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The Open Table Participant's Guide: An Invitation to Know God [NOOK Book]


The Open Table introduces believers and nonbelievers to the person and deity of Christ in a new and refreshing way.

There are many people who argue God doesn't exist and many who argue God does. Still, millions know that, all arguments aside, what they feel in their souls is a need for God. To some, the idea of searching for God sounds as ridiculous as chasing a leprechaun to get his pot of gold. And yet few go looking for a leprechaun, while millions go on looking for God. At...

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The Open Table Participant's Guide: An Invitation to Know God

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The Open Table introduces believers and nonbelievers to the person and deity of Christ in a new and refreshing way.

There are many people who argue God doesn't exist and many who argue God does. Still, millions know that, all arguments aside, what they feel in their souls is a need for God. To some, the idea of searching for God sounds as ridiculous as chasing a leprechaun to get his pot of gold. And yet few go looking for a leprechaun, while millions go on looking for God. At the heart of the Christian story-the story at the heart of The Open Table-is this basic idea: God shows up in the lives of people who search for Him.

The Open Table DVD uses state of the art video and the power of personal testimony to put God in front of anyone who has yet to meet Him. The Open Table Participant's Guide is there for those whose interest is sparked and who want to dig deeper. In the unique and relevant voice of Don Miller, The Open Table introduces people to the person and deity of Christ, and everyone is invited to the table.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781418583590
  • Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/6/2009
  • Sold by: THOMAS NELSON
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 1,369,031
  • File size: 462 KB

Meet the Author

Donald Miller

In 2005 Donald Miller started The Mentoring Project, an organization that helps churches start mentoring programs and pairs mentors with boys in need. Don's work with the fatherless led the Obama administration to invite him onto the president's task force on fatherlessness and mentoring. Donald is the director of The Burnside Writers Collective, an online magazine. He is a frequent speaker, appearing at events such as the Women of Faith Conference, The Democratic National Convention, and Harvard University. He still lives in Portland, Oregon with his dog Lucy

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Read an Excerpt

The opentable an invitation to know God leader's guide

By Donald Miller John MacMurray

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2008 Donald Miller
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4185-8359-0

Chapter One


What Do You Think of When You Think about God?

Before You Meet

Read the daily readings for Week 1 in the Participant's Guide.

Opening Questions

• What is the craziest thing you've seen religious people do?

• What do you think of religious television?

• When you find out somebody is a Christian, what do you think? How do you immediately feel?

For Consideration

1. If the Jesus captured in John 2:1–11 was who he claimed to be, the Son of God and God himself in the flesh, does John's story help you believe he might accept you as you are? (See Day 1.)

This is your first discussion question as a group, and it will inevitably set the tone for your group as all first impressions do. Foster an environment of discussion and acceptance. Be prepared to jump in and answer this question so you don't sit silently and stare at one another. Discuss Jesus' likeability and how that translates to our own likeability.

2. In all honesty, is it hard to believe God both knows you and cares about you? If so, why is it hard to believe God can be caring? Why is it hard to believe he can care about you? (See Day 2.)

We all have baggage that impacts our perception of God and his love for us. But how do we move from head knowledge of God's love to true spiritual understanding of it? Many Christians have walked with God for years without fully grasping this. What piece of baggage or intellectual hang-up can you let go of in your desire to embrace God's love? This is a very deep question that asks people to be vulnerable. And they may not want to be. It's awfully early to expect that. To comfort people, if they sit silent, you might actually say how vulnerable the question is and offer a lighter answer yourself. If somebody does answer the question, thank them, and if it stays silent, simply move on. Eventually, people will start to open up, but there is nothing we can do except make a comfortable place for that to eventually happen.

3. What would a world without justice look like? What would happen if our government did not have a system of checks and balances? (See Day 3.)

Many of us associate negative feelings with words like judging or judgment. But there is a good and even gracious side to justice. Discuss how that could be.

4. Do you find the idea of a fair and merciful judge comforting? How does this passage change the idea of God's judgment for you? (See Day 3.)

What security can you find in the idea of a good and righteous judge? What insecurity comes when there is an evil judge or no judge at all? If your idea of God's judgment is changed, what does that mean for you personally and spiritually? How does that change your relationship with God?

5. How much of our distrust of people probably comes from insecurity? Are some of our feelings that God doesn't like us also born from insecurities? What would life look like if we actually believed that the God who made us liked us, enjoyed being around us, and wanted to be our friend? (See Day 4.)

Think in terms of practical application—what would change in your life (specifically) if you truly believed God loved you? It's easy for us to gloss over the answers to these questions, especially when we're uncomfortable with the thought of our insecurities or God's love for us. But be honest as you discuss; otherwise you'll just be wasting your time.

6. Does part of you entertain the idea that God has pursued you? What evidence do you see that God wants a relationship with you? How does it make you feel to know the God of the universe may be pursuing you? What would it look like to worship him? (See Day 5.)

A relationship with the divine in which we pursue God is vastly different from one in which God purses us. Why is it so significant that God comes after us, desires a friendship with us? What is keeping you from believing this, if anything?

WEEK 2 Do You Think Life Is What It Ought to Be?

Before You Meet

Read the daily readings for Week 2 in the Participant's Guide.

Opening Questions

• When did you realize there was a dark side to life?

• Have you ever noticed a kind of dark side to yourself (vindictiveness, jealousy, arrogance, and so on)?

• Have you ever wondered why this dark side exists?

For Consideration

1. Do you think human nature tends to lean toward self-interest? If all the checks and balances were removed from your life, would you be able to regulate your nature and basically be a good person? (See Day 1.)

Would you be more self-centered if there were no police or social repercussions for your actions? If you had no adverse health effects, would you give in to your basic desires? Explain why you think you would or would not act this way?

2. How do you see Jesus' proposition, that we are essentially broken people, played out in your life and in your relationships? (See Day 1.)

Do you struggle against yourself to do the right thing? Think of a specific time when you wanted to do right but instead gave in and chose wrong. What motivates you to make your decisions, and how does this tie in to the original question?

3. Have you experienced the spiritual hunger and thirst that Jesus talks about? The woman at the well believed Jesus was who he said he was. She went and told the people in the town that she had met the Son of God. At this point in our study, who do you think Jesus is? Are you interested in Jesus being water and food to your spiritual hunger and thirst? (See Day 2.)

This question provides the first overt opportunity for you to invite anyone into this walk of faith. Allow time to think, be silent if necessary, and allow the Spirit to move as it will. Don't rush this. (The next two questions are closely related—you may want to move through them fluidly as you discuss.)

4. In the past, in what people or things have you placed your hope? When the criminal dying next to Christ asked Jesus to remember him, did you find yourself also hoping Jesus would remember you? Do you believe that if you ask Jesus to remember you, and trust his mercy to forgive you of all your sins, he will do it? (See Day 3.)

In Christ Jesus, we have a hope that does not disappoint. Jesus wants us to place all our hope in him. I think this means that we can trust the good nature and character of God to be forgiving and gracious. As people are considering their willingness to accept the reality of this promise, you may want to share examples of this from your life. Remember the advice in the Introduction—that speaking of Jesus' work in your life should be like talking about your children or a great memory.

5. Do you believe that if you were lost, Jesus would come and find you? Do you believe that through this study, through all these things Jesus is saying to you, he has already come to find you? How do you respond to Jesus as he reaches out and says, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me"? (See Day 4.)

Be sensitive to the emotional level of the group as you continue in this discussion, examining your bias and the plausibility of God's perfect love for us. And wrap up the meeting on a positive, encouraging, and affirming note.

6. How do you respond to Jesus' sadness at Lazarus's death? Why do you think Jesus waited so long to arrive at their house? How does his miracle two thousand years ago comfort you today? (See Day 5.)

Don writes that Jesus' real point was to show that the last and greatest enemy of man is not to be feared. How does that apply to us today in real life, when death still does knock at our door?


Will God Break into Our Lives?

Before You Meet

Read the daily readings for Week 3 in the Participant's Guide.

Opening Questions

• Do you tend to expect the worst, or at least tend to have low expectations of things?

• Describe a relationship or event that failed when you expected it to succeed—how did you react to that loss?

• Do you anticipate that a relationship with Jesus will fulfill your wildest dreams?

For Consideration

1. Have you ever felt like the things you've done would cause God not to like you, not to want a relationship with you? How does knowing that Jesus wanted to be friends with Zacchaeus make you feel? (See Day 1.)

As you discuss Jesus' compassion for sinners like Zacchaeus and ourselves, consider whether or not we have a moral obligation to think of ourselves as Jesus does. Is it sinful for us to have a negative view of ourselves when Jesus loves us regardless? Or is it healthy to recognize and examine our own sin?

2. Describe a time in your life when you experienced hopelessness. Do you think that life is hopeless now, or is there part of you that believes things can be made right and you can experience hope again? How does Christ fulfilling the hope of the paralyzed man (at the pool at Bethesda) offer hope to your life as well? (See Day 2.)

Allow plenty of time for discussion on this question. Our deepest pain is closely connected to our perspective on hope, and Jesus would not rush or make light of other people's stories. Acknowledge the pain and give validity to the feelings of fear and despair that people may currently have or may have had in the past. Is it possible that we could believe a story like this one, though? That Jesus might actually remove our pain and give us hope?

3. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? Why? (See Day 3.)

Discuss this question briefly and move naturally into the next question as you discuss.

4. Do you believe Jesus accepts you as you are and that your own feelings of insecurity are simply lies? Do you want Jesus to help you see everybody as equal, and leave your prejudices and society's contest behind? (See Day 3.)

Although many of us struggle daily (even hourly) with the desire to please or impress others in our own unique ways, most of us would acknowledge that we wish life were not such a battle to impress. But are we really willing to let go of that identity and the approval of other humans to gain the approval of God?

5. Have you ever felt blind in life? If you have faith in Christ, do you believe he will take away your spiritual blindness and allow you to see? Will you ask Jesus to heal you of your spiritual blindness? (See Day 4.)

Ask your group to think of times when they had no idea what to do, or were completely lost as to the decision they should make in a certain situation. That is one type of spiritual blindness. What are others? How has a relationship with Jesus healed this in your life?

6. You have now spent three weeks with Christ. You've seen him do miracles and make proclamations, and you've seen some people walk away and others believe. Nicodemus didn't care what anybody else thought. He knew Jesus was the Son of God, and all his hope was in him. As you think about Christ, do you place all your hope in him?

This question asks the members of your group to either align themselves with Christ or not, and that may be awkward. Acknowledge that this study is part of a journey, and it's okay if everyone is not at the same point. The hope is that all will eventually enter a relationship with Christ, but pushing anyone to do so is not the right approach. So be open-minded during this discussion, and look ahead to the promise of the kingdom of God.


Can I Know God?

Before You Meet

Read the daily readings for Week 4 in the Participant's Guide.

Opening Questions

• Are you generally a lucky or unlucky person?

• Describe the best or worst experience you've had that could be accounted to "luck."

• Do you tend to view God as a wish-granter in the sky or as someone you are in a relationship with, just like your other friends and loved ones?

For Consideration

1. As you read stories about Jesus, do you feel yourself being drawn to him? Does part of you want to get to know him better? What do you think of the idea that God wants to know you? (See Day 1.)

Some people will find great comfort in the idea that God wants to know them completely. Others will be terrified of that idea. And still others will fall somewhere in between. Be sensitive to the Spirit working in the hearts and minds of the nonbelievers in your group. Can you see sparks of interest growing in some of them? Are they willing to open up and let themselves be known and loved?

2. When you look around, do you see that much of the pain in your life comes out of relationships? (See Day 2.)

Ask the group to think back to a time when they were experiencing the joys of new love, as described in Day 2's reading. Your hormones are racing with excitement, and you literally don't recognize the daily annoyances of life. You don't realize the things you're lacking, such as a new car, a nicer apartment, or more stylish furniture. You think you can take on any task and succeed wildly in all you do. How does a relationship with God mirror this?

3. How does it make you feel to know God will fulfill all that you are missing through a relationship with him, and that this relationship will last forever? (See Day 2.)

Do you believe this could be true? It's such a wild assertion—that perfect divinity knows us, loves us, and desires to fulfill all our needs. Do you feel humbled, empowered, skeptical, excited, undeserving, inspired, or something else completely?

4. How does it make you feel to know that God wants a relationship with you? How does it make you feel to know God's love is completely perfect? (See Day 3.)

God longs to satisfy us perfectly. Does this seem strange to you? What would it take to make you truly believe it? Why would he want a relationship with you? So you will do something powerful and important in the world? So he will be glorified? Both? Explore these ideas with excitement and abandon—don't hold back on the ideas God supplies you.


Excerpted from The opentable an invitation to know God leader's guide by Donald Miller John MacMurray Copyright © 2008 by Donald Miller. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents


Suggestions for Small Group Leaders....................7
Week 1: What Do You Think of When You Think about God?....................13
Week 2: Do You Think Life Is What It Ought to Be?....................17
Week 3: Will God Break into Our Lives?....................21
Week 4: Can I Know God?....................25
Week 5: How Do We Follow Jesus?....................29
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