Part 7

So far in our series on changing our thoughts in order to change our life we have talked about several dynamics that can help us grow spiritually or hinder us:  the importance of our thoughts, the role of forgiveness, the power of choice, how word curses affect us and understanding the provisions of the gift of salvation.

There is a story told that many of us could probably tell about our own family.  A young girl was watching her mother bake a ham for a family gathering and noticed her mom cutting off the ends before placing it in the oven.

“Mom, why do you cut the ends off before baking the ham?” she asked.

“I think it helps soak up the juices while it’s baking.  I’m not really sure, though. That’s just the way your grandma always did it, so I’ve just always cut them off. Why don’t you call grandma and ask her?”

She phoned her grandma and asked “Grandma, mom is making a ham and cut off the ends before placing it in the oven. She wasn’t sure why. She said you’d know because she learned how to cook from you.”

“That’s true. I do cut off the ends of the ham before baking. But I’m actually not sure why either. I learned how to cook from my mom. You should ask her.”

So, the little girl called her great grandmother and asked “Great grandma, mom and grandma said they learned how to cook a ham from watching you. Do you cut off the ends of the ham to help it soak up the juices?”

Picture of ham on cutting board.

The great grandmother chuckled.  “Oh, no sweetie.  I just never had a pan big enough to hold a whole ham, so I always had to cut off the ends to make it fit.”

Many times we don’t know why we do the things we do or think the ways we think.  It is just the way it’s always happened in our family.  Patterns of behavior, feeling and thinking have been instilled in us through the modeling of our ancestors.  We think it is normal and acceptable…until we hit a brick wall in our own life and begin to realize God has a different way for us to think and behave.

We reproduce what has been modeled for us. These are called generational patterns.  They are the tendencies to sin against God in particular ways, following the examples of those who have gone before.

 Please understand that when we recognize and deal with generational patterns we are not looking for ways to blame our ancestors for our conditions and choices.  We want to understand our own behaviors so we can take responsibility for them and change with the help of the Holy Spirit.  

Many of us tend to embrace a strong natural tendency to sin in the same way as our ancestors.  It seems to be easier to recognize patterns of alcohol or drug abuse, or sexual abuse than some other patterns.  If we intentionally take a look at our family history in light of a current frustrating behavior pattern, we might find similar patterns that were instilled into our way of life as habitual patterns.  Perhaps broken relationships, anger, victim mentality, worry or a poverty mentality are evident as you intentionally review your family history.

God speaks to us about generational patterns in Exodus 20:5.  “…I, the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me.”  

That is sobering.   But God generously gifts us with the provision for confession and repentance, not only for our own sins, but for the sins of our forefathers.  

Please note in Exodus 20:6 and Deuteronomy 7:9 that we can also receive and experience God’s loving kindness because of our forefathers who chose to love God and keep His commandments, even to a thousandth generation!  That is a gift we can give to the generations following us when we make godly choices in our thoughts, feelings and behaviors.  Changing thoughts that will result in godly fruit can give our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren the opportunity to receive a blessing.  

We all have ancestors who have chosen to sin.  Some of the consequences of these sins still affect us today.  Someone needs to repent for the sin against God and break the power of the consequence of the curses activated by not obeying God.  The “iniquity” spoken of in Exodus 20:5 includes the influence or pressure to sin as well as the actual act of committing the sin.  Some choose to yield to the pressure or temptation and some choose to obey God.  The important thing to remember is that with the help of the Holy Spirit (who indwells us) we don’t have to yield to the sin; we can choose to say yes to God!

God requires us to recognize and repent of the sin of entering into the sins of our ancestors, forgive them for the sin and the consequences of their sins in our lives.  Then we are in a position to receive the freedom Christ has paid the penalty for and apply it to our lives.

You can read about the principle of repenting for the sins of our forefathers in Leviticus 26:20-25, 40-45, Daniel 9, Ezra 9 and Nehemiah 2, 9.  In the New Testament, Peter explains it this way:  “You know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty (futile) life you inherited from your ancestors.  And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver.  It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.” (1 Peter 1:18-19 NLT)

What an amazing gift.  The heart of the Father for His children has always been relationship.  He desires us to come to Him, listen to Him and obey Him.  And He made a way through Jesus Christ.  He became a curse so that we can be free.  (Galatians 3:13)  

We receive and take as our own the benefits of the Cross as we confess and repent of sin and begin to apply the promises and provisions to our own life.

As you have read this article have you been thinking about patterns in your life that might have their roots in your ancestors?  Here is a helpful question to PAL (Pause, Ask, Listen):  “Holy Spirit, are any of my current challenges caused by a generational curse or pattern?  What are some of the thought patterns I have embraced that are harmful to me?”

Remember: when you ask God a question, take time to listen.  God wants to speak truth to you that will set you free.

Picture of Carolyn R Allen smiling.Rev. Dr. Carolyn Allen has partnered in pastoral ministry with her husband, Ron, for 50 years.  She has seen and lived a wide spectrum of church life in rural churches, suburban and city parishes.  She has experienced several streams of the expressions of the Body of Christ.

Carolyn has a Masters in Christian Counseling and a Ph.D. in Religious Studies.  Her own journey into wholeness evolved while raising a family and caring for others.  She is an ordained minister on staff at the Heartland Parish, Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Carolyn recently published Journey Into Wholeness, a book that helps you learn foundational biblical principles that will lead you through practical ministry and personal application.  Learning to ask key questions will enable the reader to evaluate thoughts that produce feelings that lead to ungodly behavior, if not challenged and changed.

Journey Into Wholeness is available on Amazon.Cover of the book "Journey into Wholeness."

You can reach Rev. Dr. Allen at


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