Can Our Routines Block Our Blessings? (Y1.T1.D21)
Unsplash, "John Towner"
I'm not a fan of traffic. So when I was contracted to work at the Pentagon in Arlington, VA, I chose to walk to work from the hotel or jump on the metro. However, one week a month, I needed to be at Fort Belvoir to teach.
Being new to the area, I stuck to the route first shown to me by a fellow consultant, 15 miles straight up Highway 1, traffic lights, and all. When a student told me of a faster way via I-395, I didn’t try it. I suffered the worst route because it had become comfortable. It was routine. I liked knowing what was around the bend.
Nicodemus might have felt the same when he sat down to talk to Jesus. John 3 records the conversation between this teacher of the law and Jesus. You might recall a popular section of this encounter about how we should be "born anew” from verse 16. What might surprise you is that Jesus didn't speak these words to the multitudes; he said them to someone who knew the law: Nicodemus.
As a teacher of teachers, Nicodemus spent a lifetime studying God's laws and prophetic teaching. Like all Pharisees, he had established beliefs about the Messiah and how he would appear. It could be why he came to the Savior at night hoping to fit Jesus into the route and routines he knew. But when Jesus offered him a new way, he seemed to miss it.
Of course, laws and routines aren’t bad. They provide protection and safety. However, we should never let the comfort of our rituals block God’s desire for us to experience new and exciting things because our routines can block our blessings.
For those of you who know the National Capital Region, you will be pleased to hear I eventually embraced the slightly faster and much prettier George Washington Parkway to get to class. This gorgeous, tree-lined highway, free of traffic signals and tailgating drivers, is what God wanted me to enjoy the whole time.
Does God Have a New Route for You?
1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 The same came to him by night, and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him.”
3 Jesus answered him, “Most certainly, I tell you, unless one is born anew, he can’t see God’s Kingdom.”
4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?”
5 Jesus answered, “Most certainly I tell you, unless one is born of water and spirit, he can’t enter into God’s Kingdom. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh. That which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Don’t marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born anew.’ 8 The wind blows where it wants to, and you hear its sound, but don’t know where it comes from and where it is going. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
9 Nicodemus answered him, “How can these things be?”
10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and don’t understand these things? (John 3:1–10)
16 “Therefore say, ‘The Lord Yahweh says: “Whereas I have removed them far off among the nations, and whereas I have scattered them among the countries, yet I will be to them a sanctuary for a little while in the countries where they have come.”’
17 “Therefore say, ‘The Lord Yahweh says: “I will gather you from the peoples, and assemble you out of the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.”
18 “‘They will come there, and they will take away all its detestable things and all its abominations from there. 19 I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you. I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them a heart of flesh; 20 that they may walk in my statutes, and keep my ordinances, and do them. They will be my people, and I will be their God. 21 But as for them whose heart walks after the heart of their detestable things and their abominations, I will bring their way on their own heads,’ says the Lord Yahweh.” (Ezekiel 11:16–21)
1 “At that time,” says Yahweh, “I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they will be my people.”
2 Yahweh says, “The people who survive the sword found favor in the wilderness; even Israel, when I went to cause him to rest.”
3 Yahweh appeared of old to me, saying,
“Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love.
Therefore I have drawn you with loving kindness.
4 I will build you again,
and you will be built, O virgin of Israel.
You will again be adorned with your tambourines,
and will go out in the dances of those who make merry.
5 Again you will plant vineyards on the mountains of Samaria.
The planters will plant,
and will enjoy its fruit.
6 For there will be a day that the watchmen on the hills of Ephraim cry,
‘Arise! Let’s go up to Zion to Yahweh our God.’”
7 For Yahweh says,
“Sing with gladness for Jacob,
and shout for the chief of the nations.
Publish, praise, and say,
‘Yahweh, save your people,
the remnant of Israel!’
8 Behold, I will bring them from the north country,
and gather them from the uttermost parts of the earth,
along with the blind and the lame,
the woman with child and her who travails with child together.
They will return as a great company.
9 They will come with weeping.
I will lead them with petitions.
I will cause them to walk by rivers of waters,
in a straight way in which they won’t stumble;
for I am a father to Israel.
Ephraim is my firstborn.
10 “Hear Yahweh’s word, you nations,
and declare it in the distant islands. Say,
‘He who scattered Israel will gather him,
and keep him, as a shepherd does his flock.’
11 For Yahweh has ransomed Jacob,
and redeemed him from the hand of him who was stronger than he.
12 They will come and sing in the height of Zion,
and will flow to the goodness of Yahweh,
to the grain, to the new wine, to the oil,
and to the young of the flock and of the herd.
Their soul will be as a watered garden.
They will not sorrow any more at all.
13 Then the virgin will rejoice in the dance;
the young men and the old together;
for I will turn their mourning into joy,
and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow.
14 I will satiate the soul of the priests with fatness,
and my people will be satisfied with my goodness,” says Yahweh. (Jeremiah 31:1–14)
11 Most certainly I tell you, we speak that which we know, and testify of that which we have seen, and you don’t receive our witness. 12 If I told you earthly things and you don’t believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended out of heaven, the Son of Man, who is in heaven. 14 As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:11–15)
5 The people spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no bread, there is no water, and our soul loathes this disgusting food!”
6 Yahweh sent venomous snakes among the people, and they bit the people. Many people of Israel died. 7 The people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, because we have spoken against Yahweh and against you. Pray to Yahweh, that he take away the serpents from us.” Moses prayed for the people.
8 Yahweh said to Moses, “Make a venomous snake, and set it on a pole. It shall happen that everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” 9 Moses made a serpent of bronze, and set it on the pole. If a serpent had bitten any man, when he looked at the serpent of bronze, he lived. (Numbers 21:5–9)
16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
Much like Nicodemus, I'm afraid I miss a lot of what You say to me. If You have a new route or thought You want me to entertain, give me the confidence to try it. Please guide my steps with Your law (Psalms 119:133), open my eyes to see wonderful things (Psalm 119:18), and provide me with wise companions (Proverbs 13:20). You and You alone can break me free of my ruts.
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