Are you ready to build meaningful relationships, foster community, and discover your true identity? Brace yourself as we step into the arena of relationships, in an intimate setting at the intentionally small Madison Church, where we believe in the power of social interactions. Whether you're a believer or non-believer, you're welcome to connect and develop relationships that matter.
From the joy of friendships to the pain of disappointments, relationships can be a roller coaster. We understand it's not just about finding the perfect friend or partner, but becoming one. Unearth the courage it takes to take responsibility and the wisdom needed to know when a relationship isn't healthy to restore. Remember, it's not always about the other person changing; it's about us stepping up and doing the work of restoring relationships.
As we explore the realm of reconciliation, remember that it all begins with God. Our decisions, worship, and identity significantly influence the restoration process. Get ready to redefine your identity by disregarding the exhaustion of finding it in what you do or the relationships you have. Discover the liberating power of God's love as we delve into the profound teachings of Brennan Manning, and the concept of belovedness. Face your fears, let go of past hurts, and embrace the freedom that comes with knowing you are beloved. And remember, not every relationship will be perfect, but each one will teach us something about ourselves, and others. Join us, take on the challenge of meditating on God's love, and experience the liberation it brings.
Hello and welcome to Madison Church to our online audience. You're watching a little bit later than the day that this is actually happening. My name is Steven Feith, lead pastor, and grateful that you're here, want to invite you to join us in person soon and I hope that you'll take us up on that. You may not realize this. Those of you in the room probably do realize this. It was probably the first thing you noticed this morning. You walked in, you came down, you noticed some coffee, but if you're watching online, you may not know this. We're not a big church. That's not how you would describe Madison Church. There are a lot of other words you would use Close knit, community, friendship, relational people, know people and friendly hopefully friendly, and not just like how you're doing. Friendly, but like really friendly, right, but not big. This is kind of by design. If you're here for the first time, this is good that I'm talking about this, because we're so passionate about connecting people with God and each other. We printed on the t-shirt it's our mission. We're so passionate about that that we know that it can't happen in a large, crowded room with about an hour on Sunday. We know that that can't happen. We're intentionally kind of small. We've kind of dreamt up this model. We've prayed about it and we've researched it, and so we're like as we get bigger, we want to reach people. We don't want to be us four, no more but as we reach people, we have this vision to reproduce our micro locations just like this. When you walked into it, your first thought might have been small. It's really by design. As we continue to grow, we'll open up other locations that look just like this. Why? Because we're passionate about community and we believe that that happens best in these environments. It is your first time with us small, right, but if you've been with us for more than a year, you also know that we have grown a lot. There are a lot of people who aren't here today, who are gone doing things, but you know we've grown a lot. The interesting thing is like 2020 is kind of this bookmark, if you will. So when I look at and I see a bunch of people who were at Madison Church before the pandemic, and I look out and I see a bunch of people who have joined us since the pandemic, but regardless of when you started coming, I imagine you all came here for the same reason. That's that thing Keep talking about connection, relationships, friendship, right, you want to know other people and you want to be known by other people. Our mission when we say we want to connect people with God and each other, this is not a pithy statement. This isn't like Burger King. Have it your way, because this is our lifeblood. It's the filter in which we make every single decision we make at Madison Church. If it doesn't connect people with God and each other, we're just not going to do it. If there's something we started to do that at some point was connecting people with God and each other, but then it stops connecting people with God and each other, we're going to kill it. We have no problems with that. It's got to serve a purpose of connecting people with God and each other. I can examples baptism we just had baptism Sunday a couple of weeks ago. Right, why do we do baptisms? Connecting people with God. That's why we do that. Small groups, about connecting people with God and other people relationships those are important too. Generosity it's about connecting people with God we don't know yet and people who don't know God yet, but also it's good for us, too. Right, practicing generosity connects us with God as well. Like I said, if there's something we're doing at Madison Church that doesn't connect people with God and each other, we're just not going to do it. That's challenging, connecting people with God and each other. It's actually proven to be more difficult than I thought, because I just thought we'll come to Madison, we'll start at church, just 2014. We'll open up doors. We'll have this different kind of unique model and people. They want friendships, right? That's why you're all here, right? Relationships are hard. Relationships are a lot harder than I thought they were going to be. You see, I can connect with you. We'll go out for coffee this week and I can connect with you, and that's great. But then it's like well, what about y'all connecting with each other? Ooh, that's hard, that's challenging. You agree with me that relationships are hard. A couple of you agreed too hard on that. This is something that we all know to be true, every single one of you. We're not talking about some big idea out there that you can't relate to. We all know personally that relationships are difficult. If you're new to Madison Church, I want to just spoiler alert making friends at this church won't always be easy, because developing new friendships is difficult. It takes time, right? If you've been here for a while. You probably still find it difficult and challenging to start relationships with people, but no matter when you started coming or if today is your first day you're checking things out online, we're here for community and whether or not you believe in God, okay, right. So we never presume that if you're here you believe in God. This is kind of that open space, okay. But if you believe in God, we believe that you were wired for community. That's how God created you. You are relational by divine design. But even if you don't right, you're watching, listening. You're not sure about Jesus creation, all of that stuff. Okay, you can't deny we're social beings. There's science that just proves that we are social. You need other people and even the most introverted people need some type of social interaction. You do introverts, trust me. You need some. My guess is that as you hear us talking about relationship, this week and the next few weeks, at least one relationship in your life comes to mind and there's probably a problem associated with it. So, for example, maybe as we're talking about relationships, you kind of get triggered a little bit because you think of a relationship with a parent who didn't provide you the support you needed growing up. They're not a bad person in a lot of cases, right, but they were a bad parent. In some cases they're also a bad person. You think of that and that hurt and you think growing up in you parenting your parent, and that's not fair and I agree with you. Or you think of a child whose decisions have broken your heart. You say things like we didn't raise you like this. You don't know why the child is lashing out at you and where they grow up why don't they visit more often, or why won't they let me visit and breaks your heart. A spouse or significant other who's become emotionally unavailable, physically distant. A friend who has let you down again and again and again and again and again. A coworker or boss who seems to be completely unaware of your contributions? See, we all know what it's like to have relationships with people and be let down. Every single one of you in the room now there's. I don't have a study to prove what I'm about to say is true, but I deeply believe that 100%, 10 out of 10 people who are living have experienced relational pain. 10 out of 10 people, 1000 of every single person who's ever taken a breath. We know what it's like to be hurt and disappointed by other people. And what do we do when that happens? What do we do? We all do this. We tend to think that the other person just did this or they didn't do that, then everything would be fine. I wouldn't have been hurt, wouldn't have been disappointed. We think if the other, the other person in these situations, the other person, was not who you wanted them or needed them to be, and that's why you're hurt. And you know what, sometimes that's true, Sometimes they weren't, sometimes they didn't live up to that. But you know what I've found to be more true and happen more often times when you weren't who someone else wanted you or needed you to be right. This is a sword that cuts both ways. We let people down and they let us down, and I'm not trying to make you feel bad this morning, but let's take responsibility, because if we're going to do the things that we're going to talk about the next few weeks, it starts with us. I'm leading a marriage course with a few couples here at Madison Church and I'm going to share, like all, their story. No, I'm just kidding, they're all not going to do that, but it's the third or fourth time I've led the marriage course since 2020 and so this is almost annual for me, and you might be wondering, like man, after four times, like you're watching the videos with these other couples, do you still get anything out of it? I do, every week. I'm getting something out of it, even though I've seen these videos now, like I said, four times. The one reminder that I need I always forget about it and I always needed those that very first session. One of the very first things I say you know, they introduced themselves this is the marriage course. Blah, blah, blah. We're watching a video. One of the very first things that they do is they say well, we're going to talk about is not going to be easy, it's going to be hard, it's going to be work, all the things we've already set up this morning. And then they transition. They say we're not going to blame the other person, you're not going to blame your spouse, you're not going to blame your partner, we're definitely not going to say things like you always right, isn't that triggering? You always do that immediately. Put someone on the defense, right. They say we're not going to do that. I need the reminder that the only person I can control is myself and I need to take responsibility for the areas in my life in which I can control. And in other words, for this series, we got to do the work right. Creative title to the series we have to do the work. That's the only way our relationships will work Not only our relationships hard, but they take work. And in this series, sarah from Green Bay Pastor, sarah from Green Bay is going to come down and speak one of the weeks. We're going to challenge you to do the deeply godly and biblical work of relational restoration. And I've said all of this up. Hopefully you're leaning in with me. I got to throw out a disclaimer now. Okay, this is very important. There are some relationships in which restoration is not only not feasible, it's not healthy. I'm not saying to go back to an abusive or toxic relationship. Sarah and I are not saying that every relationship in your life must be restored. We're not saying that. In fact, if you are an abusive relationship you're in the room watching it, listening online, if you're hearing me right now if you're in an abusive relationship, I believe with every fiber in my being that Jesus does not want you to be in that relationship at all, and I want you to know that Madison Church is here to support you and help you, and we'll do that confidentially. So while I'm not saying you have to make every relationship work, that doesn't mean we don't get to make none of them work. Right. You're like all right, message is over. This is great. We don't have to make them Now. There's still some relationships we got to make work. I've known we were doing this series for a long time. It was actually slated to be last month and something changed and so we pushed it back a little bit. But I've been praying for you all of you here watching, listening online. I've been praying that as we go through this series, one relationship comes to mind. A person's face right now is in your mind. A person's name is in your mind Again. It's not the abusive, toxic, neglectful relationship, but it's not that. But it's something else. It's someone else. I've been praying for you that that person would come up. I've been praying that this series, the next few weeks, we equip you with the tools to make that relationship right. And so I don't do this ever. But I'd like to take a moment right now to pray for you. God, would you bring to mind a name or face of someone in the minds of each of us today, this morning, show us a relationship you would have us do the work of love to restore. Please begin to work in our hearts and theirs, a willingness and openness to reconciliation. Amen, all right. So I hope you have a person, and for some of you you might have a lot of people. Okay, we're going to work on you the next few weeks, but hopefully every person in here you have a person in mind In the next few weeks. We're talking about conflict, forgiveness, self-awareness, but before we go there, let's go here. The work of relational restoration doesn't begin with you and that other person. The work of relational reconciliation begins with you and God. That's where it starts, and I know, I'm a pastor, you're at church, you totally expected me to do that, it doesn't surprise any of you, but it's true. The work of reconciliation begins with you and God. And why so? If you're a believer in here, you're a follower of Jesus. This is fundamental. It's why relationships require work. It's why you have conflict. It's because of sin, it's because sin entered the world right and now the world is sick and decayed with sin and, as such, we make selfish choices, sometimes on purpose, sometimes a lot, sometimes on accident, sometimes not a lot. We hurt people, sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly, sometimes we don't even know we hurt someone. Other times we get hurt and somebody meant to do that. Other times they didn't mean to do that. And all of this happened not because God created the world and said now watch these guys just completely mess up and hurt each other. This is my sort of sick entertainment. That wasn't it at all. When God created the world, it was good, there was harmony. Sin enters and it ruins the harmony, completely ruins it. Why? Because of selfish choices that we make, and as such, it goes all the way back to these choices. In which do I live for God or I live for someone else? And when we choose to not live for God, we do choose to live for something else. You absolutely do. Don't think you're above that. We all live for something. You have a throne in your mind, in your spirit. There's a throne, there's something that sits on the throne. It might be money. Money sits on the throne. Every decision you have ever made is based on money. Where do I get paid more? Where do I work less? It might be an addiction that sits on the throne, an unresolved anger issue. It could be God, but whatever sits on the throne, we tend to then find our identity around. Why? Because we worship it. So if we're worshiping Jesus, we're Christians, we become more like Jesus, and if it's something else, we worship it, we become more like it and as such people a lot of us we find our identity. This is a battle, because Jesus doesn't mean this isn't going to be a battle for you. The battle for the throne of your life is always going on. But maybe your interest, what you're interested in, that's where you find your identity. The things that you like to do. You find a lot of your. That's who I am. I play golf, I'm a golfer. That's not where your identity comes from. A lot of us find our identity in our jobs. When someone asks about you, what do you tell them? This is where I work, this is what I do. Okay, yeah, if we find our identity in that, a lot of us find our identity in our success. Whether we're successful or not, that's how we see ourself worth. But the one area I think that we find like a lot of our identity that we don't acknowledge is in Relationships, and this is a problem, because when we base our identity and our self-worth on Relationships with other people Fallen people you and I are fallen. We make mistakes. When we base our identity on that, then what they think and say about us determines how we feel about ourselves, and then what happens is is to make other people happy. We turn to things like people pleasing and image management, and this has been accelerated by Instagram. Right, I got to make sure you all see my perfect photo shop, filtered, life hashtag blessed and we're hoping to create an identity that people like. We want followers, we want friends, and so we curate an image of ourselves, a celebrity like image, and so for a lot of us, the one who sits on the throne of our lives is us. But when we do this, it's exhausting and there are consequences, consequences, and maybe you can relate to one of these. I relate to all four of these and so, if you don't relate to any of them, thank you for coming to my, my Ted talk this morning. But when we try to find our identity and what other people say and think about us, we tend to take things very personally. Even the slightest criticism affects us tremendously. It's not just that you're a slow driver or you're a reckless driver. It's that you suck as a human being. Right, that's what. That's what happens. We take it deeply personal. It wasn't just criticism. You're attacking who I am. When we don't receive what we think we need from others, we start doing that thing, pointing fingers. We start blaming other people around us for not meeting our Expectations, whatever our expectations are, and oftentimes our expectations are not even stated anywhere. So we're not. We're expecting somebody to make you know meet our expectations. We've never even vocalized it and for some of us we don't even know what they are. We just know when we're upset. The next two these really get me. We start comparing ourselves to others. You ever compare yourself to other. You get caught in that comparison Trap. How we feel about ourselves, how I feel about myself, depends on how I stack up with Whoever the baseline human being is in my book. Am I doing good, am I not? We look for validation and other people. We start to behave certain ways because we think that that's what's expected of us. You have one friend that you act one way and another friend you act another way. You're falling into the trap here. You might try to dress a certain way, you talk a certain way and we feel good when we're acknowledged, but when you're not acknowledged, you feel rejected. So, trying to find our identity in our jobs, our hobbies, our interests, other relationships it sets you up for failure and so that's why we're beginning here this week, before we start talking about all these other things conflict resolution and forgiveness and and Steps to reach out to these people that hopefully are in your mind. We have to begin with getting rights With God and getting right in that relationship and whatever it is identifying, whatever sitting on the throne of my life, moving it, which probably can't just happen right now, because Whatever is on the throne of your life wants to stay there. No one likes being dethroned. So this is gonna take some work to transition, but we're gonna do it. John, who humbly I love this John who humbly refers to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved. That's how he writes like man, what a guy. I can't. Why didn't I get that first? My Instagram bio is like pastor. You know, jesus's Lord, if John had an Instagram bio, would just be the one Jesus loved. I was his favorite. You know winky face what and he got dibs. He's the first one and it's in the Bible. It's not going anywhere. So, but he refers to himself that he writes in first John, chapter 3, verse 1. He talks about where our identity comes from and he says see how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are. Not only does God call you his child, john says well, just in case you're wondering if that's just like a pet name God has for you. John follows up and that is who you are. That's not just your name, your title, that is who your identity is. And when we choose to follow Jesus, we become the children of God. That's who our identity is and as such, as we follow Jesus, we come to look more like Jesus, we begin to bear the family Resemblance and we begin to recognize one another as family. Because of that. That's where this lingo of brothers and sisters Maybe you've gone to a church where everyone's a brother, everyone's a sister. It comes from passages like this, in which we are the family of God. But then John goes on a chapter later and he wants to talk about the hallmark characteristic of the family. So all of us have a hallmark characteristic of our families, right, you think of your family? Maybe it's. It's big angry debates at Thanksgiving, or it's really nice special Christmas gatherings, or it's it's every year you guys go, when you take a trip to Lake Tahoe or whatever it is. We all have something that's like very signature of our family. And John's gonna tell us what the signature of God's family is. He says, dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is Love. The signature of this community, the signature of God's family, those people we call brothers and sisters, the signature piece of identity is that we love and we should love. Well, why? Because God is perfect love, and so the longer we follow Jesus and become more like the family, we should love better. And I want to point out again, john, being very intentional not God is like love, not that God knows a lot about love, not that that's one of the things about God, but it's that God is love, his essence is love, and as his children, we open ourselves up to embrace and take on that quality. And so the most important, the most obvious first step when we're talking about restoring relationships Is to start with God and restore that Relationship with him, and if you have found your identity in anything else, that's not a child of God, a follower of Jesus. It's time to dethrone something, because a better future and a better way of living is right in front of you. Your identity is not about where you work, it's not about what you do there, and it's certainly not about how much money you make or, in some of our cases, how much money we don't make there. It does. Your identity is not wrapped up in the level of degree, college degree you have or PhDs. It doesn't matter where you study. That's not where your identity comes from. It's not about the size of your house, the newness of your car, how cool your clothes are, etc. It's not about your stuff. Those things don't make you more or less important to God. Whether you drove up in here with a brand new Ferrari or Lamborghini, or you come driving a 50 year old Camry we know those last 50 years right You're all the same. God loves you. And maybe most importantly, your identity is not in what that person said about you. You Know I'm saying that one person. They said that thing about you and they say that thing about you and it cuts and it's a deep wound because you love them a lot and their opinion of you matters and perhaps they kind of have a foot on your throne. But you're not that. Who are you? You're a beloved child of God. God, who is love, finds you lovely. Brennan Manning is a former Catholic priest. He's a recovering alcoholic as well. It was when he found his identity as a child of God. When he found it, it was after like he got everything stripped away from him. The alcohol overtook his life, everything was ruined and and so he he finds his identity and God he becomes a writer. He's been helping a ton of people on this journey of. What we're saying to you really resonates. Check out Brennan Manning. But he writes living in the awareness of our belovedness is the access around which the Christian lifers revolves. Being the beloved is our identity, the core of our existence. It is not merely a lofty thought, it's not an inspiring idea, it's not one name among many. It is the name by which God knows us and the way he relates to us. When our relationship with God is secure, that gives us the foundation in which we can relate to others in healthy ways and in whole ways and in perfect love type of ways. We no longer you will no longer need other people to fill that gap in your heart when you need love and acceptance and approval. We can be free from needing other people to define us, because the only thing that matters is how God defines us. And how has God defined us? He says you are my child and you are Loved, and it is in that that I hope this morning you find peace. It's in that I hope you experience love, that you see that you belong, that you have joy this morning. This is incredibly good news and it is life changing. And yet Don't forget, remember there's three more weeks of this series. What we're gonna talk about the next week is probably gonna scare you. It's probably gonna intimidate you Very practically. Why? Because the person who came to your mind this morning is somebody who hurt you and you're wondering, you're scared, you're gonna get hurt again. It's not abusive. Remember, we're cutting that out. Don't pursue an abusive relationship. But perhaps in a non abusive relationship, someone still hurt you. That happens, so you're scared. If I pursue this, what's gonna happen? Do I have to painfully acknowledge that I hurt someone? Maybe you did it on purpose. You lashed out, you were angry, you said something you didn't mean, but you said it. Or, worse yet, you said something you did mean and I have to humble yourself and say you know, this is gonna suck, this is gonna hurt, this gonna be hard, but this is the work of love and we got to do the work. Do I have to bring up something that the other person doesn't even know they did? Some of you introverts in the room, this is for you, right. Somebody hurt you and you've not brought it up and they don't know. They hurt you, but the bitterness is cutting you, the bitterness is hurting you, the bitterness is rotting away at you. It's gonna take courage To bring up the hurt because for a lot of us we don't like conflict and this is starting conflict. God helps us here too. God's love helps us here. John writes again staying in John, there is no fear and love, but perfect love drives, drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. Now let me just say this, because it can. It can read a little confusing, but his intention here is not to say that, like if you're a follower of Jesus and you have God's love, that you're never afraid. That's not true at all. If you were to go out today, leave church and go stand in the middle of the belt line, I don't care how much you love Jesus, you're gonna be scared when you see the truck coming at you, as you should. That's a healthy, god-given Fear. Okay, that's not what he's saying. He's not saying that your anxiety over the next few weeks or with that anxiety when you schedule the meeting, the anxiety when you show Up to the meeting, the anxiety you're gonna experience the entire time through the meeting, is not saying you're not gonna experience that. But what he's saying is that doesn't define you, that's not the motivating factor, that's not what has its claws into you, because the love in you and God's love is greater than the fear you experience. And so we're reminded that. John says it's this deep realization that you are beloved and you go to that person. You try to get reconciliation. Hey, it takes two to reconcile. Okay, you go to that person, you do your part. No, reconciliation happens. That's okay, because your identity isn't in that. Your identity is in God and belovedness. Carrie Latiser, who is a pastor in Chicago. She spoke at her church on Christmas a couple years ago. She put it this way. It's so good. She says when I am firmly rooted in my belovedness as a child of God, I have nothing to earn because there's nothing I can do to make God love me more. I have nothing to lose because there's nothing I can do to make God love me less. I have nothing to gain because there's nothing I can gain that's more valuable than God. I have nothing to prove because there's nothing to demonstrate about my worth. I am simply his beloved. When we root ourselves so deeply and firmly and the love of Jesus, we can accept criticism and not take it personal. We can take risk, like sending that text, that phone call trying to set something up. We can speak with kindness and love, even if we feel hurt and angry. We can weather rejection. It's still gonna hurt, still gonna be painful, but we're gonna find that when. But when we find our identity in God's love for us, we can love without fear. Now, the truth about our belovedness isn't just something that you hear today and like oh check, I'm beloved and now you're gonna Live the rest of your life knowing that you're a beloved. You're gonna bookmark this on YouTube. You're gonna listen to it every day, right? That's? You're like no, okay, that's fair, I'm not either okay, but but we have to develop this. We have to remind ourselves often. We have to continue every day to ask God to sit on the throne of our lives. We have to ask him, we have to work for that. This is the kind of truth that you have to keep coming back to. It's like water for your soul. I am beloved. You don't just drink one bottle of water at some point in your life and call it good the rest of your life. We got to continue to practice our belovedness, and so I just want to suggest I mean, at the end of each week of the series, we have a challenge. We do that every week, but the challenge this week is I want you to pray this week a very simple prayer. It's a form of prayer called breath prayer, and what we're gonna do, we're gonna practice it right now. We're gonna take a breath in and exhale, and as you breathe in, I want you to the goddess love, and as you exhale, I am loved. You know the cool thing as you get to do this all week, it's not just right now this prayer will help ground you in your belovedness and your identity as a child of God. It will free you from fear and rather than listening to the voices in our lives they're telling us that we're not enough or that you're alone, that you'll never be successful we choose to follow the voice of the one who calls us beloved. Let's pray.