Less Famous Words of Martin Luther King

Today we’ve heard the most famous words of Dr. King’s “I have a dream” and his “been to to the promised land” speeches.  But just a month before he was assassinated, Dr. King preached a sermon titled Unfulfilled Dreams, at his home church in Atlanta, sharing this marvelous promise:

It will be dark sometimes, and it will be dismal and trying, and tribulations will come. But if you have faith in the God that I’m talking about this morning, it doesn’t matter. For you can stand up amid the storms. And I say it to you out of experience this morning, yes, I’ve seen the lightning flash. I’ve heard the thunder roll. I’ve felt sin-breakers dashing, trying to conquer my soul. But I heard the voice of Jesus, saying still to fight on. He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone. No, never alone. No, never alone. He promised never to leave me. Never to leave me alone.

Good Opportunities in Bad Economic Times

While there is lots of doom and gloom about the economy, there are some bright spots that bring good opportunities beyond simply the price of gasoline dropping.

Mortgage rates have never been lower – it is a great time to buy a house, refinance if the cost savings would make it worth the effort, or consider turning a 30 year mortgage into a 15 year mortgage to save thousands of dollars over the life of the loan.  CNN reports, “The 30 year fixed rate fell to 5.01%, its lowest level since Freddie Mac started conducting its survey in 1971.”

Mortgage rates dip to new all-time low

NEW YORK  (CNNMoney.com) — Mortgage rates fell to another all-time low, declining for the tenth consecutive week.

Government sponsored mortgage lender Freddie Mac said Thursday that fixed rates on 30-year mortgages averaged 5.01% for the week ending Jan. 8th. That’s down from 5.10% last week and well below 5.87%, which is where the rate stood at this time last year.

The 30-year fixed rate mortgage has not been lower since Freddie Mac started conducting the survey in 1971.

Mortgage rates continue to respond to the Federal Reserve’s decision to purchase mortgage backed securities from Fannie Mae (FNM, Fortune 500), Freddie Mac (FRE, Fortune 500) and Ginnie Mae, according to Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist.

“On November 25, 2008, the Federal Reserve announced that it planned to purchase up to $500 billion of these securities by the end of June this year. For the sake of comparison, there were roughly $4.7 trillion of such securities backed by home mortgages available as of September 30, 2008,” Nothaft said in a release Thursday.

The 15-year fixed rate mortgage this week averaged 4.62%, which is down from 4.83% last week. A year ago at this time, that rate averaged 5.43%.

The 15-year rate has not been this low since June 13, 2003, when it averaged 4.6%.

Five-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) averaged 5.49% this week, down from last week when they averaged 5.57%. At this time a year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 5.63%.

And the one-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 4.95% this week, up from 4.85% last week. Last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 5.37%.

“Since the end of October 2008, these rates have declined by almost 1 1/2 percentage points,” said Nothaft. “[That’s a] payment savings of about $184 a month for a $200,000 loan – an additional $11 from last week.”

Baghdad Pastor’s Report

Our friend Andrew White, the pastor of St. George’s Church in Baghdad wrote today to ask for prayer. Andrew was our Day of Learning speaker at Belhaven a couple of years ago and is a great champion for Belhaven.

He is personally suffering with his multiple sclerosis and his physical challenges have become increasingly tough, although he continues to travel back and forth between London and Iraq.

Most overwhelmingly, he had 93 people from his church killed this past year.

When you and I feel God has called us to tough challenges, we need to think of Andrew.

Atheist Calls for Christian Transformation

From The Times of London

December 27, 2008

As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God

Missionaries, not aid money, are the solution to Africa’s biggest problem – the crushing passivity of the people’s mindset

Matthew Parris

Before Christmas I returned, after 45 years, to the country that as a boy I knew as Nyasaland. Today it’s Malawi, and The Times Christmas Appeal includes a small British charity working there. Pump Aid helps rural communities to install a simple pump, letting people keep their village wells sealed and clean. I went to see this work.

It inspired me, renewing my flagging faith in development charities. But travelling in Malawi refreshed another belief, too: one I’ve been trying to banish all my life, but an observation I’ve been unable to avoid since my African childhood. It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God.

Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.

I used to avoid this truth by applauding – as you can – the practical work of mission churches in Africa. It’s a pity, I would say, that salvation is part of the package, but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it. I would allow that if faith was needed to motivate missionaries to help, then, fine: but what counted was the help, not the faith.

First, then, the observation. We had friends who were missionaries, and as a child I stayed often with them; I also stayed, alone with my little brother, in a traditional rural African village. In the city we had working for us Africans who had converted and were strong believers. The Christians were always different. Far from having cowed or confined its converts, their faith appeared to have liberated and relaxed them. There was a liveliness, a curiosity, an engagement with the world – a directness in their dealings with others – that seemed to be missing in traditional African life. They stood tall.

At 24, travelling by land across the continent reinforced this impression. From Algiers to Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and the Central African Republic, then right through the Congo to Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya, four student friends and I drove our old Land Rover to Nairobi.

We slept under the stars, so it was important as we reached the more populated and lawless parts of the sub-Sahara that every day we find somewhere safe by nightfall. Often near a mission.

Whenever we entered a territory worked by missionaries, we had to acknowledge that something changed in the faces of the people we passed and spoke to: something in their eyes, the way they approached you direct, man-to-man, without looking down or away. They had not become more deferential towards strangers – in some ways less so – but more open.

This time in Malawi it was the same. I met no missionaries. You do not encounter missionaries in the lobbies of expensive hotels discussing development strategy documents, as you do with the big NGOs. But instead I noticed that a handful of the most impressive African members of the Pump Aid team (largely from Zimbabwe) were, privately, strong Christians. “Privately” because the charity is entirely secular and I never heard any of its team so much as mention religion while working in the villages. But I picked up the Christian references in our conversations. One, I saw, was studying a devotional textbook in the car. One, on Sunday, went off to church at dawn for a two-hour service.

It would suit me to believe that their honesty, diligence and optimism in their work was unconnected with personal faith. Their work was secular, but surely affected by what they were. What they were was, in turn, influenced by a conception of man’s place in the Universe that Christianity had taught.

There’s long been a fashion among Western academic sociologists for placing tribal value systems within a ring fence, beyond critiques founded in our own culture: “theirs” and therefore best for “them”; authentic and of intrinsically equal worth to ours.

I don’t follow this. I observe that tribal belief is no more peaceable than ours; and that it suppresses individuality. People think collectively; first in terms of the community, extended family and tribe. This rural-traditional mindset feeds into the “big man” and gangster politics of the African city: the exaggerated respect for a swaggering leader, and the (literal) inability to understand the whole idea of loyal opposition.

Anxiety – fear of evil spirits, of ancestors, of nature and the wild, of a tribal hierarchy, of quite everyday things – strikes deep into the whole structure of rural African thought. Every man has his place and, call it fear or respect, a great weight grinds down the individual spirit, stunting curiosity. People won’t take the initiative, won’t take things into their own hands or on their own shoulders.

How can I, as someone with a foot in both camps, explain? When the philosophical tourist moves from one world view to another he finds – at the very moment of passing into the new – that he loses the language to describe the landscape to the old. But let me try an example: the answer given by Sir Edmund Hillary to the question: Why climb the mountain? “Because it’s there,” he said.

To the rural African mind, this is an explanation of why one would not climb the mountain. It’s… well, there. Just there. Why interfere? Nothing to be done about it, or with it. Hillary’s further explanation – that nobody else had climbed it – would stand as a second reason for passivity.

Christianity, post-Reformation and post-Luther, with its teaching of a direct, personal, two-way link between the individual and God, unmediated by the collective, and unsubordinate to any other human being, smashes straight through the philosphical/spiritual framework I’ve just described. It offers something to hold on to to those anxious to cast off a crushing tribal groupthink. That is why and how it liberates.

Those who want Africa to walk tall amid 21st-century global competition must not kid themselves that providing the material means or even the knowhow that accompanies what we call development will make the change. A whole belief system must first be supplanted.

And I’m afraid it has to be supplanted by another. Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete.