Read an Excerpt
Pursuing God's Love PARTICIPANT'S GUIDEStories from the Book of Genesis
By Margaret Feinberg
ZONDERVANCopyright © 2011 Margaret Feinberg
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSESSION ONE
God Rising Genesis 1–3
God loves us as we are, as he finds us, which is messy, muddy, and singing out of tune. Even when we've tried to be good, we have often only made matters worse, adding pride to our other failures. And the never-ending wonder at the heart of genuine Christian living is that God has come to meet us right there, in our confusion of pride and fear, of mess and muddle and downright rebellion and sin. –N.T.Wright
Scripture is God's story. God is the central character, and God is the author of it all. Yet, as a loving God, we're invited into the divine story God has been writing since the beginning of time.
The opening chapters of Genesis are chock-full of stories that showcase the attributes of God. God is all-powerful, all-knowing, abounding in imagination, creativity, mystery, and wisdom. God is the source of life, strength, and goodness. God is immortal and transcendent. God has a plan and purpose. The first stories in Genesis remind us that even when we question, disobey, or doubt divine love, God continues pursuing us.
Getting Started: Select One
Experiential Activity: Imagining the Flavors of Eden
What you'll need:
* A variety of fresh fruits and vegetables
* Serving plates, forks, napkins
1. Visit a local supermarket that specializes in fresh produce. Buy a variety of fruits and vegetables. Be adventurous! Purchase some exotic fruits that you've never tried before.
2. Wash and prepare the fruits and vegetables prior to your gathering, or you may wish to leave everything whole and make cutting and peeling part of the group experience.
3. Discuss the following questions as you enjoy tasting your healthy snacks:
Which fruit is the most pleasing visually? Why?
Why do you think God created so many different types and flavors of fruits?
What emotions do you imagine God felt as creation unfolded?
After the man and woman were expelled from the garden, what are some of the things you think they missed most?
If you're not doing the experiential activity, choose one of the following questions to begin your discussion.
Imagine that you had the opportunity to stand alongside God on one of the days of creation. Which day of creation would you most like to experience and why?
What kinds of activities help you appreciate the wonder of God's creation?
What do you love about God the most?
One: God Rising
As you watch the DVD, use the following outline to take notes on anything that stands out to you.
When I face times like those in life, the only thing I know to do is not give up.
In some ways, Genesis is the greatest love story ever told because it reminds us that God's love for humankind cannot be thwarted.
I apologized profusely, but hung up the phone with that sense of, "What have I done?"
As a holy and divine artist, God paints our world beautiful with the most loving attention to detail.
Whenever we focus on God's prohibitions rather than provisions, we can't help but doubt the goodness and generosity of God. We can't help but question God's love.
While the story in the garden is often referred to as "the fall of humankind," I can't help but think we need to rename it "God's rising."
Group Discussion Questions
1. What caught your attention or stood out most to you on the DVD?
2. The spiritual life is marked by seasons of growing and making great progress as well as those seasons when it doesn't feel like any progress is being made. Use the sentence starters to briefly describe both experiences.
I know I'm growing spiritually when ...
I know I'm stalled spiritually when ...
3. How do you typically respond when you mess up?
Are you able to accept forgiveness (from God and others) and move on, or are you more likely to beat yourself up with regret and second-guessing?
What helps you to move beyond your mistakes?
Many scholars believe that Genesis was written for a people living in exile and meant to refute the false theological claims of the Babylonians. That it was written for a people who were discouraged and felt defeated. The first chapter of Genesis is a powerful declaration that God is the Lord of all.
The Story of God
4. When you read the Bible, do you tend to view what you're reading as a historical document, a scientific document, a theological document, a literary document, or some other way? Explain.
5. How does the way you tend to view the Bible affect the way you learn about God and grow spiritually?
6. Read Genesis 3:1–7. It's easy to recognize that Adam and the woman fell for the serpent's lie that God isn't good or doesn't really love them, but what relationships or situations tend to challenge your belief in God's goodness or love for you?
7. Deep down inside, do you really believe God loves you? Explain.
Eve isn't named until Genesis 3:20, after God's rising.
8. Overall, would you say you tend to focus more on God's prohibitions or God's provisions in your life? Mark your response on the continuum below. Briefly share the reason for your response.
I AM ALWAYS AWARE OF I AM ALWAYS AWARE OF GOD'S PROHIBITIONS. GOD'S PROVISIONS.
9. Do you tend to focus more on your failings or on the redemptive healing and restoration God offers you? Mark your response on the continuum below. Briefly share the reason for your response.
I ALWAYS FOCUS MORE I ALWAYS FOCUS MORE ON THE ON MY FAILINGS. REDEMPTIVE HEALING AND RESTORATION GOD OFFERS ME.
Why is it important to focus on God's rising more than our failings?
When have you most recently experienced God rising in your own life?
"The Bible is the story of the creation of the universe—brilliant, glistening, new, and green—and of our own creation in the image of God. It is the story of our falling away from God and of God's repeated attempts to bring us back." –H. Stephen Shoemaker
10. How are you actively and intentionally pursuing God's love in your life and your relationships right now?
At times, we need to shift our focus from our mistakes to God's rising—the ability of God to heal, redeem, and make a way for us. When we do, we find God's love pouring more readily to us and through us.
Close in Prayer
Ask God to:
Give you the spiritual eyes to see the wonders of creation.
Provide a new appreciation for God's rising in your life.
Open up new opportunities to both receive and extend God's love.
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 Genesis 4 and tackle the Afterhours personal studies.
Take a quick photo! Before you close, take a picture of your group and email it to email@example.com. Your group could be featured on the home page of www.margaretfeinberg.com.
Afterhours Personal Studies
Dive deeper into the book of Genesis 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 Breathtaking Account of Creation
The opening chapter of Genesis provides a breathtaking account of the story of creation. This is the story of God bringing order to our world. The creation story is a powerful reminder that everything God creates has a purpose.
Each day of the creation story follows a pattern, which often includes announcing, commanding, separating, reporting, naming, evaluating, and timing. However, some days of creation provide exceptions to the pattern. For example, day two in the creation story is the only day in which God doesn't say, "It is good" (Genesis 1:6–8). Scholars differ on the explanation. Some suggest that day two isn't declared good because there is a separation between the heavens, or firmament, and the water below. They argue that any separation from heaven isn't good. Whatever the reason, it's worth paying attention to the exceptions found in the pattern used to describe creation.
1. Read Genesis 1. On day three, God says "It is good" twice. What do you think was good about creating the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16–17)?
2. On which day of creation does God declare what he creates "very good" (Genesis 1:31)?
Why do you think this day receives a special declaration?
On the first day, evening came before morning. Some believe this detail is reflective of the Jewish day, which begins at sundown rather than sunrise.
3. Which day of creation is mentioned three times, indicating its significance (Genesis 2:2–3)?
What is the first thing God creates that he sets apart as holy (Genesis 2:3)?
In what ways have you experienced the Sabbath as a holy day in your own life?
4. What is the only day of creation that does not include, "There was evening, there was morning" (Genesis 2:2–3)?
Why do you think this phrase is omitted?
Quotable "The Bible tells us how to go to Heaven, not how the heavens go."
5. What obstacles in your life prevent you from entering God's rest?
In ancient culture, the sun, moon, and stars were often worshipped as gods. It is important to make a distinction between the objects that produce light and God as the source of light. Note the sequence of creation: God creates light itself on day one, but it isn't until day four that he hangs the sun, moon, and stars in the sky.
The creation story is laced with details that highlight the wonders of God. It teaches us that God exists within himself, triumphs over chaos, and is intimately involved with creation. While other gods threaten death and loss, our God is full of blessing. God's creation literally teams with life.
6. In which areas of your life do you need to experience God triumphing over chaos?
How do you hope to experience God's blessing in these areas?
Spend some time thanking God for any fresh insights or discoveries you made as you dove into the first chapter of Genesis. Ask God to give you the desire and time to dive deeper into the Scriptures over the upcoming week. Ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate Genesis as you read and study.
DAY TWO: A Second Account of Creation
If the first chapter of Genesis provides a bird's eye view of the story of creation, then the second chapter provides a street-level view as it continues the story of creation, adding rich details to the creation of the garden and humankind.
An interesting shift in perspective takes place from Genesis 1 to Genesis 2. The first chapter of Genesis tells the creation story from God's perspective; the second chapter of Genesis tells the story from a human perspective. While Genesis 1:1 notes that in the beginning God created "the heavens and the earth," Genesis 2 reverses the order: "the earth and the heavens" (2:4).
1. Read Genesis 1–2. As you read, make a list of four to six differences you notice in the way the two chapters tell the creation story.
2. How does the Genesis 2 account of creation expand your understanding of God and the purpose of humankind? (Hint: See Genesis 2:15–17.)
Men and women have the same number of ribs anatomically. But since Adam and Eve were the first people, it's always fair to wonder, did they have bellybuttons?
3. How should knowing that you're made in "the image of God" (see Genesis 1:26–27; 2:22–25) affect the way you interact and view the following:
4. Some scholars note a correlation between the words and phrases used in the story of creation and the words and phrases used in the Exodus story of the tabernacle. The tabernacle was a portable sanctuary, God's temporary dwelling place among his people before they were able to build a permanent temple. Scholars suggest that the temple is a smaller portrait of what God created in the beginning of Genesis. Look up the following passages. What common words and phrases do they share?
When God instructs the Israelites to build the tabernacle, God is renewing the vision of the garden of Eden, the vision of God dwelling with humanity.
5. When are you most aware of God's desire to be with you? How do you respond when you sense the Spirit's tugging in your life?
God places Adam in the garden of Eden, which can be translated "pleasure" or "delight," and instructs him to enjoy the lush fruits and vegetables of the land, except for one: the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Though the tree of life is mentioned first in the text, all the attention falls on the second tree—suggesting that mankind's desire for power is stronger than his hunger for life.
6. When do you feel most tempted by the desire for power?
Spend some time thanking God for the wonders and beauty of creation. Praise God for the care and love with which humankind was made. Ask God to increase your own desire for an intimate relationship with God as well as the abundant life God wants to give you.
DAY THREE: Facing Temptation
The third chapter of Genesis paints a beautiful portrait of God's love for us by demonstrating divine grace and provision for our lives. We meet God's adversary who takes the form of a serpent. The Genesis text never says that Satan is the actual snake in the garden, but in the Old Testament and the New, snakes are sometimes used to describe evil people or nations. However, in the last book of the Bible, Satan is described as a snake (Revelation 12:9, 13–15). Satan could have chosen to take the form of any animal, but chooses a wise, crafty reptile.
1. Read Genesis 3:1–3 and compare it to Genesis 2:16–17. How does the serpent distort God's instructions?
The Hebrew word for "knowing" is yodea, which can also be translated as a respectful reference to a divine being. The temptation of the serpent in Genesis 3:5 can be interpreted as a promise to become "divine beings, knowers of good and evil."
2. Read Genesis 3:4–5. The serpent is a smooth talker. In just a few sentences, he convinces the woman to doubt God's goodness and embrace disobedience. What do you think was most appealing to the woman about the serpent's argument in this passage?
Which aspect of the temptation would be the hardest for you to resist?
The serpent approaches the woman with a mixture of truth and falsehood. The woman turns to the tree, rather than God, to make her final decision. She finds the fruit is aesthetically pleasing and tasty. She shares the news with her husband. The Scripture doesn't detail their conversation, and so we are left to wonder: Did Adam protest? Did the woman disclose which fruit the tree was plucked from? Were the serpent's arguments enough to convince Adam? Did the woman add any arguments to persuade Adam to eat the fruit?
3. Read Genesis 3:6–7. In the space below, imagine and record the dialogue between the woman and Adam in which she convinces him to eat the fruit. For example:
The Woman: "Honey, you'll never guess what I discovered in the garden today! The fruit on this one tree is sweeter and more delicious than anything we've eaten so far."
Adam: "You know that I love fruit—which tree did you get it from?"
Excerpted from Pursuing God's Love 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.
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