The Torch – 2014, Issue 3

Torch Trust
Torch House,
Torch Way,
Market Harborough,
Leicestershire,
LE16 9HL UK
Tel: +44 (0)1858 438260
Fax: +44 (0)1858 438275
email: info@torchtrust.org
website: 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 in the following formats: audio CD, braille, email and large print (17, 20, 25 and 30 point). It can also be downloaded from the Torch website as an HTML file.

Contents

Greetings ...

... from all at Torch House, Market Harborough, UK - where we have recently enjoyed the annual celebration of Christ’s death and resurrection.

The next celebration will be in remembrance of Christ’s ascension back into heaven. Some of you will receive this magazine shortly after Ascension day - 40 days after Easter Sunday.

What a wonderful day that is ... a reminder of Jesus’ glorious ascension back to Heaven. Why glorious? Because He had done what he came to do. Do you remember his final words from the cross: “It is finished”? Those words were not words of defeat, but words of triumph - total triumph. Mission accomplished. What mission? To redeem the world from eternal separation from God caused by sin.

One of the most poignant aspects of the crucifixion story was Jesus’ insistent refusal to speak up in self-justification or to “get out of it” - to save himself from the situation - which he could have done at any moment.

So why didn’t he?

The answer lies in the words of Jesus to his Father the night before the crucifixion when anticipating what lay before him; “Father, if you are willing, take this cup [of suffering] from me, yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42 NIV). The clue? Total obedience to his Father. Oh yes, it was the religious leaders that insisted on his death, and the Roman soldiers that “did the job”, but none of that was really the cause of his death. No, it was his willing submission and obedience to his Father. Earlier, he had said to Pilate: “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world.” He knew his Father’s heart of love for the whole of mankind - because he himself had the same heart of love - such love that he just could not “leave us to our fate”.

What love! What obedience! And what a glorious re-entry into heaven, having done the job ... having obeyed his Father.

And how wonderful that all those who have put their trust in him for the salvation he came to provide are given the right to follow him into that place of glory. Won’t it be wonderful if we can arrive having, like him, obeyed the Father. At the wedding at Cana when the bridal party were in a panic over the wine running out, the mother of Jesus had the advice they needed: “Whatever he tells you to do, do it.” (John 2:5). That’s the key: we too are given the capacity, by God’s grace and help, to obey the Father. Let’s make it our aim to “do whatever he tells us”...

May God bless you all.

Jill Ferraby and the editors

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Old Testament characters

By Michael Stafford

20. Rehoboam and Jeroboam

When Solomon died his son Rehoboam became king of Israel. Solomon had been known as the wisest man on earth at that time and was revered by his own people and many from other lands as well. However, his son did not follow his father in wisdom, and proved to be one of the most foolish kings of Israel. Because of his folly, the nation of Israel was split into two factions and this initiated a civil war which was to last for many generations.

God’s judgment foretold

Jeroboam was a high official in Solomon’s kingdom and was set for a glittering career. It seems that power went to his head, as can so easily happen with anyone, and he coveted the kingdom for himself. Solomon banished him to Egypt when he became aware of Jeroboam’s rebellious tendencies, but events played into Jeroboam’s hands - although only because God decreed it.

Solomon had been warned by God about his ungodly behaviour: “The Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord ... Although he had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the Lord’s command. So the Lord said to Solomon ... ‘I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates. Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it during your lifetime. I will tear it out of the hand of your son. Yet I will not tear the whole kingdom from him, but will give him one tribe for the sake of David my servant’ ...” (1 Kings 11:9-13)

The nation splits in two

Jeroboam returned from Egypt as soon as he heard that Solomon had died. He headed up a delegation which went to Rehoboam and complained about the way Solomon had treated his people, forcing many to do hard labour on his building projects and keeping them in poverty. Things must change, said Jeroboam, and if you lighten the load we will serve you faithfully. However, Rehoboam stalled and said he would give an answer to them in three days. Meanwhile he consulted his father’s counsel of elders, who gave sensible advice: that the demands of the people should be met and that this would ensure his people would be loyal to him.

Rehoboam wasn’t satisfied. In his heart he did not want to give in to the people’s requests, and so he rejected the elders’ advice and turned to his younger contemporaries. They strongly urged him to continue to enslave his people and get as much out of them as possible. Foolishly Rehoboam agreed with this and the message was conveyed to Jeroboam. This brought such anger among the people that ten of the twelve tribes rebelled and rejected Rehoboam as their king. All that remained to him were the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, and the southern area of Israel which now became known as Judah, with Jerusalem as its capital.

Jeroboam’s strategy

Meanwhile, Jeroboam set up his headquarters at Shechem in the hill country in central Palestine. It became the capital of the new state of Israel, but later the capital was moved north of Shechem to Samaria. Jeroboam was aware that his kingdom needed to be self-contained so that the people had no reason to visit Jerusalem where they might be persuaded to return to Rehoboam as their king. Thus he needed to find a new centre of worship, and in fact set up two places: at Bethel in the south of the country, and Dan in the far north, so ensuring that all the people could easily reach a place of worship.

Unlike the temple in Jerusalem, the temples in Bethel and Dan had a visible image to represent God. This took the form of a golden calf - the very thing that Aaron had made to satisfy the people’s desire for a visible image of God in the desert during the exodus. This was an abomination to God who had commanded that no graven image should be made of him or anything else. Furthermore, Jeroboam encouraged pagan-style worship by building shrines on high places and appointing priests who were not from the tribe of Levi. In fact, Jeroboam established his own form of religious observance, completely ignoring God’s commandments.

God’s judgment falls

As a result of all this, God spoke to Jeroboam through the blind prophet Ahijah saying: “I made you a leader over my people Israel. I tore the kingdom away from the house of David and gave it to you, but ... You have done more evil than all who lived before you. You have made for yourself other gods, idols made of metal; you have provoked me to anger and thrust me behind your back. Because of this, I am going to bring disaster on the house of Jeroboam ...” (1 Kings 14:7-10). Jeroboam continued as king of Israel for 22 years and his son Nadab followed him. But then his family line was destroyed and another dynasty began to rule Israel.

Meanwhile, Rehoboam reigned in Jerusalem for 17 years but did not prevent the people of Judah from turning away from the true God to idols and to disgusting immoral practices. As a result of this, God was angry and brought judgment on the nation by allowing the king of Egypt to invade and plunder some of the riches which Solomon had stored up. Also, there was a continual war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam which set the pattern for the continuing history of the two nations.

In the years that followed these two kings, both Israel and Judah continued to anger God by their going astray after false gods. All the kings of Israel that followed Jeroboam were evil, and this resulted in God’s judgment through the country being taken over by Assyria and many of its people deported. Judah’s kings were mixed - some good, but most bad. God delayed his punishment of Judah because of the few times when kings repented and true worship was restored, but eventually destruction came through the Babylonians and the people were in captivity for 70 years.

We are reminded by this sad history that the righteous God will not tolerate sin among his people forever. He is merciful, but in the end punishment must come to the nation that disobeys his commands.

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My story

By Lorimer Fink

I joined Torch Trust in January 2002 to work in the cassette library at the previous Torch premises in Hallaton, Leicestershire. Mike, my husband, and I had had connections with Torch over many years, having people come to our church house group and attending Christmas Carol Concerts.

In my 12 years here, I’ve seen Torch change so much and move into new areas while updating established ones. Torch moved to a new purpose-built building in Market Harborough, Leicestershire in June 2004, with the cassette, giant print and braille libraries amalgamating and then being joined by a DAISY library.

I work in the Client Services department which is your first point of contact when you ring in to Torch. This is what I love. I have the great joy, with the others, of being that friendly voice at the end of the phone.

In our early married life Mike and I lived far from family and it could be lonely at those times. However, when we became Christians in 1980 and moved to Market Harborough in 1983 life became the “beginning” of what it is today. We grew in our Christian faith and experience. We had three lovely daughters one of whom, our precious Amber, passed away to be with the Lord in August 2012.

Many people will feel that experience of loss with us, the anguish of those hard and difficult times. But we can say, truly, that our Rock and Security does not fail. We are blessed with our two daughters and their families, with a vibrant and loving church and, for myself at Torch, a place of Christian service where the value of each person and contact is key.

This is what binds us together. As one, we find a purpose and meaning in Jesus, a strength to live each day with the Holy Spirit and an eternal hope with our Father. Life can be tough and not very clear or easy to understand sometimes. This is where we all need to trust that we live for a Lord who sees all, knows all and walks with us through the good and the difficult times.

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Here’s a thought!

Joy comes from the Lord who lives within us, not from what’s happening around us.

[From Our Daily Bread - daily Bible reading notes]

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Penfriends bulletin

Here are two people who would like to correspond with others. If you write to them, introduce yourself by giving your name, your 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, 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.

LENORE KOSZALINSKI, Texas. My name is Lenore, I live in Texas. I am a Christian and I sing in a church choir and sing solos. I love to read true crime and mysteries. I like all kinds of music, except stuff from eighties and up. I am single, have not found the right person. I am looking for people from Ireland England and Scotland. We need to have the same interest. I am almost sixty but don’t look or act my age. I love dogs and am not a cat person. If interested my contact is emerald-lass@verizon.net - please put pen pal in the subject.

SIMON BEAUMONT, UK. Hello, I am Simon from the uk. I would like to correspond with anyone who enjoys emailing. I enjoy reading, internet surfing, tenpin bowling, going out and making new friends. I am 43, a single Christian man who loves the Lord. I look forward to your emails if interested. beaumont16@btinternet.com

ADRIJANA from Macedonia co-ordinates a penpal magazine. For more information contact her on adrijana.prokopenko@gmail.com

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Let the scriptures speak

Acts 2:1-12, 38-47 (NIV)

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs - we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” ...

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off - for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptised, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.

Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

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What’s in a number?

By Gordon Temple

Celebrated fifty days after the Passover, which was the day after Jesus was crucified, and ten days after Jesus ascended, Pentecost is the Church’s birthday - day one in a calendar of Church history. Now, over 1,980 years afterwards (this event took place in around AD30), Christianity is the world’s largest faith with about 2,260 million adherents (reported for 2010).

The story of the birth of the Church is told in just one place in the Bible: in Acts chapter 2 (as in Let the scriptures speak). Here we learn that on “day one” three thousand were added to the band of disciples of Jesus. If that were repeated every single day ever since - we multiply 3000 by 365 and then by 1980 - (that Pentecost day was in about AD30) then we come to a figure of 2,168 million. That’s a remarkably similar number to that 2010 statistic!

Of course, the way the statistics are gathered means that many of those counted as Christian are simply those who live in Christian countries or communities with birth adding more to the data than conversions, so we cannot take this similarity as more than an interesting coincidence. Those same statistics would put the present global growth rate of Christianity at about eight thousand per day, with about three thousand of those added to church in China every day, where most additions are by conversion.

Acts chapter 2 concludes with: “Each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved” (v 47, NLT). Some years ago I learned of a church planted in South Africa with the vision that they would grow at this rate - that on average at least one person would be added to their number each day, that after a year they would have a congregation of at least 365. As I recall, this did indeed happen, and I know that this church has continued to grow strongly and now has a multiplicity of congregations with a membership totalling thousands.

Perhaps that’s enough on numbers! What was it that happened that Pentecost day that has seen such extraordinary and sustained growth - and had such a fundamental impact on the lives of so many people over all the generations? What was it that turned a static and passive group of Jesus’ followers - little more than a mutual bereavement support group - into a band of bold and dedicated missionaries who put their lives on the line for their Lord Jesus and laid the foundation for the huge and growing church of today?

It was the fulfilment of a prophesy tucked away in the little Old Testament book of Joel, that God would pour out his Spirit, not just on one person (like a prophet) but “on all people”. God’s Holy Spirit fell upon all those who believed in Jesus - who knew him to be the Messiah, God’s only Son, who repented and committed their lives to follow the risen and ascended Jesus.

The transformation of these mournful men into passionate and articulate preachers was instant. In front of the huge crowd gathered in Jerusalem from across the known world for this Jewish harvest festival (Pentecost was the first of three harvest festivals in the Jewish calendar) they communicated simultaneously in many languages, languages that everyone knew they could never have learned.

Christians may not all share the same view of the place of “tongues speaking” in the Church today but its significance here is enormous. Back in Genesis we find the story of the origin of language. The tower of Babel was built by a vast number of people co-operating in their bold plan using a single language. They were doing something for their own glory rather than for the glory of God, and God frustrated their self-serving plan by confusing their language. On that Pentecost day of the Church, that barrier of language was dissolved. People of many languages were unified in the “day one” church. And though we still have our languages, Christians the world over do find in their common love of Jesus a great sense of belonging together. After all, this magazine, though produced in just one language, has a readership extending across 80 countries.

A new community is formed by the action of the Holy Spirit, a community with Jesus as Saviour and Lord. They were a sharing community, supportive of one another. They were a loving community spending time together, opening their homes to welcome each other and taking meals together. They were an attractive community, a practical expression of Jesus’ words: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). They were a learning community and they were a praying community. They were a worshipping community, co-operating not for their own credit but for the glory of God.

We must never forget this snapshot of early church life. Today there’s much interest in “fresh expressions” of church, and in many cases they are an attempt to recapture the attractive features of the prototype church of Acts 2.

Sometimes our own experience of church falls disappointingly short in some respects. But when we feel critical of our local congregation let’s remember we are a part of it. We are not consumers, judging whether we want to buy the product a local church offers. As followers of Jesus we are part of the Church, belonging to it, serving and giving as well as receiving, co-operating in a community whose aim is to bring glory to God and to draw others to him. And for this purpose God’s Holy Spirit is poured out upon us.

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