Mile Markers                                                                                                                                            (Gaining ground in the Christian journey)

Mile 1-Marker

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They all lived a strong Christian lifestyle that they dared not keep to themselves. These five Christian leaders, all born in November, shared with the rest of the world the spiritual realities that defined them. Maybe this November, a spark from one of their lives will ignite something in you.

John Hyde (Prayer warrior)                                                                                                           Born NOVEMBER 9, 1865

John Hyde. Public Domain.

John Hyde. Public Domain.

In less than 20 years as a missionary to India, John gained the nickname “Praying Hyde.” He gave himself to long stretches of prayer (often through the night). His purpose? To be able to lead at least one person per day into the Christian faith.

In the year 1908, his prayers and witnessing resulted in 400 converts. He inspired other missionaries to commit to greater prayer through two organizations he helped found—the Punjab Prayer Union and the annual training venue, the Sialkot Convention.

He once said, “When we keep near to Jesus it is He who draws souls to Himself through us.”

Check here to learn more about John, including what drove him to the mission field.

D. James Kennedy (Evangelism leader)                                                                                Born NOVEMBER 3, 1930

D. James Kennedy. Courtesy of

D. James Kennedy. Courtesy of

In his first year pastoring, he reduced his congregation’s weekly attendance by almost two-thirds. Only after instituting a strong one-on-one witnessing program did the young pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church see spiritual and numerical success.

The program Jim named Evangelism Explosion was released in book form in 1970. In 1996, it became the first ministry to reach every country in the world.

He launched other ministries that had a worldwide impact. Jim retired from Coral Ridge in 2006 after 48 years as pastor.

Check here to learn more about Jim, including how he became a Christian.

C. S. Lewis (Christian author)                                                                                                     Born NOVEMBER 29, 1898

C. S. Lewis. Image:

C. S. Lewis.

God uses some of the most unlikely people. Clive Staples Lewis was one such person. An atheist until his early 3os. A bachelor until his late 50s. When he married, it was to a divorced woman born Jewish. But the Oxford instructor had a heart and a brain God could use.

During the last 30 years of Clive’s life, he wrote books that impart Biblical truth in various literary genres. The 40 tomes he wrote continue to sell very well, capturing the imagination of millions and drawing  them closer to God.

Clive died November 22, 1963, the same day President John F. Kennedy was shot.

Check  here for details of each phase of Clive’s life and information about his writings.

John W. Peterson (Hymn writer)                                                                                              Born NOVEMBER 1, 1921

John W. Peterson. Image: courtesy of

John W. Peterson. Image: courtesy of

John believed in miracles. He should have; he lived through a few. It was only natural that he write hymns that exalt a miracle-working God.

His songs, “It Took A Miracle” and “Heaven Came Down” rejoice in the greatest miracle of all— the new birth. Others such as “Springs of Living Water” and “Surely Goodness and Mercy” celebrate the day-to-day joy and assurance of serving God. Other themes include prayer and Jesus’ second return.

John once stated his sense of responsibility: “I am under obligation to communicate the gospel as much as the man in the pulpit.”

Check here to learn more about John, including miracles he experienced as a child and as an Air Force pilot during WWII.

Billy Sunday (Evangelist)                                                                                                            Born NOVEMBER 19, 1862

Billy Sunday. [PD-1923]

Billy Sunday.

He played professional baseball for seven years. But a church service on the streets of Chicago forever changed the Iowa-born athlete. He held his first revival service in Garner, Iowa in 1896. His preaching style, which incorporated his athleticism, drew large crowds. The results: changed lives.

He also became known for his homespun quips. For instance, “Temptation is the devil looking through the keyhole. Yielding is opening the door and inviting him in.”

One of Billy’s many statements in his campaign against alcohol was, “The saloon is a liar. It promises good cheer and sends sorrow.” Some accused the evangelist of influencing the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment in 1919.

Check here to learn more about Billy’s life and ministry,



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The Smithsonian Institute called him the “greatest white gospel song writer before WWII.”

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I admit it’s been a slow year. I’ve not posted as frequently the past few months as I’d planned. However, here’s an idea for these spaces of weeks-at-a-time between lights4god biographies: revisit a few of your favorite posts or discover some you haven’t yet read.

300 years in 4 years

I’ve tried to highlight some of the best Christian lives of the 1700s-1900s. By birth year my posts have spanned from Jonathan Edwards (1703) to Andrae Crouch (1942).  There are 77 stalwart Christians altogether. If you were to read one biographical post per week, there are enough missionaries and evangelists, authors and hymn writers, business leaders and other social change agents to inspire you once a week for a year and a half.

Quick reference database

Here are four suggestions for quickly knowing who’s here and how to sort through the biographies.

  • Birthdate Timeline. The “Pages” link is your access to the timeline. All 77 biographies are listed in chronological order by century. You’ll find exactly whose story is available and when each was born in relation to all the others. Interesting fact: some of the great Christian leaders were born in the same year (two in 1838, only two days apart) Four of the spiritual influences were born in a single year—1912.
  • Category Cloud. The category cloud on the right side of every post lists areas of ministry each Christian leader represents.  The word “author” is largest because 32 of the men and women wrote books. Some, like C. S. Lewis and Catherine Marshall, were known as authors. Others, like John Newton and David Wilkerson, are identified primarily for other avenues of ministry. There are a dozen categories in the cloud.
  • Specialty posts. You can find posts covering more than one person at a time via the search box near the top, right hand side of every page. I believe you’ll be inspired by “40 Favorite Quotes” (taken from 23 individuals). Other searchable theme posts include “Bible-Translating Missionaries,” “8 Wonderful Salvation Stories”  (Parts I & II), “Lights for God in World War II,” “Five Missionaries Who Served China,” and “The British Invasion of Christian Faith.”
  • Keep searching. Try dates, countries, and various topics as key words. You’ll get a list of posts if you type “prayer” or “baptism” in the search bar. A number of the men and women I’ve included taught Sunday School or worked for the Salvation Army. Go ahead, experiment with the search bar.

I hope you’ll do some exploring. Let the 77 people who were outstanding lights for God inspire you more thoroughly today.

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Born JULY 1, 1942

Andrae Crouch. Image: Sparrow Records (2003)

Andrae Crouch. Image: Sparrow Records (2003)

A young Andrae Crouch had strong romantic feelings for a female who sang in his group. During three days of ministry at a church in California, he purchased an engagement ring.

To his surprise, the young lady didn’t show up the first and second nights of services. On the third evening, she appeared, overflowing with joy. She announced that a man she loved had proposed to her.

It wasn’t Andrae.

Someone had beat him to it. Recovering from that experience led Andrae to write the song, “Through it All.”

Here’s Andrae singing “Through it All”:

Andrae Crouch left this life on January 8, 2015. By then, he’d learned to trust God through plenty. As a child, he’d stuttered and was dyslexic. God helped him overcome those limitations. As an adult, Andrae’s devotion to creating scripture-based, Christian music with a contemporary sound earned him four Dove Awards, seven Grammy Awards, and the title “the father of modern gospel music.”

Andrae Took the Message Seriously

Andrae’s father, Benjamin Crouch, made a deal with God. The Los Angeles street preacher was asked to fill in at a Church an hour from where they lived. He prayed, “If you will give Andrae the gift of playing the piano, I will be a full-time minister.”

Image by Wendy Darling.

Image by Wendy Darling.

During a service three weeks later, Andrae’s father asked his 11-year-old son to come to the piano. Andrae sat on the piano bench and listened to the congregation sing “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” He searched for the right notes. He began to play. For the next sixty-one years Andrae praised God with piano music.

When Andrae was fourteen, he attended a Memorial Day cookout. To the young teen’s horror, some of the guests, including church choir members, were not acting in ways he believed honored Jesus Christ. It made Andrae cry.

That episode also strengthened Andrae’s own personal commitment. He sat at a piano in the house and told God he’d love to write Christian songs. He noticed a different backyard sight that inspired him. He saw someone pouring a red sauce onto the meat on the grill. It reminded him of Jesus’ blood. Sitting at the piano, he wrote the song “The Blood Will Never Lose it’s Power.”

Blood dropThe first verse celebrates with the lyrics, “The blood that Jesus shed for me, way back on Calvary, the blood that gives me strength from day to day, it will never lose its power.”

Here’s Andrae Crouch and the Disciples singing “The Blood Will Never Lose it’s Power”:

Andrae Took the Message Around the World

In 1965, Andrae formed a gospel music group called the Disciples. His twin sister, Sandra, joined the group in 1970.  The Disciples released their first album, Take the Message Everywhere, in 1971 on Light Records.

Andrae Crouch and the Disciples: Keep On Singing. Image by Light Records.

Andrae Crouch and the Disciples: Keep On Singing. Image by Light Records.

Their second album, Keep On Singing, included the song “My Tribute.” Andrae wrote it in response to a phone call from a former Teen Challenge student he’d helped when he worked a few months for that ministry. The young man suggested Andrae read John chapter 17. Andrae awoke the next day singing a phrase from that chapter: “To God be the glory.” He wrote the rest of the single-verse song and its chorus within a ten minute period. Elvis Presley chose another song from that album, “I’ve Got Confidence,” for his 1972 album He Touched Me.

That same year, Andrae Crouch and the Disciples were among the Christian singers featured at Explo ’72, hosted by Campus Crusade for Christ. Thereafter, they frequently appeared at Jesus festivals.

Andrae began a solo career while continuing to tour with the Disciples. Together, they appeared at Carnegie Hall and toured around the world. During that time, some of Andrae’s songs began appearing in hymnals.

A Grammy Award.  [Photo by Dave Gomez.]

A Grammy Award.
[Photo by Dave Gomez.]

Lives were being touched. The awards began coming in 1975. The first was a Grammy Award for the song “Take Me Back.” Andrae’s first Grammy Award for a solo album was  in 1979 for “I’ll be Thinking of You.” He entered the 1980s with a full-time solo career.

Along with four other Grammy Awards, Andrae received four Dove Awards between 1980 and 1994. In 1997, Tribute: The Songs of Andrae Crouch, recorded by leading Christian singers of that decade, won a Grammy Award. The Gospel Music Association inducted Andrae into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1998.

Andrae Took the Message Beyond the Church

God opened doors for Andrae that hadn’t opened for other Christians. In 1972, the Disciples were invited  to sing on Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show. In 1980, he appeared as a musical guest on the TV show Barbara Mandrell & the Mandrell Sisters.

Non-believers in the music and film community contacted Andrae. He wrote music for the 1985 motion picture, The Color Purple, for which he received an Oscar nomination. In 1986, Andrae wrote the theme for the T.V. show, Amen. He was tapped for his expertise on, among other musical projects, Michael Jackson’s 1987 social conscience song, Man in the Mirror. His choral arrangements appear in the 1994 animated film, The Lion King.

Some of Andrae’s longtime fans saw his secular efforts as a compromise rather than as a positive witness. But he didn’t turn to writing songs that betrayed his convictions. The messages of the songs he sang always maintained strong Biblical themes.

The last ten years of Andrae’s life, he and his twin sister, Sandra, assumed dual pastorship of the New Christ Memorial Church of God in Pacoima, California. It’s the church their father had founded and pastored until his death.

Here’s a list of Andrae’s best-loved songs not already linked to Youtube.

  LET ME KNOW:  How has Andrae’s story informed, encouraged, or otherwise helped you? I welcome your comments.


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(Some outstanding Christian leaders who’ve made a difference in helping the helpless)

Compassion ministries have always been a hallmark of Christianity. Jesus told His initial followers to feed the hungry, house the homeless, clothe the naked, and visit those who were imprisoned and those who were ill (Matthew 25:34-40). Successive generations of Christians have built upon the foundation of our Lord’s words and His example of selfless service.

This post highlights five stories of ministry leaders who championed individual causes for the needy. They became voices for the abolishment of the slave trade, for prison reform, for rescuing drug addicts, and for providing for the poor. There was a day in each of their lives when they crossed a line of no return in their commitment to compassion.


Human beings taken against their will.          [PD-1923]

Human beings taken against their will.

William had a privileged upbringing, after which he pursued politics and, at age 21, won a seat in
Parliament. Following his spiritual conversion he visited former slave trader turned Christian pastor, John Newton. Mr. Newton helped the young politician see his position as a role God could use.

Further prayer led William to establish a mission statement for his life. He followed that course, committed to using his status for causes that honored Jesus Christ. While crusading for improvements in society, William gave a quarter of his yearly income to the causes he espoused.

His greatest campaign was a lifelong fight to abolish England’s slave trade. Annually, William proposed anti-slavery bills to Parliament. His hard-fought, decades-long battle ended in the passing of the Emancipation Act a week before his death.

Read more about William’s Christian compassion for society’s needs at

ELIZABETH FRY (1780-1845)

West view of Newgate Prison by George Shepherd-         1784-18621.

West view of Newgate Prison by George Shepherd-

Prisoners didn’t always have rights. The day Elizabeth Fry–who often visited England’s slums to lend Christian aid–stopped at Newgate Prison, she was appalled. The squalid conditions, especially for women prisoners, needed changed.

What drove Elizabeth? Right after her conversion at age 17, she exchanged her bright, fancy clothes for simpler tones and fashion. She forsook her pursuits of pleasure to reach out to the less fortunate.

Elizabeth enlisted a team of Christian women to help her at Newgate. While a volunteer read the Bible to prisoners, Elizabeth taught them social skills, including knitting and sewing. Elizabeth’s acts of service transformed the women. Prison officials took note. They initiated further improvements. Other countries invited Elizabeth to address the need for prison reform within their borders.

You can learn more about Elizabeth’s Christian service at

WILLIAM & CATHERINE BOOTH (1829-1912) (1829-1890)

Image courtesy of Salvation Army USA.

Image courtesy of Salvation Army USA.

Unlike William Wilberforce, William Booth was born into poverty. He eventually met Catherine Mumford and they married in 1855. Ten years later, the Booths moved to East London to serve the poor. Together, they raised up an army of Christians who compassionately reached the needy.

They initially met resistance both outside and inside the church. But they prayed and persisted. With a Biblical military theme, William and Catherine’s work made great advances.

The Salvation Army combined preaching changed lives through Jesus Christ and meeting people’s practical needs. They opened soup kitchens and hostels. They provided job skill training and campaigned against social ills like teenage prostitution. Their vision which has grown to meet other social needs thrives today.

To read a fuller account of the Salvation Army, visit


In the late 1950s, a story in Life magazine about gang violence moved a young pastor to travel to New York. What David Wilkerson saw and experienced there gripped his heart. Prayer led him to resign his church and move to The Big City. He began a ministry to the young men and women controlled by drug addiction. David opened a center in Brooklyn under the title Teen Challenge.

Successes led to churches wanting to support the work. Centers opened in other states. In the early 1970s, the headquarters moved to Texas. Then, during a ministry visit to New York in 1986, David saw the need to return to relocate to New York. He opened Times Square Church in Manhattan, reaching out to those on the street and discipling converts.

David didn’t feel compelled to go to New York just because of a magazine article. It was during one of his prayer times he’d set aside to call on God for guidance. His real turning point was when he instituted those times of prayer in place of time he felt he’d been wasting sitting in front of the television.

Find further details about David Wilkerson and Teen Challenge here:

MILLARD FULLER (1935-2009)

Habitat for Humanity at Fremont Fair 2207.           Photo by Jmabel.

Habitat for Humanity at Fremont Fair 2207.
Photo by Jmabel.

Millard experienced the thrill of becoming a millionaire by age 30. But his wealth meant nothing  when his wife, Linda, threatened to leave him. Millard returned to faith and they reconciled. When he told Linda he thought they should give their wealth away, she agreed.

In 1976, they started a ministry to provide affordable housing that they called Habitat for Humanity. The organization set a goal: Build one million homes for the needy. It met that goal in 2005. After leading Habitat for Humanity for 29 years, Millard resigned to form a new ministry. He headed the Fuller Center for Housing until his death in 2009.

Millard learned that life is not about gaining wealth, that an important part of a Jesus-minded life includes using the resources God gives you to represent Jesus to those in need.

To learn more about Millard’s life and ministry philosophy, connect here:


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Born MARCH 31, 1874

Thoro Harris. [PD-1923]

Thoro Harris. [PD-1923]

He wrote hundreds of Christian songs. He published hundreds of other songs he didn’t write. Thoro Harris was one of the most prolific African-American hymn writers of the early 2oth century. Since the 1930s his compositions have been consistently selected for publication in hymnals of various denominations.

Thoro was born in Washington D.C. to a father who was a black doctor and a mother who was white. He attended col­lege in Bat­tle Creek, Mi­chi­gan. Afterwards, Thoro moved to Bos­ton, Mass­a­chusetts where, in 1902, he produced the first of many hymnals. Since not many episodes from his life are available, this post will give more attention to the content of some of Thoro’s most enduring songs.


The first song below represents Thoro’s most repeated theme: our relationship with Jesus. The second one is an outstanding example of his recurring theme of Jesus’ second coming. For variations on those and other themes, check the links I’ve provided.


For a person hearing this song for the first time, the final verse introduces the way into the life that Jesus said He came to give “more abundantly” (John 10:10): “Come to Him believing, Hearken to His call; All from Him receiving, Yield to Him your all; Jesus will accept you When to Him you flee; He will grant His blessing more abundantly.”

The first verse asks the listener very directly if they’re actually living the abundant life. It tells how to be certain as a believer to live life to the fullest. It says, “Are you trusting Jesus, All along the way? Does He grow more precious To your heart each day? Are you His disciple? Test His Word and see, He will give the Spirit more abundantly.”


Queen Liliuokalani [PD-1923]

Queen Liliuokalani [PD-1923]

For this song Thoro borrowed the Hawaiian tune “Aloha Oe,” written by Queen Liliuokalani. The Pacific island flavor especially helps the chorus that’s coupled with Jesus’ words (Mark 13:33-15) to remind us of our destination to a land that surpasses anything here on earth: “He’s coming soon, He’s coming soon; With joy we welcome His returning; It may be morn, it may be night or noon— We know He’s coming soon.”

The final verse echoes I Thessalonians 4:18: “This hope we cherish not in vain, But we comfort one another by this word.”


Other hymn writers have penned lyrics to songs for children. Not many have three that have survived as strongly as the following songs by Thoro.


There are two versions of this song. The first, written shortly before 1900, includes lyrics by C. H. Woolston and a tune by George F. Root. That version begins with the words “Jesus calls the children dear.” Its chorus is today’s most familiar one: “Jesus loves the little children, All the children of the world. Red, and yellow, black and white, They are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”


Thoro must have felt inspired to write his own version. He and C. H. Woolston are both credited in hymnals in which the songs begins with the line “In the lands beyond the sea Countless million children be.” The chorus also differs by stating “Jesus loves the little children, All the children of the world. Little ones are His delight, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”


The chorus concludes with, “Close by His side, I will abide. I love Him better every day.” I’ve always heard it sung by spelling out the last word of each line in the chorus, so that the entire chorus says, “I love Him better every d-a-y. I love Him better every d-a-y.  Close by His s-i-d-e, I will a-b-i-d-e. I love Him better every d-a-y. ” Thoro wrote the verses and Major Sydney Cox of the Salvation Army added the refrain.

“GRUMBLERS” (1929)

This third song from the 1920s bearing Thoro’s name addresses, in a very disarming way, a topic that got the children of Israel into trouble.

Verse one says, “In country town or city, Some people can be found, Who spend their lives in grumbling at everything around. Oh yes, they always grumble, No matter what you say, For these are chronic grumblers, And they grumble night and day.”

The chorus follows with “Oh, they grumble on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday Grumble on
Thursday too Grumble on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Grumble the whole week through.” The remaining verses describe where people grumble, to whom, and about what.


"Gospel Quintet Songs" by Thoro Harris

“Gospel Quintet Songs” by Thoro Harris

A Christian musician named Peter Bilhorn invited Thoro to Chi­ca­go, Il­li­nois. In the windy city, Thoro took a job as an editor at the Glad Tidings Publishing Company, promoting the songs of many other hymn writers through the songbooks he edited. One of his collaborations was adding music to L. B. Tolbert’s words for “Hide Thou Me.”

“HIDE THOU ME” (1926)

The song’s slow, moving tempo sounds more like African-American songs of the 1920s and 1930s, like those of Thomas  Dorsey and others.

Thoro’s music fits the lyrics. Vrese one: “Sometimes I feel discouraged, and think my life in vain. I’m tempted then to murmur, and of my lot complain; But when I think of Jesus, and all He’s done for me, Then I cry, O Rock of Ages, hide Thou me.”

From the early 1930s until his death in 1955, Thoro lived in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. He became known for his friendliness and for serving as a church organist. He eventually purchased and operated a boarding house known as the Piedmont House. Here’s his most well-known song from that period.


This hymn has survived with strength beyond any of Thoro’s other songs. The chorus boldly proclaims “All that thrills my soul is Jesus; He is more than life to me. And the fairest of ten thousand, In my blessed Lord I see.”

The verses mention reasons for living a Christ-centered life. Key phrases are “Who can cheer the heart like Jesus, By His presence all divine?,” “Love of Christ so freely given, Grace of God beyond degree,” and “Ev’ry need His hand supplying.”

Thoro passed away in Eureka Springs on March 27, 1955 at age 80.

LET ME KNOW:  How has Thoro’s story informed, encouraged, or otherwise helped you? I welcome your comments.
Links to sources used for this article—————————————————————-

Thoro’s songs on Youtube- (Be aware that YouTube sometimes features different songs with the same title. Here are pages that give you the songs mentioned in this article.)


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