The Torch – 2015, Issue 1

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!

Happy New Year to you all!

Recently I came across this thought-provoking quote: “Faith is like wi-fi – it’s invisible, but has the power to connect you to what you need.” For those in parts of the world where wi-fi is not used, it is a local area network that provides a means of connecting to the internet (world wide web) on computer using radio waves. It stands for “WIreless FIdelity”!

So in what respect does faith connect, and what to? There’s a verse in Hebrews that gives us a big clue: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1 - KJV). Faith connects us to God’s promises and the numerous blessings that are ours in Christ (the “things not seen”) – as enumerated in Ephesians chapter one – a chapter I love. You can read some of it in Let the Scriptures speak later on.

But faith is like wi-fi in more than one aspect. What about the wavering aspect? Wi-fi wavers at times when the connection is very poor – or even lost. And doesn’t that happen to our faith as well? Does your faith waver? Mine does - when I look at all the things – problems, difficulties, trials – instead of at Jesus himself. That’s what happened to Peter when Jesus called him to step out of the boat and come to him, walking on the water. He was fine until he looked at the waves whipped up by a strong wind; his faith wavered and he began to sink. (The story is in Matthew 14:29-31.)

Do you know that sinking feeling? Your faith wavering? The feeling of being overwhelmed by the waves of fear, worry, anxiety, apprehension? The cry of “Lord save me” can draw you out of the waves, your focus back on Jesus and your faith in him restored.

Praise God that in Jesus we have the solution to our wavering faith! You can read more about this in the article “God knows”.

Jill Ferraby and the editors

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Old Testament characters

By Michael Stafford

23. Elisha

In our last character study we were reminded of how the prophet Elijah was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind, and how Elisha, his successor, requested a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. A symbol of this gift was the cloak that fell from Elijah as he was taken up, and was used by Elisha to demonstrate that he had power from God similar to that of Elijah. With the cloak he struck the river Jordan which parted for him to cross over on dry land.

This was the first of 12 miracles performed by Elisha and recorded for us in Chapters 2 - 7 of 2 Kings. We cannot look in detail into all of them, but we will consider just three which seem to be especially significant:

1. The Multiplying of the Widow’s Oil (2 Kings 4:1-7)

Many of the prophets mentioned in the Old Testament were part of a group or company of prophets. Elisha was no exception, and was their leader among them. One of his colleagues died and left a widow who fell on hard times and was threatened with having her sons sold into slavery. This practice was common in Israel in those days - a person who could not afford to pay their bills was made to sell themselves or family members into slavery. Elisha was quick to come to her aid - not that he had means of his own to help her, only that the power of God was with him. He was able to provide for this woman in a miraculous way, by an endless supply of cooking oil which she could use and then sell the excess. The only thing limiting the supply was a lack of suitable containers (4:6).

While the Spirit of God came upon great men and women in the Old Testament times, enabling them to do great things for him, today all who accept Jesus into their lives are born again and have God’s Spirit dwelling in them. Thus God enables even the poor, lowly or unschooled to do great things for him. We are like the containers which were receiving God’s supply until there were no more. It frequently happens that God’s Spirit is restricted in us - the containers are not sufficient - because we do not allow him full control of our lives. Paul the Apostle tells us to be filled with the Spirit. This is not a one-off experience - we need continually to be filled. The famous American preacher, D L Moody, was always asking to be filled with the Spirit. When someone asked him “why?” he said, “Because I leak!”

2. The Raising of the Shunammite’s Son (2 Kings 4:8-37)

The woman in this story is quite different to the widow in the first part of this chapter. This one was wealthy and had a husband with a successful farming business. She was kind, God-fearing and discerning, recognising Elisha as a man of God and providing for his material needs. Elisha was grateful and wanted to do something to help the woman. However, on enquiry she said she had all she needed. But actually there was one thing she lacked - that which was so important to a married couple in Israel, namely a son to carry on the family name and business. Elisha, filled with God’s Spirit, predicted that she would have a son in a year’s time. This, to her, was impossible, because her husband was a very old man. But the promise came true and a son was born. Sadly, a few years later the son became very ill and died. Having seen the miracle that Elisha had done earlier, the woman insisted on going a long distance to locate Elisha and enlist his power to heal her son. Elisha wanted to send his servant to do the job, but the woman was not satisfied - nothing less than Elisha’s presence at her son’s bedside would do. She got her way, and Elisha raised her son to life.

There are three qualities in this woman that we would do well to imitate:

1. Her hospitality. In the New Testament we are exhorted to be hospitable (Romans 12:13; 1 Peter 4:9)

2. Her contentedness. The Apostle Paul reminds us that “Godliness with contentment is great gain”, and he was an example of this: “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (1 Timothy 6:6; Philippians 4:11)

3. Her faith. When asked by her husband where she was going in such a hurry, she said “It’s all right”. When asked by Elisha’s servant what was wrong, she said “Everything is all right”. To our thinking, everything was all wrong! However, her faith in Elisha and his God was so strong that she was confident that he would somehow restore life to her son.

3. The Healing of a Leper (2 Kings 5)

In this little drama there are three characters, apart from Elisha himself: a nameless servant girl; a very important person from Aram (Syria) called Naaman; the servant of Elisha called Gehazi.

The girl had been captured from her own country by the Syrians, and was serving the wife of Naaman who was the commander of the Syrian army. Naaman had, to his horror, discovered that he had leprosy which was incurable, but the servant girl encouraged her mistress to persuade Naaman to go and see Elisha, the great prophet in Israel, who could surely heal him. She was a poor humble God-fearing girl fearlessly witnessing to God’s power to heal. All of us who know and love the Lord are called to be witnesses of his power to save.

The second character is Naaman himself who was too proud to accept Elisha’s means of healing him - to dip himself seven times in the muddy Jordan River! Eventually Naaman did humble himself and wash in the Jordan, with the result that he was completely healed. Pride is the ultimate sin - the belief that I do not need God and his power in my life; that I am able to cope with life and its troubles on my own. In fact, when we submit to God’s authority in our life and seek his aid, we find that he completely meets all our needs. “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:10)

The third character is Gehazi - Elisha’s servant. Naaman had brought great treasures with him to offer to anyone who could heal him, but Elisha had refused to receive anything. Gehazi saw this as foolish, and gave in to the temptation to get some of the treasure for himself. He didn’t realise, however, that he could not hide his sin from God or Elisha by lying. He ended up suffering the same disease as Naaman. “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap ... for the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:9,10).

All the many miracles Elisha performed prove beyond doubt that he had truly been given a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. William Carey, the missionary pioneer to India said: “Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God”.

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Ministry among blind people in Zambia

By Willis Musakanya

First of all we greet you. May peace and love from our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

We in Zambia are grateful for the ministry of Torch Trust, teaching and encouraging blind people. The work was started here in Zambia due to the help of Janet Stafford and Lapson Mbewe.

Through the Torch ministry, the work among blind people is going forward, with five fellowship groups – in Luanshya, Masaiti, Kangonga, Fisenge and Kambowa. We have worked hard to implement a programme of teaching and encouraging through the Word of God in various districts where previously there had been no one to bring the gospel message. The Bible says in Matthew 28:19-20, “Go and preach the Kingdom of God to all nations ...” It is difficult work, but God helps us and with him nothing is impossible.

We gather once in every month here in Luanshya and in Masaiti, to study the Bible. Our members greatly appreciate the braille Bible volumes and the magazines which are sent to them by Torch. The braille Bible volumes are collected by us in a Land Rover belonging to Mr Alan Park, and we then take them to the group at Kangonga and distribute them after we have spent a while teaching and encouraging them. Bible volumes also now go to Kitwe.

We are grateful for the use of the Land Rover, and for those who have helped support the work with money for fuel. Without this help we would find it very difficult to travel and visit our blind people.

For those blind people who live far away in Mwasabombwe and Mufulira we send the braille Bible volumes by post. It makes us happy when we hear from them that they have received the books safely.

We also have a ministry of visiting blind people in their homes, which is much appreciated. We do, however, notice how many of them suffer as their houses are in a bad condition with cracked walls and leaking roofs.

We are grateful for the support we get which enables us to continue helping and encouraging the blind people. May God bless you.

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Let the scriptures speak

Ephesians 1:3-14, 18-19 (NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the one he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfilment to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession to the praise of his glory.

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

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God Knows

By Janet Stafford

May the God of your hope so fill you with all joy and peace in believing ... that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound and be overflowing (bubbling over) with hope. (Romans 15:13 – The Amplified Bible)

True love, joy, hope, and peace come with believing in God and his promises. According to Romans 15:13, joy and peace are found in believing. So when you lose your peace, check your believing.

Every day, you have to decide who’s going to be in control of your life - you or God.

That choice is a battle. There are things in your life that you want to control. You want to make your own rules. But stress relief always starts with letting God be God. It always starts with saying, “God, I’m giving up control, because you can control the things that are out of control in my life.”

Psalm 46:10 says, “Let go of your concerns! Then you will know that I am God. I rule the nations. I rule the earth.”

Let your timing be in God’s hands. Psalm 31:14-15 says, “Lord, I trust You. I have said, ‘You are my God.’ My life is in Your hands”. You’ll lose your peace if you try to make things happen out of God’s timing. Avoid reasoning, and stop trying to figure out what God is doing in your life and trust him. Stop thinking so much and start simply believing.

Believe God loves you. Believe God has a great plan for your life. Believe God always has your best interest in mind, and that he is working all things together for your good. Romans 8:28 says, “We know that in everything God works for the good of those who love him. They are the people he called, because that was his plan”. You might as well just get in the flow and go with God. Getting frustrated is not going to make God change his mind.

I don’t know what you’re going to face this week. You don’t, either. But I can already tell you what God wants you to do: Let go, and know. Let go of control, and know that God is in control. Let go, and know! This is the first step to serenity in your life.

Whenever we face out-of-control situations, we tend to go to one of two extremes. For some of you, the more out-of-control your life gets, the harder you try to control it. Some of you do the exact opposite: You just give up!

Both of those reactions to stress are foolish. They don’t work. Instead of being a victim or becoming hyper controlling, you need to pray the prayer of surrender.

The number one reason you’re under stress is because you’re in conflict with God. You’re trying to control things that only God can control. You can’t control your husband or your children or your wife or your job or your future or your past. The more you attempt it, the more you’re trying to play God, and that puts you in opposition to God. Not only are you going to lose that conflict, but you’re also going to be tired.

I have been through a lot of difficult things and have come to know through experience that God is faithful and worrying does no good. We don’t have to understand everything that occurs in our lives; it’s enough to know that God understands it all and he is in control. You can choose to believe in God and his promises, or to continue in worry and reasoning. But if you choose to believe, your joy and peace will be abundant.

Would you pray this prayer in your heart?

Dear Father, you know how I have resented the problems in my life, and you know how I have resisted the things that have caused me pain that I can’t change. You know that I’ve asked you many times for an explanation that has never come. Today, I want to stop fighting you over things I don’t understand. Forgive me. I want to begin the path of personal peace. So I ask you for help. Help me to change the things that I can, and help me to accept the things that cannot be changed. Help me, Jesus, to trust in your loving care when things don’t make sense. Help me to trust that you are a good God and that you have my best interest at heart. Today, I surrender all my life to your loving care and control. Please give me your strength and wisdom and peace and purpose. I want to make peace with God by faith so that I can have the peace of God through you, Jesus Christ. Amen.

God bless you and “May the God of your hope so fill you with all joy and peace in believing that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound and be overflowing (bubbling over) with hope.” (Romans 15:13).

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Here’s a thought

“Unbelief puts our circumstances between us and God. But faith puts God between us and our circumstances.” (F B Meyer)

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My Story

By Rev’d Michael Heaney, Operating Officer

Not long after giving my life to Christ and being baptised at the age of 16 a church friend of mine wrote to me from the University he had gone to study at. I can’t remember what the letter was about but I can remember that it included the following Bible verse:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

These words have come to me many times over my life as words of comfort, reassurance, hope and ultimately to make sense of what I have experienced. They are words, which as I look back over this past year give me enormous strength and belief in sensing that I am where God wants me to be - serving Torch Trust.

As Christians we are all called to serve, and sensing we are where God wants us to be is precious. My experience has been that a process of discernment has always involved others affirming what I might consider to be God’s calling. My wife Rose for the last 36 years has been pivotal in our discernment of God’s calling as we have always sensed together where and how God wants to use us. That is special, given that it was seeing Rose being baptised as a teenager herself that led me to committing my life to Christ 40 years ago.

We have three children and four grandchildren the youngest of which Henry is just four months old. These are special times in our family as each of our children and grandchildren offer us joys and at times challenges in equal measure.

As I look back over my life, I sense a calling according to his purpose. Initially, for 13 years in the commercial world of banking, where I was able to witness. This was profound when resigning from a “successful” career to take up the call to train for the ministry. I have never considered myself to be ambitious, but rather happy to serve based upon recognition of just how much God has done for me.

Ten years in pastoral ministry followed in Witney, Oxfordshire where I became aware of a Torch Fellowship Group in the town. Beyond that and until recently I have served for 14 years as a General Secretary of a group of Congregational churches in the UK. Within this period I have been privileged to serve the Council for World Mission (former London Missionary Society) travelling extensively across Southern Africa and other Commonwealth nations. In the UK I have just completed a term as Moderator of the Free Churches Group and Co-President of Churches Together in England. This gave me immense opportunity and privilege including offering a Loyal Address to Her Majesty the Queen during her Diamond Jubilee year.

And now it is my privilege to serve the Torch family at home and overseas. I sense God’s calling and presence as near as ever before, as those words of Paul to the church at Rome will always live with me.

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