By Aileen Khoo
We started the year with prayer and fasting as we always have done for the longest time that I have been in Cornerstone. This year however, when we began the year with three days of prayer and fasting in January, there was such a sense of the weightiness of the presence of God. When the presence is weighty, I have learnt to slow down and ask God what He is saying.
Since then, the church has upped the ante in terms of prayer. Pastor Yang has also been speaking about revival. What is God doing? What is God saying? I am really excited, and even though I do not know what revival looks like and what to expect, being in the right posture is something I believe is very pertinent in these times.
One of my favourite prophets in the Old Testament is the prophet Habakkuk, who stood on the rampart and said “Lord, speak to me.” He postured himself to hear what the Lord might be saying. If we just say in our hearts, “This is not something on my radar, I am just a church goer, I am just a church attendee,” then when the Lord comes, we will miss it. We will miss the time of visitation.
Being in the right posture is something I believe is very pertinent in these times.
I would like to share from 1 Kings 18 on the prophet Elijah. In verse 1, it says, “And it came to pass after many days that the word of the Lord came to Elijah in the third year, saying, ‘Go, present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the earth.’”
And so Elijah said to Ahab, “I want you to gather all Israel and also the 450 prophets of Baal.” He asked for two bulls and issued the challenge that we are all familiar with. “We each have one bull. We will cut it into pieces and lay it on the wood, putting no fire on it. Then you will call on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the Lord; and the God who answers by fire, He is God,” said Elijah to the camp of Baal.
The prophets of Baal called out from morning till evening. They skipped and danced around. They did everything they could, but there was only silence. There was nothing.
Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me” and they came near to him. He went on to repair the altar of the Lord that had been broken down, using 12 stones – according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob. And to prove that the Lord is the only true God, he went on to pour water over the altar three times.
You will find that the laws of God are not written on tablets of stone, but on tablets of flesh, which is our hearts.
Eventually we read in verse 38 that the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench. All the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and said, ‘The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God!’”
The Lord came powerfully that day. When the people saw the miracle that the Lord did through the prophet Elijah, and the fire of God that fell on the altar, there was a witness that arose in their hearts – this is God indeed.
We know that when Moses came down from Mount Sinai, he came down with two stone tablets. But in the New Testament, you will find that the laws of God are not written on tablets of stone, but on tablets of flesh, which is our hearts.
In 2 Corinthians 3:3, the Apostle Paul says, “Clearly, you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the Living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart."
In the Old Testament, whenever Israel had to present a sacrifice, they had to build a physical altar. If the altar is broken down, as in the days of Elijah, it has to be rebuilt. But today when you walk through the doors of church, you do not come with a bull, and you do not come with firewood. You do not come with things or materials to build a physical structure and we do not see literal fire on an altar. We respond in our hearts – that is where the altar is.
So now, what are the sacrifices of God in the New Testament?
"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart—These, O God, You will not despise." (Psalm 51:17)
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. (Romans 12:1)
"You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 2:5)
The question that I have for us is this: What is the condition of the personal altars of our hearts? Are they intact or broken? And if they are broken, why?
A few weeks ago, I was listening to Dr. Bailey as I was taking a walk and this thought came to me – fire on the altar. The next thought that came after was this: How can fire come down if there are no sacrifices? And how then, can there be sacrifices if the altars are broken down?
One thing that the Covid-19 pandemic did for me was to reveal the fault lines in my life. The very first morning that the Circuit Breaker kicked in, I did not know what to do. We had to work from home and could only go out for essential needs. We could not go for physical church services, or for cell group. Suddenly, there was so much time on our hands. It was as if the world came to a pause, and I realised the poverty of my heart. I realised that I had been so busy with ministry and work that when there was so much time available, I did not know what to do.
When was the last time that you did not come to the Lord because you had a meeting to prepare for, or because there was a sermon that you needed to preach?
During that season, Pastor Yang preached on the subject of abiding. The sermon was titled, “Fruitfulness Begins with the Letter, ‘A’.” And one thing that he said in the sermon struck me, “Tell God all that is in your heart”.
When I heard that, I sat down for the next few days to reflect and mustered up the courage to ask myself, “When was the last time you told God all that was in your heart? When was the last time that you did not come to the Lord because you had a meeting to prepare for, or because there was a sermon that you needed to preach? When was the last time you sat and listened even when there was nobody you needed to minister to?” I missed God. I really did, and I wanted to return to my first love.
It says in the Book of Revelation, “I wish you were either hot or cold, but because you are neither and you are lukewarm, I will spit you out of my mouth.” If you're hot on fire for the things of the Kingdom of God, praise the Lord! If you are cold, you will usually know it. But the difficult part is when you think you're hot, but you're lukewarm. The difficult part is when you think you have something strangely burning in your heart but you are far away.
The prophet, Elijah was speaking in such an era where there was mixture in the camp. How do we know that? He said, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” Israel had mixture in her heart, and she had one foot in both sides of the camp.
How do our altars get broken down?
1. When we leave our first love.
Cold hearts won’t attract revival. If my heart is cold, revival may come, and I would completely miss it. I would not even realise it.
Revival is not just about pre-believers coming into the church. If the church is not even awakened within, how are we going to win the lost? If there is mixture in our hearts, we have one foot in the world and one foot in the Kingdom of God, and if we are lukewarm, we cannot win people who will burn for the Lord. It just doesn't work that way.
Song of Songs 1:6 says, “They made me the keeper of the vineyards, But my own vineyard I have not kept.” I was guilty of that. The Lord tells the church of Ephesus in the Book of Revelation that they have left their first love. Have we left ours?
2. When we allow disappointments in life to take away our trust in God.
Sometimes when we go through perpetual difficulties in life, disappointment after disappointment, we start to allow disillusionment to set in and we begin to lose trust in God.
I remember how as a church, we battled in prayer when Pastor Tim and Pastor Sharon’s firstborn daughter, Jordanna was diagnosed with cancer in 2010. She was only seven years old then. Prayer meetings were held in church and we contended in prayer for healing.
One day, I was walking towards the room where the prayer meeting was held and said to the Lord, “God, you know me, I simply cannot utter with my mouth “heal her, Lord” because I don't have enough faith in my heart.” Just 20 steps away from the prayer room, the Lord said this — “Aileen, I am good.”
This blew my mind. “A seven-year-old is being diagnosed with cancer and You are telling me that You are good?” But when the Rhema word of the Lord comes, it opens up something in the spirit that we may not fully understand with our minds. Understanding comes through the eyes of our hearts. That day, after the prayer meeting, I walked away not only with an experiential knowledge that God is good, but also a deep witness in my heart that, “Death has no sting.” The eternal and divine purposes of God are far greater than what our human understanding can comprehend. As written in 1 Corinthians 15:54, “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
In the midst of disappointment, we may ask – “Why God, why didn’t you heal? Why did I lose my job? Why did that relationship fail? Why?” But God is the same yesterday, today and forever – we must not let our hearts harden.
3. When idols have displaced our affections.
I think about our relationship with the Lord like marriage. We have to work on it constantly.
Like a plant, it needs a certain amount of water to grow.
Psalms 24:3-4 tells us, “Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol…”
When Moses spent 40 days shrouded in a thick cloud, in the presence of God, and he delayed coming down the mountain, the heart of Israel strayed and the people decided that they were going to create something they could see so that they could worship it. They contributed their jewellery and gold to build a golden calf so they could say “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!"
It is so bizarre, and I tell you this, it is in the nature of man to build a form.
Do we have a form of religiosity? Do we have an idol in our hearts? You will know it by asking yourself this — are you able to give up something if the Lord were to ask you to?
To continue reading part II of The Posture for Revival, click here.
This article is adapted from a sermon preached at CSCC.