The Torch – 2014, Issue 4

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!

Soli Deo Gloria: To God alone be the glory!

The Torch magazine is very special. Of the seven magazines Torch produces, this could be regarded as the pivotal one.

From 1931 two sisters had published the little devotional magazine in braille from their home in Cumbria in the north of England, in response to the loss of sight of their coachman. Each issue consisted of just one sheet of braille paper, and went to around 60 readers. The theme of the first issue in May 1931 was “Jesus the Light of the World”.

By the time Ron and Stella Heath, co-founders of the Torch Trust, took it over 28 years later, the circulation had increased to around 700 readers in UK and beyond.

Over the years the magazine has increased in size and additional forms of accessible media, and is now circulated worldwide to around five and a half thousand visually impaired people.

When I was looking into these figures recently, I felt a sense of wonder and awe – and gratitude to God for the privilege of being entrusted with this means of spreading his Word and the good news about Jesus.

One of my sons sometimes signs off emails with this phrase: “Soli Deo Gloria” which is Latin for "To God alone be the glory”. The phrase has been used by artists like Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel and Christoph Graupner to signify that the work they produced was for the sake of praising God. And we could say the same of The Torch and its long-standing history: To God alone be the glory.

So may God bless you richly with the things of himself as you continue to receive this very special magazine.

Jill Ferraby and the editors.

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My story

By David Shepherd

[David joined Torch staff earlier this year to assist in the administration of the Trust’s work and has recently taken on a leadership responsibility in the Resources (literature) aspect of Torch’s work as Development Leader.]

“For the wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

A young camp chaplain preached on that verse in a small Methodist chapel in Wales, on a warm summer evening in 1967, and as a young teenager I finally understood what Jesus had done for me.

I had always believed in God and went to church and Sunday school, but I didn’t hear the gospel clearly presented until that night. Suddenly it all made sense ... and everything also became very difficult! I was always shy, insecure, and lacking in confidence but these feelings now exploded. Going into a shop on my own was impossible and I felt unintelligent and inferior. The slightest criticism would rock me for days.

My dad didn’t communicate much and he only expressed love by doing things. During the war he experienced the horrors of Dunkirk and the Italian campaign. He had seen a friend blown up in front of him. He hated hospitals as they reminded him of being in an army field hospital full of the dead, dying and injured. His faith was destroyed during the war years.

Probably largely due to all the damage this stress caused him, I had no relationship with him. We did nothing together. I didn’t know him. The only time I remember him saying he loved me was when he was in hospital with terminal cancer. Today, he would have received treatment for the effects of his wartime stress. As a father he was trying his best, but the effect of his stress on me was devastating.

My mum, now 94, had problems of a different kind, and these affected me just as deeply.

My troubles were not totally due to my parents’ difficulties, however. There were also compounding events and I made some poor life choices. Although, I was normally laid back and easy going, I struggled with rejection and sometimes I would explode with anger when I felt taken for granted or ignored. I knew that God loved me but I always felt that I didn’t quite fit in and that I was not quite “good enough”. I couldn’t grasp the “free gift” of God and spent all my energy on self-improvement - but nothing ever really changed.

Then in 2006, “Restoring The Foundations” (RTF) prayer ministry, which is focused on repentance and forgiveness, became the tool God used to help me profoundly and I began to experience lasting healing and wholeness.

RTF is a healing ministry that ministers to four linked areas in our lives: sins of the fathers and resulting curses, ungodly beliefs, soul and spirit hurts, demonic oppression. Each area feeds the others but we sometimes only deal with one area. Hence, root problems are not fully dealt with and often come back. Dealing with all of these areas opens up the way for God to replace poor foundations in our lives with new foundations based on God’s word.

God used this ministry to bring me to a place where I now feel confident, secure, and content with who I am in Christ. I’m not as sensitive to rejection and I don’t feel a failure. Of course, there will be new challenges along the way but RTF has given me the tools to face them without a wealth of past issues on my back.

Much of my life has been a struggle, but I’m so glad the Lord has always been with me and I couldn’t have coped without his strength.

[For further info on RTF visit: restoringthefoundations.org.uk]

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Old Testament characters

By Michael Stafford

21. Elijah

In our last study we saw that all the kings of the Northern Kingdom of Israel after Solomon were evil. This was mainly in the sense that they worshipped other gods as well as Yahweh. This led them to sanction abominable practices in connection with those gods.

Perhaps the worst of all these kings of Israel was Ahab. It was during his reign that we meet one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament - Elijah. If we could meet him today we would see a rough and rather frightening character, who was not afraid to denounce the evil he saw in kings and leaders.

1. The Confident Prophet (1 Kings 17)

Elijah was sure and certain when he went to King Ahab and decreed that God was going to punish him by sending a drought on the land, and that only he (Elijah) could give the word to change it. But the drought affected all the land and thus Elijah himself was in danger of starvation and thirst. Yet God miraculously provided for his servant through a stream which did not run dry till some time later, and through food supplied to him by big birds known as ravens.

When the stream eventually dried up Elijah was instructed to go to Zarephath where a widow would feed him. The fact that the widow was about to prepare the last meal for herself and her son, and then die, did not deter Elijah from asking her for food! He knew that his God would not have directed him to her unless he was going to enable her to provide food. We cannot help but admire Elijah’s calm faith in this circumstance, as he confidently told her to carry on baking bread with the little flour and oil she had: flour and oil that did not run out for all the time that Elijah was with her.

Later, the widow faced the loss of her only son through illness and apparent death, as he stopped breathing. “[Elijah] stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried to the Lord, ‘O Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him!’. The Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived”. (1 Kings 17:21, 22). Elijah may have used artificial respiration on the boy, but it was God, through prayer, who brought healing. God often uses medical means to heal, but prayer is a vital element as well.

2. The Triumphant Prophet

After boldly confronting the tyrant King Ahab, Elijah sets up a contest to prove that Jahveh is the true God and that Baal has no power. This took place on Mount Carmel on the coast of Northern Israel. The lone figure of Elijah faced a crowd of 450 prophets of Baal, with an “audience” of people who represented the undecided populace of Israel. Elijah challenged them: “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him”. (1 Kings 18:21)

Two altars were set up - one for God and one for Baal. The sacrifices were laid on the altars and Elijah said to the prophets of Baal that they should call on their god and he would call on the Lord, to send fire to burn up the sacrifice. The Baal prophets tried first - calling and crying to Baal to hear them. They continued all morning but nothing happened. They grew frantic, dancing, shouting and cutting themselves, but all in vain. Elijah mocked them - “shout louder, perhaps he’s deaf; perhaps he’s busy or on a journey or sleeping”. But by evening there was still no response.

Now it was Elijah’s turn. He made it as difficult as possible for fire to burn up the sacrifice, by pouring water on it until the altar and sacrifice were soaked. Then he called on God, the fire fell and burned up everything! The people’s response was: “The Lord - he is God! The Lord - he is God!”. Elijah then had all the prophets of Baal killed before Ahab returned to his palace humiliated.

3. The Frightened Prophet

We might be forgiven for thinking that Elijah’s triumph would have made him rejoice and be all the more bold and fearless. However, the reverse happened. Ahab reported to his wife what had happened at Carmel, and she was furious. Jezebel was the daughter of a priest of Baal and was the main cause of Ahab’s wickedness. Today we sometimes hear of a particularly wicked woman being described as a “Jezebel”. Her very name is synonymous with evil. She vowed to kill Elijah, and he fled in fear and ended up miles away in the desert in despair and depression, with a wish that he might die. Despite his triumph, he felt he was a failure and that there was no one to support him. A sense of utter loneliness and uselessness overcame him. Are there times when you feel like that? Take courage, the God who met Elijah in his hour of need is the same God today who can lift us out of depression and loneliness.

An angel was sent to Elijah with food and water. He was exhausted after his long trek, and after eating he slept for a long time until awakened by the angel who told him to get up and travel to Horeb (Sinai) - a journey of 40 days and nights, ending up in a cave on the mountain. There God met with him and asked him what he was doing there. Elijah replied to God: “After all I’ve done in your service, your people continue to reject you and have killed all your prophets - I’m the only one left and they’re out to get me too!”

God said he would reveal himself to Elijah, who thought that he must show himself in immense power, and so expected him to appear in storm, earthquake or fire. But God chose instead to speak in a gentle whisper. In that whisper God again asked the question: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah again protested about his sorry state, but in reply God gave him three things to do: to anoint Hazael king over Aram; to anoint Jehu as king over Israel, and to anoint Elisha as Elijah’s successor.

By talking to Elijah in that gentle tone, God revealed himself as the God who loves and cares for his servants and is ever ready to support and encourage when we get down-hearted. The way he encouraged Elijah was firstly to commission him to further service and then to assure him that he was not alone - that there were in fact 7000 in Israel who had not bowed the knee to Baal. In our times of loneliness or depression he still comes with that still, small voice - if we are listening for him!

[This will be continued in a future issue.]

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Let the scriptures speak!

Psalm 100

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures for ever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.

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Partners

Spoken Word Ministries, Inc - A mission with a mission

by Tim Snyder

I am often amazed when I see how the Lord works out his plans over years of ministry.  As you read about what the Lord has done and is doing through Spoken Word Ministries, I hope you will reflect upon what the Lord is also accomplishing in your life.

Our history

In early 1985 an American seminary student was reading his braille copy of The Torch magazine and learning how the Lord was using volunteer workers to help at Torch Trust. Later that year he was able to serve at Torch for six months before returning to serve in a local church in North Carolina in the US.

After a second brief visit to Torch in 1987, this same young man (me) and four others formed Spoken Word Ministries, Inc. We began ministry in February, 1988 with the production and distribution of our audio magazine, The Spoken Word, which is still being produced and provided free to blind people in several countries to this day. We have also produced braille gospel leaflets in English, Bulgarian and Russian as well as producing audio Spanish literature which we have distributed in Honduras.

I have travelled to churches to minister to local congregations in preaching, but also to make these congregations aware of the need to reach out and provide meaningful ministry to blind people, incorporating them into the life and work of their church.

Our current work

The ongoing audio magazine, The Spoken Word, is a general purpose Christian magazine containing articles, testimonies, sermons, music and other evangelical and Christian literature for encouraging Christian growth and maturity. We currently provide this audio magazine to blind people via cassette tape and mp3 download.

Since 2009 one of the major ways we have conducted personal ministry is through the Interactive Christian Community (ICC). This is an internet-based ministry consisting of Bible studies, prayer times, special programs and informal fellowship. Unlike one-way streaming of church services, the ICC participants can talk to the program host or to one another. This ministry environment works well for small groups who want to both learn and interact with program presenters. The ICC is also a great environment where people can interact in a Christian environment with a sense of safety, confidence and acceptance. Both blind and sighted people can participate in ICC. Learn more by going to www.iccsite.com

Our future endeavors

We plan to continue our current ministries and produce special literature in braille and other formats as the Lord directs and resources allow. We are also excited about a new ministry we are developing called BrailleAudio. BrailleAudio is a Christian resource library containing books and other resources in braille and audio formats for download or through a loan program to blind and visually impaired members. I am sad to report that when BrailleAudio is initially launched membership will be limited to those living in the US and US citizens living abroad.  It is my earnest hope, however, that membership can be extended to blind people living in other countries as soon as sharing of copyrighted materials across international borders can be effectually and legally accomplished.

Conclusion

We truly serve a mighty God! I like what a dear evangelist friend and an original member of the SWM Board of Directors said to me in a recent phone conversation. “The heart and purpose of missions is for one soul to touch another with the life-changing good news of Jesus Christ.” This ministry of God-inspired touching is the heart of Spoken Word Ministries.

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Here’s a thought

“God is not interested in our ability to impress him as much as our availability to serve him.” (“Leap of Faith” by Ellie Lafaro.)

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Guide for life

By Gordon Temple

One of the most important things Torch does is to provide the Bible in the forms and formats that blind and partially sight people can read: braille, giant print and audio. No book in the whole of history is more important, and I am confident that no book will ever be more important. How can I be so sure?

People praise it as a remarkable piece of literature, even if they doubt its historical accuracy and take no notice of what it has to say. The oldest English translations have even shaped the English language in which I am writing to you now and Bible phrases and stories are frequently quoted in everyday life.

True enough, with 66 books authored by a great variety of characters over more than a thousand years it is an extraordinary compendium of literature. There’s compelling history and sobering commentary upon it, there’s soaring poetry, riveting story and thoughtful reflection. It has got it all!

But if our assessment of the Bible is simply that it’s great literature, then we will have missed the point. Writing about the Bible the apostle Paul has this to say, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness”. The Bible is useful. It’s not just a good read, it will make a difference - if we let it! 

The authors of the Bible’s texts were inspired and guided by God. Through their words God introduces himself and reveals his character. The Bible is God speaking with us: the creator addressing his creatures. This is what makes the Bible unique.

Though there is great variety of authorship and writing style in the Bible it tells one big story. The God whom it introduces loves the people he has created and seeks a relationship with them. He will go to any lengths to reach out to us. But there’s one thing he doesn’t do and that’s to force himself upon us. He is looking for those who seek him as he seeks us, those who respond in love as he loves us.

Right in the middle of the Bible there’s a song that celebrates God’s word: Psalm 119, and it likens it to a lamp: “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”

That makes me wonder what sort of a lamp. Funnily enough I think it’s like a torch - the name of this magazine and the organisation that produces it! A torch doesn’t illuminate everything. With a torch you cannot see everything as you might with the sun’s light.

I’m thankful that God doesn’t reveal to us everything that lies in our path ahead; I don’t think I could handle that much knowledge of the future. But just as the pool of light from a torch gives a sighted person enough light to step confidently forward, so the light the Bible brings enables us to walk life’s path with confidence, doing so in faith, trusting our Lord for what lies beyond.

If you are blind all this talk of torches may not seem very helpful, so I have an alternative illustration. Across the world many blind people use a cane or stick to extend the reach of their arms - just enough so they can walk confidently ahead. So I’d like to suggest that for blind readers the Bible, as a guide to life, is rather like a long cane.

But a person is a better guide than a cane, someone who sees clearly and knows the way ahead, someone we walk closely with, someone we can follow.

Not only does the Bible reveal God to us, it introduces us to his Son, Jesus. Jesus is described as the light of the world and the Bible invites us to follow him.

Jesus is also referred to as “the Word”. He himself is a message from God - a message that’s addressed to us. More than words could ever do, Jesus shows us what God is like. He also demonstrates God’s determination to reach out to us in love, especially by his death on the cross and subsequent resurrection. The written word introduces us to the Living Word. And through him God appeals to us to turn to him - to hear the message of the Bible and through its pages to meet with Jesus - to turn our lives around and follow him.

If you are seeking a Bible in a format accessible to blind and partially sighted people and want to know what is available then visit the Bibles page on the Torch website: www.torchtrust.org/bibles

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