EHS-GraphicSo today we are heading into the fifth chapter of the book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality and you are probably seeing by now that we are really starting to dive into the deepest parts of who we are.  Well today I think we are going to discuss something that we all have in common, and I think if we can face it, and engage this it can really get to the core of some huge challenges that we all face in life.  Because here’s what I know about you…you have a past, and a family of origin just like me.  Today we are going to look at how our past and how our family of origin can really shape our future and our lives today.  Listen, there really is no bigger topic for us to get into but you are going to have to be open to it.  Why do I say that?  Because a lot of us carry hurts, baggage, issues from our parents, generational sins and pain and that is why so many of us struggle to revisit some stuff from back in the day.  Listen, all that stuff we carry with us is shaping how we are acting today.  It is shaping how we view people, it messes with our relationships and it shapes how we view everyone, and even how we view God…and here is the thing people really don’t want to discuss about the idea of looking into all of that stuff…it’s messy.  It can hurt.  Say you are in this room today and you are 40 years old, that means that you have baggage that you have carried for 30 or more years, there is probably part of you that doesn’t want to touch it, because in some weird way it has become part of you…but in breaking free from it all, you can have freedom and joy and that life to the full that we keep hearing about.  Maybe more than those hurts and baggage that is on you could be this.  Your parents, and their parents, and their parents before them have shaped you, and told you over the years what your reality is…it shapes us.  It shapes the lens by which you look through things as normal and maybe just maybe what you think is normal isn’t normal!  Sometimes that is a hard thing to wrap your mind around.  Could it really be that your parents had hurts and wounds and insecurities and damage that they were working through too?  They did their best to parent you but lived in their own mess, just as their parents did before them…now think that through.  This could mean that some of what they taught you may not exactly be the truth about reality.  This is a challenging thing for us to wrap our minds around.  So we are really going to need to open up our minds and our hearts to this concept today because there is tremendous freedom when we can go backward and find healing in our past which can allow us to move forward in a much healthier way.  It is amazing how much hold our pasts can have on us.

You know last week on Sunday morning I saw this in my own life in a really big way.  My daughter Sydney was playing in a really high level soccer tournament all day Saturday and her team did great.  But by winning their pool it meant that I was going to miss the entire tournament on Sunday morning because I was here with you guys preaching…I was prepared for that, and so was Sydney but it still hurt me.  You may not know it but that was something I was really struggling with last week.  I want my children to know that they are the highest priority in my life next to God and my wife…and I have a real challenge in not being at everything possible.  Now why would I tell you this?  Because those feelings are really intense for me and I will tell you why.  It’s because I grew up a Pastor’s son and I grew up playing sports and I wanted my dad at everything…and there were times when he had church.  It led me to wonder at times what mattered more me or the church, and I just never want my own children to deal with that emotional nonsense…even if it’s just a lie from the enemy that plants something in her mind.  I love my children and I want them to know it, and I work hard to show it in my actions…yet Sunday morning before I get to do the greatest thing God has ever allowed me to do…share Jesus with all of you, I feel like a little boy standing on a baseball field wondering if dad is coming.  I called her on her drive to the field around 6:30am while I was out here at the church and I felt such a weight in my heart when my baby girl asked if I would make it for the championship game at 11am if they won…and I had to tell her I wouldn’t be able too.  It was a huge challenge for me.  I prayed about that even during the worship sets last week because it was so intense and heavy on my heart…it’s amazing how my past still can shape how I act today.  And you know what Sydney’s team won the whole tournament, she made a huge penalty shot to save the day, and she was so proud to show me her medal and she was completely fine with how the day went.  We spent the day watching her play on video and talking about how great she did…and all was well.  No emotional damage and my daughter gets to see that she is my priority but that the mission of Christ is very important too…but that emotion that hit me shows just how much the past can shape the present.

So we all have something in common…we all came from somewhere and we all have had a past and that past has an amazing ability to be full of hurts that we carry that change the way we view people and just life in general and it can be very difficult to begin to investigate that part of our lives.  It can be hard to go back, but it is just so essential.  Remember God loves us enough to want us whole and healed so that we can walk in freedom and we can’t do that if we aren’t willing to reconcile the past.  God wants us to go back even if it is difficult.  Which really brings to mind the story of Elijah and what God asked him today when he was having a really bad day…

To set the scene for you a bit, Elijah is an amazing prophet of God and we are going to pick up his the story as God has just moved through Elijah in an incredible way.  It is a very godless time in Israel where the people led by King Ahab and Queen Jezebel are worshiping the idols Baal and Asherah, and have really turned their backs on God.  Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal to a duel in front of the entire nation of Israel.  It is an incredible moment and Elijah stands tall for God, and God shows Israel who the true God is.  So here’s the challenge, they each have an altar, and a bull.  Whoever’s God lights the altar on fire is the true God.  So the prophets of Baal go first, and they obviously can’t get fire to fall from the sky.  Elijah even talks trash as they try to do it, which is pretty funny you can read about it in 1 Kings 18, and they fail.  Then it’s Elijah turn and he has them saturate the bull and the altar with water until even the trench around the altar is full of water and then He prays one of the most awesome prayers ever prayed…

1 Kings 18:36 “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.” NIV

I love it, let everyone know that you are God, and that I am your servant.  Fire falls from the sky and burns up everything.  The people are in awe and finally see who the true God is…victory for God, victory for Elijah and the prophets of Baal are put to death.  What a great moment.  God has moved mightily.  Everything is going well, and not even a day later, we see Elijah running for his life.  Wait, how in the world does that happen?  Elijah has just watched fire from heaven fall from the sky as an answer to his prayer.  He has prayed that it would rain, and it did rain.  Then Ahab goes home and tells his wife Jezebel that all her prophets are dead because of Elijah…and with one threat from her, he is running for his life.  Wow!  Elijah runs for his life, he runs to the point of exhaustion and just wants to die.  He has gone from on top of the world to wishing he was dead.  He has nothing left in the tank, and is completely ready to give up.  This amazing prophet is in a terrible spot.  After an angel comes to take care of him, he continues running, he literally walks for 40 days, and 40 nights all the way to the Mountain of God, where he crawls into a cave to spend the night.

Then we see the beginning of an amazing conversation between God and Elijah, which starts with a pretty interesting question…

1 Kings 19:9 And the word of the LORD came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” NIV

I love it!  What a question!  In many ways Elijah handles this better than I would have, I’d have been like “Why am I here God?  I just walked 40 days and 40 nights and that is your questions…what!?!?!?”  Elijah responds much better than I would have and says…God I’m working hard, I’ve done everything you asked, I’m now all alone and everyone wants to kill me!  And that is where I want to really pick up this story…

1 Kings 19:11 The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” 15 The LORD said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus.

What an incredible moment.  Don’t you wish you were there, to see this unfold?  All of this chaos comes before him, but God wasn’t in any of the big, noisy events.  Then a gentle whisper…amazing!

What I really want to focus on is what God told Elijah to do because it was not easy.  In fact I think it is probably the last thing he wanted to do.  God said to Elijah, “Go back the way you came.”  Can you imagine how hard that must have been to hear?  “Go back the way I came? God what are you talking about, I’m running for my life.  Everything I’m trying to avoid is back there!  Don’t know if you picked up on the fact that there is an angry queen back there that promised to kill me when she finds me.  God, I’m tired and everything I’m trying to avoid is back where I came from…it would be so much easier for me to not go back there.”

You know life hits us all hard at times.  We all have hurts, and at times find ourselves in spots like Elijah was in here.  Hurting, tired, stressed, and just wanting to check out of the game.  Going back to where we came from is often the LAST thing we would want to do.  It’s so hard to face hurts, to engage issues, and even for some of us to engage our pasts head on.  Remember, God is up to more than just forgiving your sins he wants you whole and healed, and a huge part of this healing is reconciling a past that you can be perceiving as healthy and normal because it’s all you know…when in reality it needs dealt with so we can move forward in true freedom.  We may not want to do it but God doesn’t want us walking through life carrying those open wounds that we are trying not to deal with!  He actually wants us to be healed from them…which may require you to go back from where you came!

Now I want to stop for a moment here and bring this up…some of us have come from very unhealthy situations, we have broken out of addiction and or an abusive situation.  Do not step back into something where you can be hurt…or into a scene that we may not be ready to go back into.  This is an emotional journey not necessarily a physical one.  You may need to keep some distance from some situations so that you aren’t hurt, or so you don’t fall back into the issues you have broken free from, so we need some discernment there.  I really want to be clear on this, please keep your healthy distance from those situations and forgive, move forward and find closure from there.  Protect yourself.

So here’s what I want to do today I want to show you a couple of Biblical truth’s that we need to look at and then I want to share a story and end very similar to how I ended last week, with a question and a time of prayer which again will come right out of the Day by Day book.  We are starting to understand that a huge foundational issue in getting to know ourselves has to do with going back, understanding how our families and cultures have shaped us into who we are today so let’s look at these Biblical truths.

Biblical Truth #1-The blessings and sins of our families going back 3 and 4 generations profoundly impact who we are today.

When the bible uses the word family it refers to your entire extended family over three or four generations.  Do you know what that means?  That means that your family in the Biblical sense includes all your relatives going back into the mid to late 1800’s!  Look back into your family and you will be amazed at how certain events in your family’s history affect so much of who you are today.  What happens in the first generation often repeats itself in the next and the consequences of those actions and decisions from one generation actually can affect the next, and the next, and the next!  Check this out!

Exodus 34:6 GOD passed in front of him and called out, “GOD, GOD, a God of mercy and grace, endlessly patient — so much love, so deeply true —   7 loyal in love for a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, rebellion, and sin. Still, he doesn’t ignore sin. He holds sons and grandsons responsible for a father’s sins to the third and even fourth generation.” MSG

Amazing isn’t it?  The sins of the father flow into the son, the grandson, the great grandson…and if this stuff isn’t dealt with that cycle continues on through all the generations of a family.  It’s really common to see patterns repeat from one generation to the next isn’t it?  We see things like addictive behaviors, alcoholism, sexual abuse, unhealthy marriages ending in very unhealthy ways and on and on it goes.  These are tied to us generationally and here’s what you need to know they can be dealt with very easily with the help of our Savior Jesus…but if we don’t break free from them the cycle will continue.

Biblical Truth #2- Growing Spiritually requires putting off the sinful patterns of our family of origin and relearning how to do life God’s way in Jesus’ new family.

So let me give you some good news…your biological family doesn’t determine your future…God does!  When you ask Jesus into your life you are actually reborn by the Holy Spirit into the family of Jesus with God as our Heavenly Father.  Our sins have been forgiven…and taken away.  We are made new!  We have a new inheritance in Christ that is freedom, hope, glory, and eternal life in heaven and we have new family in our fellow Christian brothers and sisters!  So a huge part of discipleship is putting off the sinful patterns and habits of our biological family and culture…the problem is that we just don’t think and focus on this stuff.  It’s hard to go back, and many of us don’t see the impact that our family of origin and other major events of our past can have on our lives today!  And you just can’t do anything about something that you are not aware of!  We need to break free from this stuff and it starts with identifying that it’s there!  If you think about it, this really gives us a new understanding of some of Jesus’ encounters where he talks about leaving family doesn’t it?

Luke 9:59 He said to another man, “Follow me.” But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.” 62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”  NIV

That is tough stuff…and I often struggled with Jesus saying stuff like that.  Can I honor my father and mother and still disconnect from my father and mother?  There is some tension in that statement from Jesus isn’t there?  It can be a hard story to understand…but when you realize the control that your family and past can have over your life, it really makes a ton of sense.  Jesus wants his disciples to break free from this stuff.  He just sees things on such a clear and higher level here and He let’s them know, it’s time to break free of all that holds you back and follow me!

You know, addressing the past is hard.  Listen all families are broken and have hurts and issues…and it can be really difficult to go back and deal with that stuff…it can be even harder to recognize that there even are issues when you have grown up being told that this is your normal.  The reality is that we all have baggage.  We all have issues and it can be very painful to bring up some stuff that we have buried in our past but it is so important because you are carrying things that you just don’t need to carry.

I want to read this story to you right out of the “Day by Day” book, it has really meant a lot to me…

“There’s and old story about a boy who, having grown up at the edge of a wide, turbulent river, spent his childhood learning to build rafts.  When the boy reached manhood, he felled some trees, lashed them together, and riding his raft, he crossed to the far side of the river.  Because he had spent so long working on the raft, he couldn’t see leaving it behind when he reached the dry land, so he lashed it to his shoulders and carried it with him, though all he came upon in his journeys were a few easily fordable streams and puddles.  He rarely thought about the things he was missing out on because he was carrying the bulky raft-the trees he couldn’t climb, vistas he couldn’t see, people he couldn’t get close to and races he couldn’t run.  He didn’t even realize how heavy the raft was, because he had never known what it was like to be free from it.”  Lori Gordon “Passage Into Intimacy”

Its just such incredible imagery here isn’t it?  We are affected by powerful events from our pasts but the most influential group that affects us is our family of origin.  Even those who leave their families physically as young adults, determined to “break” free from their family history, soon find their family’s way of doing life seems to follow them wherever they go.  It’s amazing those patterns from our pasts play out in our present relationships of today.  And most of the time this is happening without us even being aware of it.  Think back to the stress and pressure and weight I felt because I wasn’t at Sydney’s soccer game last Sunday morning?  It seems like a little over the top right?  I mean I’m at everything possible for my children…so why would missing a U10 soccer game or two matter so much to me?  It’s my past affecting my present.  That emotion that I felt came from somewhere.  It came from growing up as a young boy feeling like he was competing with an entire congregation of people in a church for his father’s attention!  Do you see history repeating itself?  Do you see any behavioral patterns from the past impacting the present for me there?  Amazing isn’t it?  Our family history lives inside us all even those of us who just don’t want to go backwards so we can move forward.

But here’s the good news.  We can be set free from this weight that we all walk in.  What was learned can actually be unlearned.  And by God’s grace and power, we can learn new ways of doing life that help us make the changes and freedom in life possible.  So here’s what I would like to do, I would to close this service the same way we closed the last one.  I would like to ask you a question, and I would like you to take your time to think through this question.  So let’s slow down for a moment, and really just settle into this moment here.  Here’s the question I would like you to answer for yourself today.

Question:  What heavy raft might you be carrying as you seek to climb the mountains God has placed before you?

If you are a human being, you have a past.  You have an origin story and you are carrying unnecessary baggage from your past.  I am still amazed that as I move through life, I still continue to see things from my past popping up in my life that I need to deal with.  This can be hard but it’s so freeing when you do deal with these things.  So if you’re like me and you see this stuff in your life, don’t be discouraged you should be encouraged because you see the work that needs to be done!  You just can’t change something that you don’t know needs changed or dealt with!  So if this is you and this is heavy on your heart today please pray this prayer with me.

Prayer:  Lord, I too prefer to not look at or remember the painful past.  Show me, O Father, the heavy weights and rafts I am carrying due to my past.  Help me to learn what it means to honestly face my past, lift it up to you, and allow you to use it as a means to my maturing and growing in Christ.  In Jesus name, amen.

You know this is going to take time.  It is an ongoing process where I believe God will continue to reveal things in our lives that need dealt with as we move through life.  So yes it can be a challenge to find a new reality and to break free from all of the weight and the rafts of our lives that we are carrying.  But the reality is that we must go backwards if we want to move forward in our lives and when we do we get to live life in a new and joyful way.