leviticus 19:14).

Though relieved of priestly service, these disabled priests retained the full entitlement to the portions of food allocated to serving priests (Leviticus 21:22). In fact they were in a much better position than any priest who was ritually impure and prohibited from eating this food#[En]## McCloughry p 38#[\En]#. Against the priest there is no suggestion of stigma or divine punishment. It's the priest's special tasks and not the person that falls under restriction. And there is in this chapter a threefold reminder (verses 8,15,23) that it is God that makes the priest holy, not their observance of the regulations or their bodily condition. Here's an indication that, even under the old covenant, sanctification is really a matter of grace rather than legalism.

By Jesus' time the legalistic tendencies of the religious leaders that he so vigorously opposed had not only expanded the list of disqualifying conditions but also (according to texts from the Dead Sea Scrolls) excluded all disabled and disfigured people from the temple courts. This gives great significance to 'the blind and the lame' coming to Jesus at the temple after his direct action against the money changers and dove sellers - the people who had been kept out were now inside.

When Jesus taunts the temple authorities by saying, 'Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up' (John 2:19) they suppose him to refer to the building in which the encounter took place. Actually he was referring to himself, prophesying his resurrection. He was signalling the end of the system of temple-centered worship that regarded the Jerusalem sanctuary as God's earthly dwelling and the place at which forgiveness could be secured through the system of sacrifices described in the earlier chapters of Leviticus.

At the culmination of Jesus ministry on the cross, the curtain at the entrance of the Most Holy Place is supernaturally torn from top to bottom exposing the vacancy of the traditional divine residence. No longer is there a need for sacrifices and priests to make them. Forgiveness is to be found through Jesus - and he is out on the streets!

With the incarnation, God's earthly dwelling relocated from the Most Holy Place to the physical body of Jesus Christ: 'And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us' (John 1:14). As Tom Wight, an Anglican Bishop, writes, 'since Christ has fulfilled the sacrificial function of priesthood, there is no continuing separate order of priests in the Christian church in the same sense as in Israel'. With the ascension of the resurrected Jesus, God's earthly dwelling is once more relocated as every Christian becomes a temple indwelt by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19).

So we can be perfectly clear that leadership roles in church are not in any way subject to these Old Testament restrictions - and should be open to those who are gifted and chosen of God for leadership regardless of disability. It is such an encouragement to see blind people preaching and taking leadership in churches in Malawi.

It is an overarching biblical theme that the community of God is one that is gloriously inclusive of those who find themselves marginalized, including those who are disabled or disfigured.

Many of our churches, particularly older ones, reflect in their architecture the ideas carried forward from the temple. Some churches are raised above street level and mimic impressions of temple architecture with columns and steps rising towards the entrance. As you walk forward through the building toward the front where the minister leads, preaches and serves communion there is an increasing 'specialness' about the space; perhaps more decoration or a step up, or even a rail that looks like a fence to keep people out! For people whose mobility is limited or who use wheels instead of feet, the step is a barrier that can exclude them.

Now I'm not suggesting we abandon or condemn our ancient and beautiful buildings but we should be more conscious that the construction, decoration and furnishing of any church can send signals that conflicts with the messages we would like to communicate - not least, that everyone is welcome to come in!

Even more important is the message that salvation is freely available through Jesus, through whom the way into God's presence is open to all. The tiny repeated phrase in Hebrews 'once for all' captures the universal significance of Jesus' death on the cross. He made the complete and therefore final sacrifice for sins and opened the way for everyone to come in faith to accept forgiveness and enter God's inclusive family.

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