By Pastor Glenn Pease
Neil Armstrong was the first man to set his foot on the moon, but long before that momentous event he was a dreamer.
As early as age 2 he fell in love with airplanes, and for the rest of his life that was a focus for him.
He made model planes as a child, and at age 14 he got a job at a small airport.
He worked 22 hours to earn the 9 dollars he needed for one flying lesson.
One day a 20 year old friend, who was also taking lessons, crashed in a field and Neil ran to help him out of the cockpit.
He died in Neil's arms.
This was a challenge to the dream of his life.
That night his mother came into his room and saw Neil with an old Sunday School notebook with a picture of Jesus on the cover.
It was next to his model airplane.
"What have you decided about flying?" she asked.
He said, "With God's help I must go on flying."
He went on to fulfill his dream even beyond his expectations.
But he had to get beyond this painful experience to fulfill his dream.
There are no end to the painful experiences that become obstacles to the fulfilling of our dreams.
Millions know the story of Joni Eareckson Toda, who as a teenager broke her neck in a diving accident.
She became paralyzed and felt her life was over.
Had she been able to do so she would have taken her own life.
Her dreams were over, and she was forced to live a nightmare.
But as you know, she has had a world wide ministry to the handicapped and to all of us by movies, books, songs, radio, and by art.
She is one of the most creative people on the planet even though severely handicapped.
She had to let go of a terribly painful past in order to be used of God, but she did it, and she proclaims to the handicapped of the world, "God's grace can overflow from a half-broken cup."
Some are broken in body, but others are broken in their spirit, and the cause for it is more directly related to their sinful behavior.
This was the case with the Prodigal Son and his older brother.
We don't think of the older brother as prodigal, because the word so clearly describes the younger brother who went off and wasted his fortune in riotous living.
The extravagant wasteful use of resources is what a prodigal does.
The older brother did the same thing in a different way.
He wasted his fortune by not using it and enjoying it.
He wasted his resources more like the miser, but the fact is, both boys blew it and created a painful past they had to let go of, or they would be enslaved to it.
The younger son created his painful past by rebellion, and the older son by resentment.
These two barriers hold back millions of people from fulfilling God's dream for their life.
But there is a third person in the story also with a painful past to overcome and that is the father.
He had two boys who turned his hair gray prematurely.
We don't know where his wife was, for she is not mentioned, and so he was likely a widower who had to raise these boys on his own.
In the parable he represents God, and so we can assume he was a good father.
He did not abuse his boys and treat them unfairly.
He gave them love and all that adequate wealth could provide.
But still they were both a pain in the neck and all parts lower.
Here was a father who had the painful past of regret for the way his two boys turned out.
This text is very appropriate for looking at barriers that hold us back, for most of the barriers that create a painful past are like those in the parable.
They are family related, and includes such things as broken families, dysfunctional families, parental abuse, parental conflict, sibling feuds, rebellion and resentment.
There are literally millions in our culture and churches that have a painful past to overcome because of these factors in their lives.
Some will break free and dream again, but others will be bound by their past.
The goal is to be among those who break the barriers that hold them back and dare to dream again.
This is in easy task for those who have a traumatic experience like the pastor who told this pathetic tale.
His father had been a politician and they lived in a large house and had everything, but no real family life.
As a teen he came home late one night and heard a splash in the swimming pool.
He went to see what it was, and he found his mother at the bottom of the pool.
She had tied some of his barbells around her neck and thrown herself in seeking to take her own life.
He was able to rescue her and call for help.
Her life was spared, but he did not feel like a hero.
His father said to him, "If you hadn't left your barbells out, this wouldn't have happened."
Dad threw the responsibility onto him, and he had to fight his way through this load of guilt to get on with his own dream.
He did it, but many do not.
The pain hurt so bad that they become slaves to it and never break free.
The older brother of the Prodigal is an example of one who could not break free.
He was so resentful of his younger brother that the logic of his father could not penetrate his heart.
It was hardened by his bitter resentment that the younger brother was still loved by the father even after he lived the life of a fool.
He represents the Pharisees who resented Jesus for loving the lost and sinful Gentiles.
They were the good guys, but Jesus loved the bad guys too, and they despised Him for it.
They could not break free from this self-erected prison of resentment.
This parable reveals that the family, which is the best thing God ever gave to mankind for their pleasure, is the key tool Satan uses for producing pain in the world.
You have so much conflict between parents and children, and between the children themselves.
Then you if go into the extended family and include the family of God, you have the arena where most of the pains of our past originate.
Listen to the list that David Mains gives in his book Never Too Late To Dream.
A split of close friend within a church.
The failure of a spiritual leader you trusted.
Betrayal by a Christian friend you went to for help.
An experience where you tried your best to serve, but failed.
Embarrassment by a harsh authority figure.
Criticism from class members you were teaching.
Having your best efforts sabotaged by a ruling board.
Being left for another by your mate.
Horrible memories of childhood abuse.
The Christian who has never been hurt by family, friends, or church leaders has led a charmed life.
One of the leaders of the seminar I went to told of his sister who was hurt in church, and now never goes to church.
She has been a Christian for years, but she is missing out on God's best because she is letting a painful past bind her.
The world is full of Christians like this who are imprisoned by the past.
One of the reasons the Bible is full of the sins of its heroes is for this very reason-that God's people can see the past does not need to bind them.
Moses blew it and became a murderer.
He had to flee Egypt, but God dared him to dream again, and led him back to take his people out of Egypt.
David blew it and fell into the sin of adultery and murder, but God led him to repent and to dare to dream again, and we now sing the praises of God by means of the Psalms of David.
The Prodigal is even a better example for he is a nobody.
He doesn't even have a name.
He is not a king or a leader in the community.
He is just another kid on the block, and an average Joe.
He blew it big time, but he had the good sense to dare to dream again, and he broke through the barrier of his painful past and got back into a life of pleasure with his father.
He felt alienated from his family, and as out of place as a salmon in the Sahara, but he soon learned the problem was not dad after all.
It was himself.
When he finally told himself the truth that he was loved by his father, and that he had it made at home, he swallowed his pride and went back.
The paradox is, it is the kid who ran from home and blew it who ends up reconciled to his father, and the kid who stays home legalistically doing everything right ends up out of fellowship with the father.
The bottom line is this: Get right with your father and you can break through the barrier of your painful past.
This principle applies to a great deal more than just father and child conflicts.
Dr. Neil T. Anderson, the leading authority on Christians in bondage to a painful past, uses this principle in many situations.
In his book Victory Over The Darkness he tells of counseling a couple who were active leaders in the church.
They were in his office 2 minutes and he was already thinking they were hopeless.
He could tell by their bitterness toward each other that he could not save their marriage.
So he persuaded them to each just try to get away alone for a retreat where they could listen to his tapes on who we are in Christ.
Each was to go their own way and reflect on their identity as Christians.
They did it, and like hundreds of others of his clients they got right with their heavenly Father.