The Torch – Issue 4 2013

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!

Our burden versus God's burden

The title above will give you a clue as to what I've been thinking about.

You may remember in the last issue of this magazine we had an article called "Do you feel heavy laden?", based on Jesus' words in the last three verses of Matthew chapter 11.

Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Well, this morning when I was praying for someone in a certain situation, the last of these verses came into my mind. It simply says, "... my yoke is easy and my burden is light." And I found myself putting strong emphasis on the "my" preceding "burden": "... MY burden is light," said Jesus. This immediately puts importance on the difference between the two types of burden and the message of these verses that Jesus wants us to exchange the one for the other.

We would all prefer a light burden to a heavy one, wouldn't we! Well, with God's help and grace, we can exchange our heavy burden - of cares, worries, stress - with his light burden, and receive that rest for our souls that comes with the exchange. There is not space here to expand on the nature of his burden, but I leave you to think on that and let the Holy Spirit enlighten. Maybe the cost of discipleship? Obedience? Expressing practical love to others? Trusting in the dark places?

May God bless you as you reflect on this amazing offer of exchange!

Jill Ferraby and the editors

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Birth of a vision

By Prabhu and Nancy Rayan

Prabhu met Param, a man who had become blind at the age of 16 in the Worli slums of Bombay, and led him to the Lord in 1980. It was during his baptism that Prabhu heard the voice of the Lord asking him, "Today, Param is added into My Body; where are the millions of people with disabilities in My Body?" In obedience to that call, Prabhu started the ministry among people with visual disabilities in Bombay with the vision of sharing the gospel to every person with a disability and every church inclusive of people with disabilities.

After ministering for a decade among visually disabled people in India, through a registered organisation known as India Fellowship for the Visually Handicapped (IFVH), the Lord spoke to Prabhu and Nancy in the year 1989 through Isaiah 54:2. "Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes," to expand this vision to people with other disabilities and also to other nations.

In the 33 years of ministry in India, the Lord has accomplished the following through this vision:

It is incredible to comprehend the way the Lord used people with disabilities, pastors, brochures, braille literature, and seminars to impact 80 countries around the world with this vision. In 38 countries we shared the vision personally and have raised 38 co-ordinators, who are responsible for this vision and mission in their own countries.

We look forward to the day when this vision becomes a reality, as Isaiah writes in chapter 35 verses 5 and 6: "Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer and the mute tongue shout for joy."

What a blessed hope! Until then we labour in his vineyard!

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Old Testament Characters

by Michael Stafford

17. David (part one)

Last time we looked at the life of King Saul and his interaction with David, who had been secretly anointed by Samuel after God rejected Saul from being king. It was many years before David actually took the throne, but we saw some of his activities and the events in his life while Saul was still alive.

There is perhaps more written about David than any other character in the Bible, excepting Jesus. This is because David is enormously important in Jewish history and was undoubtedly the greatest king that Israel ever had. Not only was he great militarily and politically, but more importantly his relationship with God is relevant to our walk with him today.

To try and detail all the events in a Bible character's life is not the purpose of these studies. Rather, we will look briefly at some events which show how David was rightly described as "a man after God's own heart" (1 Samuel 13:14).

1. David was a humble man

When Samuel anointed him to be king he was brought in from looking after his father's sheep. He was the youngest of eight brothers, and was not even considered by his father as worthy of being interviewed by Samuel. Throughout his life he sought God's glory, not his own, though he had every reason to rejoice in his own successes and victories. He was willing to do what many powerful leaders are unwilling to do - to admit when he failed and repent.

Humility is an essential part of a Christian's character. We are what we are only because of God's grace and favour. The moment we try to push ourselves forward, we actually go backward in the Christian life. The apostle Paul could say he boasted only in the gospel - that Christ died for him to take away his sin and guilt.

2. David was a man of faith

Following this article we read of David encountering the champion of Israel's enemy - Goliath - and triumphing over him. David knew he was not sufficient in himself, a poor shepherd boy, to face this huge and powerful man, but said to him: "You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty ..." (1 Samuel 17:45). David's faith was solid. He knew God would enable him to do the impossible, and he was not disappointed.

Faith - not only for salvation but for our daily walk with God - is a necessary part of our Christian life. It is not an easy thing. We do tend to doubt God at times and look on the dark side of a difficult situation. Someone has said, "Doubt is a darkroom where the devil develops negatives!" God does not condemn us for doubt but would encourage us to believe. The man who sought Jesus' help to cast out an evil spirit from his son said, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief" (Mark 9:24).

3. David waited for God to act

When David was hiding from King Saul, who wanted to kill him, he twice had the opportunity to easily despatch his enemy. His men encouraged him to kill Saul, but he steadfastly refused, knowing that Saul was still God's anointed king. He himself knew he would be king after Saul, but was prepared to wait for God's time and not to take matters into his own hands.

How often are we tempted to use our own judgment in a difficult situation and take the easy way out instead of waiting for God to act? Many times in the Psalms David wrote, "Wait on the Lord ..." For example, Psalm 27:14 says: "Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord"; Psalm 37:7 says: "Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret ..."

4. David sought God's glory

The Ark had been captured by the Philistines, but it only brought them trouble, so they sent it back to Israel. It was lodged for some time in the house of a man of God - Obed-Edom. The time came when David desired to bring it back to Jerusalem where it belonged. He also decided that he shouldn't be living in a grand palace when God dwelt in a tent - the tabernacle. David reasoned that the glory of God deserved much better than that, and he consulted the prophet Nathan about it, suggesting that he build a great temple for God's glory. He was right to seek God's glory, but God said to Nathan that David should not build it but his son would do so.

Are we concerned for our own glory, or for God's? We need to keep our priorities right. David said in Psalm 34:3: "Glorify the Lord with me: let us exalt his name together".

5. David was victorious in battle

God so blessed David's endeavours that he was able to defeat Israel's old enemies the Philistines, Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites and even the Syrians. He extended the boundaries of Israel to their greatest extent, fulfilling God's promise to Abraham long before: 'To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates ..." (Genesis 15:18). David became respected and feared throughout the Middle East of his day. He made Israel great, because God was with him, giving him victory in all his battles.

We always need to remember that just as David was involved in battles most of his life, we too are involved in a spiritual battle with the powers of evil. We are constantly bombarded with temptations to sin in many ways. As the Apostle Paul said, "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God". When we speak of 'sin' we must not equate it simply with serious misdemeanours such as murder, theft or adultery. It is anything which "falls short of the glory of God". The original Greek word translated "sin" is a word which means "missing the mark", just as an arrow may come very close to the target, but doesn't actually hit the bull's-eye.

What can we do about sin in our lives? Like David, we need to look to God for victory in overcoming the battle of temptation. He is willing to help us if we really want him to. To be an overcomer in the Christian life is something that we should all aim for. We will not reach perfection in this life, but with God's help we can strive towards it daily.

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Go in the strength of the Lord

By Janet Stafford

I have recently been reading through the book of 1 Samuel in the Old Testament and was challenged again by the story of David and Goliath, which we read in chapter 17.

The Philistine army had gathered for war against Israel. The two armies faced each other, camped for battle on opposite sides of a steep valley. A Philistine giant measuring over nine feet tall and wearing full armour came out each day for forty days, mocking and challenging the Israelites to fight. His name was Goliath. Saul, the King of Israel, and the whole army were terrified and very afraid of Goliath.

One day, David the youngest son of Jesse, was sent to the battle lines by his father to take food to his brothers and bring back news of them. David was probably just a young teenager at the time. While there, David heard Goliath shouting his daily defiance and he saw the great fear stirred within the men of Israel. They were afraid to come out of their tents. David responded, "Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of God?"

So David volunteered to fight Goliath. It took some persuasion, but King Saul finally agreed to let David fight against the giant. Dressed in his own clothes, carrying his shepherd's staff, sling and a pouch full of stones, David approached Goliath. The giant cursed at him, hurling threats and insults.

David said to the Philistine, "You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied ... Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air ... and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel ... it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord's, and he will give all of you into our hands."

As Goliath walked forward towards David, David reached into his bag and slung one of his stones at Goliath's head. Finding a hole in the armour, the stone sank into the giant's forehead and he fell face down on the ground. David then took Goliath's sword, killed him and then cut off his head. When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran. So the Israelites pursued, chasing and killing them and plundering their camp.

Points of Interest from the David and Goliath Story

Why did they wait forty days to begin the battle? There could have been a number of reasons. Everyone was afraid of Goliath. He seemed invincible. Not even King Saul, the tallest man in Israel, had stepped out to fight. Also, the sides of the valley were very steep. Whoever made the first move would have a strong disadvantage and probably suffer great loss. Both sides were waiting for the other to attack first.

David chose not to wear the King's armour because it felt cumbersome and unfamiliar and was much too big for him. David was comfortable with his simple sling, a weapon he was skilled at using. When the lion and bear came to take his sheep he had killed them with his sling. God will use the unique skills he's already placed in your hands. Just be yourself and use the familiar gifts and talents God has given you. He will work miracles through you.

David's faith in God caused him to look at the giant from a different perspective. Goliath was just a man defying an all powerful God. David looked at the battle from God's point of view. If we look at giant problems and impossible situations from God's perspective, we realise that God will fight for us and with us. When we put things in proper perspective, we see more clearly and we can fight more effectively.

When the giant criticised, insulted and threatened, David didn't stop or even waver. Everyone else cowered in fear, but David ran to the battle. He knew that action needed to be taken. David did the right thing in spite of discouraging insults and fearful threats. Only God's opinion mattered to David.

Questions for Reflection

Are you facing a giant problem or impossible situation? Where are you looking? Stop for a minute and refocus. Can you see the situation more clearly from God's vantage point? Lift your eyes from the problem and look to God. The Psalmist said in Psalm 121: "I will lift my eyes to the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord."

Do you need to take courageous action in the face of insults and fearful circumstances? Do you trust that God will fight for you and with you? Remember, God's opinion is the only one that matters.

God is with you today in your difficult situation. Do not be afraid. Trust in him.

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Here's a thought

Where there is no way, God makes a way.

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Wise Words (8)

Who can we blame?

Uheni ngwa banyabo. (Tumbuka). This proverb means: It is the others who are always at fault.

Wisdom

"Who can we blame"! This is a cry that is heard from time to time. It might arise from organisations that have collapsed, projects that never got off the ground, plans that were not well thought out. Somehow it is always others who are at fault! If we look into ourselves we will often find that we have the same tendency to blame others. When disturbed by hurtful remarks and attitudes, we try to put the blame on the uncharity, stupidity, prejudice, anger of the other person. But if we examine the matter closely and honestly we will nearly always find that the reason for our disturbance is that we never blame ourselves for anything. Wise people say that self-knowledge and acceptance is the key to wisdom.

Scripture

You'll never succeed in life if you try to hide your sins. Confess them and give them up; then God will show mercy to you. (Proverbs 28:13).

The wisdom of the Tumbuka proverb is found in the Book of Proverbs. Persons who always try to blame somebody else are not a great success with others. Blind to their own shortcomings, they fool themselves and try to fool others also. An unwillingness to take the responsibility for our own actions shows a kind of cowardice and immaturity that are destructive of success in life. Refusal to accept responsibility for our sins and shortcomings is also harmful to our relationship with God, which should be based on openness, sincerity and truth. Saint John says that if we claim to have no sin in us, we are deceiving ourselves, but that if we acknowledge our sins, God will forgive us. We need to pray often that we see ourselves as we are, base our lives on reality, and so make a success of life by living in harmony with God and others.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, send us the light of your truth that we may see ourselves as we are, accept our weakness and failings and so love you and others.

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Zaccheus

By Peter Jackson

Now Zaccheus sat one morning at his table in the shade;
He was poring over his books, you know, just to see how much he'd made.
His head came up in great surprise at what he thought he heard -
"Jesus of Nazareth heals the sick through the power of his spoken word!"
"What's that you say?" Zaccheus said, "Oh please do tell me more,"
But the people turned away from him, and spat upon the floor.
"We don't talk to folk like you," (as they looked at him askance):
"Maybe he could do something for you if you'd give him half a chance."
But no one knew of the emptiness, of the hunger deep inside;
Of how he had tried to break the hold of his avarice and pride.
There were days when he felt so alone and lost; even though he was Abraham's son.
If only someone could set him free, so that from this life he could run!
And as he sat at his table there, his money lost all its glow:
He saw a great crowd coming up the hill from the city of Jericho.
And in that crowd he got a glimpse of a man he recognised -
"It's Bartimaeus, that poor blind man - he's seeing with wide-open eyes!"
Then Zaccheus saw the face of one whose expression was stern, yet kind;
And he knew it was Jesus of Nazareth, who healed the sick and the blind.
There was something attractive about that face - it spoke right to his heart.
He somehow knew that this was the man that could give him a brand-new start.
But now the crowd had passed him by, and Jesus was lost to view;
"I must see him again, I must see him again - Oh now, what can I do?"
Zaccheus was slight and fleet of foot, and he left all his money and books.
He outstripped the crowd, shinned up a tree, defiant of people's looks.
So from his vantage point in the tree he scanned the moving crowd;
Then suddenly, to his great surprise, he heard his name called aloud:
"Zaccheus, Zaccheus, you must come down, I'm your guest of honour today.
"We have much to discuss, and much to share - please hurry while you may."
He climbed down from the tree in haste on that golden sunny morn;
And as he talked with the Saviour - then his own night turned to dawn!
The bitterness that had so clouded his mind was swept away by love:
And he knew, instead, the Spirit of peace, as gentle as any dove.
Has Zaccheus got a message today for those who are hurting inside?
Surely he would tell us plain to climb down from our tree of pride.
He would want us to come to the Saviour he found -
To the one who had called him by name:
To the one who can make us completely clean by the blood of the Lamb who was slain.

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