Please read the Missionary Report below
from the Caribbean Islands
Sabbath, April 25, 2015
“Like the wind, which is invisible, yet the effects of which are plainly seen and felt, is the Spirit of God in its work upon the human heart. That regenerating power, which no human eye can see, begets a new life in the soul; it creates a new being in the image of God.” –The Faith I Live By, p. 55.
The new birth
1. What birth is crucial for every soul who desires to enter the kingdom of heaven?
John 3:3-6; 1:12, 13 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. 4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? 5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit…. 1:12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
“Nicodemus had come to the Lord thinking to enter into a discussion with Him, but Jesus laid bare the foundation principles of truth. He said to Nicodemus, It is not theoretical knowledge you need so much as spiritual regeneration. You need not to have your curiosity satisfied, but to have a new heart. You must receive a new life from above before you can appreciate heavenly things. Until this change takes place, making all things new, it will result in no saving good for you to discuss with Me My authority or My mission.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 171.
2. What illustration did Jesus use to describe the action of the Holy Spirit?
John 3:7, 8 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. 8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
“The Christian’s life is not a modification or improvement of the old, but a transformation of nature. There is a death to self and sin, and a new life altogether. This change can be brought about only by the effectual working of the Holy Spirit. Nicodemus was still perplexed, and Jesus used the wind to illustrate His meaning: ‘The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is everyone that is born of the Spirit.’ John 3:7.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 172.
3. How does God work so a soul can attain heart conversion through the Holy Spirit?
Ezekiel 36:26, 27 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.
“The wind is heard among the branches of the trees, rustling the leaves and flowers; yet it is invisible, and no man knows whence it comes or whither it goes. So with the work of the Holy Spirit upon the heart. It can no more be explained than can the movements of the wind. A person may not be able to tell the exact time or place, or to trace all the circumstances in the process of conversion; but this does not prove him to be unconverted. By an agency as unseen as the wind, Christ is constantly working upon the heart. Little by little, perhaps unconsciously to the receiver, impressions are made that tend to draw the soul to Christ. These may be received through meditating upon Him, through reading the Scriptures, or through hearing the word from the living preacher. Suddenly, as the Spirit comes with more direct appeal, the soul gladly surrenders itself to Jesus. By many this is called sudden conversion; but it is the result of long wooing by the Spirit of God–a patient, protracted process.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 172.
A transformed life
4. What can be seen in the soul who is renewed into God’s image by the Holy Spirit?
Colossians 3:5, 9, 10 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:… 9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; 10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.
Galatians 5:16, 17 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.
“While the wind is itself invisible, it produces effects that are seen and felt. So the work of the Spirit upon the soul will reveal itself in every act of him who has felt its saving power. When the Spirit of God takes possession of the heart, it transforms the life. Sinful thoughts are put away, evil deeds are renounced; love, humility, and peace take the place of anger, envy, and strife. Joy takes the place of sadness, and the countenance reflects the light of heaven. No one sees the hand that lifts the burden, or beholds the light descend from the courts above. The blessing comes when by faith the soul surrenders itself to God. Then that power which no human eye can see creates a new being in the image of God.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 173.
“It is true that men sometimes become ashamed of their sinful ways, and give up some of their evil habits, before they are conscious that they are being drawn to Christ. But whenever they make an effort to reform, from a sincere desire to do right, it is the power of Christ that is drawing them. An influence of which they are unconscious works upon the soul, and the conscience is quickened, and the outward life is amended.” –Steps to Christ, p. 27.
5. What invitation is frequently addressed to sinners?
Isaiah 55:6-8 Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: 7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. 8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.
“Though we cannot see the Spirit of God, we know that men who have been dead in trespasses and sins, become convicted and converted under its operations. The thoughtless and wayward become serious. The hardened repent of their sins, and the faithless believe. The gambler, the drunkard, the licentious, become steady, sober, and pure. The rebellious and obstinate become meek and Christlike. When we see these changes in the character, we may be assured that the converting power of God has transformed the entire man. We saw not the Holy Spirit, but we saw the evidence of its work on the changed character of those who were hardened and obdurate sinners. As the wind moves in its force upon the lofty trees and brings them down, so the Holy Spirit can work upon human hearts, and no finite man can circumscribe the work of God.” –Evangelism, p. 288.
Immediate or delayed results
6. What examples in the Bible show the powerful influence of the Holy Spirit?
John 4:23-26, 29, 39 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. 25 The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. 26 Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he…. 29 Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?… 39 And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did.
“The Spirit of God is manifested in different ways upon different men. One under the movings of this power will tremble before the Word of God. His convictions will be so deep that a hurricane and tumult of feeling seem to rage in his heart, and his whole being is prostrate under the convicting power of the truth. When the Lord speaks forgiveness to the repenting soul, he is full of ardor, full of love to God, full of earnestness and energy, and the life-giving spirit which he has received cannot be repressed. Christ is in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. His feelings of love are as deep and ardent as was his distress and agony. His soul is like the fountain of the great deep, broken up, and he pours forth his thanksgiving and praise, his gratitude and joy, until the heavenly harps are tuned to notes of rejoicing. He has a story to tell, but not in any precise, common, methodical way. He is a soul ransomed through the merits of Jesus Christ, and his whole being is thrilled with the realization of the salvation of God.” –Evangelism, p. 289.
7. Did Nicodemus respond immediately to Jesus’ words? How do we know that the Holy Spirit made a deep impression on him?
John 3:9-12; 7:50, 51; 19:39, 40 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? 10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? 11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. 12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?… 7:50 Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,) 51 Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?… 19:39 And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. 40 Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.
“Others are brought to Christ in a more gentle way…. A teacher in Israel, a man among wise men, a man who supposed that he was able to comprehend the science of religion, and yet stumbling at the doctrine of conversion! He was not willing to admit truth, because he could not understand all that was connected with the operation of the power of God, and yet he accepted the facts of nature although he could not explain or even comprehend them. Like others of all ages, he was looking to forms and precise ceremonies as more essential to religion than the deep movements of the Spirit of God.” –(Review and Herald, May 5, 1896) Evangelism, p. 289.
“If you have the Holy Spirit molding and fashioning your heart daily, then you will have divine insight to perceive the character of the kingdom of God. Nicodemus received the lesson of Christ and became a true believer. His voice was heard in the Sanhedrin council in opposition to their measures for compassing the death of Christ. ‘Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him?’ he said. The scornful answer was returned: ‘Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.’ ” –Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 369, 370.
For personal study
“The Lord will greatly bless His tried and chosen ones. If they will cooperate with Him. When the Holy Spirit came down on the day of Pentecost, it was like a rushing, mighty wind. It was given in no stinted measure, for it filled all the place where the disciples were sitting. So will it be given to us when our hearts are prepared to receive it….” –The Upward Look, p. 38.
“We all need to come into a self-sacrificing position before God if our work is to be accepted by Him. Let us remember that profession is nothing unless we have the truth in the heart. We need the converting power of God to take hold of us, that we may understand the needs of a perishing world.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, p. 106.
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from the Caribbean Islands
To be read on Sabbath, April 25, 2015
The Special Sabbath School Offering
will be gathered on Sabbath, May 2, 2015
“And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people … from the islands of the sea.” Isaiah 11:11.
“There is but a little time in which to work; for the Lord is soon coming, and we must work diligently to do all in our power to prepare a people to meet Him.” –Review and Herald, December 9, 1909.
The Caribbean Sea encompasses about 7,000 islands comprising 28 island nations. Many of these islands are tiny uninhabited outcroppings that remain unnamed. For example, the Bahamas has 700 islands, but only 37 are inhabited. The U.S. Virgin Islands consists of 62 islands under the U.S. flag, but only St. Croix, St. Thomas, St. John, Water Island, and a few others are inhabited.
The International Missionary Society is currently active in Aruba, Cuba, Curaçao, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Jamaica. Puerto Rico, a United States territory and part of the American Union, is also located in the region and has a solid work. While more than 90 percent of the approximately 42 million population of the Caribbean countries lives in these seven island states, the message has reached only 25 percent of the area. A great deal more needs to be done, and included in that effort will be the establishment of a Caribbean Union to organize the work in the islands. The Special Sabbath School Offering for May 2, 2015, will be used for this purpose.
There are a number of challenges that need to be overcome in making a plan for this region, including the many different languages, difficulties of entry and travel, varied cultures, and economic disparities.
The fact that the English, French, Spanish, Dutch, and other colonial and native cultures, with their different languages, have influence in the region adds to the missionary challenge.
Since these are all islands, visits from one to another must be done either by either sea or air, which makes travel expensive. In addition, each island state has its own unique entrance requirements, which also adds to the cost of missionary outreach.
Each archipelago (island group or chain) is, in a real sense, an “island unto itself.” To reach souls, one needs not only to cross broad stretches of sea and to plow through consular red tape but also to deal with cultural thought patterns in reaching interested souls. This last one is sometimes the most difficult.
Along with the above is each country’s economic situation. Some countries are well off and rank with the most affluent in the world, while others, such as Haiti, have one of the very lowest Gross Domestic Product rates in the world.
Pushing God’s work forward in these territories will require creative thinking under the Holy Spirit’s guidance to reach even some of the many souls who have not yet received divine light.
Objectives and goals
In the last few years, God’s work has expanded into new areas of Cuba, where there are now more than 100 new souls, as well as in Haiti, where there are about half that number of members as this report is being written. Many more souls are preparing for baptism.
Beyond organizing the region into a working unit and analyzing the financial and human resources currently available, visits will need to be made and seminars will need to be conducted to train laborers in the various countries how to be self-sustaining wherever churches have already been established as well as in new areas. This will involve finding and training church leaders and spiritual young people, some of whom can be supported in obtaining a missionary school education.
In addition to scholarships, books, pamphlets, CDs, DVDs, correspondence courses, and educational materials for internal use, materials will also need to be provided for students attending seminars as well as for missionary outreach. This requires the development and establishment of the publishing work and educational centers.
A great work needs to be done in the Caribbean islands, and your prayers and financial support are urgently requested. It is no wonder that Jesus said, “Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.” Matthew 10:23. As we help others find their places in the heavenly kingdom, we secure our own. “The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself.” Proverbs 11:25.
Your generous gift for the Caribbean islands next Sabbath will give important impetus to the work in the region. After that, for the necessary ongoing support, the North American Foreign Missions Fund is a standing fund to which gifts may be given at any time to further missionary outreach in this region of the world. Your systematic contributions to this fund and also your larger special gifts will directly impact God’s cause. God bless His people everywhere.
In His service, Larry Watts