The Torch – 2015, 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

We greet you all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Later in this issue of The Torch we hear My story from Jan Turner. She will tell us about an event in her life where the two words “more than” from the following verse of scripture meant a lot to her:

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! (Ephesians 3:20-21).

That got me thinking. What are our expectations of God and his ways - especially in terms of his answers to our prayers? Are our expectations limited to our own thoughts, hopes and desires? Well, this verse definitely implies they are! And it’s true, isn’t it. God is infinite; we (including our minds) are finite. Therefore our finite minds cannot possibly conceive of, or even imagine, his infinite ways.

I particularly like the Living Bible translation of that Ephesians verse:

Glory be to God who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of - infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes.

So this surely affects our expectations of God - especially as we pray. We pray, as requested by Jesus in scripture, according to our needs, desires, hopes etc; but with an expectation that reaches beyond our finite minds. How awesome is that! And it occurs to me that this thought serves as a wake-up call - to be watchful. In what way? To be watchful for unexpected answers to our prayers. The “more than” aspect of our expectations might mean something completely different from what we have in mind as we pray. So this warns us to be, not just watchful, but open and willing for a different answer - which from God’s loving, almighty, sovereign ways will be for our good.

May you know the blessing of God’s “more than” in your life.

Jill Ferraby and the editors

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My story

by Jan Turner

I was a premature baby - weighing only 2lb 12oz (about 1.25kg). I was the only survivor of triplets, so right from the start I believe the Lord had his hand on my life.

At the school for the blind that I attended, we had regular daily services as well as being taken to church. This however meant very little to me.

I first became aware of Torch when, at the age of about 12 (nearly 60 years ago), I was given a braille copy of this very magazine, The Torch, to read. At that time, it was circulated only in braille - to a mere 800 or so; but now it is produced in many of the accessible media, including various forms of audio, and goes to around 5,500 visually impaired people worldwide.

Later on, I lived in Brighton only eight miles from Torch Holiday and Retreat Centre, which at that time was the original Torch headquarters, now based in Market Harborough. So when I left College I offered to help. It was while I was helping with the letters, that Mrs Heath (co-founder of Torch Trust) told me about the Lord Jesus and I became a Christian.

My first date with my husband Den was attending the first meeting of the Brighton Torch Fellowship group where I had many years of involvement.

In 1982 Den and I came up to Leicestershire where we joined Torch at Hallaton. We had been working at Torch for three years when I developed a serious problem with my back which ultimately meant that I had to use a wheelchair.

Seven years ago, after 20 or so years in a wheelchair, the Lord gave me a miraculous healing, and I am now able to walk miles with no pain. More recently I acquired a guide dog for the first time, and this has greatly increased my ability to get around.

Currently I have the joy of serving the Lord again at Torch as TorchTalk Co-ordinator. TorchTalk is a phone service and my role is to encourage visually impaired people in the UK to connect with each other over the phone. I also have the privilege of ministering in my local church.

I am very conscious of the Lord Jesus being with me in every area of my life. There are a number of scriptures which assure us that, as followers of the Lord Jesus, he has promised he will never leave us or forsake us.

A verse which meant a lot to me when I received my miracle healing was:

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! (Ephesians 3:20-21).

God did for me, more than I ever imagined he would do.

I trust that you will also know the power and the presence of the Lord Jesus in your life.

[If you would like to know more about anything in this article, please email: jant@torchtrust.org]

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Let the scriptures speak

Ephesians 3:17-21

I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts, living within you as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvellous love; and may you be able to feel and understand, as all God’s children should, how long, how wide, how deep, and how high his love really is; and to experience this love for yourselves, though it is so great that you will never see the end of it or fully know or understand it. And so at last you will be filled up with God himself.

Now glory be to God, who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of - infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes. May he be given glory forever and ever through endless ages because of his master plan of salvation for the Church through Jesus Christ.

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Old Testament Characters

by Michael Stafford

26. Ezekiel

In the previous issue we looked at the life and ministry of Jeremiah – known as “the weeping prophet” because of the miseries of living in the time when God was severely punishing his people because of their faithlessness. Jeremiah was not taken into captivity with the majority of the population of Jerusalem, but remained there until unwillingly taken to Egypt by the remnant that remained.

Ezekiel was different inasmuch as he was taken into captivity in Babylon like the prophet Daniel would be later. The book of Ezekiel is probably the least read of any Bible book, because it is so difficult to understand. However, like Jeremiah, it contains some very noteworthy incidents which are well worth trying to understand.

Ezekiel was a priest, who was carried off to Babylon in the second transportation from Jerusalem when King Jehoiachin was removed by Nebuchadnezzar and replaced by his uncle, Zedekiah.

Ezekiel was a prophet as well as a priest, and had a very unusual way of presenting his message. He acted out his prophecies in ways which today would be considered eccentric, but they had the effect of drawing the attention of the crowds and imprinting the message on their minds. Some of you who read this study are preachers, and will know how very important it is to illustrate the points in your messages so that they are easily remembered by the listeners.

1. God’s Call

God got Ezekiel’s attention through a massive thunder storm: “I looked, and I saw a windstorm coming out of the north – an immense cloud with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light. The centre of the fire looked like glowing metal, and in the fire was what looked like four living creatures ... each of them had four faces and four wings” (Ezekiel 1:4-6). The faces of each creature represented a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle. We know them as the cherubim – angelic creatures who, in Genesis, are seen as guarding the way into the Garden of Eden. They were accompanied by wheels, rather like a heavenly chariot, above which was the throne of God. From the throne came the voice of the Lord speaking to Ezekiel and calling him to a ministry among his own obstinate and stubborn people. They would not listen to him but he was still to keep on telling them the words of the Lord. So Ezekiel’s task was to warn the people of God’s judgment, and if he failed to do this the people’s blood would be on his head, but if he did warn them and they turned from their sins, he would be saved from God’s anger.

2. Acted Prophecies

When Ezekiel and others were taken away from Jerusalem there were still many people remaining there, ruled over by King Zedekiah. God was giving the city yet another chance to repent and live in obedience to him. However a few years later the people showed that they had not improved and so God’s judgment was to reach its final conclusion with no further chance for repentance. Ezekiel was told by God to tell the captives in Babylon that Jerusalem was about to be attacked again by Nebuchadnezzar, and that Jerusalem would be surrounded by the enemy and starved into submission. God told Ezekiel to portray Jerusalem on a clay tablet and then pretend to besiege it by using small models of siege engines, ramps to scale the walls and battering rams to demolish them. He was to do this in the sight of the captives to show them what was about to happen to their beloved city of Jerusalem.

Then he was to lie on his left side for 390 days, and on his right side for 40 days, symbolically bearing the sins of Israel and Judah, to indicate the time it would take for the captives to pay the penalty for all their sins. This curious behaviour by Ezekiel would make a deep impression on his hearers.

God now told him to take a sharp sword and cut off his hair and his beard and divide up the hair into three. A third was to be burned; a third was to be struck with the sword and a third was to be scattered to the winds. This was to illustrate what would happen to the inhabitants of Jerusalem: The city was to be burned, many would be killed with the sword by the enemy, and the remainder would be scattered among the nations.

3. Visions

God gave Ezekiel several visions and also parables to pass on to the captives. Here we are just going to consider one well-known vision which is to be found in chapter 37: “... the Spirit of the Lord set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones ... He asked me ‘Son of man can these bones live?’ ... He said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ... ‘I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life’ ... So I prophesied ... and as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.”

Ezekiel was then told to command the wind to enter the lifeless bodies. The result was a vast army, which represented the whole of the Israelite nation. This was God’s way of vividly showing how the nation would one day be restored. They would be settled again in their own land and would be indwelt by God’s Spirit and never again worship idols and rebel against their God.

God revealed to Ezekiel in a vision what the distant future would hold for Israel. By this time the Temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed. When the captives returned a smaller version of the Temple would be built by Zerubbabel, and later still a very grand Temple would be built by Herod the Great. However, this will be as nothing compared to the new Temple revealed in the vision to Ezekiel. It will be in the New Jerusalem and God’s glory will fill it. From it will flow a river of living water which will bring life to all the inhabitants.

The punishment that God meted out to his people because of their sins resulted in his withdrawal from them and from their city and temple. It is very significant therefore that Ezekiel ends his book with the statement “The Lord is there”, for this will be the fulfilment of Ezekiel’s wonderful vision of the future.

There are times in our lives when God seems distant and our prayers seem to reach no further than our ceiling or roof. This may be because of something in our lives that has come between us and God. When we repent and return to him he will again draw near to us, though in reality he never actually leaves us if we are his sons and daughters by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

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Here’s a thought

We don’t need to fathom the past, dissect the present, or worry about the future. But just follow Him.

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Partners - Compass Braille

Celebrating its Silver Jubilee this year, Compass Braille (CB) has transcribed and produced braille Bible portions and Christian books in 44 languages for use in more than 120 destinations worldwide during the past 25 years.

It began through a couple of former Torch workers, Tony and Rona Gibb, who had worked in India. They saw the need for braille Bibles in Indian languages and returned to the UK in 1985 with a God-given vision. They set about the onerous task of creating a computerised braille press and, to cut a long story very short, God had everything in hand, providing the right people, equipment and funds to establish CB.

The first braille Bible portions to come off the press were in Hindi. With an initial goal of producing 11 of the Indian languages, CB has since gone on to transcribe and produce in 44 global languages.

We receive many stories from braille readers around the world, many of whom were previously in desperate situations, but all speak about the change the Bible has made to their lives. Firstly, coming to know the love of God and then growing in self-worth and purpose - often making it their job to share the good news with other blind people. Through the work of various overseas groups who minister to people with visual disabilities and also the United Bible Societies who have researched and sponsored many of our projects, we have been able get God's Word into the hands of tens of thousands of braille readers.

We also set up a micro-braille unit in Chennai India to enable a group to produce their own “lifestyle” books for the thousands of braille readers they serve in many states of India. These books are complementary to the Bible and help the readers understand, and often deal with, the problems they specifically face in life. They are a vital part of the holistic approach we embrace - written by Indians (often visually disabled) for other Indians in similar situations - they are contextualised and relevant.

CB produce many other books, ie for young people, such as HIV/AIDS awareness books, books specifically for women and others for children. All of them chosen for their relevance to the target audience and some titles produced by request.

So here's to the next 25 years - God Willing.

[For more information about CB visit: www.compassbraille.org]

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When the going gets tough

by Gordon Temple

I suppose that all of us have known times when the going gets tough, when the wheels fall off, when things go horribly wrong. Troubles come in all shapes and sizes and what exactly it is that has challenged us will vary enormously. For some it may be a family issue, ill health or unemployment. For others it may be as fundamental as not having enough to eat. Or it may be the persecution that is affecting so many Christians across the world today. For many of The Torch readership, your experience will have included the lack or loss of sight.

Whatever the trouble, it may threaten our physical or emotional well-being, or both. And our spiritual well-being may be challenged too. Someone who, as a professional counsellor, works with people who are struggling with the emotional impact of sight loss, and who is not herself a Christian, told me that for almost everyone she sees it is at least in part a spiritual issue. She recounted that her clients ask questions like, “What have I done to deserve this?” and “Why has this happened to me?”  

St Paul - who certainly knew tough times himself - writes these amazing words to Christians in Philippi, who were going through tough times, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)

How can we rejoice when it’s all going wrong, especially when the problems don’t go away? Paul knew about this. He spoke of a “thorn in his flesh”. Some have speculated that he had a problem with his sight; after all, he did mention his large writing in one of his letters: “See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!” (Galatians 6:11)

Whatever the problem, he asked God to take it away but this was not amongst the prayers that God answered in the way Paul probably expected. He had to learn to live with it - to come to see it as part of God’s plan for his life, something that would actually help him to live God’s way.

This was his conclusion on the subject: “He (the Lord) said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

And what about when bad things happen - especially to good people? At these times, people can be quick to blame God for man’s mistakes. If for instance a building collapses, some might say, “Why did God allow that disaster to happen?”, when maybe it happened because of poor construction or maintenance.

It’s as likely we suffer the consequences of the sins of others as we do our own sins. This seems unfair to us until we recognise that we have all failed to live God’s way, and the consequences of our own failures may be visited as much upon others as it is upon ourselves. We are part of a corrupt human race that desperately needs to find the Saviour.        

The same works with good stuff. Good things, too, come our way that are undeserved. Jesus said of God the Father, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45)  We enjoy blessings in our life that we haven’t earned, often coming to us through the love and care of others.

Our faith has to be robust enough to deal with the tough times as well as the easy. Faith is trusting God that he knows best, even when it doesn’t seem that way to us.

The text on the Torch Calendar one day in July was from Psalm 118: “I was pushed back and about to fall, but the Lord helped me.” (v.13)

“Pushed back and about to fall” seems to imply living on the edge, where there’s no margin, no space, teetering at the top of a precipice and completely dependent on God’s help.    

There’s a contrasting image elsewhere in the same Psalm: “When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord; he brought me into a spacious place.” (v5)

It seems to me that a “spacious place” is the opposite situation - plenty of space and room to move, with little risk of going over the edge and we can feel secure.

In the adventure of faith some of life is lived at the edge. God is there with us on the edge and always ready with help. Then there are times when God takes us from a place where there is no margin into a spacious place. Throughout, the Lord is with us and, trusting in him, we have no need to fear.

Returning to the Philippian letter we can see the foundations Paul had for encouraging a constancy of rejoicing ...

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7)

The first foundation is the awareness that God is never absent, wherever we are and however scary the situation. The second is that we have the facility of prayer to communicate with our nearby God. The third is that the peace that guards our hearts and minds is from God - not something we conjure up for ourselves. It’s a peace that is beyond understanding - it makes no sense, it’s supernatural. It’s all built on trust - trust in a totally trustworthy God.

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