THE TORCH - ISSUE 4 2009

From:-
TORCH TRUST, Torch House, Torch Way, Market Harborough, Leicestershire, LE16 9HL, U.K.
Telephone: (01858) 438260, Fax: (01858) 438275, email: info@torchtrust.org
Charity Number 1095904.

Contents

Greetings

"Don't be ridiculous," someone commented, "prayer has got to be the most incredible conceit in the history of humankind." Why should God almighty listen to people like us? If you tried to talk to a president, a prime minister, a king or a queen - or even a boss of a large company - you'd be fobbed off by someone employed to prevent ordinary people from getting right through to the top. So why imagine that it's possible to get through to God - anywhere, any time?

Thank God, it's all been made possible through our Lord Jesus. This is how Paul puts it in Ephesians 2:12: "Through faith ... we may approach God with freedom and confidence." The King of kings graciously bends his ear, as it were, to listen to us. He's not too busy and he doesn't think we're too unimportant for him to bother with what we want to say. In fact, he knows about it before we say it!

So think of what you want to talk over with almighty God. The closer we are to Jesus, the more likely it is we are praying according to his will. And, of course, don't forget to listen for the reply.

Every time we write The Torch magazine, we pray that God will bless you. So read on - and be blessed!

Sheila and the editors

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First Century Christians

by Mike Townsend

9. Timothy

The part of the fruit of the Spirit we are considering today is "gentleness". This seems a very moderate idea. Will we learn much? The word is translated differently in various Bible versions including meekness, goodness, kindness and mildness. Peterson, in The Message Bible, puts it this way: "not needing to force our way in life." I like that, and it certainly describes Timothy, our first century Christian.

1. Gentle family

We first meet Timothy in his home town of Lystra. Paul "came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was a Jewess and a believer, but whose father was a Greek. The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek." (Acts 16:1-3.) Timothy grew up in a God-fearing home. Paul reminisced, "I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also." (2 Timothy 1:5). Timothy had probably been converted during the dramatic previous visit of Paul and Barnabas to his home area (Acts 14). Paul healed a lame man, and the crowds thought he was the god Zeus and Barnabas Hermes. In the midst of the hubbub a church was formed, and Timothy's family were part of it. As Timothy's father was a Greek, there could have been tension in the family. We see none of this, just a gentle family living God's way. Families are under challenge today. Divorce is common. Many children in my home village of Fleckney can only come to church activities during the week because Sundays are devoted to visiting the other parent. A recent television programme showed children going through the divorce process. One ten year old lad said, "My parents chose to split. I choose to stay together in a family. But no one cares what I want." That theme was picked up by many others. Despite the cultural and language tensions, Timothy's gentle family provided a secure foundation for his future work. His name, meaning "honouring God", is appropriate.

2. Gentleness in church

Timothy had just the right background to assist Paul in his mission to the Gentiles. Half Jewish and half Greek, Timothy could help to bridge the gap in understanding. However, he needed his Jewishness confirmed, so Paul circumcised him prior to setting out on the mission. Timothy travelled extensively across Greece and Asia Minor supporting Paul in his mission to the Gentiles. He even served with Paul in prison in Rome (Hebrews 13:23). The Ephesus church was struggling. Paul appointed the young Timothy to help bring it back on track. Paul wrote, "stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God's work - which is by faith." (1 Timothy 1:3-4.) This was a tough challenge. When God places us in a difficult ministry, it is good to be able to remember our calling and why we are there. Paul urged Timothy, "Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you." (1 Timothy 4:14). The Ephesian Christians had broken free from the magic cult of erotic sexual love associated with the goddess Diana, also known as Artemis. The remains of the goddess Diana are in the British Museum. I have felt them. The statue is squat, black, but very curvaceous. It is difficult for us to imagine why this drab figure should have such a strong hold over people. But sex has a strong grip, and it pervaded Ephesian culture. Timothy wasn't in Ephesus when Demetrius the silversmith caused the riot against Christians. Demetrius cried, "'The temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited, and the goddess herself, who is worshipped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.' When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: 'great is Artemis of the Ephesians!'" (Acts 19:27-28). But the sex cult infiltrated the church. Those "myths and endless genealogies" possibly included a feminist doctrine that women were created first and men were subsequently produced as inferior. Hence Paul's strong words, "Adam was formed first, then Eve." (1 Timothy 2:13). How was the young Timothy to deal with this false teaching? I would have been tempted to go head on with the false teachers. But Timothy followed the gentle approach of Jesus who said, "take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Matthew 11:29). Paul's advice was "don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth," (2 Timothy 2:23-25). This gentle but firm approach was always Bible based. "All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness." (2 Timothy 3:16.) Following Timothy's gentle example, "not needing to force our way in life", could avoid many of our quarrels and splits today, and keep us firmly based on the truth. But this requires grace and certainly is a fruit of the Spirit.

3. Gentleness in relationships

Lots of us are alone in the world. "God sets the lonely in families," (Psalm 68:6). When I was a young Christian, my parents had been divorced, my mother lived in Singapore and my brother disappeared serving in the merchant navy. I just loved the Christian family framework that Ron and Stella Heath gave me and to the fledgling Torch. Paul doesn't seem to have a family. However, he led Timothy to the Lord and had a special fatherly link with him. "Timothy my true son in the faith:" (1 Timothy 1:2). This seems to have been mutual. Paul said, "I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy." (2 Timothy 4:3-4). In his old age, Paul relied on Timothy to help him. "When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments." (2 Timothy 4:13). I have been closely involved with Torch since 1966. This year we celebrate 50 years of Torch. Thousands have trusted Jesus, enjoyed fellowship through Torch groups and holidays, and learned the truth through Torch literature. Ron and Stella Heath exhibited that gentle fruit of the Spirit which is "not needing to force our way in life."

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Partners

"Come on, Let's Celebrate"

Food, flowers, cake, great music and singing, inspirational speakers and a chance to catch up with old friends - all ingredients for a great party to celebrate 50 years of the Disabled Christians Fellowship.

DCF is now a programme of Through the Roof which seeks to help disabled people in the UK and worldwide, but started life back in 1959, when Frances Poole began a group in Bristol, South-West England. DCF has kept growing, and people continue to come to faith and trust in Christ through its ministry and by knowing the love and care of other Christians. From its small beginnings, the work has expanded into a national organisation, including people with all types of disability.

It operates groups around the country, accessible holidays, tape and CD ministry and support through prayer and friendship for disabled people and those affected by disability.

Marking 50 years of Disabled Christians Fellowship has given us the opportunity to not only look back at all these memories, but most importantly to look forward to greater things.

Many of us gathered together in Epsom in the South of England in praise to the Lord for his wonderful goodness over these past 50 years. The day ended with the cutting of the cake and a rousing rendition of Thine be the Glory! It was great to see so many friends of DCF gathered together, thanking God and sharing good times and memories with one another.

[To learn more about the work of DCF and Through the Roof, visit the website on www.throughtheroof.org.

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Let the Scriptures speak

Philippians 3:7-16

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ - the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.

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Press on

People of the Future

This year is Torch Trust's fiftieth - it is our Golden Jubilee. We have been looking back on 50 years of growth and blessing, giving thanks to God as we share many happy memories. But at the same time we are looking ahead. We can't hope to see 50 years ahead any more than Ron and Stella Heath could when they took on the Trust back in 1959, but we are working on plans for the next five years. We have seen God's marvellous care and blessing over the past, and we lay our plans seeking God's leading with confidence that we can trust him to take care of Torch in the future.

Many people see Christians as backward-looking - people harking back to a golden age, perhaps to a time when everyone went to church, maybe to the era of the New Testament. But it's not so. We are people of the future, not the past.

Sometimes, all of us get to thinking about what lies ahead. Without Jesus it amounts to no more than speculation. We long for good and fear the worst. But with Jesus the future is bright. It's golden!

In his letter to Philippian Christians Paul writes: "Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus"(Philippians 3:13-14.)

Is it wrong of us to be looking back? In the book of Deuteronomy we find words that encourage us not to forget: "Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them"(Deuteronomy 4:9),

What we are not to forget, but rather to remember and reflect upon, and to pass on, is what we have seen of God at work. A little later on we read: "Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years" (Deuteronomy 8:2). Looking back over Torch's fifty years we can trace God's leading and blessing. We have much to celebrate - much for which we can and should give thanks to God.

Someone has once said, "the one thing we learn from history is that we don't"! But the Bible tells us that we can learn from what we see God doing in history: "And I will teach you the way that is good and right. But be sure to fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you"(1 Samuel 2:23-24).

So what is Paul meaning when he writes, "Forgetting what is behind"? Surely it's not that we forget what God has done but that we shouldn't live for the past. For the past we give thanks and celebrate it but we don't live in it. From our past journey with God we can learn, especially that we can learn to trust God. As a well-known hymn has it: "... thank him for all that is past and trust him for all that's to come" (from: How good is the God we adore.)

As Christians we often look back to Jesus, to his death on a cross and to his resurrection - and it's important we do so. The cross marks the spot where our journey with God began, when we came to realise that Jesus died to save us. And it's to the cross we need to look back to get our bearings for our onward journey - to keep us on track in our walk with God.

The message of the Philippians passage - and the message of the gospel - is that our future can be different from our past. We can turn to God sorry for our past failure and find forgiveness through Jesus' death on the cross. With Jesus we can face the baggage of our past and finding healing and renewal; find new and full life through his resurrection and the promise of our own.

Many people look to the past to explain or even excuse present behaviour. They trace the problems of life today back to childhood upbringing.

When the world famous singer and performer Michael Jackson died, some of those who told his life story sought to explain the mess in which his privileged life ended by the lack of attention his father gave him in childhood.

But the good news is that this needn't be so. It must be true that we are to some degree shaped by our past but we are not defined by it. In following Jesus we can find release from the claims of the past and healing from its scars. It's an on-going process: And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18).

As Christians we are defined by our relationship with Jesus, not by our past but by our future in Christ. We are shaped more by what he is doing in our lives than by what happened to us in past days.

For some the trap is to dwell in the past: to constantly return in our thoughts to days when things were better for us, perhaps escaping the unpleasantness of our present situation.

We mustn't let our past hold on to us, nor should we be holding onto our past. We are people with a future, a future secured by Jesus' death and resurrection, released to live with him and for him each day. As citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven we have important work to be getting on with - the building of that Kingdom here on earth - work for all of us, whether old or young, rich or poor. By the work of his Spirit in our lives it gets better and better!

But maybe you feel this is unrealistic - all pie in the sky. Paul's words came to the Philippian Christians in a time of peril and suffering. He was clear: we cannot expect to share in the blessing of the resurrection without also taking a share in the suffering the cross represents.

Christian maturity is not about age, though we do need time to journey with God and learn. We can grow older without growing up! Real Christian maturity holds these two truths together: that while we press on toward our future reality with Jesus we live day-by-day with Jesus in our present reality.

In Hebrews we see our Christian life portrayed as a race: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."(Hebrews 12:1-3).

It's like the marathon: it's long and sometimes arduous but everyone who completes gets a medal. It's about "pressing on" with grit and determination, getting unloaded from everything that would distract us or hold us back to strain toward the joy of finishing well.

For Torch, behind are 50 years of growth and blessing for which we thank God. Ahead is uncharted territory for which we trust God. "We live by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7).

The best is yet to come.

It's time to press on.

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Penfriends Bulletin

Here are two people who would like to correspond with others. If you would like to communicate with one of them, introduce yourself by giving your name, your correct postal 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.

TINASHE CHAURAYA, House Number 8046, Budiriro 5B, Harare, Zimbabwe. I am a visually impaired boy aged 21 and I reside at the above address together with my mother and a family of two. My favourite sport is goalball and I like writing and reading novels. I am looking for friends who are between the age of 15-23 all over the world from both sex. Those who want to write to me should use English.

ROSALINE HARUNA Y. Danyaya, School of the Blind Children Gindiri, P.M.B 01001, Gindiri, Jos Plateau State in Nigeria. I am 38 years old and a teacher with the above mentioned school. I am totally blind. My hobbies are: reading, writing, attending church fellowships and social gatherings, computer boarding, music etc. I welcome letters from every nation in English Braille from ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls. I am married with three children. My email address is rosalindanyaya@yahoo.com.

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