Ben Ward on Lebanon
Monday June 15th 2009, 11:27 am
Filed under: Devotional,Lebanon,Middle East

Ben Ward accompanied Keith last year to minister in Beirut.  Here are some of his impressions from the trip posted on his blog.

Lebanon – One Year Later

It’s coming up on one year since I went to Beirut, Lebanon and I realized I haven’t done a proper wrap-up post. It’s actually kind of nice to have some time and perspective on the trip. So much has happened since last summer and so much had happened leading up to it. It is really amazing.

I had just left the church in Peoria after a dizzying chain of events that I still can’t quite explain. We saw God do amazing things most notably by selling our two-month-old house in four days for more than we paid for it. He really wanted us out of there! But we didn’t know where to go. No job, no house, no prospects, really. So Olivia’s Dad, Keith Curlee, felt like the Lord wanted him to take me to Beirut on his next trip. He has a ministry there (Triumphant Mercy Lebanon) that partners with local believers. In 2007 they opened a prayer and worship center in a mall called the Tent of Praise, or TOP. We went for a month and stayed with the family that leads the TOP and ministered with the precious people there.

It was great to just be a part of what God is doing in the Middle East. I played bass in the worship times (I had never done that before — they were short a bass player), I spoke at the youth meetings, and conducted some music clinics on songwriting, playing, etc. I was even honored to lead worship one night at the TOP (in English, of course :). I got to experience a lot of the Lebanese culture (you can look back at the older posts for stories).

What struck me the most was the power of the Holy Spirit to make vast cultural differences so insignificant. When it came down to it, we were brothers and sisters in the Lord and that made us fast friends. We still keep up with each other on Facebook and I hope I get the opportunity to go back. When I think about Lebanon, I get a strange feeling that I’ve struggled to define. Like any “mission trip,” there is great spiritual fire that happens and you long to be back in that place of seeing God use you and seeing people’s live changed in amazing ways. But this is deeper – the Cedars have a strong effect on you.

New Songs, Nations, Young People

I wrote these down before I left. I felt that these words summed up what God had shown me in Lebanon. In fact, I’ve already seen the fruit of them here in NYC.

Nations – There is no other city in the world that has so many nations represented and living together. The nations are truly represented here. I believe that’s one of the things God has placed on my heart – to reach out to the nations; to minister His power in different cultures. To not only help bring change to the nations, but to be changed by the nations.

New Songs – Since I’ve come to New York I’ve written more songs in a short time than at any other time since I started writing songs. I’ve probably written twenty or thirty this year. Not all of them are keepers, of course, but I have been overwhelmed by the inspiration. Many are spiritual/worship in nature, but many are just about life and relationships. In Lebanon, I feel the Lord cemented the fact that I am a writer of songs by allowing me to teach others how to do it.

Young People – I remember a prophecy I received at IHOP back in 2007. The guy said that the Lord was fascinated at how I loved young people. This struck a chord with me because I do. I feel God has given me a heart for the young. To see them go further in their gifts and further in their relationship with Him. I haven’t seen as much fruition of that yet, but my awareness is surely up. I’m waiting for God to bring opportunities to work with and encourage young people.

So, that’s just a few of the impressions and insights the Lord gave me in Lebanon and since. I’m even more thankful than last year that Triumphant Mercy paid for me to go (not an inexpensive endeavor) and that I got to be a part of something much larger than me: God moving in the Middle East.

Here’s a video of him singing one of his songs as well…

New Year’s Resolutions
Wednesday January 14th 2009, 6:34 pm
Filed under: Devotional,Teaching

Saints of the most High God; the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the Church of our Lord and King Jesus Christ, there is so much being said concerning the new year.  Resolutions, prophecies, and best wishes abound in the world and in the Church.  Everyone is hoping for a better new year with prosperity for all.  I have found that for me, instead of resolutions and soulish declarations, that repentance from dead works should be my basic foundation.  Everyone wants to move forward, but the key for us as believers is repentance from dead works.

Paul says in Hebrews 6:1, “Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundations of repentance from acts leading to death.”  The Word of the Lord is so simple and uncomplicated, yet so contrary to our thinking and flesh.  He says that if we are to move on, we must leave the elementary teachings.  The question is: have we ever really got the basics?  

Repentance was the first declaration of the coming of Jesus on the scene by John.  “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.”  Israel had piled up a lot of dead works that had produced wickedness in the land.  The call was to repent!  We see repentance in light of moral acts and ignore our dead works and excuse them as mistakes.  We cannot continue to approach the new year hoping God will somehow bless the same empty confessions of past years.  We must repent and bring these dead works before him in utmost truth.  This will free us into the new year and change our direction.  So many times we pray for new direction, but we are going the wrong way.   Repentance is the key to changing direction and perspective.  It is deception and humanistic reasoning that justifies these dead works and efforts.  Meaningful moves of God always start with the seeking of Him and the repentance of people who see their hearts in the light of our Glorious Lord.  

Lately, because of the condition of our country, we hear ministers once again calling on the people of God saying, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”  (2 Chronicles 7:14)  Resolutions are not the answer for our condition.  Pundits and advisers admit that the greatest majority of resolutions fail in the month of January.  I heard a very influential person say the other day that she no longer makes them — she was tired of failure upon failure.  We in the Body of Christ continue to pile up these resolutions doomed to failure, which result in a mountain of discouragement and condemnation. Such a graphic picture of a continual admission of mistakes, rather than calling it what it is: sin.  Paul calls these “dead works leading to death.” Many of our dead works seemed right and justified in the beginning, but did not lead to the end we hoped for.  Paul says in Hebrews 6 — therefore let us leave.  If we are going to move on, the way to move on is to repent.  

Consequently, we continue to prop up these works that have no life in them.  Self help, more counsel, and even encouraging words will not bring these works into fruition.  The word “IF” signifies probability and potential of the promise.  If we do not go beyond it and meet the conditions we are doomed to failure and not resolve.  If who?  My people.  What people?  Who are called by My name.  Will what? Humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn (repent) from their wicked ways.  Here is how God sees dead works:  these are not mistakes or misjudgments, this is missing the mark, or sin.  Repent from the bad shots as the flesh reasons, “at least I took a shot or tried.”  The flesh can be so noble in its reasoning.  Remember Paul writes about the works of the flesh.  Notice these are the same words he uses in Hebrews — dead works.  We cannot will away these dead works that so easily beset us.  We are setting ourselves up for constant defeat and self-examination that brings no life to us.  The continual voice of the prince of darkness will bring us to despair and hopelessness but the power of God, the Holy Spirit, wants to bring life and liberty.   

Resolutions are on the wrong side of “if” and do not give real steps to get results.  Repentance is a gift from God and this gift only comes from Him.  Not our will but His will.  Humility is the action that causes the gift of repentance to be released in our lives.  The acts of humility come through a process of praying and seeking the face of our God.  This is where we will receive the power, or the gift of repentance, to turn and go the other way.  Turning from the dead work moves us towards Him who brings us life.  Resolutions are full of I will, I can do it, and more I, I, I, that keeps us on the wrong side of the “if.”  Let us repent for the kingdom of God is at hand. He will hear from heaven and will forgive our sins of resolutions and heal us and our land.  May it be so according to His Word.