Pursuing God's Beauty: Stories from the Gospel of John

Overview

In this six-session small group Bible study, Pursuing God’s Beauty, Margaret Feinberg looks at six stories of beauty from the Gospel of John that illustrate how God’s beauty is present in your life.

God created us to be drawn toward beauty—created us to pursue beauty so that we might know more about His character, attributes, and work in our world. Perhaps no book of the Bible paints a clearer picture of this than the Gospel of John.

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Overview

In this six-session small group Bible study, Pursuing God’s Beauty, Margaret Feinberg looks at six stories of beauty from the Gospel of John that illustrate how God’s beauty is present in your life.

God created us to be drawn toward beauty—created us to pursue beauty so that we might know more about His character, attributes, and work in our world. Perhaps no book of the Bible paints a clearer picture of this than the Gospel of John.

Throughout John’s Gospel, the beauty of God radiates in the person of Jesus Christ—the one in whom God displayed His whole heart for the world to see. It’s within the person of Jesus that we find the invisible attributes of God being made visible, on display like fine pieces of artwork—to be enjoyed, celebrated, and reflected on.

This Participant Guide includes six sessions that can be adapted to any number of weeks. It includes ideas for experiential activities and icebreakers, and five after-hours studies per session for those who want to dig deeper into Scripture at home. Pursuing God’s Beauty reveals breathtaking portraits of the salvation, redemption, and restoration that God the Artist longs to complete in us. Designed for use with the Pursuing God’s Beauty DVD (sold separately).

Sessions include:
1. Encountering Jesus (John 1 – 3)
2. When God Sees through You (John 4 – 8)
3. Recognizing the Blind Spots (John 9 – 11)
4. When Worship Costs More than Expected (John 12 – 17)
5. Mistakes that Refine Instead of Define (John 18 – 19)
6. The Hope and Healing of Resurrection (John 20 – 21)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780310428695
  • Publisher: Zondervan
  • Publication date: 8/28/2011
  • Pages: 141
  • Sales rank: 1,019,999
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Margaret Feinberg is a popular Bible teacher and speaker at churches and leading conferences such as Catalyst, Thrive, and Women of Joy. She was recently named one of 50 women most shaping culture and the church today by Christianity Today. Her books, including The Organic God, The Sacred Echo, and Scouting the Divine sold nearly a million copies. Margaret lives in Morrison, Colorado, with her husband, Leif, and their super pup, Hershey.

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Read an Excerpt

Pursuing God's Beauty PARTICIPANT'S GUIDE

Stories from the Gospel of John
By Margaret Feinberg

ZONDERVAN

Copyright © 2011 Margaret Feinberg
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-310-42869-5


Chapter One

SESSION ONE

Encountering Jesus John 1–3

Each one of us has different experiences of God's beauty and different appreciations of this beauty—those inexpressible and indefinable moments that deeply touch our hearts, our minds, and all our senses. Those moments that melt our hearts when we feel the presence of God in what is beautiful. Each one of us will tell different stories of when we have heard beauty, seen beauty, smelled beauty, tasted beauty and touched beauty ... when beauty has touched our inner souls, when God has touched us. —Edward F. Markquart

Throughout the Gospel of John, the beauty of God radiates in the person of Jesus Christ—a person in whom God placed his whole heart on display for the world to see. It's within the person of Jesus that we find the invisible attributes of God being made visible, on display like the fine pieces of artwork in a gallery—to be enjoyed, celebrated, and reflected upon.

If we are going to be people who pursue God's beauty, who live passionately pursuing Jesus Christ, then we cannot keep the stories of what God has been doing in our lives to ourselves. Each of us is a mini-portrait of the beautiful work of God. As recipients of God's grace and love, we have the opportunity to display the beauty of God everywhere we go simply by sharing the story of God's work in our lives.

Wherever we may be on our spiritual journeys, there's something powerful and beautiful we can discover from each other's stories of meeting Jesus. Every story showcases facets of God's goodness and demonstrates how relentlessly God pursues us.

Getting Started: Select One

(10–15 MINUTES)

Experiential Activity: When Love Comes to Town

What you'll need:

* An MP3 of U2's "When Love Comes to Town"

* Printed lyrics of U2's "When Love Comes to Town" for each participant

1. Download "When Love Comes to Town."

2. Google the lyrics and print them out for each participant.

3. Play the song and allow participants to read through the lyrics.

4. Discuss the following questions:

• What images and messages are suggested through the song?

• What does it look like in your own life when love comes to town?

• Have you ever seen love come to town in someone else's life? What did it look like? How were they transformed? How were you impacted from seeing the transformation?

Icebreaker Question

If you're not doing the experiential activity, choose one of the following sets of questions to begin your discussion.

• Where did you notice beauty this week? How did it impact your relationship with God?

• Have you ever met someone famous? Describe the experience.

• Imagine for a moment that you had the opportunity to meet Jesus tomorrow morning for breakfast at a local restaurant. Where would you eat together? What would you order? What questions would you ask?

One: Encountering Jesus

(18 MINUTES)

As you watch the DVD, use the following outline to take notes on anything that stands out to you.

We all have different stories, unique portraits of the ways we first encountered Jesus.

At times we will simply declare the truth of who Jesus is, and those who hear will become followers of Jesus.

We need to bring people to Jesus. What does that mean? We need to recognize that bringing people to Jesus is a journey in which we share our faith and our lives.

Sometimes when it comes to helping people encounter Jesus, all we can do is invite them to "come and see."

Sometimes people will have encounters with God that are miraculous, mysterious, beyond human explanation, but essential for their decision to follow Jesus.

If we are going to be people who pursue God's beauty, people who want to see our magnificent God on display everywhere we go, then we cannot keep the stories of what God has been doing in our lives to ourselves.

Group Discussion Questions

(30–45 MINUTES)

1. What caught your attention or stood out most to you on the DVD?

Encountering Jesus

2. How did you first encounter Jesus? Where were you? Who were you with? What series of circumstances led to that encounter?

3. Jesus' approach to calling his disciples was revolutionary. Traditionally, disciples made the choice of which rabbi they would follow. But Jesus does the opposite. Instead of waiting for the disciples to find him, Jesus takes the initiative and pursues his followers. Read John 1:35–50 aloud. Which of the disciples' experiences most closely resembles your own experience in deciding to follow Jesus?

When You Can't Keep the Good News to Yourself

4. Philip enthusiastically shares with Nathanael the good news that he has found the Messiah. Rather than share in the excitement, Nathanael asks whether any good thing can come out of Nazareth. The response isn't exactly what Philip hoped for!

Have you ever had someone share their faith with you? Describe your response.

Have you ever shared your faith and the response wasn't what you had hoped for? How did you handle the situation?

Notable

Jesus responds to Nathanael by acknowledging that he's an Israelite in whom there's nothing deceitful or false. The wording of the statement suggests that Nathanael is different from Jacob (before his name changed to Israel) in that he is honest and true.

5. Sometimes those who are the most cynical have the deepest hungers and desires that have gone unmet. Nathanael's response to Philip's news that he's found the Messiah is marked by cynicism.

What are some specific situations that you've encountered in the last three months that have tempted you to respond with cynicism?

What do you think is the best way to respond to someone with cynical views of God and Christianity?

6. Are you inviting people on a regular basis, as Philip did, to "come and see" Jesus? Why or why not?

7. What compels or hinders you from sharing your faith?

Bonus Activity

The cover of this study bears an image of "The Sword of Orion" from the constellation Orion. To learn more about this image, go online and Google images from the Hubble Telescope as well as this constellation. Thank God for the beauty of creation.

8. Are there some ways you've seen God work to draw people to himself that make you uncomfortable or quietly think, "I wish God didn't work that way?" If so, describe. Are there ways in which God works to draw people closer that you love to see? If so, describe.

Come and See

9. Are there any methods, techniques, or conversation starters that you've personally found effective for sharing your faith? If you were to create a "Five Best Practices" list for sharing your faith, what would you place on the list? 10. The Gospel of John is written so that people will not only encounter Jesus but believe in Jesus. Read John 20:30–31.

From this first lesson, what details, stories, or interactions would lead you to believe in Jesus?

Have you ever seen someone's life transformed in a beautiful way because they chose to believe in Jesus? If so describe.

Jesus is in the business of drawing people into a beautiful relationship with himself. We have the opportunity to share the good news of who Jesus is and all that he has done and, in the process, to bring people to Jesus so they grow in their faith and knowledge of him.

Close in Prayer

Ask God to:

• Give you courage to share your faith both in words and actions.

• Provide opportunities to introduce people to Jesus as well as sensitivity to when those moments arrive.

• Make the good news truly good news in your life so that it bubbles out of you.

Jumpstart

To get an insider's look at the Pursuing God series, bonus features, and freebies, as well as join the online discussion, visit www.pursuinggodbiblestudy.com.

To prepare for the next group session, read John 4:1–45 and tackle the After-hours personal studies.

Bonus Activity Take a quick photo! Before you close, take a picture of your group and email it to info@margaretfeinberg.com. Your group could be featured soon on the home page of www.margaretfeinberg.com.

Afterhours Personal Studies

Dive deeper into John's Gospel by engaging in these five personal studies. If you only have time for one, choose Day Five, which will prepare you specifically for the next session.

DAY ONE: The Uniqueness of John's Gospel

John 1:1–5

All four of the Gospels tell the stories of Jesus in a unique way. Matthew provides a detailed account of Jesus' actions and interactions. Mark's Gospel is short, sweet, and gets straight to the point about Jesus. Luke is written from the perspective of a doctor and businessman. If you want to dive into the miracles of Jesus or learn more about what Jesus thinks of financial issues, study the Gospel of Luke.

Then there's John, an artist who goes beyond the facts about Jesus to communicate the personality, the emotions, the very presence of Christ in history. John's Gospel adds color and vibe and hue to the gospel story. This beautifully written account is lined with distinctive snapshots of Jesus, his teaching, and his heart for our world.

All of the Gospels help people encounter Jesus in different ways. Let's look at the distinct ways each of the four Gospels begins.

1. Read Matthew 1:1–17. As a Jewish disciple of Jesus, Matthew begins by looking at the family tree of Jesus in order to emphasize Jesus as the legitimate King of Israel. What does Matthew's introduction reveal about his purpose for writing? Make a list of three to five words that describe Matthew's writing style (for example: logical, detailed, in-depth).

2. Read Mark 1:1–8. Directed toward a Roman audience, Mark uses a completely different method of reaching his audience than Matthew. What does Mark's introduction reveal about his purpose for writing? Make a list of three to five words that describe Mark's writing style.

Quotable

"The essence of the depth of John's picture of Jesus is its simplicity. Light, water, bread, seed sown. Jesus is revealed through the immediate, the tangible. He left out the parables of Jesus because, for John, Jesus' entire life was a parable; a parable of misunderstanding, of pain, of joy." —Michael Card

3. Read Luke 1:1–4. Unlike Matthew, Luke traces Jesus' lineage all the way to Adam. What does Luke's introduction reveal about his purpose for writing? Make a list of three to five words that describe Luke's writing style.

Notable

John was written significantly later than the other three Gospels. Thus, the author of John's Gospel would have been aware of the other Gospels (especially Mark), but pointedly chose specific instances and personal interactions with Jesus to express in his Gospel.

4. Read John 1:1–5. Instead of beginning with Adam and the first human, John begins even before then. John paints a breathtakingly beautiful portrait of the reality of God incarnate in the person of Jesus Christ. What does John's introduction reveal about his purpose for writing? Make a list of three to five words that describe John's writing style.

5. Which of these four approaches to telling the story of Jesus appeal to your own personality and learning style?

Bonus Activity

Logos was a term used by ancient Greek philosophers to refer to a higher power. While these philosophers only theorized that God existed, the Gospel of John uses this term to suggest that God isn't a mere theory; God not only exists but is revealed in Jesus. Spend some time researching logos in Strong's Concordance under GK 3364.

6. Why is it important to study the stories of Jesus? How has studying the stories of Jesus within the Gospels affected your faith in the past?

Spend some time asking God to whet your appetite to know God even more! Ask God to increase your hunger to study Scripture and celebrate the discoveries you make along the way.

DAY TWO: Seeing Jesus in images, Titles, and Roles

John 1

Throughout the first chapter of John, a wide variety of images, titles, and roles are used in order to introduce readers to Jesus. Since John's Gospel is written to a diverse audience, John describes Jesus using beautiful imagery that appeals to a wide audience—Greeks, Romans, Gentiles, and Jews. Jesus came to save all of humanity, not just a particular people group.

1. Read John 1. Use the following chart to write down the images, titles, or roles John uses to describe Jesus.

2. Identifying Jesus as the Word (or Logos), life, and light provides a cosmic perspective of Jesus. Jesus was not only with God in the beginning, but creation did not happen apart from Jesus. Life is found in Jesus, not just through creation, but also through the reconciliation of humanity to God through the person of Jesus.

According to this chapter, what role does Jesus play in creation?

What is the significance of Jesus being incarnate—fully divine and fully human?

How do you think your relationship with God would be different if Jesus had not been fully human?

Notable

Nathanael calls Jesus "the king of Israel" in John 1:49, a term that only appears in the New Testament three times, another of which is also in John's Gospel: Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem (John 12:13). The third mention is in Matthew 27:42.

3. What do the images, titles, and roles reveal about Jesus' relationship with God? (Hint: See John 1:14, 15, 18, 29, 34, 36.)

4. What do the images, titles, and roles reveal about Jesus' role in relationship to the people of Israel? (Hint: See John 1:37, 41, 45, 49.)

5. What do the images, titles, and roles allude to regarding Jesus' future death and resurrection? (Hint: See John 1:29, 36.)

Notable

John's Gospel uses the term king sixteen times and almost always refers to Jesus, suggesting the importance of his royalty.

6. Of all the images, titles, and roles for Jesus mentioned in this chapter, which one is most beautiful and meaningful to you? And how is it significant for you right now?

Spend some time in prayer asking God to reveal Jesus to you in a fresh way. Ask God to open up the understanding of your mind and heart to comprehend and embrace the reality of Jesus in your life during the upcoming weeks.

DAY THREE: Creating and Cleansing

John 2

After introducing us to Jesus, John highlights seven miracles called "signs" which point to Jesus as the much-anticipated Messiah. The first of these signs is a somewhat startling event. Jesus unexpectedly turns water into wine for a wedding celebration. The dramatic and prophetic act is meant to demonstrate Jesus' divine power and lead the reader to believe that Jesus is the Messiah. The Greek word for the "good" wine Jesus creates is kalos, which can be translated "beautiful." Thus the miracle Jesus performs is creating beautiful wine.

1. Read John 2:1–12. The passage begins with the words, "On the third day." Three days seems to be significant throughout Scripture. According to the following passages, what other events happened on the third day?

Reflecting on these passages, what does the third day represent or symbolize to you?

Weddings in ancient culture lasted anywhere from three days to an entire week. Often the entire community — including friends and family — were involved in the celebration, placing a considerable burden on the host family. Jesus is attending a wedding in the small town of Cana in Galilee along with his disciples when his mother announces the hosts are out of wine.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Pursuing God's Beauty PARTICIPANT'S GUIDE by Margaret Feinberg Copyright © 2011 by Margaret Feinberg. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN. 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

Pursuing God's Beauty 7

A Message for Leaders 9

Session 1 Encountering Jesus (John 1-3) 11

Session 2 When God Sees through You (John 4-8) 35

Session 3 Recognizing the Blind Spots (John 9-11) 57

Session 4 When Worship Costs More than Expected (John 12-17) 77

Session 5 Mistakes that Refine Instead of Define (John 18-19) 99

Session 6 The Hope and Healing of Resurrection (John 20-21) 119

Notes 137

Bibliography 139

About the Author 141

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