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Rev. Brian Bill
Someone asked me a couple weeks ago if the jokes I hear about Wisconsin offend me. I told him that I ask for it by bringing up “God’s Country” so often in my sermons. That reminds me of the man who decided to write a book about churches from around the United States.
He started with a very large church in California when he noticed a golden telephone on the wall with a sign that read, “$10,000 a minute.” He tracked down the pastor and asked him about the phone. The pastor told him that it was a hotline to Heaven and if he pays the price he can talk directly to God. He thanked the pastor and continued on his way.
As he visited churches in Nevada, Texas, Florida, New York, Michigan and Minnesota, he found more fancy phones, with the same sign and the same explanation from each pastor. He finally crossed the “cheddar curtain,” arrived in Wisconsin, and walked into a church. He saw the usual golden telephone but this time the sign said, “Calls: 35 cents.”
This fascinated him and so he asked to talk to the pastor, “Reverend, I’ve been in cities all across the country and in each church I’ve found a golden telephone and have been told that it’s a direct line to Heaven. But, in all the other churches the cost was $10,000 a minute, and here the call is only 35 cents. What’s up with that?”
The pastor smiled and replied, “Son, you’re in Wisconsin…here it’s a local call.”
This morning we’re focusing on how we can call out to God in deep faith so that we will flourish in the fruit of faithfulness. As we come to the seventh fruit of the Spirit, let’s read Galatians 5:22-23 together: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…”
If you want to go deep and long in your faith, let me recommend two books that have greatly impacted my understanding of what it means to be a faithful follower. Some of what you will hear this morning can be attributed to insights that I’ve gleaned from these outstanding authors:
Fresh Faith by Jim Cymbala (Zondervan, 1999)
If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat by John Ortberg (Zondervan, 2001)
Strictly speaking, the word in Galatians 5:22 is faith, which is one of the most common terms in the New Testament. It can be correctly translated as faithfulness because it has the idea of fidelity as well. The English word was originally linked to the thought of personal dependability and meant, “to fasten oneself to.” I like that image because it shows that we are to fasten ourselves to Christ before we can become reliable people.
The Greek word for faithfulness means a “firm persuasion, conviction and belief in the truth.” When the Hebrew words “faithful” or “faithfulness” describe God in the Old Testament, the focus is on firmness, steadiness, safety, and certainty. It’s the same root that gives us the word “amen.”
Number 12:7 tells us that Moses was faithful. Acts 6:5 describes Stephen as a man who was “full of faith and the Holy Spirit.” Psalm 36:5 describes God’s reliability: “Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.” The faithful God overflows with faithfulness and His faithful people follow Him.
When Paul decided
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