Tuesday, December 21, 2010



We are moving into Part 2 tonight.. last week we discussed a lot about our families and identifying the patterns and cycles that have been passed down. During our group time this evening, you will be given an opportunity to put together what is called a genogram or family tree of sorts.  I believe you will find this exercise enlightening as you go through the various relationships and dynamics that you discover that have been passed down from generation to generation and quite possibly patterns that need to be broken in your life.

God’s desire for us to leave our families is similar to the desire He had for the Israelites to leave Egypt.  Even though they left Egypt physically, a great deal of the culture, beliefs and thinking stayed with them.  In the same way, we make a decision to follow Christ but in reality, we may be following (unconsciously) the commandments and rules of our family that have been internalized not our ‘new family’ – not the commandments of God and His family.

We must to back in order to go forward… we learned that in our last lesson.  Compartmentalization of our lives is one thing that has prevented us as well as others in the church to dig deeply into our roots.  What I mean by this is the compartment where we place all the ‘spiritual’ stuff and nothing else gets integrated into it – ie, emotions, dealing with our past, etc.  When we compartmentalize our lives, we are disconnected spiritually.  All areas of our life need to intersect with the spiritual - finances, relationships, career, emotions, beliefs, etc.

Let’s go back to the story of Frank that we learned about last week.  As Frank digs deeply into his past, he begins to share some things… and in his sharing, since it has not been taught or accepted in the Christian circles he has been in, he feels guilty about uncovering buried family secrets.  He fights the need to expose these things.  Unfortunately, it took the crisis of possibly losing his wife and family to move him to a point (just like so many others in our churches) of dealing with his history and family of origin issues.  How much better it would be if we simply make this a part of our journey.. part of the process of sanctification.  I believe there would be so much grief spared in people’s lives down the road.  

So what did Frank discover? He began to realize some connections as to why he was emotionally unavailable, struggling with intimacy and could not parent his sons well.  As he considered his parent's marriage, he could see that his marriage was much better than theirs but was it healthy?  His father’s father was physically abusive and an alcoholic.  But his father had become a Christian. He seemed to be ok but .. he did struggle his whole life with some sort of sexual addiction.  Frank’s family had moved an average of every 3 years as his dad took on various assignments in the army.  Therefore, he never developed close friends anywhere.  The entire family revolved around his dad.  He was angry.. and his mom tiptoed around him.  Her whole life was about him.. she gave up all her wants and desires for him and the kids (codependency/enabling).  She had died recently and Frank was feeling the loss now that was a bit different.. he was feeling grief over the fact that he sees that she never really lived.. she just existed.

As Frank continued to work through his history with a safe person, he revealed his struggle with pornography of which he was exposed to at the age of 12.  Because dealing with our past and our ‘issues’ is not part of our discipleship or spiritual formation, generational sins and patterns are passed on and will continue to be passed on without interventions – those that bring people into the power of the Lord Jesus that He offers each and every one of us.  We are all part of a new family and we do not have to be controlled or have our futures determined by our biological family of origin!  We can have a radical new beginning but that beginning always starts by this realization and taking that inside look we have been talking about for months.

What does the Bible instruct us about our family?  Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived at a house where he was teaching and they were looking for him to come outside.  Jesus responded:  Mark 3:33-35
   33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.
 34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
             The church for us/ for the believer is now God’s family.  And what about loyalty and honoring our parents?  Matthew 10:37 ..
   37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
   Jesus calls all of us to have our first loyalties to Him. 
Discipleship, growing into spiritual maturity then is: putting off the sinful patterns and habits of our biological families and being transformed to live as members of Christ’s family.    We can however, still honor our parents, culture and histories but obey God.  We all have to look at our brokenness and sin of our family and culture – it is a must, not an option.  Philosopher George Santanya said it well: “Those who cannot learn from the past are doomed to repeat it”. 

In God’s family, we are called to be faithful to His purposes and plans for our lives.  We are called to seek first His kingdom and righteousness (see Matthew 6:33). 

Let’s have a look at how some families are outlined or defined.  This is called the ‘Beaver System Model’ which is outlined in the ‘Emotionally Healthy Spirituality’ book.

Level 5: The Family Pain --- severely disturbed family, leadership is lacking, chaos, uncertainly, confusion, turmoil.  Conflicts are never dealt with or resolved.  No ability to look at issues clearly

Level 4: The Borderline Family ---polarized family, instead of anarchy like level 5, a dictatorship rules here, instead of ‘no rules’, there are black and white rules, rigid ways of thinking, feeling and behaving – expected from all members.  Cannot say ‘you disagree’ with anything said

Level 3: The Rule-Bound Family ---not in chaos or under dictatorship, healthier than level 4 but feeling loved or good about oneself depends on obeying the spoken and unspoken rules.  ‘if you love me, you will do all the things you know will meet with my approval’.  It seems the rules are more important than the individual.. and there may be a subtle level of manipulation, intimidation and guilt that permeates the home.

Levels 2 & 1: Those that may also be classified as ‘semi-healthy’ or ‘semi-functional’.. The Adequate Family and the Optimal Family --- ability to be flexible and cherish each individual member while at the same time valuing a sense of closeness.  Good feelings, trust, and teamwork by the parents enable members to work through difficulties and conflicts.  The one things that distinguishes level 1 and level 2 families is ‘delight’.. level 1 families truly delight in being with one another.

We discussed Joseph briefly last week.. let’s go into a little more detail about his life tonight.  Joseph actually models for us how to go back to go forward.  ¼ of the book of Genesis is about Joseph’s spiritual journey into maturity and his living out his unique destiny in God.  

Background on Joseph: His family was characterized by great brokenness and sadness. He was the 11th of 12 sons and was his father, Jacob’s favorite. He was in a complex, blended family – Jacob had 2 wives and 2 concubines and all including the children lived under the same roof.  Joseph appears to be, as a teen, very arrogant and his sharing of his dreams and visions from God actually alienated him more and more from his siblings. Their hatred of him grew to the point of faking his death and selling him as a slave to Egypt.  Lying, half-truths, secrecy and jealousy were all part of the generational patterns in the family and certainly this act of the brothers took it to a new level. In many ways we could say that the level and number of secrets in a family gives an indication of its sickness/ dysfunction. Joseph’s family, by this standard, was very sick!

Imagine being Joseph – lost his parents, siblings, culture, food, language, freedom, hopes – all in one day!  Devastating!  Then to top it off .. while in Egypt he is falsely accused of rape and sent to prison and spent at least 10-13 years there.  What a waste! What betrayal! His life to the age of 30 all seems to be nothing but tragedy.  If anyone should have been filled with bitterness, rage, resentment because of their history and family pain, it would be Joseph!  And what about his feelings toward God?  If anyone could have been angry, frustrated, lose hope in the Lord, it would be Joseph!  Yes.. he remained faithful even when horrific events happened outside of his control.  The Word describes Joseph as ‘walking with God’.

Finally, the miraculous happened and Joseph was pulled out of the pit and he continued to walk with God until his dying day and eventually he was a blessing to his family of origin, Egypt and the world.  Joseph honored and blessed the family that betrayed him.  How could he do that?  God’s grace… and Joseph was willing to back to go forward!

Lessons from his life on how to go back to go forward:
1.       He had a profound sense of the bigness of God. – Joseph continually affirmed the large, loving involvement of God through all his hardship and pain.  He affirmed that God mysteriously leads us into His purposes even through the dark times.  God has history in His grip – He is in control.  He affirmed that God was ‘bigger’ than any and all of his circumstances.  “God never wastes a hurt”.  When we surrender our mistakes, sin, hurts, betrayals, disappointments to God, He takes the detours and uses them to orchestrate His purposes.  Joseph rested in God’s goodness and love even when circumstances when from bad to worse.  He hung on to the ‘love of God’ just like we need to as we are digging deeply into the hurts and mistakes of the past or dealing with our heartache today because of our life situation.

2.       He admitted honestly the sadness and losses of his family. – Most of us resist going back and feeling pain and hurt of our past.  We can envision it as a black hole that we will fall into and never come out.  We wonder at times, when we do this hard work if it is only getting worse and never better.  We must do the same as Joseph.. every encounter he had with his family that triggered the loss and pain.. he took the time to weep, feel, deal with all that was there deep within his sole.  In fact, his weeping was so intense Genesis 45:2 says that he wept so loudly the Egyptians heard him. He did not rationalize or minimize the painful years of his past.  

I was talking to someone the other day about Hannah in Samuel/ the old testament.  Hannah was barren and longed for a child.. The Word describes her pain and lament such that she was inconsolable.  There are times in our lives that we grieve and feel pain so deeply that it/ we cannot be consoled – we cannot speak – we cannot pray.  Ever been there?  I have.. there have been times that I felt my heart was going to literally explode within me from the pain.  As difficult as it is, we must honestly admit the sadness and losses in our families. 

3.       He rewrote his life script according to God’s word. – Joseph could have bought into a lot of lies because of the things that happened to him.  In fact, he may have for a season and then overcame them with truth just like each of us has the ability to do. He may have made vows to himself just like we have…’I’ll never trust again. I’ll never allow anyone to get close to me again”  “I’ll never take risks” “I’ll never allow myself to ‘feel’ that deeply again”. 
What are the vows and beliefs that have been part of your life?  What is the life script that has been handed to you through your family of origin and experiences?  Joseph was very aware of the script given to him… he made the decision to rewrite it – his future – with God.

When our script has been rewritten or it is being rewritten we will notice something when around our family of origin.  We will no longer go back to our patterns of behaving in a certain role  - we break free from our past and are able to live in what God has for us now not how they view us or how we once viewed ourselves in that family system.  Examples.

4. He partnered with God to be a blessing. ---Joseph had the power to destroy his brothers in anger.  Instead he joined with God to bless them.  For many of us, that may seem impossible for us to do given our circumstance but with God, ALL things are possible.  When our whole lives are structured around loving and following the Lord, we will be able to make godly choices just like Joseph.  When confronted with an opportunity for revenge or blessing, we will choose blessing.  Jesus said in Luke 6:28 

28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

1.       Take the next 10 minutes to put together your own family genogram/ family tree.  Feel free to use other symbols that are not provided in the handouts.  Use whatever will help you in identifying patterns/ cycles that have been passed on in your family as well as symbols.  Once this is completed, each person will have an opportunity to share their insights.
2.       Share your experiences good and bad of the differences you have encountered with your biological family and the family of God.
3.       Of the Five Levels of family – which do you most identify with as your family of origin?  Which identifies your current family system?  And which identifies your ‘family of God’ system you are currently in?
4.       Based upon your findings tonight, what are the areas you need to intentionally work on in order to move forward in Christ (boundaries, dealing with conflict, intimacy, etc)?

Friday, December 10, 2010



Being healthy spiritually is about being in reality, not denial or illusion.  We are free to live joyfully in the present but it oftentimes means we must go back in order to go forward.  This part of the journey is probably one of the most difficult, but it is a HUGE part that has been missing in most discipleship.  In order to be spiritually mature, we must break destructive sinful patterns of our pasts to live the life of love that God intends.

Frank’s Story (listen to audio) – his life is like so many others in the church.  Many years of ‘being saved’ but not becoming ‘whole’.  Frank’s life example is like so many others we know or maybe we are Frank… and the only way out and forward is to go back.  

There are two essential biblical truths we need to go from here:
1.       The blessings and sins of our families going back 2-3 generations profoundly impact who we are today.
2.       Discipleship requires putting off the sinful patterns of our family of origin and relearning how to do life God’s way in God’s family.

The pathway to health and wholeness calls for these key biblical ingredients to be central in our understanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.  And it is one that has been overlooked for far too long!
Family in the bible more often than not refers to our entire extended family over 3-4 generations.  That means your family going as far back as the 1800’s at this point.  We are all certainly affected by external events in our lives and very powerfully I might add but.. the greater influence and most powerful effect comes from our families.

Think about things that have been going on through generations in your family.  What has happened in one generation often repeats itself in the next and following.  If not the ‘same thing’, it may be a varied form of it.  The actions and decisions made in one generation can affect all those that follow.. Powerful!

I asked you to think about your family.. what are some of the patterns that you very quickly think of:  is there a pattern of pregnancy out of wedlock?, rocky relationships, divorce, codependent patterns, addictions, sexual abuse, mistrust of authority, prejudice, etc…? Professionals who have researched patterns through generations are still out on the reason.  Is it ‘nature’ or ‘nurture’?  Meaning…  is this a course of nature – part of our DNA in the family or is it nurture – our environment or.. is it both?  I believe it is both.   Discuss examples:  adopted children – still become addicts even in a loving environment void of substance abuse (twins ex)..  Actually, I believe there is an added reason and that is 'spiritual warfare'.  I believe there are literally 'spiritual assignments' on families.  Satan has assigned evil spirits/ demonic forces to impact and influence families for generations.. we cannot discount the affect of spiritual warfare / evil on people/our families.  Therefore, there are 3 reasons:  nature, nurture and forces in the spirit realm.

The bible doesn’t clearly answer the question of nature vs. nurture but we do find some truth that supports the idea of dealing with generational issues.  Exodus 20:4-6

 4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
and it is repeated in slightly different words in Exodus 34:6-7 .. 6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.” And again we see this with King David in 2 Samuel 12:10.. God declared, “10 Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.                    
Family tensions, sibling rivalry, and internal strife marked his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren for generations!

Truth is:  many of these patterns of dysfunction are being played out in our families and many people are totally unaware.  It is not possible to erase the negative effects of our family history – even though we may try to deny it or bury it – only the truth – facing the reality of it has the potential of setting us free – with Christ’s power.

So what does the Bible offer us as it relates to examples of dysfunctional families and generational issues?  Many years ago I studied this topic and with a team of others, put together a workbook to be used in a support group setting to help people overcome some of their generational issues and hurts from the past. Since then, I have come across even more readings and educational resources on the topic.  The American Assn of Christian Counselors has a training course that goes deeply into this issue using Biblical examples and Pastor Scazzero included a few examples in his book.  First of all, let me ask you a question.  Do you come from a dysfunctional family? 
Of course you do.. we all do.. there are no perfect families or perfect people for that matter, therefore, there are areas of dysfunction in EVERY family.  Now.. can there be families that are pretty functional and pretty healthy.. sure!  How many are there?  Well… I am having difficulty finding many out there that are but that doesn’t mean this is a ‘bad’ thing… it just is… it is reality.. so.. we have to face reality. We all come from dysfunction, therefore, we all need to make peace with our past.. and even if it does not come from our family of origin, we all have pain and hurt that needs to be addressed so we can move forward.  We may have unresolved pain from our peers, teachers, other authority figures, etc.
Back to our Biblical support – the bible is full of interesting characters and interesting families - People we can all learn from.  The folks we will focus on right now will be Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Genesis relates the truth that sins and blessings are passed from generation to generation and how it works out.  Blessing came through Abraham for his obedience to his children – Isaac and then to his grandchildren – Jacob, and to his great-grandchildren – Joseph and his brothers.  At the same time, we see a pattern of sin and brokenness transmitted through the generations.  We see confirmation that more is ‘caught than taught’.

A Pattern of Living in Each Generation
- Abraham lied twice about Sarah 
– Isaac and Rebecca’s marriage was characterized by lies 
– Jacob lied to almost everyone; his names means ‘deceiver’   
- Ten of Jacob’s children lied about Joseph’s death, faking a funeral and keeping a family secret for over ten years..   Remember what we said a few classes ago about secrets?  We are as sick as our secrets!

Favoritism by at least one Parent in Each Generation
- Abraham favored Ishmael    
- Isaac favored Esau    
- Jacob favored Joseph and later Benjamin

Brothers Experience a Cutoff From One another in Each Generation
- Isaac and Ishmael (Abraham’s sons) were cut off from one another 
– Jacob fled his brother Esau and was completely cut off for years.     
–Joseph was cut off from his 10 brothers for over a decade.

Poor Intimacy in the Marriages of Each Generation
- Abraham had a child out of wedlock with Hagar    
- Isaac had a terrible relationship with Rebecca     
 - Jacob had 2 wives and 2 concubines

Most of us underestimate the power and influence of our family of origin.  Many want to dismiss any of the unpleasantries and just focus on the good stuff.  However, we must investigate all of our experiences in order to fully understand who we are and why we are the way we are.  There are some things that need to be changed in us and by understanding some of the verbalized and non-verbalized rules that came through our family, it enables us to begin to break some of the generational patterns and dysfunctions. 

I learned a long time ago that 3 of the unspoken rules in a dysfunctional family are:  1. don’t talk  2. don’t trust  3. don’t feel…    Here are a few other verbal and non-verbalized commandments/ rules/ teachings passed down by category that may exist (from Emotionally Healthy Spirituality):

1.    MONEY --  1. money is the best source of security  2. the more yo have, the more important you are 3. make lots of it to prove you ‘made it’
2.    CONFLICT – 1. avoid it at all costs  2. don’t get people mad at you  3. loud, angry, constant fighting is normal
3.    SEX – 1. is not to be spoken about openly  2. men can be promiscuous, women must be chaste  3. sexuality in marriage will come easily
4.    GRIEF AND LOSS – 1. sadness is a sign of weakness 2. you are not allowed to be depressed  3. get over losses quickly and move on.
5.    EXPRESSING ANGER – 1. anger is dangerous and bad 2. explode in anger to make a point  3. sarcasm is an acceptable way to release anger
6.    FAMILY – 1. you owe your parents for all they have done for you 2. don’t speak of your family’s ‘dirty laundry’ in public 3. duty to family and culture comes before everything
7.    RELATIONSHIPS – 1. don’t trust people – they will let you down  2. nobody will ever hurt me again  3. don’t show vulnerability
8.    ATTITUDES TOWARDS DIFFERENT CULTURES – 1. only be close friends with people who are like you  2. do not marry a person of another race or culture  3. certain cultures /races are not as good as mine.
9.    SUCCESS – 1. is getting into the ‘best schools’  2. is making lots of money  3. is getting married and having children
10.                     FEELINGS AND EMOTIONS – 1. you are not allowed to have certain feelings  2. your feelings are not important  3. reacting with your feelings without thinking is okay

We can all certainly add to this list.. begin to think about the verbal and nonverbal commandments about gender roles, physical affection, how our family viewed God, or other churches.  I learned a lesson in college from one of my professors who really influenced me: “Dr. C” – he always told us to ‘know what we believe and why we believe it’.  I have used this statement over and over in my life to challenge why I believe something and it has brought me into greater, more accurate truth about a variety of things in my life.  I no longer believe something just because that is what I was ‘taught’ growing up or.. followed in someone’s footsteps and believed what they believed.. instead, I have spent years discovering what I believe, challenged many of my beliefs, and still do by the way, taking them to God to bring revelation.. He shows me truth! 
Ponder your beliefs… ponder your family of origin.  Our history has shaped our current lives profoundly. Therefore, in order to go forward we MUST go back to break the power of the past!   Are you willing?


1.      Frank’s Story – share about any part of Frank’s story that you can personally relate to or have seen in other believer’s lives.
2.      Discuss the Biblical examples and support for generational issues being passed on in families.  What is your response to this?  What are the thoughts and feelings you have as it relates to these truths?
3.      Discuss the 10 Commandments of your family that were presented.  What other categories can you think of in your family of origin that had verbal and/or nonverbal rules?

Friday, December 3, 2010



Luke 4:1-13 – Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness outline three false identities or masks that Satan offers each of us.  These thoughts come from Pastor Peter Scazzero. 

Temptation #1 – “I am what I do” (performance)
In Mathew 4:3, the devil said to Jesus “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread”.   In reality, our culture asks us the same question:  we are challenged about ‘who we are’ by ‘what we do’.  What contribution have you made?  What have you achieved? How have you demonstrated your usefulness?  What do you do?  We define ourselves the way the world defines us – by our successes – how you do in work, school, church, etc.  How many letters to you have after your name?  Even the church has fallen prey to this lie..many are not able to minister because they don't have certain 'degrees'.

It is possible that when we don’t see ourselves as successful in certain areas, be may work harder and faster, or.. we may turn inward and become depressed out of shame or perhaps we’ll blame others for our lack of success.  Earthly success is one of Satan’s temptations to get us to buy into a false self – he gets us to believe that we can find our worth and value outside of God and His amazing love!

Temptation #2 – “I am what I have” (possessions)
Jesus was taken to see all the magnificence and power of the earth.  The devil basically said to him “Look around you at what everyone else has, you don’t have anything.  How can you think you are somebody? How will you survive? You’re a nobody”.  The devil played on profound issues of fear and the source of his security as a human being. 
Our culture measures our success by what we own.  And the media seduces us into buying more and promises the hope of feeling and believing we have value and worth because of it..   We have to have certain cars, a certain size house, gadgets, toys, ipods, even a certain type of phone!!!  It’s all about comparison…. We compare – who has the most money/ stuff, who has the best education, body, talents, awards, even who has the best looking girlfriend/ boyfriend, wife/ husband.  We look at all of these things like they are trophies and hope they will make us feel good about who we are.  Inevitably, we are left empty.  We must all get to the place where we can define ourselves as one immensely loved by God and find our personal worth in Him, who says of us, “we are his children, whom He loves, and whom He is well pleased”. Matthew 3:17
Our possessions, talents and applause from other people will never be sufficient for security!  - surrendering our will to the Father is the way to find God’s love as the true anchor for who we are!

Temptation #3 – “I am what others think” (popularity)
Some of us are addicted to what people think.. and we have become people-pleasers.  Satan invited Jesus to throw himself down from the highest spot of the temple that people might believe in him.  At this point, people did not think anything of Jesus.  He was, in effect, pretty much invisible.  So...How in the world could he believe/ think he had value?  Ever felt that way before? Invisible.. no one really knows who you are.. no one really cares.  For many of us, that doesn’t change unless……… unless we get that compliment and then our self-image soars!!  And on the down side… we get that criticism… and all of a sudden we are devastated and our self-worth plummets! 

True freedom comes when we no longer need to be somebody special in other people’s eyes.  Freedom will come when we know we are lovable and simply ‘good enough’ because God says so!

To summarize the temptations/ lies we buy into -- The book, Search for Significance which we teach classes on puts it this way:  the world’s system’s equation is:
My Performance + Others Opinions = My Significance/Value

What a lie!  And this lie is destroying many people’s lives..  Do you like biographies?  Read about the life of Joe DiMaggio, Sheila Walsh from the 700 Club – singer, writer, I mentioned the life of Hybel’s wife in the last lesson.  In these cases as is the case in many of our lives, the false self has become such a part of who we are that we don’t even realize it.  

The consequences are: fear, self-protection, possessiveness, manipulation, self-destructive tendencies, self-promotion, self-indulgence, jealousy.

So.. how do we find our authentic self?  We need to take the time for discovery.  As homework this week begin to write some things out about yourself and be as specific as possible.   
What are your likes and dislikes? write about your personality – introvert/extrovert, temperament, what are your beliefs about the things of life, what is the unique vision/ calling/ mission God has you on in this life? – there is probably more than one but try to write a mission statement for your life.  Corporations do this all the time.. even churches.  Do it!

Jesus—almost everyone had expectations of him, or a false self, to impose on his life.  He lived faithfully to his true self and by doing so, he disappointed a lot of people.  But.. he was secure in himself and his Father’s love – thus, he was able to withstand the enormous pressure of others’ expectations. 

-        He disappointed his family of origin (see Mark 3:21)
-        He disappointed the people he grew up with in Nazareth (see Luke 4:38-29).  When he declared who he was, they tried to push him over a cliff.  Have you ever experienced rejection in your own family? neighborhood? with your close friends? - 'a prophet is without honor in his own town' .. you have the answers but no one is listening.. they don't believe in you or trust your judgment.  They can hear the same thing from someone else and all of a sudden it is great life changing wisdom.
-        He disappointed his closest friends – the 12 apostles 
-        He disappointed the religious leaders 

Nonetheless, in all the disappointing, Jesus stayed true to Himself and was able to maintain a non-anxious presence and confidence despite  the great stress. Jesus was not selfless or selfish.  He had a mature, healthy ‘true self’.  

John 13

 2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 
Yes.. Jesus knew who He was, where He was going and what His purpose was.. He was authentic and confident just as He calls us to be.
The pressure is on us to live a life that is not our own – live a false self.  It is a battle we must win in order to be people who are healthy spiritually and be a true disciple of Christ.

TEST – On a scale from 0 – 100 – 100 being Jesus Christ and His being able to experience his ‘true self’, where might you place yourself on the scale?  

1.    Pay attention to your interior world in silence and solitude
2.    Find trusted companions – a sponsor/ accountability partners/ mentors.  We need others to be involved because the warfare, pressure of the world and the lies we believe are great.
3.    Be prepared to move out of your comfort zone – dying to your false self and allowing the true self to come out is going to be uncomfortable and at times, challenging.  Keep reminding yourself as you go through the awkwardness of trying and ‘being’ different, that the greatest gift you give the world is being your true self living in loving union with God. 
4.    Pray for Courage – and then pray some more… ‘courage is fear that has said its prayers’ is a definition I came across many years ago.  – so true!  You will need to courage to continue down this path.. interestingly, there will be people around you that don’t like the changes you are making and they will be verbal about it or simply begin to treat you differently.  There may be opposition from them in three stages (from Murray Bowen, originator of the term differentiation).  

-        Stage one: “you are wrong for changing and here are the reasons why”
-        Stage two: “change back and we will accept you again”
-        Stage three: “If you don’t change back, these are the consequences” (which they usually share with you)

I remember very well when I was going through my changes and how my family and friends reacted to it.  Friends: ‘I liked you better when you drank’.  ‘next thing you’ll be telling us you’re a Jesus freak’.  Family: set boundaries with them on substance abuse – thankfully they understood and accommodated and thankfully, many made some positive changes in their lives eventually.  I also realize that who I am / my relationship with Christ causes some to misjudge me – for some reason, my very presence causes them to feel that I am ‘judging’ them… or expressing my beliefs and opinions makes them feel that way even though I in no way point a finger at them. People will reject us simply because the Holy Spirit is in us.... this makes them feel convicted and uncomfortable.

As we change, we must be willing to tolerate the discomfort necessary for growth.  Pray for the Holy Spirit’s power to withstand rejections and to continue on.  In some cases, you will be challenging deep generational patterns so expect some strong emotions and spiritual warfare!

Hang in there!  The journey will have some turns and bumps in the road but finding the ‘real you’ and our ‘real God’ is worth it!

Share experiences in doing the Homework from a couple of weeks ago:   pick one of these categories and practice .. Journal, share, express your feelings about:   1.        the church (your church/ the Body of Christ)  2. your life (this encompasses a lot – your work, ministry, character)  3. the different relationships you have (spouse, friends, family members, children)
1.       Of the 3 temptations, which do you identify with most?
2.  Go over test results
3.  Go through the 4 Steps in becoming your ‘authentic self’ and discuss each as it relates to you personally and what you will do with the steps over the next month.
-        Pay attention to your interior world in silence and solitude
-        Find trusted companions – a sponsor/ accountability partners/ mentors. 
-        Move out of your comfort zone
-        Pray for Courage





Thursday, November 25, 2010


Thanksgiving  - it's the first of 3 holidays coming up…
Sheesh.. are holidays really necessary?, some of us may think.  Well.. we need to be aware of the fact that holidays can have a different meaning and purpose in our lives than those perhaps that we have learned over the years or what the world continues to teach us.

The word holiday comes from the Greek word “kadosh” which means to set apart from sin; to devote to God – ‘holy day’ – ha!  I think our holidays are very far removed from being holy these days…  (my story.. memories of the day before Thanksgiving – did you know that the night before Thanksgiving is the highest drinking day of the year – what? That's right; over and above New Years Eve) 

The Bible is full of examples of holidays..  especially in the old testament..  many were days of feasts, celebration, work was prohibited, people gathered for worship
Other holidays were more solemn.. they were opportunities for national repentance & cleansing, self-examination, and self denial like the ‘Day of Atonement’

What this means to us is that there truly is an appropriate time for both…  you can make them what you need them to be as God guides you..
Perhaps this Thanksgiving you need separation and consecration to God during this time..   Or.. maybe you need to celebrate – rejoice – bask in the joy of gratitude…

No matter where you are or what you need, there are reasons for you to participate in some way in the Holidays…..’Holy Days’.. you/ we may just need to re-define them…..  so.. let’s focus on that…

Re-defining Participation in the Holidays - "Holy Days"

1)    Allow them to be personal – what you need and what God has designed for you – celebration or…. separation & consecration – we can actually take this time as a time to rest despite the presumed busyness – it will take discipline and some scheduling but we can do it!
2)    Allow yourself to go through them right where you are --- but keep pressing toward truth, change, new experiences.  What does this mean?  Perhaps things are strained in your family right now and you are not in a good place emotionally.. give yourself permission to just ‘be’ and know your limitations.  Don’t do things out of obligation.. only do those things out of ‘obedience’..  What is God asking of you – not, what are others expecting out of you/ guilting you to do?  Perhaps you are single and you don’ t have family in the area – maybe God wants you to reach out to others and make a change this year – you provide something for those in the same situation (I know someone who is doing this for Thanksgiving - what a blessing)  Again, remember to chose 'Obedience' not 'Obligation'
3)    Allow this time to be a cultivation of the attitude of gratitude…   (our family – we have a bean tradition at Thanksgiving that I picked up from Focus on the Family many years ago – sharing at the table what we are thankful for as the basket goes around and we put our bean in the basket.  These have been very precious times in our family) --- Set aside time to remind yourself of the goodness of God.. Through others, through remembering answered prayer, through His word..  Let’s look at:

Psalm 103 Of David.

 1 Praise the LORD, O my soul;
       all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
 2 Praise the LORD, O my soul,
       and forget not all his benefits-

 3 who forgives all your sins
       and heals all your diseases,

 4 who redeems your life from the pit
       and crowns you with love and compassion,

 5 who satisfies your desires with good things
       so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

 6 The LORD works righteousness
       and justice for all the oppressed.

 7 He made known his ways to Moses,
       his deeds to the people of
 8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
       slow to anger, abounding in love.

 9 He will not always accuse,
       nor will he harbor his anger forever;

 10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
       or repay us according to our iniquities.

 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
       so great is his love for those who fear him;

 12 as far as the east is from the west,
       so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

 13 As a father has compassion on his children,
       so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;

 14 for he knows how we are formed,
       he remembers that we are but dust. 

4 Reasons to give Thanks
not only does is affect our mood and attitude but…
1)  We have the opportunity to experience peace

 Philippians 4:6-7 (New King James Version) 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

2)  It gives us perspective on how Big God Is!

Psalm 69:30 (Amplified Bible)I will praise the name of God with a song and will magnify Him with thanksgiving,

Magnify the Lord - I always thought of this word as the same as praise because it is typically in context with praise and worship in the Word.  However, consider this:  when we magnify the Lord - we make Him bigger! and bigger!  As God is magnified, made bigger in our lives, our problems, challenges, difficulties become smaller.

3)  It gives God glory!  

2 Corinthians 4:15 (New King James Version)15 For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.

4)  Because Jesus Did!

1Cor 11:23-24  For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me."

Many of us have lost loved ones – probably all of us – and for some of us – it’s been recent – maybe this year, last year, a few years ago.. and every holiday we remember.. we go over memories of holidays with those who are no longer with us..    Maybe you smell something or see something that will all of a sudden remind you of them.. and then your heart is flooded with emotion.. your mind is filled with all the memories. 

Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, challenged us… He challenged us to remember at the Lord’s supper/ His final Passover meal..…  Even though we never touched him.. walked this earth with Him..  He wants us to remember just like we are taken back in time when we smell, see, taste something that reminds us of those we love who have gone before us.  

What do we remember?  Do you remember the answered prayers this month, this week? Remember His provision…  remember His protection? Do you remember the first time you experienced His forgiveness?  Remember the first time you felt His presence/ His love?    We can all be thankful no matter what our circumstances may be today..  Let’s give thanks today as we spend time together with our friends and loved ones.  Let's redefine our 'holy days' this year and make them better than they ever have been before!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lillian Easterly-Smith, LifeCare: BECOMING YOUR AUTHENTIC SELF

Lillian Easterly-Smith, LifeCare: BECOMING YOUR AUTHENTIC SELF: "THE PATHWAY TO HEALTHY SPIRITUALITY - LESSON 7BECOMING YOUR AUTHENTIC SELF Augustine wrote “How can you draw close to God when you are far f..."


Augustine wrote “How can you draw close to God when you are far from your own self?”  He prayed, “Grant, Lord that I may know myself that I may know you”.   
St. Teresa of Avila wrote “Almost all problems in the spiritual life stem from a lack of self-knowledge”  I would have to agree. 
We talked briefly in our last lesson about the practices in a Christian’s life that may or may not be part of our current journey.  I added one that I know Pastor Peter would agree with but was not part of his list in his book “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” – the practice of daily self-reflection/ self-examination (Psalm 139).  I mentioned that this practice is one that is highly encouraged in the 12 Step Program.. it’s Step 10 – ‘daily take a personal inventory of ourselves, and when we are wrong, promptly admit it’.  People in recovery understand the need for keeping short accounts in order to stay healthy & sober.. people in recovery also understand the huge need for self-examination and reflection.  ALL PEOPLE  should realize it’s importance.  We all have blind spots.. if we are going to eliminate them, we have to take the time to allow God to search us and then be willing to face what He reveals.
When we consider this lesson about becoming our ‘authentic self’, we must realize that doing Step 10 – our self-examination has to be a priority.  Sadly, most people are clueless about who they are these days… and sadly, most people who do, don’t like who they are.  Most are living someone else's life or someone else’s expectations of them.  So how do we get there?  How do we find our authentic self?  We have to first start out with owning our emotions. Researchers have classified them into some main groupings:
§        Anger (fury, hostility, irritability, annoyance, frustration)
§        Sadness (grief, self-pity, despair, dejection, loneliness)
§        Fear (anxiety, edginess, nervousness, fright, terror, apprehension)
§        Enjoyment (joy, relief, contentment, delight, thrill, euphoria, ecstasy)
§        Love (acceptance, trust, devotion, adoration)
§        Surprise (shock, amazement, wonder)
§        Disgust (contempt, scorn, aversion, distaste, revulsion)
§        Shame (guilt, remorse, humiliation, embarrassment, chagrin)

Once we identify them/ name them, we need to express them – the goal is to express them in a healthy manner but.. oftentimes when we haven’t allowed ourselves to ‘feel’ for so long, we don’t know how and we may have never seen a healthy model of expression either.  
Pastor Peter learned some things about non-expression the hard way.  He says "to deny our pain, losses and feelings year after year, we become less and less human.  We transform slowly into empty shells with smiley faces painted on them.  Sad to say, that is the fruit of much of our discipleship in our churches.”  When he began to allow himself to feel, he also began to understand that the failure to appreciate the biblical place of feelings within our Christian lives has done extensive damage, keeping people in slavery – and he was one of them.

Give yourself permission to feel and know it is Biblically correct.  God feels.  You feel.  God thinks.  You think.  God wills.  You will.  We are human beings made in His likeness and part of His likeness is to feel.  

Biblical support that God feels:   
Genesis 6:6 – grieved, 
Exodus 20:5 – jealous, 
Hosea 11:8 – compassion, 
Matthew 26:37-38 – sorrowful, 
Mark 3:5 – anger, 
Luke 10:21 – full of joy
If you were like me and had frozen feelings or perhaps you are totally unaware of your emotions, you may struggle with some of the following beliefs/ excuses of which we need to attend to:
§        I’m just not good at feelings and I really don’t have time for this.  My family was more about ‘doing’.
§        I don’t know what I am feeling – it’s all a big blur.
§        At times, when I am going to interact with authority figures or somebody I don’t know, I get physical sensations but I don’t know why it is happening (that’s an indication you are feeling something – often our bodies react/ feel before it registers in our minds anyway)
§        Sometimes I’m flooded by emotions that disorganize and confuse me.
§        After a difficult meeting with someone (conflict), I get depressed and I don’t know why
§        When I feel bad, I can’t tell if I’m scared or angry
§        I carry an overwhelming feeling that I am shameful, guilty and/or defective
§        I was taught that nice girls don’t get angry and big boys don’t cry (I read a book by Bill Hybel’s wife – he is the pastor of Willowcreek Community Church in Chicago – Good girls don’t change the world – she talks about her own journey out of depression and how for years she was a ‘false self’.. after getting counseling and help, she wrote this book which again, establishes the truth and need for us to deal with the stuff underneath that iceberg and come into our authentic self)
Truth: one of our greatest obstacles to knowing and loving God is our own lack of self-knowledge and authenticity.  We end up wearing masks before God (as if we could really hide something) 

In ‘The Cry of the Soul’, Dan Allender and Tremper Longman summarize why awareness of our feelings is so important:
“Ignoring our emotions is turning our back on reality.  Listening to our emotions ushers us into reality. And reality is where we meet God...Emotions are the language of the soul. They are the cry that gives the heart a voice…However, we often turn a deaf ear – through emotional denial, distortion, or disengagement.  We strain out anything disturbing in order to gain tenuous control of our inner world.  We are frightened and ashamed of hat leaks into our consciousness. In neglecting our intense emotions, we are false to our selves and lose a wonderful opportunity to know god. We forget that change comes through brutal honesty and vulnerability before God.”
One way we have discussed in prior classes that helps us in allowing ourselves to experience the full weight of emotion is to journal our feelings without censoring them.  This is a very helpful exercise.. difficult at times, but helpful… Interesting that Pastor Peter now considers experiencing the full weight of emotion, expressing them, going over them prayerfully and thoughtfully after that expression and allowing God to speak to you in the midst is the first step to real discipleship.  I agree!   

How to get started:
Journal, share, express your feelings about:
-        the church (your church/ the Body of Christ)
-        your life (this encompasses a lot – your work, ministry, character)
-        the different relationships you have (spouse, friends, family members, children)

Luke 4:1-13 – Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness outline three false identities or masks that Satan offers each of us.  These thoughts come from Pastor Peter Scazzero.  Before Jesus enters the wilderness we see Him in the river with John the Baptizer when the Spirit descends on Him as a dove and we hear the confirming words from the Father of who He is – Matthew 3:17, “This is my son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased” – oh.. words we all need to hear from the Father and He speaks them to us regularly – but do we hear?  Do we listen?  So what do we see in this? – We see/ hear God affirming Jesus – You are lovable.  You are good.  It is good that you exist.  Several statements that counter many of the lies we believe.  
At this point, Jesus hasn’t performed any miracles or died on the cross.  Nonetheless, he receives an experiential affirmation that he is deeply loved for who HE IS – not what he does.  There is a huge message here for us!!  Now.. we can chose to dismiss this and say.. yeah but.. He was the son of God… This same love and acceptance is available to all of us through Jesus Christ – it is real!  It is true!
Peter Scazzero is quoted in his book saying.. I love this: “Living and swimming in the river of God’s deep love for us in Christ is at the very heart of true spirituality.  Soaking in this love enables us to surrender to God’s will, especially when it seems so contrary to what we can see, feel, or figure out ourselves.  This experiential knowing of God’s love and acceptance provides the only sure foundation for loving and accepting our true selves.  Only the love of God in Christ is capable of bearing the weight of our true identity.”  Love it!
Before we go into some of the lies that threaten us and keep us from fully experiencing God’s love, let’s have a look at what it will take to experience the perfect love the Bible talks about. 
-        Love is the most positive of our emotions and the first of the fruit of the Spirit
-        Truth is: few people ever fully experience love.  Studies relate that 90% of married couples ever do.
-        There are 4 definitions for love:  1. love is the ability to put others before ourselves 2. love is to accept someone else exactly as they are.  3. Love is never having to say I’m sorry (from the movie Love Story), and 4. Love is emotional fulfillment.  Biblical definitions of: phileo - friendship, eros - romantic, agape - unconditional
-        The Bible challenges us to experience perfect love.  Why would we be satisfied with anything less? Don’t!   1John 4:7 says “ 7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  – so.. those who do not love, do not know God.  Why?  Because the basic attribute of God is LOVE!  He is LOVE!
So.. how do we get there?  How do we get to a place of being able to experience this kind of perfect love?
1.    We must realize that this perfect love must and does start with God!  This is not something we ‘muster up’ inside of ourselves.  However, we can believe that God has given us the ability and potential to fully love – read 1 John 4
2.    Perfect love demands a breaking process.  We all of the tendency to be self-centered.  Therefore, God uses crises and a variety of things to break us… bring us to a place of humility and willingness.
3.    Perfect love can be stymied by our personal hang-ups – therefore, we have to deal with our personal hang-ups.  1John 4:18 “there is no fear in love, perfect love casts out fear”.. Love truly has the potential to cast out all our fears – now that’s exciting!!!
4.    Perfect love often puts others before ourselves.  Eric Fromm is quoted in one of his books as saying “…in the very act of giving, we experience strength, wealth, and power…giving is more joyous than receiving, not because it is a deprivation, but because in the act of giving lies the expression of our aliveness” – and I might add, our love.  Now.. I think it is important to mention at this point that if we do not practice self-care and deal with our issues and discover who we are, we will never ‘fully love’..  Loving and serving others has to come from within.. if we have nothing to give because we have never attended to the self, we are not going to be able to fulfill God’s call for us to love well.

5.      Perfect love is a willingness to hurt with others.   We need to embrace our urges of compassion…  ‘rejoice with others but also be willing to ‘weep with those who weep’ as God’s word instructs.  1 John 3:17 (New International Version)

17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be that person?

1.       As we consider becoming our authentic self, we see the importance of identifying and expressing our feelings.  Of the categories shared, which do you find easiest to express in a healthy manner for you personally and which are the more difficult for you?
2.       Of the list of struggles/ beliefs shared this evening, which are areas you are having to press through in order to feel?
3.       Share your thoughts and reactions to Peter Scazzero’s quote: “Living and swimming in the river of God’s deep love for us in Christ is at the very heart of true spirituality.  Soaking in this love enables us to surrender to God’s will, especially when it seems so contrary to what we can see, feel, or figure out ourselves.  This experiential knowing of God’s love and acceptance provides the only sure foundation for loving and accepting our true selves.  Only the love of God in Christ is capable of bearing the weight of our true identity.” 
4.       On a scale from 1-10, share your present condition as it relates to experiencing love:  for God, from God, from others, for others.  Of the list we went through, what are those that God is showing you that need to be focused on to bring the # up on the scale?
Homework:  this week, pick one of these categories and practice .. Journal, share, express your feelings about:
-        the church (your church/ the Body of Christ)
-        your life (this encompasses a lot – your work, ministry, character)
-        the different relationships you have (spouse, friends, family members, children)