With Thanksgiving

Philippians 4:6(NKJV) 6Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;

We are about to begin the 2015 holiday season here in the United States. This is either the “most wonderful time of the year”, as one of our popular holiday songs says, or a most difficult time of the year. Although holiday and family traditions make for warm feelings and joy, there are also more suicides during the holidays than at another other time of year.

There is tremendous pressure to buy things that we cannot afford and do things that we do not have the time for. There are parties and get-togethers in abundance. We have to decorate, bake, make candy, wrap presents and myriad other things that can cause this season to overwhelm even the most “Christmassy” of us. What can we do as Christians to make the holidays joyous and blessed instead of tedious and pressure packed? I believe this section of scripture can help us.

Let me point out something that I find very interesting. In our country, we celebrate a holiday called Thanksgiving. The most famous historical Thanksgiving celebration was that of the pilgrims of the Massachusetts Bay colony in the 1630’s however, setting aside a day to give thanks to God for his blessing and provision was a practice throughout the colonies. In 1863 during the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln established a national holiday on the fourth Thursday of November and that continues until today.

Thanksgiving Thursday marks the official beginning of the holiday season. I know that it is simply a coincidence of timing that the holidays officially begin with Thanksgiving, but I cannot help but think the Lord had something to do with it. I believe we can change our whole outlook on the holidays if we will really take to heart the idea of giving thanks. This is especially true if we call ourselves Christians.

This year we have been looking at a number of things related to the idea that God wants us to possess our land of promises, drive out the enemies that keep us from those promises and occupy that land until Jesus comes. I choose as one focus this thought from 2 Peter chapter 1.

2 Peter 1:2-4(NKJV) 2Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, 3as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 4by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

God has given us exceedingly great and precious promises that enable us to partake of his divine nature. That divine nature is expressed in what we call his characteristics. God is all powerful, unchanging, all knowing and everywhere present. We must add to those characteristics things like absolutely loving, righteous and holy. If we take hold of the promises provided in the word of God, we can partake of these characteristics and their power in our lives. The key is understanding that the bible is a book of promises not theology or doctrine.

A promise is a personal word given to an individual by another individual. The promises in the bible were given to all who will read and believe them. We must realize that God the Father in his infinite wisdom and ability, somehow makes them personal statements to every person who chooses to receive them. The promise that God will meet my needs from Philippians 4:19 is not some general statement in an ancient book. It is my Father promising me that he will take care of me. It is a personal promise. It is neither doctrine nor theology. When I see it that way, faith rises in my heart because I know that my Father will not lie. He will not fail me because he has whatever power is needed to provide for my needs. I know he will do what he said and he will do it in a way that will bring the greatest blessing to my life. That may mean he will not do it the way I think he should, but I know he will do it. I have his personal promise.

In our study, we have looked at a number of things we must do in relation to the promise. When we believe the promise, we gain access to the power of the promise. When we speak in line with the promise, we activate them in our lives. This means speaking “to the mountain” we may be facing as well as speaking them to God in prayer. When we act on the promise, we release its power in our lives. (Mark 11:22-24) However, there is one more thing we must do in order to see the promise fulfilled. We must make our requests known to God with thanksgiving.

Mark 11:24 tells us that when we pray we must believe we receive what we ask for. In the world, we tend to think along the lines of “I will believe it when I see it.” When we are dealing with the world this is often a wise approach. When we are dealing with God, we must adjust our thinking. God cannot lie. When we approach the promises of God, we cannot do so based on “I will believe it when I see it.” We must approach he promises of God based on “When I believe it I will eventually see it.”

When I pray, I believe that God hears the request and since I base my prayer on his promise to me, I believe it is mine already. At some point, I will see the promise manifested in my life. The problem is that there is always an amount of time between when I pray and when I see the manifestation in the natural. It may be a few seconds or it may be years. What do I do while I am waiting? Philippians 4:6 tells us. We make our request with thanksgiving. We continue to thank God for the answer until we see it in the natural. Giving thanks to God for the answer is a key component in receiving it.

How does all this tie in with the holiday season? I believe we need to understand thanksgiving, the action not the holiday, in a new light. We see it as a response. Something good happens and we give thanks. It certainly is that. However, it is more than that for a Christian. If we understand thanksgiving properly, we see that it is not just a response to good things but also part of what causes good things to come to us.

There is no doubt that a thankful person is more enjoyable to be around than an unthankful person is. In the natural, thankfulness will give you a better disposition and a more positive outlook on life. This is something that makes developing thankfulness worthwhile. In the spirit, thankfulness does much more.

First, when we thank God for what he has done it reminds us of who God is and what he can do in our lives. Our hearts will be filled with joy and confidence when we remember how much God has really done for us. When we begin to thank God for what he will do according to the promise we prayed, our thanksgiving produces a draw in the spirit that will bring those good things to us. The more we thank God for his promise, the more real it becomes to us. There is less and less the devil can do to discourage us because we are conscious of God’s willingness to do what he said he would do. Doubt and unbelief cannot stand in the face of active thanksgiving.

I want to encourage you to make this holiday season a season that begins with the Thanksgiving holiday and continues to be a time of thanksgiving through the new year. Thank God for what he has done in your life this year. Thank him for family and friends. Thank him for all you have instead of thinking about what you do not have. Add to this equation thanking God for what he promises to do in your life. Make some requests to him this season and pledge to continue to thank him for the answer until you see it in the natural. If you will do that, I know you will see an increase in your faith and in your joy. You might even find that the Christmas season really is the most wonderful, blessed and thankful time of the year.

Maintaining a Thankful Heart

Philippians 4:4-7(NKJV) 4Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. 6Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

(Let me share some words from last year.)

This week we celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday and the beginning of the Christmas season. I believe this is more than a coincidence of timing. The Christmas season is a stressful time for many people. At best, it is exceedingly busy. If we choose to take seriously the meaning of the Thanksgiving holiday, it will change the whole complexion of the season. Start by truly giving thanks to God for what he has done and what he promises to do. Keep that attitude in your heart through the New Year and see what a difference it will make.

Yesterday we warned against the cancer of being unthankful. When we focus more on disappointment and what we do not have than on the many things God has done in our lives we are giving in to an unthankful heart. Romans 1 tells us that this can lead to confusion, darkness of mind and mood and ultimately a wrong idea of who God is and what he is doing in our lives.

We must combat being unthankful by offering up the sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of our lips giving thanks to God. Even when we do not feel the emotion of thanksgiving, we must recognize that God is for us and not against us. We must choose to thank him in spite of our feelings or circumstances. When we do that, our emotions will change and the power of God will go into effect to change the circumstances.

Today I want to look at a section of scripture we touched on earlier in the week. In Philippians 4, Paul gives us some keys to maintaining thankfulness even in the face of trials and disappointments. In the sixth verse, we read that we should make our requests know to God with thanksgiving. This ties prayer and the promises of God to the idea of giving thanks. It is what we must do while we wait for the manifestation of the promise upon which we base our prayer.

I believe we can tie a number of the verses in this chapter to the same thought. In verse 4, Paul gives us the first step to developing and maintaining a thankful heart. He tells us to “rejoice in the Lord always.” This thought is so important that Paul repeats it by saying, “again I say rejoice.” If we are going to maintain a thankful heart, we must be willing to rejoice in the Lord. What does it mean to rejoice?

To rejoice means to celebrate or show joy. When Paul tells us to rejoice in the Lord, he is telling us to celebrate in the Lord. We all know what a celebration is. I am a sports fan. When a team wins a championship, there is a celebration. The people rejoice in the victory. The typical celebration in a locker room is to shake bottles of champagne and pop the corks spraying the champagne on everyone in the room. This is not a mild display. It is exuberant and extreme. When there is real rejoicing, everyone knows.

Thankfulness and rejoicing go hand in hand. There is no way that we can be unthankful and rejoice in the Lord at the same time. We generally associate rejoicing with a spontaneous reaction to an event. We rejoice at a championship, a marriage or a birth. However, just as thanksgiving is something a Christian does to produce an effect, so is rejoicing. When Paul exhorts us to rejoice in the Lord, he is not saying that we should wait for something good to happen. He is telling us to rejoice in the Lord. Our relationship with the Lord is the “something good” we are to rejoice about.

Paul tells us that this is something we should do “always.” Paul is not just suggesting that we rejoice. This verse is an exhortation bordering on a command. This implies that we must choose to rejoice in the Lord. We cannot wait for feelings of rejoicing to erupt. We must rejoice, or celebrate, whether we feel it or not. As we have already said, rejoicing is so important that Paul repeats the command a second time.

The implication is that we should actively celebrate our relationship with the Lord on a continual basis. I know that we cannot run around shouting all the time. However, I believe we must have this rejoicing in our hearts at all times. This is necessary if we are going to maintain thankfulness. I also believe that we will not have rejoicing in our hearts if we never practice rejoicing outwardly.

I do not agree with the current sentiment in many circles that would say we should have only moderate behavior in our church services. The thinking is that we do not want to offend anyone or make anyone uncomfortable. When I started my third church 25 years ago, this thinking was just coming into vogue. As I prayed about what Living Word Christian Center’s character would be, the Lord spoke to my heart. He said, “I don’t want you to make this church acceptable to the young or the old. I don’t want you to make it acceptable to the rich or the poor. I want you to make it acceptable to me.”

I have allowed this to guide me as we built the church. The word of God says, “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice.” In our church, we spend time at every service obeying this command. We sing. We shout. We dance before the Lord. We celebrate his goodness and we thank him for his blessing. Some people do not like this kind of behavior in church. That is not my problem. Jesus likes it and that is all I care about. I find that if our people are comfortable with rejoicing, eventually the visitors warm up to it. If they do not, there are plenty of churches for them to go to. As for us, we will rejoice in the Lord!

For those who participate in this rejoicing, thankfulness rises the more we rejoice. How can you be unthankful if you are shouting about the goodness of God? How can you be unthankful when you dance around the sanctuary, celebrating his blessings in your life? You cannot. I find it interesting that no one seems to think spraying a room full of people with champagne is strange, but to shout, sing and dance in church because we are rejoicing in the Lord is strange.

I realize that rejoicing can mean different things to different people and at different times. I also know that God gives us some guidelines for rejoicing in the psalms. It is there we find shouting, clapping, loud cymbals and dancing. I believe that this pattern is pleasing to the Lord and therefore appropriate for church. I believe that the time we spend rejoicing in our church is exactly what David commanded himself to do in the psalms.

Psalms 103:1-2(NKJV) 1 Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! 2 Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits:

David is speaking to his own soul. His soul did not want to rejoice. His soul was discouraged and disappointed. However, David knew the secret of rejoicing. He knew that a rejoicing heart is a thankful heart. It was David who danced before the Lord with all his might. David would not allow his emotions to rule him. He took hold of his emotions and commanded them to rejoice in the Lord.

However you choose to do it, I exhort you with the apostle Paul, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say rejoice.” Rejoice this thanksgiving. Continue to rejoice through the holiday season. Do not rejoice in the gifts or the giving. Do not rejoice in the fun or the food. Rejoice in the Lord. Let the celebration continue through the year. Rejoice by faith because God is good no matter what may be happening our how we feel. Rejoice on purpose and in the midst of trial and disappointment. You will find that being unthankful will not stand up to the rejoicing heart. You will be thankful and your thankfulness will bring good things to you and yours.

Worship God and Glorify God as God by Giving Thanks

Romans 1:20-24 (NKJV) 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man–and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves,

(We returned from Greece last Tuesday and I promptly came down with a cold. This Sunday our assistant pastor and my Son Joshua Kiefer, shared a powerful message on Thanksgiving. Here is my take on some of what he said.)

We often take important things in the Word of God for granted. One of the most powerful weapons in the Christian’s arsenal is giving thanks to the Lord. In this section of scripture, Paul makes some astounding statements. He is speaking to the first century church in Rome, but he could be speaking to us. As we read the rest of Romans 1, we could be looking at headlines from today’s newspapers.

The first point he makes is this. In their hearts people know that God exists. Paul says that all man has to do is look at nature to know that an intelligent hand is behind creation. In Paul’s mind this leaves those who reject God without excuse. Why, then, do so many in the modern world seem to come to the opposite conclusion? The answer is in what he says next.

This verse comes out clearly in the New Living Translation.

Romans 1:21 (NLT) 21 Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused.

Two factors led to the rejection of the truth of God’s existence as God. First, they refused to worship or glorify him as God. How often do we see this today? People may worship “Mother Nature.” Today we would prefer to say “environmentalism” but the essence is the same. We will look at the balance and beauty of creation and worship science. We may worship our own ability, our wealth or our education. We acknowledge the power of “luck” before the power of God.

In the ancient world they created their own Gods. I recently returned from Greece where we stood before some of the greatest monuments ever made by the hands of man. All of them were dedicated to things that were not gods and did not even exist. Yet even among the greatest of the Greek philosophers there was an understanding that God was really much more than the pagans worshiped. The alter that Paul spoke of in his Mars hill address at the foot of the Athenian Acropolis which was dedicated to the “Unknown God. was testimony to this. (Acts 17:22-34)

The idea of the unknown, or unknowable, God came from classical Greek philosophy. They reasoned that all the God’s of the pantheon were simply representations of another God. A greater God that could not be known by people. Paul tells them that he has seen the alter to this God on the Acropolis and he, Paul, knows him!

It might be these people to whom he was speaking in Athens that inspired what he wrote to the Romans. They knew God! They had an alter to Him. However, they refused to worship or glorify him as the true and living God. Instead they chose idols and myths to worship.

I believe this is the indictment against us today. The true God is in our culture. In the United States, He is in our national identity. Our nation was founded on the principle of religious freedom. I do not believe we are to limit our country to Christianity alone. I believe that the strength of our country is to allow anyone to worship as they see fit as long as their worship does not threaten my life or my worship. Nevertheless, many of the ones who came here seeking that freedom initially came to worship the God of the Bible.

The same could be said of much of the world to one degree or another. Although they may not have had the same degree of commitment to religious freedom, the God of the Bible was part of their cultural and historical heritage. At one time they acknowledged him as God.

Today, we find that the trend among those nations is to reject this knowledge. They refuse to worship him as God. There is a cause for their unbelief. They refuse to give him thanks. These two things are related.

If you are a Christian, you know God exists. However, how often have you refused to worship him as God? It could be said that every time we refuse to give him thanks we are refusing to acknowledge that he is God. When we do not give God thanks for what he has done in our lives we are telling him that we do not trust him with our lives. We do not believe that he is able to take care of us. We do not worship him as God.

I am not saying that we are consciously choosing to reject God when we do not give thanks. I am saying that we open a door of doubt in our lives that will lead us in the wrong direction if we are not careful. Verse 24 uses a very important connecting word, therefore. The NLT says it in a way that may be more clear to us today.

Romans 1:24 (NLT) 24 So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies.

Because they would not worship God and they refused to give him thanks, God gave them over to darkness. The rest of the chapter, lists all kinds of bad things that came into their culture because of the door they opened by not worshiping God as God through lack of thanksgiving.

In societies and cultures, the choice to reject God through a lack of thankfulness results in what Paul describes in Romans 1. When we make the choice to be unthankful, it opens a door for the enemy to rob us of the life God wants for us. However, let us consider the other side of the issue. What if we practice thankfulness?

When we choose to be thankful even when circumstances may not seem to warrant it, we release faith in God as God. We acknowledge that God has done great things in our lives and will continue to take care of us. We build faith in what he can do and we move closer to him instead of farther away.

When we choose to thank him in all things, we declare to ourselves and to all around us that we believe he is the one and true God. We will be less likely to depend solely on other things for our provision, health and life itself. We may use other things as resources but they will never take the place of God because it is to him we give thanks even for using natural things to bring blessing into our lives.

Let this holiday season be a season of thanksgiving to God. Thank him for all he has done in your life. Thank him for what he is going to do. Thank him when it seems like things are not going well. If there is nothing else you can think of, thank him for salvation. In the distant future nothing you are going through now will be as important to you. (Romans 8:1)

If we make this commitment to giving thanks, I believe we will see a change in our circumstances. More important, I believe we will see a change in our hearts, our relationships and our faith.

Keys to Releasing the Fullness of God

Ephesians 3:16-19 (NKJV) 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height– 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Yesterday we looked at keys from Ephesians 3:14-15 to releasing the fullness of God. We see in this Pauline prayer that it is possible to see a manifestation of God’s fullness if all saints will come together. The first key to doing that is that we must all realize we take our identity from the “name of the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Christians most often take their identity from their affiliations. These affiliations may be denominational, doctrinal or affiliation with a particular teaching or stream of ministry. Although it is not necessarily wrong to hold such affiliations, we must never allow them to become more important than our affiliation with the family of God. That is what the idea of the “name” represents in this scripture. When our first and most important affiliation is with the family of God, differences can either be worked out or become part of the diversity of the “fullness of God.”

I want to look at some more keys in Paul’s prayer. In verse 16 we see that Paul prays that we would be strengthened in our “inner man.” This strength will be according to the riches of his glory. The Glory of God is the power and presence of God in manifestation. If there is one thing we need today, it is a manifestation of the power and presence of God. This kind of manifestation certainly qualifies as the “fullness of God.”

If we are going to see the Glory of God we must recognize that it comes through the “inner man.” It is easy for us to look at outward things and think that those things are our strengths. It is also very easy to look at where we may be lacking outwardly and think that it is impossible for us to expect something as powerful as the fullness of God. However, the outward is not where we draw strength. The strength of the body of Christ is in the inner man.

It can seem that more money, better organization, more people or other natural strengths are what is important. None of those things are bad. They do not have to be a hindrance but sometimes they are just that. When we lean on those things instead of drawing from the inner man, the spirit, they produce a false sense of success and security. Over the years we have seen many drawn into this trap. We have observed powerful men and women of God fall because they thought their outward success made them invulnerable to attack.

Particularly in developed nations, I believe there is another trap set by the devil. We have so many resources and so much technical ability that it is possible to build a successful church or ministry using those kinds of tools. The cost for accessing technology has plummeted in the last number of years. I am a musician. Just fifteen or twenty years ago it would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce a quality audio recording. Today for a few thousand dollars, equipment is available that is being used by the biggest studios. The same is true for video and communications.

I believe we should use these wonderful tools. I do not think we can afford to depend on them. When we have success built on natural or outward things, we can neglect the one thing that the church has that the world can never match. We have the power of the inner man filled with the Holy Spirit. That is where we will see the glory of God and that is where the fullness of God resides.

The next key is related. Not only will we access the glory of God through the inner man, but it is in the inner man that the love of God resides. Paul says we must be “rooted and grounded” in love. What do roots provide for a plant? They provide nourishment or life and stability. Our life is nourished by the love of God. Our stability is drawn from a life dominated by the love of God. When the love of God is the source of our motivation we will see the fullness of God.

He also says that we should be grounded in the same love of God. This is term that can mean foundation. When we are grounded in love that means love is the foundation or the governing principle in our life. It has another meaning that Paul would not have known but the Holy Spirit did. Grounding is an electrical term.

We ground electricity to allow the power to flow and flow safely. An improperly grounded electrical line may not work at all. If it does work it can be dangerous. People are more likely to be shocked by ungrounded or improperly grounded electricity. When we are grounded in the love of God, the power of God is free to flow and flow safely. The truth is that God will not release his power through those who are not grounded in his love. If we want to see the fullness of God we must be rooted and grounded in the love of God.

Finally, he says that all of this leads to the most important key to seeing the fullness of God. All of these things enable us to come to a place where we know him and the fullness of his love. The most important key to releasing the glory of God in the earth is that his people must know him.

We may know about him. We may know a great deal of his Word. I believe that is vital to any success in the things of God. We may know religion, doctrine or tradition. Christianity, especially denominational Christianity, is full of very educated priests and ministers that know the bible and theology. However, because they do not know him their knowledge does them no good. They read the bible and come to conclusions that are completely against what the truth it contains. They do what Jesus accused the Pharisees and Sadducees of dong.

Matthew 22:29 (NKJV) 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.

When we know his love for us we can begin to know him. When we “know the love of Christ which passes knowledge” we will be filled with the “fullness of God.” This seems to be a contradictory statement. On the one hand we must know this love and on the other we cannot know it. Further study reveals that Paul is saying we must know this love experientially because intellectual knowledge alone is not enough.

Knowing God’s love for me is knowing him because God is love (1 John 4:8.) To allow his love for others to be the source of my life and motivation causes me to know him even more deeply. To be rooted and grounded in the love of God is to be rooted and grounded in Him. I will flow with “all saints” and together we will lay down our lives to see the God of love that we know revealed to others. With those dynamics working in our local church we will see the fullness of God and the supernatural power of God will be revealed to the world around us.

Keys to Seeing the Fullness of God

Ephesians 3:14-15 (NKJV) 14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,

(As we head into November, I am getting ready to travel once more. It seems that this part of my ministry is beginning to fill more of my time. As usual, I hope to continue to post at least some details from my trip but, also as usual, I will probably get too busy or too tired or both. This time I will be in Athens Greece with Dr. Eldon Wilson. Dr. Wilson is one of the greatest men of God I know. He is in his 80s and still traveling all over the world. He has been to over 200 countries.

Our hosts will be Gail Stathis and Brian VanDeventer of EME ministries. They have been based in Athens for many, many years. They are doing a great work in North Africa, the middle east as well as eastern Europe. They are great friends and we are looking forward to being with them again after many years.

Finally, I will be with my 17-year-old granddaughter, Isabelle. She asked if she could accompany me if she raised the money and I readily agreed. I look forward to showing her some of the wonderful sights in Athens. Pray for us that we will be effective in this outreach to a very troubled nation.)

Last month we spent most of our time together looking at the importance of local church in relation to opening the supernatural gates to the world. We discussed the role of vision, some of the elements of the vision God gave me for our local church and finally we have been looking at Ephesians 3 in light of all of these things.

In Ephesians 3 we find that it is possible to be filled with “all the fullness of God.” Now I don not really understand what that is. I do know that I want it for our church and for the body of Christ as a whole. One of the keys we found in this prayer of the Apostle Paul is that to see this fullness, all saints must be together. I believe this begins in the local church.

Ephesians 4:16 says the church is made whole by what every joint supplies. Each member of the local church who is born again has become a “Jesus version of themselves.” Jesus was the fullness of the Godhead bodily. That means everything that God could be through a human in a physical body, he was. When we are born again we have the potential to be all of God that could be expressed through our physical limitations.

When all of us who are together in one church begin to Jesus to flow through us, we will see the fullness of God manifested. It cannot happen alone. Together we become “the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” This prayer contains some other keys that will help us manifest the body of Christ to the world.

In verses 14 and 15 we see the first key to walking as all saints together which is what produces the fullness of God. Paul prays to the “Father of the Lord Jesus Christ” from whom the whole family gets its name. In most cultures the identity of the family comes from the father. In American culture, this is expressed in the name change of the wife. Although this has been challenged in recent years, the common practice is still that the woman takes the man’s last name. We make an announcement at the end of the wedding ceremony that declares, “Now for the first time I present to you Mr. and Mrs. _____________________.”

Even though some resist this idea today, it is still the fathers last name that identifies the family. In most cultures it is the male’s family that is carried on in the children. It is not the woman’s family. If no son was born to a family, it is said that the line will die.

Whether you agree with this idea or not, it is hard to dispute it and it is this cultural practice that Paul is alluding to in verse 15. My family takes its identity from my name. We are all Kiefers. The children of my daughters are still my grandchildren, but they are not Kiefers. Those who know us know that they are connected to me. Those who do not will identify them with their father’s family.

Paul prays to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ from whom the whole family gets its name. If we are going to be “all saints together” we must realize where we get our name. It is not from our doctrinal belief system. It is not from our denomination. It is not from the name of our local church. We get our name and therefore our identity from the Father. Even though we are called “Christians” and take a certain measure of identity from Jesus, he and the Father are one.

When I begin to realize that I am to be identified with the Father above all else, I open the door to walking as one with the rest of the family. When that happens locally we begin to see the beginnings of a manifestation of the fullness of God.

One thing this does not mean is that we must all be the same. It does not mean that we have to look alike, dress alike or even believe perfectly alike. There are certainly things that we must believe. We must believe that Jesus is the only way to salvation. We must believe that God is real and that we must walk according to his ways. There are many things that are so foundational to Christianity that they cannot be in any way compromised. Within those uncompromised truths there is room for a great deal of variety. That variety is part of what releases the fullness of God.

Once again, let me use my own family. I have six children. Four are married and one has been through the tragedy of divorce. I have 14 grandchildren as I write this, number 15 is due in April. Each of the six people who grew up in my house is unique. There are many things they have in common but maybe even more that they do not.

Some like sports while others like music. Their taste in clothes, movies and music differ. However, they all love the Lord and they all are doing their best to build the Kingdom of God with the gifts he has given them. Most of the time they agree but sometimes there is a little bit of conflict. That conflict often serves to broaden their impact and strengthen their development.

This is even more true of my grandchildren. 12 of them live very near us. They interact all the time. They are in the church and growing in their gifts. However, there are times when they quarrel. Every now and then someone runs to their mother crying and says something like, “He hit me!” The parents work to resolve the problem and the family goes on. That is just the way family is. With all our differences, we are still family and there is an identity that comes from my name.

The body of Christ is the family of the Father. We must take our identity from him. We do not all look alike, act alike or do things the same way. We may have some differences in our beliefs but we are still take our identity from the “Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.” When we understand that, even in our differences we will become the expression of the fullness of God.

Let me finally say that being all saints together does not mean we must all be in the same local church. In my town there are two Kiefer families and two families that contain Kiefer grandchildren. They are all identified with me but they all live in different homes. At the end of the church service they know what house to go to and who their parents are. We must understand that our primary identity come from the Father even if we live in different homes or churches. If we can maintain unity in our “homes” without forgetting our identity in the Father, we will come to the place where we see “all the fullness of God.”