Friday, March 23, 2012

So, spring break has begun. We reached the end of the 2nd quarter of our school, and now I'm headed to Denver for a week to see my brother and relax a little bit before jumping into the prophets, before the soon-coming end of the school in June. I will certainly miss the school and the people here, but I am ready to go home, at least for a little while.

The quarter has been a struggle. The work hasn't been a problem, and doing a lot of work has never really been an issue. But emotionally, spiritually, and mentally (non-worked based) has been one of if not the most draining experience of my life. I spent so much of the quarter with so much uncertainty, whether it was in regards to certain theological issues, or uncertainty regarding what was going to come after this school. It's been a long, arduous time, but one I am grateful for both to have gone through, and now feel that I am coming out of slowly. I feel as though this time has humbled me, that it has stripped me of what little knowledge I possessed and what few certainties I had, and made me start to reestablish myself inside of God. Pieces of me have been broken, or rebroken I guess, and now I am starting to be pieced back together a little bit.

I feel as though a lot of this stemmed from what I was going to do after my SBS. Coming into this school, I felt like God had laid out some very clear steps for where he wanted me to head, and how I was going to get there. SBS was the first step, and then some time at home to give back out of everything I have learned over the last year and a half, before getting into some more leadership and teaching based schools, and seeing what came from that. But somewhere during the school, the idea of staffing SBS schools started to sound very appealing, and after some random comments from other staff thinking that I would be a good fit, I started to lean toward that. I got an application, and filled it out, but I never quite felt right about handing in it. Around this time, the idea of Titus (a teaching school that follows SBS) and DTS Equip (a leadership school) came up, and both of those sounded appealing. But shortly after I started considering all of these ideas, I realized that I was being kind of an idiot. I realized I was being steered by my emotions, and by the good-vibes about whatever came up. And during this time where I was considering all of these things, I was just unhappy. I just wasn't alright with where I was, and the anxiety/confusion I was putting on myself just didn't help anything that all. Around this time, I started to seriously question why I wanted to even staff SBS schools, or be a teacher at all, in the first place. And what I quickly saw (or God revealed to me) was that I wanted to get involved with this teaching for my own glory. Pride had snuck in and took a nice comfy seat inside me, and started steering my mind in a direction that would ultimately lead to giving me the most personal satisfaction. And once I started questioning my motives, everything else became irrelevant, as whatever I did was going to be tainted by my own ego, which isn't a healthy place to do everything out of.

Sometime recently, past couple weeks or so, during this time of my self questioning of motives regarding my future, I felt like God reminded me of something very important. I felt like while I was worrying about what was to come, that he was essentially saying 'What are you worried about? I already told you.' And there it was. That was the direction I had been seeking, the answer to my worries, the reminder of the path that God had put me on, and why I had been so discouraged and confused over the past few months. I was trying to take myself off of what God had provided for me, I had gotten selfish and arrogant, making things more about me than they should have been. God is doing something with me, I'm not sure what, but the reasons he is putting me through this school and the future schools means he is doing something that will lead me into something that isn't going to be about me. He seems to be training me to exist for other people, to grow personally in order to share that growth with whomever needs it. I get to experience this ride, but ultimately, there are more people here with me than I can see. This time has far less to do with me than I had come to believe.

And ultimately, understanding (I think, at least) what God's plan going forward is, is what has been bringing me peace, and bringing me out of that time of anxiety and confusion. I feel like I am getting back to where God had me 6 months ago at the start of this thing, but I feel like my heart has been broken and rebuilt in a way that it wasn't before. It has taught me the reliance I cannot put in myself, and reminded me about how pride can ruin even the most noble of goals, and how it can happen without you even knowing it.

And abrupt ending, but that is all I have to say. Just know, above all, more important than anything I can tell you, that God is good.

-Josh Miller

Sunday, February 19, 2012

So it has again been a while since my last post, and while not excuse is an acceptable one, if there were one, working through the Pentateuch (Genesis through Deuteronomy) in the three weeks since I've posted would be the best.

In the last post I had just started Genesis, and since then we have completed (as a school) Exodus, Numbers and Leviticus. They were all altered assignments, as for all three we didn't have a normal amount of time to due them (a normal amount being about a week). We did Numbers and Leviticus in about a 10 day span, which was pretty grueling. Numbers especially. As a whole, the books themselves have been awesome, but they are quite exhausting, and I am looking forward to finishing Deuteronomy later this week, so there will be a bit of a break from the big books for a while.

So something practical that I can share from the work I've been doing is how all of them, in different ways, explain the aspects of who God is, who man is, and how that works together in the relationship between man and God. The books themselves show a progression in what God is doing, as Genesis shows God making a people, Exodus shows God freeing a people, Leviticus shows God separating a people, and Numbers shows God leading a people. So over the books you really get a sense that God is a personal God, that he is continually working for the salvation and relationship with his people (ultimately being fulfilled in Jesus).

So while God is doing all the amazing stuff, you see a brutally sad glimpse into the brokenness and depravity of man. The sins of people continually grow and grow into an ever more shockingly way, which allows you to understand why the people need God, why we need God. Humans are naturally selfish, while God is naturally giving.

All of this leads into an interesting display of the relationship between man and God. Numbers is perhaps best served for this, because rather than one or two people dealing with God at a time, it is an entire nation that he is working with in getting them to the promised land. The generosity, provision, and protection of God are seen all over that book, as he constantly forgives the people for turning from him. And when he ultimately does judge them, even though a generation dies, ultimately his people still do receive their promise.

I'm doing a terrible job at explaining what is going on in the books, so my best recommendation would be to read them for yourselves, and then ask any questions you may have. My mind is a bit mush right now.

Anyway, life is good, it goes on. I'm pretty tired, but I guess that's normal. As far as prayer requests, please pray for continued endurance and wisdom, as I keep pushing into the Word, and trying to find what it has to say.

Thank you.

Joshua Miller

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Alright, so it's been a long time since my last post, I realize. I am about a month in to the second quarter, and we have finally started the Old Testament. I have been working on Genesis the past few days, and will continue to be for the better part of next week. It is an interesting if not a very long book, and the work load has gone into another level due simply to the size of the book. I enjoy it a lot, so far, and look forward to see what the rest of it has to offer.

We did Revelation a couple of weeks ago, which was a really fascinating book to learn about. I probably don't have enough time to explain everything about it in the span of one blog post, but if you decide to read it yourself, keep two things in mind: what everything would have meant to the original reader of the book, and that most of if not the entire thing is figurative. Great book, overall.

The week before that, we did the gospel of John. That was by far the hardest week in the school for me, as I was strained on several levels. I had to do my work duty, which is preparing and cleaning up breakfast, which is about a 2 1/2 hour commitment on top of an already heavy workload (John was the biggest book we'd done to that point). So I was extra tired most of the week. And going through the book, I had some pretty heavy questions regarding some of the theological points of the book (when Jesus talks about people coming to the Father in chapter 6, especially, and the kind of predestination-y tone behind it). And over the beginning of the week, I found myself seriously questioning what it is that I believe, and figuring out how to reconcile what I thought I knew about God, and had a bunch of questions about grace and what it really looks like and what it means and what it means in regards to God. It was over-all just unpleasant, as it is weird going from a strong place in God, and being excited about knowing him, to questioning whether or not he even exists. It was a frustrating week over-all, that left me pretty rattled and broken, something that I'm slowly coming out of.

So, the spiritual side of things this quarter have been rough. That has kind of been the theme of this quarter, so far. I find myself struggling to remain faithful in regards to provision, and actually being able to stay here past Genesis. I find that the longer I am here, the more uncomfortable I feel socially. Rather than growing closer to people in the community, I feel the distance is only growing farther apart. My health has been shaky, as well, in several different ways, and in general it is something I am often nervous about. So over-all this quarter has been a struggle for me, spiritually, mentally, physically, socially. In many ways, I feel lost. But I am clinging on to God, knowing he'll bring me through to the other side. I have no idea how, or what that will look like, but I know remaining in God is the only hope of coming out the other side. I've seen that hold true too many times, in far darker circumstances, to doubt that.

So, in the midst of everything, there is hope. Ultimately, that is what God affords us. He gives us the ability to essentially live outside of whatever circumstances we are going through, and instead bury ourselves as deep inside his promises as we possibly can, and know they will hold true. God is the hope of a better life in the present (spiritually, if not physically), and an eternal life in the future.

If you have any questions, or want details on anything else, please feel free to ask.

Joshua Miller

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Hello. So, it's been a while since the last post, but rest assured, nothing too special has happened. In the recent weeks we have done Romans and both Corinthians, and are now starting to work on Hebrews. The Corinthians were a lot of fun, but 2nd Corinthians was a little smashed together because we only had three days to do it (because of Thanksgiving), while studying for a test at the same time.

I think the biggest thing I have gotten out of the last few weeks is the importance of Jesus' sacrifice, and what that actually meant and how it worked. Romans and the Corinthians do a great job of explaining what Christianity is and how it works, and how certain parts (ie the resurrection) are not negotiable in regards to our faith. Hebrews is only expounding on the topic by showing that Christianity is the only way, and that Jesus surpasses the law and anyone else from the Old Testament in terms of his importance. Seeing who Jesus really was and what he did has been big for me, because I never really understood before.

So that is pretty much it. I'm gearing up for the last three week stretch before our Christmas break, so please pray for strength and endurance in order to finish this quarter out on a high note. And always, that I would get a lot out of what I am reading, and not have it just be words in a book to me. And, the awkward part, please pray for my finances, as I still have to pay for about half the school.

Thank you and God bless.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Hello again. Sorry it's been a while. Being busy and my natural forgetfulness is a bad combination for this sort of thing.

Anyway, this time I thought I'd actually explain a little bit of what I'm doing. I realized that probably would have been helpful for you, and apologize for not doing so last time. So here it goes!

So with every book, we start with an outloud reading. We have to read the entirety of whatever book we're doing, in order to just get a broad picture of what's going on. This isn't a problem for books like Ephesians or Philippians, but it becomes a little harder when it's a book like Acts or Luke. But thankfully we are allowed to read each book in a maximum sized group of four people, so we don't have to read outloud by ourselves for two solid hours.

After that you can do one of two things: you can color code the book that you're doing, which is highlighting words, phrases, or ideas in the text in different ways to show that they're different observations. For example, say you're reading Genesis, and Abraham pops up. You would highlight or underline or use whatever symbol you use to show that observation to be a 'who' observation, so when you look back at your text later you can say 'oh, that's a who'. So the goal of this is to pick the text apart and break it down into more manageable pieces, while giving you a better understanding of the story itself.

Or, after the outloud reading, you can start with paragraph titles. The entire book is broken down into paragraphs, and you are left to come up with titles for them. This stage is nice because it makes you read through the text more slowly, as you're looking for a good title to sum up that paragraph. Again, this stage is designed to break up the text into more manageable pieces. But this is also helpful because by the time you're done, you can kind of follow the story just by the titles, because you already have the story in your head, so the titles just remind you of what's going on and fill in the blanks.

So after both of those stages are done, you move on to what's called the BRI, or Basic Required Information. This is where we do the historical background for each part of the book. The BRI itself is broken into two halves: One is devoted to information about the book, such as Authorship, Dating, and Recipient, in which you use both the text of the book as well as external sources to figure out the information of the book. It isn't always easy. I spent a long, long time trying to figure out a date for Galatians, for example.

The second half of the BRI is devoted to the historical background and setting that the book was actually going into. For example, when you look at Ephesians, you would study Ephesus and the religious and cultural happenings that the time to see what the state of the people would be, in order to give better context about what Paul is talking about. And sometimes, this part of the BRI is even broken in half, between Original Hearer and Original Reader. When you look at a book like Luke, you have to consider both, because the book is being written to Theophilus (Luke 1:3), but the stories include other people. They include the apostles, and everyone Jesus talked to, and everyone who actually heard Jesus speak, some 30 years before Luke was written to Theophilus. The cultural and religious settings for Theophilus and the people in the story are totally different, so you need to look at both of their backgrounds in order to properly interpret what the text means to both parties.

After all this and a few other minor steps (that are probably easier to explain in person), you can finally move on to actually trying to figure out what the text is saying. The book is broken down into segments, or charts, (when you do the paragraph titles, you add bigger sections as well that contain different ideas, these are the segments), and this is what you chart in. The segments don't really have any boundaries, they can be 10 verses long to more than two chapters (I've have both), it all depends on the text. So when you go into these charts to actually do work, the first thing you do is called your 'insides', and what that means is that you go back to your Bible, and look at everything that you color coded, and you take that out and you put it into your charts. These become your observations, the things that you look at and interpret. Once you have the entire segment filled with the observations that you wanted to include, then you can move on to your 'outsides', or trying to figure out what is actually going on in the text. You take your observations out of your 'insides', support them with other observations so you have an even better idea of what that particular observation is saying, and then you can move on to interpretation.

After you've gone through the whole book observing and interpreting and applying (after interpreting, sometimes you apply the truth that is there to yourself or the world or both), you do the final application. This is when you really take a look at something from the book and apply it to your life. This is half of what we are here to do. Yeah we're all here to learn the Bible and increase our knowledge of God and who he is, but at the same time we are all here to deeply change ourselves and apply the entire Bible to our lives, in order to truly grow closer to God. What good is it if only the mind grows but the soul doesn't? Knowledge for knowledge's sake is fun, but ultimately useless in an eternal perspective. If you don't absorb true knowledge, and have it actual change who you are an how you live in order to reflect God and live in his world more than ours, then you don't really have hope. Roman's 12:2 says it best: "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of you mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."

So that is what I've been doing. But how have I been doing? Well, pretty great. I paid of the first quarter of my school (still need like $3000 but not for a while) recently, we went through Acts, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, and Philippians in the last two weeks, and it was a lot of fun. Acts is a great, great book, and has probably been my favorite to work in so far (Acts and Titus are my favorites so far). We did three small books last week (1 & 2 Thess, Philippians), and that was an adventure. It was a weird mix between having free time and then being rushed when you had work to do. I think I prefer focusing on one book at a time. This week we are doing Romans, which is an incredibly awesome book, if not exhausting. The amount of theology and information doesn't really compare to anything we've done. Philippians is probably the biggest theology book we've done (in terms of content, not size), or maybe Ephesians, but Romans is three or four times as big and dense as any of those. It's great, but hard. After this we are doing both of the Corinthians in a week and a half, which will also be great but hard, as there is lots of theology and controversy in those, as well.

I have a couple simple prayer requests. Please pray for endurance as we go through the meat of the theological texts, and please pray that God would be able to break my heart for whatever he wants to show me through those.

Thank you, and God bless ---

Josh Miller

Sunday, October 16, 2011

First month

Hello everyone. It’s been nearly a month since I started my School of Biblical Studies here in Montana, so I thought I’d like you know how I’m doing.

Personally I am doing quite well. I was sick yesterday, but feel fine today. Other than that, we are finally starting to get settled into our weekly routines. Starting tomorrow I have classes three days a week in the afternoon, with Tuesday and Thursday being off days to do school work. I also ended up with breakfast prep as my work duty, and I happen to be working this week, which means getting up at 5:30 every morning, but it isn’t too bad. Other than school and work, I play a good amount of ping-pong in my free time. And that’s pretty much it so far. It has been a great first month, over-all.

For school, we have gone through five books so far: Philemon, Titus, Ephesians, Galatians, and we just finished Mark yesterday. It’s been fun seeing the historical background of the books, and seeing what things meant to the original hearers or readers. My favorites so far have been Titus and Mark. I loved Titus because it re-taught me the value and importance of having hope for an eternal life, and Mark because Jesus is displayed with so much emotion. This week we are going through Luke, followed by Acts the next week. These are the biggest books we’ll be doing this quarter, so please pray for endurance for myself and the rest of my class, haha. So far, I feel like hope and faith have been the big ideas for me. Seeing what those ideas meant to the people Jesus taught, as well as to those the books were written, has been fascinating. It has also been a challenge, because it has really forced me to look at who I am and what I’m made out of spiritually. I see the standard, which is Jesus, and I am really seeing just how far away I am from that. But the more I am challenged, the more opportunity I have to grow, and for that I am very thankful.

If you have any questions or want to know anything specific, please let me know, and I’d be happy to answer. I wasn’t really sure what to include or what would be interesting to hear, so I thought I’d go general for now and see what you guys want to know.

-Josh Miller