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3 political heroes as admirable as Lincoln

By Matt K. Lewis | The Week – Wed, Nov 28, 2012

You may not have heard of William Wilberforce or Thomas Becket. But I literally named my son after them

The buzz surrounding the new film Lincoln might be a positive sign that the public is interested in both history and heroism. With all the negativity in the world — especially for those of us who closely follow politics — it is refreshing to know that great leaders do exist. Politics  can be petty, frustrating, and thankless. We are, perhaps, thirsty for real-life stories of courageous people who have made a difference.

Of course, most Americans are familiar with uplifting biographies of men like Washington and Jefferson and Churchill. And 2011’s The Iron Lady, about Britain’s Margaret Thatcher, added to the canon of mostly-positive portrayals of great 20th-century leaders.

But history is full of figures who can inspire — many of whom you’ve never heard of, even if they have been hailed on the big screen. Indeed, some of my favorites are quite obscure. So without further ado, some of the greatest political thinkers and leaders whom you’ve never heard of — but can rent a movie about (or at least read a book about):

1. William Wilberforce: Americans who are flocking to see Lincoln would do well to rent a movie about one of his heroes, British Parliamentarian William Wilberforce.

The film Amazing Grace (and the Eric Metaxas book by the same name) tells the story of how, after a religious awakening, Wilberforce contemplated leaving politics. But John Newton — a repentant former slave ship captain who penned the famous hymn “Amazing Grace” — persuaded him that he could make a greater difference by remaining in politics.

Wilberforce went on to devote the next 20 years of his life to leading the charge to ban the British slave trade. He then turned his attention to banning slavery in British colonies, a goal that was accomplished just three days before his death in 1833.

Anti-abortion conservatives see themselves as modern-day Wilberforces — standing on the right side of history against an evil practice. Liberals can also find much to like about him. Aside from being an abolitionist, Wilberforce was what we might call an animal rights activist, helping found what became the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. If you ever doubted that politics could be used as a force for good, Wilberforce should serve as an example that it can. I quite literally named my child after him: Becket Wilberforce Lewis.

2. Thomas Becket: The recent controversy over the HHS mandate and religious liberty got me thinking of Becket. Like Wilberforce,  Becket transformed himself from a lover of pleasure to man with a larger purpose. (For Wilberforce, the purpose was abolishing slavery. For Becket, it was defending religious liberty against the crown.)

Once known for carousing with Henry II, the king helped install Becket as Archbishop of Canterbury, presuming he would do the king’s bidding. Instead, Becket transformed into a devout cleric, dedicated to defending the church against the crown.

For this, believing they had the imprimatur of the king, four knights murdered Becket inside Canterbury Cathedral, thus guaranteeing he would be remembered as a saint and a martyr.

There is a play about Becket, which I have not seen, but which reportedly includes historical inaccuracies. There is a 1964 film co-starring Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole titled Becket which I have seen, but which probably doesn’t do justice to the story (perhaps it’s a generational thing?)

But regardless, you should learn about Becket. Again, I quite literally named my child after him: Becket Wilberforce Lewis.

3. Dietrich Bonhoeffer: One of my favorite books of the past few years is the aforementioned Eric Metaxas’ biography Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. The subtitle almost says it all. Unlike many of the German religious leaders, this Lutheran pastor publicly stood up to Adolf Hitler. He also aided the Valkyrie plot to kill Hitler, helped smuggle Jews out of Germany, and ultimately perished in a German concentration camp, just days before Germany surrendered.

Metaxas deserves much credit for popularizing Bonhoeffer, and introducing him to a new generation in desperate need of heroes. Read the book.

For the rest of the post…

What did Dietrich Bonhoeffer have to say about the the period of the day called “evening”? Jon Walker writes in his recent book, In Visible Fellowship: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s Classic Work:  Life Together, quotes Bonhoeffer:

It is the prayer that God may dwell with us and in us even though we are unconscious of His presence, that He may keep our hearts pure and holy in spite of all the cares and temptations of the night, to make our hearts ever alert to hear His call and, like the boy Samuel, answer Him even in the night: “Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth” (1 Samuel 3:9).

Walker writes that The Big Idea is…

Bonhoeffer says we should end the day in the same way we started it: praying the Psalms, singing hymns, and sharing common prayer. The point, again is that Jesus is not just an add on to our day, where we give him a few minutes in the morning. Jesus isn’t just part of our lives; he is our Life and so we should praise him first thing every morning and praise him before we go to bed at night! 

Walker added…

In our weariness, we place ourselves into God’s hand, trusting he continues to work while we sleep…

…Bonhoeffer notes that the ancient church profoundly prayed that, even when our eyes are closed in sleep, “God may nevertheless keep our hearts awake.”

…To be like Jesus…We must learn to trust thta God is always at work, even when we are at rest.

(Jon WalkerIn Visible Fellowship: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s Classic Work: Life Together, Chapter 14)

Jon Walker writes in his recent book, In Visible Fellowship: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s Classic Work:  Life Together, writes that Dietrich Bonhoeffer taught that the noonday hour, where it is possible, becomes for the Christian family fellowship a brief rest on the day’s march. Half of the day is past. The fellowship thanks God and prays for protection  until the eventide. It receives daily bread and prays, in the words of a Reformation hymn: Feed us, O Father, thy children, Comfort us, afflicted sinners.

Walker writes that The Big Idea is…

The day belongs to God and so in the middle of the day we pause to thank God again for the many things he does for us and that he continues to provide us with our daily bread.

(Jon WalkerIn Visible Fellowship: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s Classic Work: Life Together, Chapter 13)

Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes that our strength and energy for work increase when we have prayed God to give us the strength we need for our daily work. …Decisions which our work demands will be simpler and easier when they are made, not in the fear of men, but solely in the presence of God.

Jon Walker writes…

When we work in our jobs as if we are working for God, everything we do becomes a prayer.

…Bonhoeffer says our unceasing prayers create a unity within the day, where we move from morning worship into our daily work. Unceasing prayer reminds us that the spiritual is not just an add on to our day; rather, our day is a part of the greater spiritual reality.

…Bonhoeffer says the time we spend in prayer in the morning determines the rest of our day–“The organization and distribution of our time will be better for having been rooted in prayer. The temptations which the working day brings with it will he overcome by this breakthrough to God.”

…”Commit your work to the Lord, and then your plans will succeed” (Proverbs 16:3 NLT)

(Jon WalkerIn Visible Fellowship: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s Classic Work: Life Together, Chapter 12)











What should take place before communal breakfast?

Jon Walker writes in his recent book, In Visible Fellowship: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s Classic Work:  Life Together, writes that Dietrich Bonhoeffer taught that our day should begin with morning worship, a time with God’s Word, singing praise to Jesus, and communal prayer. Only then is it time for us to break our fast from food (breakfast). “Giving thanks and asking God’s blessing, the Christian family receives its daily bread from the hand of the Lord.”

Walker added…

Bonhoeffer says there are three reasons we gather for the fellowship of the table after our morning devotions…

First, we’re now fully focused on the truth that Jesus is the giver of all gifts…

Second, this helps us understand that we have received the gift of sustenance so that we can carry on the work of Jesus. This is why we are given the gift of our daily bread: it is so we have the strength to do what God commands us to do and to fulfill the purpose for which God created us.

Third, we can confess the “greatest omnipresence of Jesus Christ,” praying, “Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest”…

To be like Jesus…

We must learn to be grateful each day, first, for the grace God gives us through Jesus, and then, for the food God daily gives us daily. 

(Jon WalkerIn Visible Fellowship: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s Classic Work: Life Together, Chapter 11)

Jon Walker in his recent book, In Visible Fellowship: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s Classic Work:  Life Together, writes that Dietrich Bonhoeffer taught that our day should begin with morning worship, a time with God’s Word, singing praise to Jesus, and communal prayer. By praying together, we bring “the cares, the needs, the joys and thanksgivings, the petitions and hopes” of the whole group before God, supporting each other in collective intercession.

Walker added…

Since we live together under the Word of God, we should pray together as a family or fellowship.

…These communal prayers incorporate the needs of the whole group, so the one voicing prayer for the community must be aware of the needs and concerns of others. This means the one who prays must be involved in the life of the fellowship, familiar with the cares, the needs, the joys and thanksgivings, the petitions and hopes of the others.”

(Jon WalkerIn Visible Fellowship: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s Classic Work: Life Together, Chapter 10)

View from the Pew: Thanksgiving should be a lifetime, not just a day

Jerry Godsey | View From the Pew

Well, Thanksgiving is over. As we sit on the couch, watching football, burping pumpkin pie, we start thinking of what Black Friday stores we will hit. That’s what Thanksgiving is about, isn’t it?

Now, if you expect a diatribe about gluttony or conspicuous consumption, or the evils of consumerism, you’ve come to the wrong place. That’s okay, it happens to everyone.

No, I want to be positive today. Really, shouldn’t every day be full of giving thanks? Why do we think that Thanksgiving is a day. I think thanksgiving is a lifestyle.

In Luke 17 we see a story about being thankful …

11 It happened that as he made his way toward Jerusalem, he crossed over the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, 10 men, all lepers, met him. They kept their distance but raised their voices, calling out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

14 Taking a good look at them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.”

They went, and while still on their way, became clean. One of them, when he realized that he was healed, turned around and came back, shouting his gratitude, glorifying God. He kneeled at Jesus’ feet, so grateful. He couldn’t thank him enough — and he was a Samaritan.

17 Jesus said, “Were not 10 healed? Where are the nine? Can none be found to come back and give glory to God except this outsider?” Then he said to him, “Get up. On your way. Your faith has healed and saved you.”

Just a few verses, but they tell us a lot about thankfulness. We need an attitude of gratitude.

First of all, everybody has something to be thankful for. Look around you, if you look hard enough you can find someone worse off than you. Maybe you don’t have as much money as someone else, but you’re healthy and they’re not. Maybe you’re the one who is sick, but you have enough to make sure your plate is full. And I’m just talking about your immediate neighborhood. We’re all better off than 80 perfect of the rest of the world. Charles Spurgeon said, “If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.”

Second, there is no reason not to show gratitude. When you let another car in line during heavy traffic, don’t you get upset if they don’t give you a head nod or wave to say thanks? C’mon, you know you do. You get mad because they didn’t show gratitude. They should have said thanks. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts. How can God entrust great things to one who will not thankfully receive from Him the little things?”

Finally, Christians should show the rest of the world how to be thankful.

For the rest of the post…

Thanksgiving—The Remedy for a Rotten Attitude

Children playing in the government-run facility for flood victims

My experience with Third-World poverty last week reminded me that we are so much more blessed than we realize.

Whenever I stare Third-World poverty in the face I receive a painful attitude adjustment. This happened to me last week when I visited a refuge for disaster victims in the small community of Manatí, Colombia. Approximately 1,500 people—all of whom lost their homes during floods two years ago—now live in crude storage units equipped with running water and makeshift latrines.

I stuck my head in one of the apartment doors just to see the conditions. A single mother lived in one room with her eight children. Some pigs and dogs, looking uncomfortable in the South American humidity, sought shade near a window nearby. Most kids in the camp played with old jars, plastic bins and sticks, but I noticed one dirty-faced girl with a used doll. She had created a home for her Barbie in the dirt outside her front door.

The people of Manatí know nothing about hot water, air conditioning or flush toilets. They certainly don’t have smartphones, flat-screen televisions, washing machines or Internet access. They’ve never heard of digital books, granite countertops, spa treatments, GPS devices, Jacuzzis, gourmet kitchens or Netflix. They can’t imagine paying $4 for a cup of coffee or $10 for a movie ticket. Being able to own a car is unthinkable.

They are part of the 50 percent of the world’s population living on less than $2.50 per day.

Before my tour of the compound in Manatí I spoke to a group of women, many of them abused or abandoned by their husbands. They gathered in a tent on the camp property to hear the gospel. I used a scratchy sound system mounted on a motorcycle to share the message of Jesus with them. When I looked into their worn faces I was reminded of how fortunate I am to have an education, Christian parents and the basic blessings of life.

I wish every American could spend at least one week a year in a developing country. It would make all of us more grateful if we could understand that the majority of people in this world are baffled by the comforts we enjoy.

As you gather with friends and family to celebrate Thanksgiving this year, I hope you will ponder these stark truths about world poverty:

  • 2 billion people in this world have no access to electricity.
  • According to UNICEF, 30,000 children die every day due to poverty.
  • Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names. 72 million children who should be in school are not enrolled.
  • One in three children in the world live without adequate shelter.
  • 1.4 million children die each year from lack of access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation.
  • Millions of women spend an average of four hours daily walking to get water.
  • Approximately 790 million people in the developing world are still chronically undernourished.

In light of these realities, our worries—even in what we call a weak economy—seem silly. We have absolutely nothing to complain about. Instead we should be on our knees thanking God for His goodness.

Thanksgiving has the power to adjust our selfish hearts and recalibrate our whiny attitudes. When we thank the Lord, we subdue the pride in our hearts and crush our craving for entitlement.

For the rest of the article…

3 Tips for a More Biblical


3 Tips for a More Biblical Thanksgiving
Looking backwards with thanksgiving helps us look towards the future with anticipation.

No U.S. holiday is as distinctive as Thanksgiving.

In our busy, deadline-fixated age, expressing gratitude to our heavenly Father is too easily squeezed out of our lives, but it is important.

First, I think human beings are ‘hardwired’ to do this. Even atheists seem to have unsettling moments when they feel an irresistible urge to thank someone ‘up there.’ One of the problems with atheism occurs when pain is avoided or pleasure gained – having no one to give thanks to leaves you with an itch you cannot scratch.

But there is more than a primeval urge to justify thanking God. On almost every page of the Bible, we see this as a theme. The Old Testament reverberates with the sound of people praising God; Israel’s history is full of thanksgiving to God for showing them mercy and delivering them from disaster.

The New Testament is no less full of thanksgiving. Jesus himself offers up thanks to God the Father, most importantly at the Last Supper (Matthew 26:26-27), where the word used for thanksgiving is Eucharist, still used in many churches for communion. Paul not only regularly gives thanks; he actually commands it of others.

This gives us some guidelines for ‘biblical’ thanksgiving:

First, biblical thanksgiving is innocent.

In giving thanks to God, there should be no motive other than pure gratitude. Thanksgiving is giving thanks and that alone. Of all the different types of prayer, this is least likely to be contaminated by our own conscious or subconscious desire to manipulate God.

Second, biblical thanksgiving is intelligent.

It involves looking back over the past – whether the last week or an entire life – and identifying things for which we are grateful. Thanksgiving is neglected today partly because modern Western culture is so obsessed with the future. But to give thanks to God is to look backwards, not forwards, and to express gratitude for the good things that have come our way.

Third, thanksgiving should be inclusive.

It’s easy just to say, ‘Thank you, God’ for the health and wealth we have. But do we also give God thanks for friends, family, housing, holidays, or a hundred other lesser things? Let’s give him thanks for all the little things in life, too.

For the rest of the article…

Jon Walker in his recent book, In Visible Fellowship: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s Classic Work:  Life Together, gives us insights into the mind of Dietrich Bonhoeffer on this…

Bonhoeffer says after we’ve prayed the psalms and read Scripture, we should sing hymns together. In this, we join the voice of the Church, all the saints, both the great cloud of witnesses and those who are still on earth, praising, thanking, and praying to God in unity.

Just as God’s mercies are renewed each morning, our song of praise is refreshed then also. Every day we have new reasons to praise and thank the Lord.

…our singing should remain simple. The focus is on Jesus and praising him with the words from our hearts. In other words, we don’t need to make a production out of the songs we sing, where we end up drawing attention to the music.

At the same time, we should not become spectators to the singing.

…We should alternate singing with scripture readings and prayer…

(Jon WalkerIn Visible Fellowship: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s Classic Work: Life Together, Chapter 9)

November 2012


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