This week's devotional is from Pastor Jeff Mazzariello.
ENCOUNTER: Read Luke 1:5-25 and 57-66
“But the angel said to him: 'Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard...' " - Luke 1:13
It still is hard to fathom that we have a God who has ALWAYS longed to reveal himself to us. This is why the season of Advent holds so much wonder for us. It is the time when the church celebrates that God has appeared on the scene in human form, to rescue the world from sin and death. He has literally come to us to meet us at our greatest point of need.
So it should not be surprising that when we read this first part of the Christmas story, we see God revealing himself and his plan to one of his servants. This is the story of John the Baptist's parents. Now, John was a key part of the epic story of God's salvation, for he was going to help prepare the world for the coming of Jesus the Messiah. But I don't want to miss also seeing the story within that story. Zechariah has an intimate encounter with God. God has, in fact, not forgotten about Zechariah and "his prayer." Zechariah has been longing, as the text makes clear, for God to bless he and his wife Elizabeth with a child. It's been many years, and by now we would all understand if Zechariah pretty much figured that God wasn't all that concerned about his heart and needs and dreams, and that apparently God was not ever going to show up for him. But God had been listening. And he sent his most trustworthy angel to tell him so. God had not forgotten him. (God had hidden a foreshadowing in this story: Zechariah's name literally means "The Lord remembers.")
Zechariah had been longing, for what seemed like forever, with this deep desire. And he had not given up asking God about it. We, on the other hand, probably out of self protection, tend not to reflect on what desires are planted deep within us. We often won't keep bringing them before the Lord for a variety of reasons.... We think God doesn't care, or we are afraid of disappointment, or we simply don't have time to reflect deeply and ask ourselves what longings, dreams, and visions are deep within us.
If you got in touch with your inner Zechariah, what might some of "your prayers" be? What has God put on your heart to long for, and therefore to contend in prayer for? Have you found yourself giving up, and assuming God isn't all that interested? God loves to show up for us (even if his answer is sometimes different that we might have guessed.) And he does not forget. He has heard your prayers. The Lord remembers.
BE A BLESSING:
Here is one of the secrets to how the Kingdom of God works: When we set out to love and serve someone else, we open our hearts to God in extraordinary ways. (It probably has to do with being so NOT self-centered for a few moments or hours!) But often the end result is both a) that we hear and see God much clearer. And, b) The longings of our hearts become more clear. So we can keep contending for these things, like Zechariah.
In what ways are you regularly blessing others? Can you step out and serve someone today? Then take some time to reflect on what you think you heard God saying to you in the midst of that experience.
Because of the Holy Spirit in our midst, conversation with other brothers or sisters in Christ nearly always yields insights to what God has put on our heart, and how God might be revealing himself to us. Where are you able to be together with another believer this week so that that kind of conversation can happen?
My friends, God has placed burdens and desires deep within you... These are longings that only he can fulfill, and miracles that only he can perform. Get in touch with these, keep them them before the Lord like Zechariah, and be of good cheer. For the Lord has heard your prayers. The Lord remembers.