Seminary/Grad School of the Week

Moody Bible Institute-Celebrating 125 years of Excellence in Christian Education

Moody Bible Institute-Dr. Paul Nyquist, President
820 N. LaSalle Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60610

www.moody.edu (800) DL-Moody (800-356-6639)

 

Since its founding in 1886 as the Chicago Evangelization Society, by Christian Evangelist and Revivalist Dwight Lyman Moody and Emma Dryer, Moody Bible Institute’s Bible-based education combined with real ministry experience has prepared thousands of students for Christian service. Moody’s education legacy is rich with graduates boldly reaching the world for Christ, paving the way for future generations to do the same.

Moody offers certificates, undergraduate and graduate degree programs in Biblical Studies, Christian Education, and Ministry. The main campus is located in Chicago, IL but it has sattelite campuses in Spokane, WA and Plymouth, MI. Students can also complete courses online or through modular sessions in designated areas.

MBI has been vigilant to maintain integrity within our walls and guard against potential outside threats. The school has a legacy of being held accountable to the standards of the Word by the people of the church. Academically, Moody is accredited by highly trusted agencies. Professionally, every branch of ministry is affiliated with the most revered associations in their respective industries.

Louisiana Last in Peace Rankings

Recently, the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) released a study that showed Maine as being the most peaceful state in the US and Louisiana as being the least peaceful state in the US.  The group based their research study on data compiled from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the FBI and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, focusing primarily on several factors including homicide rates, jailed population percentage, and the availability of small arms. The IEP’s peace ranking comes on the tail of a study released in 2010 by Businessweek.com listing Louisiana as the laziest state (not work-related lazy, but laid back relaxed lazy). I’ll be the first to admit this ranking was somewhat disappointing. I didn’t want to seem ignorant so I did my research. I discovered that there is some truth to the IEP’s ranking. In 2010, Louisiana ranked third on the most violent states list. This was worse than California and Michigan which combined, have five of 2010’s  most dangerous cities. I don’t want to give the impression that Louisiana is the Eden of the US, but it is sure much better than many other states with multiple metropolitan cities.

As a person who was born and raised in Louisiana, I’m not sure what to make of this ranking by the IEP.  I’m sure that there are plenty who can and would argue that in some Louisiana metro areas, there is quite a bit of violence, but that can be said of any state with multiple major metropolitan areas. There are a number of correlating reasons why Louisiana received the lowest ranking including political, socioeconomic, and educational factors.

It can be shown that Louisiana has a large disparity in many of those areas that may contribute to our peace ranking. This however does not take away from the many good things Louisiana has to offer to its citizens and visitors. Louisiana is a shining example of recovery and resilience in the face of terrible circumstances. Unlike most states in the Union, Louisiana is experiencing economic growth and development despite losing a lot after Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Gustav, and the horrible BP oil spill. We still produce some of the best culinary treats in the world, have the biggest party every year during Carnival and Mardi Gras season; and we can boast of having a Super Bowl Championship team in the New Orleans Saints.

In all honesty, Louisiana may fall short in many areas, but one thing is sure for those of us who live here. Louisiana is truly a great place to live and work and no peace ranking from any organization can take that away.

Rediscover the art of rhetorical criticism

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Throughout the day, we encounter signs, symbols, and sounds that engage us and cause us take actions and communicate our thoughts and opinions on certain matters. Each time we participate in this process, we are participating in a skill that has all but gone extinct. It is the ancient skill of understanding and effectively communicating the symbols, signs, and sounds
around us.  This skill is called rhetorical criticism. When the average person hears the word rhetoric, most automatically assume that it means, talking in pompous, bombastic, and seemingly irrelevant words to evade answering questions or just simply sound like a know it all. In reality, rhetoric is simply communication and has been used for centuries as a means of persuasion. In the philosophical world, rhetoric is a way of teaching through communicating. In politics, rhetoric is the persuasion of potential voters to a particular point of view. In religion,
rhetoric is the symbolic actions of believers as they profess their religious beliefs through sacraments, liturgies, and devotions. Every living human being is engaged in rhetoric and as a result, also engaged in rhetorical criticism.

We live in a world where information is transmitted so quickly through 60 second sound bites that there is little to no chance of fully understanding authentic knowledge as it presented. Symbols and signs that once meant something positive are being usurped and their meaning and message changed to convey new thoughts and messages that may directly or indirectly
counter the original meaning or message. The question then becomes why should we be aware of this rhetorical criticism thing and how can we use it to better communicate? The answer is because our world is more interconnected than before and understanding how and what is being communicated empowers the person to control the knowledge they receive and share. This is a much needed powerful skill to have because more individuals have access to the means of delivering and sharing rhetoric (blogs, twitter, social networks, news media, and cell phones) and it is almost impossible to control the content of that rhetoric (unless you live in China or other places where the government controls content).  When we use rhetorical criticism, we become better at investigating, understanding, and explaining our responses to the symbols around us.

Rhetorical criticism isn’t a hard skill to learn and master. It involves two main processes: 1) asking a question, and 2) analyzing something that relates to the question we have asked. Each time we ask a question about anything, we have begun the process of rhetorical criticism. The
question does not have to be anything deep or fantastical, it can be something as simple as why did a band choose a particular logo design, or why a certain color of lipstick looks better than another color. This sets in motion the second process. It is the action (either actual or symbolic or a combination) that we do following the question we ask. It is here that we examine something related to the question we asked. We formulate hypotheses around it and attempt
to understand it better. There are several ways to accomplish this, but the most common is through the written form (email, text message, academic writing, blog, etc). Once we have completed this, we communicate it with those around us. This is done in several ways also. The entire act results in the full communication of our response to the initial symbol that led to the rhetorical criticism.

When practiced regularly, rhetorical criticism can be a way of empowering people to influence in their world. It can be a way of countering what a person believes to be the wrong messages sent out by the wrong people. It can be a way of helping others to be proactive and engaged in all the symbols, signs, and sounds around them.

How High Can You Jump?

Brigham Young University’s star basketball player and finalist for the Oscar Robertson Trophy for NCAA Player of the Year, Jmmer Fredette is featured on the most recent cover of Sports Illustrated Magazine. Fredette has led the team to the NCAA’s Sweet 16 in what is fast becoming college basketball’s most cherished Cinderella Story of the 21st century. It’s certain that Fredette has both the talent and the desire to see his team all the way to the Final Four, and if he and the team continues their dramatic season, it is no doubt that they just may make it all the way.

This cover photo amazes me for two reasons. The first is that Fredette clearly puts to rest the myth that “white men can’t jump!” This guy’s vertical leap is simply jaw-dropping and in the process puts black guys like me with little to no ballin skills to shame.

The second reason is a little more subtle than the first. From the offset, we see him taking a gravity defying jump shot while an opposing team member simply stares as if in disbelief. What I see is a man overcoming a major obstacle to claim a victory.  This is even more pertinent since another BYU basketball star, Brandon Davies, was suspended several weeks ago for admitting to violating the school’s Honor and Moral code by having premarital sex with his student athlete girlfriend. It shows that Fredette and others are more willing to be committed to their game and their code to become champions on and off the basketball court.

This picture makes me ask the question-“How high is my jump over sin and the world?” If I were to answer that now, it would be nothing more than a little hop and if you were to be honest with yourself, I’m sure your answer would be similar. We are called to not conform to the world and that takes more than walking sometimes. There are times when we must leap higher than our adversaries’s assault on us. If we take the vertical leap through the Spirit’s power, we will surely leave the adversary staring up with a dumbfounded look of disbelief on his face. It is surely a jump worth taking because it could be the very jump that thrusts us from defeated to victorious!

 

HBO’s The Sunset Limited-Hollywood’s Attempt at Exploring Faith and Existence

The Sunset Limited

I was up late one night flipping through the channels and came across a movie that had two of my favorite actors-Samuel L Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones, sitting at a table discussing deep philosophical and theological issues. The name of the movie is The Sunset Limited. Adapted from the stage play by Pulitzer Prize Winner Cormac McCarthy, the movie brings life to the real disparities of faith and life many people struggle with.

The two characters, White and Black (respective to their ethnicity) are brought together by what appears to be a moment of chance as Black , a deeply religious ex-con, saves White, an apathetic and atheist college professor from a suicide attempt of jumping in front of a subway train named Sunset Limited. Upon returning to Black’s apartment in the slums of New York, the two engage in a deep dialogue of philosophy, faith, and life. Even the setting of their dialogue, a simple table in a one room slum apartment can be seen as a symbol for the need to simplify our environment so that we may engage our inner self.

It’s not often that Hollywood would tackle the deep philosophical questions of suffering, life, and faith, but this movie does a great job. Jackson plays the role of a deeply religious man who while not fully understanding his faith, accepts it and questions it at the same time. Jones plays the role of an educated atheist man overcome with the despair of his existence. Both men existentially present arguments to counter the other’s faith both in religion and natural order and in my opinion, both are successful at convincing the other that each of their arguments amount to nothing more than fleeting fallacies. This is evident in the very beginning dialogue of the movie where Mr. Black says, ‘What am I supposed to do with you, Professor?’ and White says, ‘Why are you supposed to do anything… ‘Take action? There’s only one action that would have any meaning, and that’s to jump in front of a train.” Watching the interaction of the two men and listening to the dialogue, it’s hard to decide who is more likeable and believable enough to support Mr.White or Mr. Black.

For me, the most moving part of the movie was at the end. It is here that Mr. White comes to grip with his angst, despair, and dread and although presented with the alternative, chooses to leave in the same state of being. This leads Mr. Black to fall on his knees and cry out to his God-“I tried, you know I tried.” It is as if the ending is attempting to bring the audience to question whether or not efforts to prevent fate are worth it. It certainly leaves the watcher with deep pressing questions that he or she may engage with his or her self that could press them to either draw closer or further away from faith and life.

I strongly recommend this film for both its existential relevance, but also because it has two of today’s best actors tackling roles that relate to the average person and are highly likeable.

Want a Healthier Brain? Take A Test!

I know that many of you reading this article have had your
share of disappointments or victories when it comes to standardized testing.
Every student is required to take some state standardized tests to demonstrate proficiency
in their core content subject areas-math, social studies and science, and
English/Language Arts. For professionals, there are various admission tests,
certification tests like the GRE, PRAXIS Series for teachers, MCAT, LSAT, and
seemingly a test for any and everything that one could  possibly think of. I’ll be the first to admit
that taking any standardized tests is a difficult thing. It brings up a sense
of anxiety about passing or failing, getting or losing a position or promotion,
or just one’s sense of being smart.

I’m actually writing to challenge every reader to see how
healthy their brain is by taking a standardized test. You’d be surprised how
much we have really forgotten since graduating high school or college. I know
most of us think we still have the same smarts as we did back then, but science
shows us that the older we get, the less we exercise our brain leading to an
increased chance of Altzheimer’s Disease or other cognitive deficiencies.
Experts agree that to counter this, a person should regularly exercise their
brains just as they exercise their physical bodies. Of course there are plenty
of ways to do this, like puzzles, and playing games like chess, Battleship or
Scrabble and my favorite, listening to music. Those are all good, but what if
you wanted to really challenge your brain, taking a standardized test or any
test is a great way to jump start your brain health.

What does test taking do for the brain?

First, taking a test helps a person by producing natural
endorphins. These endorphins can create a sense of anxiety, but when the test
taker realizes this, those same endorphins create a sense of reaction that can
lead to relaxation and pain relief. Also because a person studies for a test,
they are activating neurons in their brains that will be active and engaged
throughout the test taking period and many years later. The sense of
accomplishment after completing a test is also very healthy for the brain.

Second, for those adults with Adult ADD/ADHD (myself
included), taking a tests is very beneficial. It helps stimulate and increase
working memory capacity. This is the ability to actively hold information in
the mind needed to do complex tasks such as reasoning, comprehension and
learning. Working memory tasks are those that require the goal-oriented active
monitoring or manipulation of information or behaviors in the face of
interfering processes and distractions. This can lead to greater productivity
and less of incomplete tasks because of easy distractions.

So if you’re looking to improve your brain health take a
test and see what happens afterwards.

 

Sometimes Even Good Sacrifices Don’t Matter

I Sam 15:22 “Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams.”

While pondering over the scriptures detailing the downfall of King Saul in I Samuel 13-15, I begin to ask myself which is harder-sacrificing for self accomplishment, or sacrificing for obedience to God? To many, the obvious answer would be the latter. Surely any person would choose to sacrifice in obedience to God than selfish accomplishment. Unfortunately, for many believers, including me, this is not the accurate truth.

There are millions of Christian believers who regularly sacrifice in obedience to God. The Lenten season is a great example of this because millions are turning away the table, bad habits, bad relationships and just about any other thing that we believe will help us be more spiritual and have a closer relationship with the Father. Yet in a sense are we actually doing this to for selfish accomplishment or spiritual obedience. Samuel makes this statement to Saul in The question then becomes “what does obeying the voice of the Lord actually mean?

In a literal sense, the passage can be transliterated this way: “Does God value an offering or sacrifice going up to Him as much as the continual attentively listening to the loudness of God’s voice? Indeed to have heard for certain is bountiful/beautiful than the slaughter of sacrifices. At first this doesn’t seem difficult at all, but it truly is. The whole dilemma with Saul was created because of his impatience to wait on the voice of God through Samuel the Prophet. As a result, two occasions proclaim his eventual dismissal as king. Both announcements came as a result of Saul’s disobedience.

The troubling part of this story is that in both cases, Saul did not realize or failed to fully comprehend his disobedience. He blamed both reactions to the desires of the people over his authority as king. If we were truly honest with ourselves, we too would realize that much of the results of sin that we have attributed to someone else are actually the results of our own inability or lack of discipline to operate in our God-given authority. This will eventually lead to a dismissal of some kind be it the loss of position, the dispositions of bad relationships, financial hardships, or God forbid, a loss of communion with Him.

How can we be empowered to better hear the voice of God and fully carry out his commands for us today? This requires consistent fellowship with Him. We must engage God daily so that we may be empowered to carry out his expectations in the earth. Revelation 3:20 says: “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If any person hears my voice and opens, I will come in and dine with him and him with me.” When we engage God and his word, it reveals the very things that cause us to be self accomplishing sacrifices. It reveals the hidden sins that we all commit. It opens us to the correction of a Loving Heavenly Father who bids only that we come to him; all who are weary and heavy laden and he will give us rest.

We do not have to be as Saul was. There will be times when our patience with God’s promises will be tested and our desire to achieve a sense of spiritual accomplishment will push us towards disobedience. It is then that we must do as the hymn writer admonishes: “Ask the savior to help you; comfort, strengthen and keep you. He is willing to aid you. He will carry you through.”

What I Learned From Will Smith in Hitch

Everyone has their favorite movie and actor. For me, younger actors don’t get any better than Will Smith. I’ve been a fan of Smith since he was The Fresh Prince rapping “Parents Just Don’t Understand.” It’s been wonderful watching him transition from funny rapper to highly demanded Hollywood leading man. Although I love and deeply admire just about every film Mr. Smith has appeared in, his 2005 film “Hitch” is by far my favorite. I love the quality balance of comedic acting with relevant romantic overtones. It is one of the few movies that actually seeks to engage the viewer in their perception of how a romance can be developed and nurtured until it blossoms into the happily ever after that is seemingly elusive to so many people including myself. Also according to the Internet Movie Database, Hitch was the first movie to feature an African-American male as the lead in a romantic comedy. Smith’s character gives hope to shy yet despairingly and hopelessly romantic single men such as me. He also provides the confidence to jump into the river of love with confidence but caution.

There are far too memorable scenes for me to discuss in this article, but there is one that stands out to me. In the scene where Smith’s character Hitch is in a bar playing a game of pool with his buddy Ben (actor Michael Rapaport). In the scene, Hitch and Ben view two beautiful walk into the bar, and both get distracted, yet Hitch is the only one who acts on the impulse to meet the women. Before Hitch makes his move, Ben tells Hitch that he is always taking the short shots instead of taking the long shots. The analogy is of course related to Ben’s reflection of Hitch’s choice to remain single and chase women instead of choosing to settle down in a monogamous relationship.
This made me think so hard about what I am looking for and expecting as a single man. What complicates my situation is the fact that I am also a pastor, teacher, author, and regular jack of all trades but master of none. I’ve found myself in the same situation as Hitch: short-sighted and settling for the easy shot instead of focusing and aiming for the long shot. Theoretically, it doesn’t take much to fall in love, but it takes a lot to nurture a relationship once it has begun. Hitch provides young, single Black men like me another angle to romance. I don’t have to be too suave to capture a woman’s heart, but it sure helps. I don’t have to overextend my priorities, habits, or intentions to make the woman fall head over heels for me. Hitch teaches a brother that the easiest thing to be is oneself. If I am myself when on a first date, then I should continue to be myself on the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and every date following. I have learned to use my eccentricity to capture the heart of the woman I want without killing both of us in the process. Hitch has modeled for me the mistakes and miracles every man can use to stand out for the woman I want to attract.

Thanks Hitch for being my personal Date Doctor.

 

Public, Private, Charter or Home? What schools are best for Black Children?

Last year, Michelle Ree, Chancellor of Washington D.C. Public School system fired over 200 employees for poor performance evaluations. She has also put hundreds of other teachers on notice that they are also in jeopardy of losing their jobs if their performances do not improve within the next school year. USA Today reported that “Washington Teachers’ Union president George Parker said the evaluation method is dramatically different from other evaluation systems around the country and that it is “flawed” and has “many loopholes.” He said the evaluation was a “subjective way to fire teachers, many of whom were not evaluated fairly.” The union on Friday also released the results of a survey of about 1,000 of its members which found about 80% did not understand an important part of the evaluation method.” This happens to be an unfortunate situation that is happening in many public school districts across the nation. Districts are looking for highly qualified teachers but are producing low quality students. It is even more disastrous when it comes to the education of Black children. More and more black parents are choosing alternative educational opportunities for their children. This includes sending their children to private or parochial schools, working with community organizations to found charter schools, and even homeschooling their children.

Traditionally, the public school has always been the only path for many black children to receive education. As early as the 1870’s, black children began receiving public education at the expense of white citizens and black churches. This helped produce great minds and leaders. These schools ranged from early primary grades all the way up to college level which in most cases were limited to agricultural, mechanical and teaching colleges. Public schools were always segregated both in northern and southern states but all the teachers shared a great desire to see their students succeed. When the United States forced integration on public schools in the 1950’s many white parents took their children out of those schools and placed them in private or parochial schools. This led to what we now see in public education, negligent urban school facilities with increased violence, low test scores and student achievement, and high teacher turnover. More and more black parents are watching as their children who are enrolled in public schools continue to lose interest in learning. This happens to black children in public schools as early as third grade. This disinterest continues into the upper secondary grades of high school. In addition, many black students in public schools actively choose to hide their intelligence for fear of being teased as “wannabe white, nerdy, geek, or not hood enough.” Public schools are constrained from fully and holistically educating black children due largely to status quo and teacher unions. There is always money being thrown at public schools to solve problems, but that money is usually always tied up in some bureaucratic legislative red tape and the students are always the ones suffering because of it.

While public schools have long been the primary provider of education for black children, private and parochial schools have also contributed.  There is no dispute that private schools provide more rigorous academic courses that challenges students at every grade level. The Catholic Church has long had a rich relationship with educating blacks by providing quality education. They have also led in the voucher programs to help black parents send their children to their schools. Black churches have also led the way by starting head start, pre­-kindergarten and kindergarten schools. Many have done so because of the ease of establishing day care centers through the church. Some have also branched out in the secondary and upper secondary education areas and provide their students with the same curricular and extra-curricular activities offered in public schools.  This is surely advantageous for both the parents and students in these schools. Also, more black families are moving into the upper middle class and they are now able to afford a private education for their children.  Perhaps the best argument that many black parents are presenting when defending their choice of private education for their children is that of the discipline it develops within their children.

While both public and private schools have long served black families for educating their children, more of them are choosing a growing trend of homeschooling.  A basic definition of homeschooling is parent directed education.  Although homeschooling is largely associated with fundamental extrememist, more and more black families are promoting this because of their concerns with public education. From the outset, homeschooling opponents argue that doing so inhibits the social growth and development of children. Proponents of homeschooling argue the exact opposite. There are full curricula available to parents and there are also many home school associations that provide the same extra-curricular activities as public schools. In many areas, homeschooled children are able to participate in public school activities such as sports, music, and state standardized testing.

I am a proponent of public school education because I am a product of public schools. While there are many flaws with the public school system, it is very clear that public schools may remain the primary educational agency for many black children. This will only change when more black parents begin to demand that the quality of public education meets the demand of private and home schools. It is ultimately up to the parents to decide which one will best develop their children into the learners, leaders and citizens that the country both needs and wants.