ALFRED ACKLEY        Born January 21, 1887

“Why are you shouting so early in the morning?”

1930's radio. Image by Joe Haupt.

1930’s radio. Image by Joe Haupt.

Alfred’s wife asked him a fair question. What had  angered him that Easter morning was a radio preacher. Alfred had heard the man say, “You know folks, it really doesn’t make any difference to me if Christ is risen or not.”

Hearing a fellow minister blatantly misrepresent the centerpiece of the Christian faith caused Rev. Alfred Ackley to shout at the radio: “It’s a lie!”

That experience came a few days after an incident following a sermon Alfred had preached. A Jewish student had asked him, “Why should I worship a dead Jew?” Alfred had answered, “He lives! I tell you, He is not dead, but lives here and now!” He had gone on to say, “I can prove it by my own experience, as well as the testimony of countless thousands.”

Hymn-Writing Brothers

Alfred Henry Ackley was born in Spring Hill, Pennsylvania, in 1887. He loved music, as did his older brother, Bentley, who was 15 years his senior. Both went on to attend the Royal Academy of Music in London, England.

While Bentley devoted his life to playing and writing music, Alfred entered the preaching ministry. He attended Westminster Theological Seminary. In 1914, he was ordained into the Presbyterian Church. By then, Bentley was serving as pianist for Billy Sunday’s evangelist crusades.

Hymnal [PD-USA]

Hymnal [PD-USA]

Both brothers were prolific in contributing to gospel hymnody. Bentley is credited with adding music to at least 3,000 songs. Alfred wrote the words to over 1,000 hymns. Decades after their deaths, it’s Alfred’s gut-felt response to the young Jewish man and the liberal radio preacher that is most remembered today.

He Lives Or We Die

Alfred dedicated his life to preaching the gospel message. He pastored churches in Pennsylvania and California. Alfred believed and proclaimed the Apostle Paul’s declaration, “And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (I Corinthians 15:17).

That Easter day that Alfred shouted at the radio became a red-letter day for him to proclaim the faith. At church that day in both morning and evening services, Alfred expounded on the power of Jesus’ victory over the grave. That evening, he sat down and wrote a song declaring its certainty.

The hymn, “He Lives” has survived while Alfred’s thousand other songs are not as well-remembered. For the rest of his life, Alfred preached the message of salvation through Jesus’ vicarious death and resurrection. He passed away in Wittier, California, in 1960.

Why “He Lives” Lives on

Jesus' empty tomb. Photo by upyernoz.

Jesus’ empty tomb. Photo by upyernoz.

Since 1933, when “He Lives” first appeared in a hymnal, no one has doubted Alfred’s belief that it’s true. The hymn restates what Alfred told the Jewish student: “I can prove it by my own experience, as well as the testimony of countless thousands.”

He begins with his own experience. In the first two verses, Alfred speaks eight times in the first person, using, “I see,” I hear,” I need,” “I know.” Verse one concludes with “Just the time I need Him, He’s always near.”

Alfred adds evidences he can see in the lives of others. Tapping into biblical themes that reverberate throughout scripture, he says, “I see His hand of mercy” and “In all the world around me, I see His loving care.”

Whenever Christians the world over sing “He Lives,” they testify that Alfred’s personal declarations are their own. The chorus concludes with worshipers rejoicing as they  sing, “You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.”


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


  • Osbeck, Kenneth. 101 More Hymn Stories. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1985.
  • Morgan, Robert J. Then Sings My Soul. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Inc., 2003.
  • Petersen, William J. and Ardyth Petersen. The Complete Book of Hymns. Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 2006.



JULIA JOHNSTON       Born January 21, 1849

Julia Johnston understood two important things. She understood God’s faithfulness to the humans He created, which she wrote about. She also understood how she could faithfully serve God. Her service took the form of using her leadership skills and desire to write to draw others closer to the Heavenly Father.

Will It Play in Peoria?

First Presbyterian Church, Peoria, Illinois.           [PD-1923]

First Presbyterian Church, Peoria, Illinois.

In 1855, the year Julia turned six, her family moved from her birth-state of Ohio to Peoria, Illinois. Her father became the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church. Julia would live in Peoria the rest of her life.

After she gained a personal faith, Julia started teaching Sunday school. She eventually became the director of the church’s Sunday school department. She retained that leadership position for 40-plus years. Along the way, Julia took to writing Sunday school curriculum for primary age children for the David C. Cook Publishing Company.

Julia became enthused about missions. She rose to the role of President of the Presbyterian Missionary Society of Peoria. She served that post for 20 years. She wrote a book titled, Fifty Missionary Heroes Every Boy and Girl Should Know which was published in 1913.

Describing God’s Grace

Julia had a passion to explain God’s grace to children and to promote His grace to adults. Her lyrics in the hymn “Grace Greater than Our Sin” (with music by Daniel Towner) were first sung in 1911. The song contrasts our desperate need and God’s great provision.

Daniel Towner.       [PD-1923]

Daniel Towner.

Verse two begins, “Sin and despair like the sea waves cold, Threaten the soul with infinite loss.” After mentioning sin’s high price, Julia describes guilt from sin verse three: “Dark is the stain that we cannot hide.” As bad as the bad news is, the good news is better. In verse one she says God offers “Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt.” But how?

The first three (of four) verses connect our hope to Jesus’ blood shed on the cross for our sins. In verse one, Julia speaks of Calvary, “where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.” The second verse contrasts our sinful condition with  grace that “Points to the refuge, the mighty cross.” In verse three Julia asks if anything can wash away the stain of sin. She answers with “Look! there is flowing a crimson tide; Whiter than snow you may be today.”


Five years after the most well-known of Julia’s 500 hymns was published, her second best-known song appeared in hymnals. “He Ransomed Me” taps into the scriptural truth Jesus described (speaking in the second person) as His purpose for coming to earth: “to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45).

Again Julia establishes every person’s slavery to sin with the phrases “sin and misery,” “sin and sadness,” and “sin and woe.” But His love for mankind caused Jesus to come “from glory just to rescue.” The chorus praises our Savior for being able to “take a poor lost sinner, Lift him from the miry clay and set him free.”

The ransomed sinner known as Julia Johnston continued her prolific writing and strong Christian influence until March 6, 1919. She died in Peoria and was buried in the family plot in Springdale Cemetery.


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


  • Morgan, Robert J. Then Sings My Soul. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Inc., 2003.
  • Petersen, William J. and Ardyth Petersen. The Complete Book of Hymns. Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 2006.

Julia’s book Fifty Missionary Heroes Every Boy and Girl Should Know–

  • Six of the first ten missionary biographies on this page are from her book-http://www.wholesomewords.org/children/misscc.html.
  • Find the complete text of the book here-https://archive.org/stream/fiftymissionaryh00john#page/n5/mode/2up.



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By the end of 2014, Lights-4-God had received almost twice as many views as in 2013.         I averaged a new post almost every other week (23). There were anniversary posts (listed below), theme posts (listed below) and biographies of Christian authors, missionaries, hymn writers, and ministry leaders (see the 5 most viewed below). Feel free to share the links to any of the L4G posts with others.  

The Top Post Viewed in 2014

noteIra Stanphill (1914-1993). Although the post originally appeared in 2012, the hymn writer had his best year in 2014. That’s due in large part to the 100th anniversary of Ira’s birthday on February 14. Leading up to that date, I invited viewers to vote for their favorite song he wrote, then posted the results. Another plus for Ira’s post was someone linking to it in the Wikipedia article about him.

Other Anniversary Posts

  • Bob Pierce’s 100th Birthday. I offer 6 facts about the man who started both World Vision and Samaritan’s Purse.
  • Catherine Marshall’s 100th Birthday. Here are 10 statements about the beloved Christian author.
  • Oswald Chamber’s 140th Birthday. Most people don’t know these 5 facts about the man who wrote My Utmost for His Highest.
  • 90 Years Ago: Eric Liddell Won Gold. I celebrate the Olympic athlete God rewarded for following his convictions with a description of his finish and a link to a video of Eric winning the actual race.

Top 5 New Posts in 2014

  1. Johnson Oatman Jr. (1856-1925). Learn about the man who wrote “Count Your Blessings” and the lyrics of 5 of his hymns we still sing today.
    Johnson Oatman Jr. [PD-1923]

    Johnson Oatman Jr. [PD-1923]

  2. William Cameron Townsend (1896-1982). The story of the man who founded Wycliffe Bible Translators.
  3. Ruth Bell Graham (1920-2007). She was much more than the wife of evangelist, Billy Graham. Here are the essential facts about Ruth.
  4. William Seymour (1870-1922). Find out how William started the Azusa Street Mission, his struggles, and the mission’s lasting results.
  5. Lew Wallace (1827-1905). Here’s the story of the Civil War general who wrote Ben Hur and how he came to write a Christian-themed tale that eventually won 11 Academy Awards.

Top 6 Theme Posts in 2014

  1. 40 Favorite Quotes. These are 40 usable quotes from L4G bios of 2012 and
    James Hudson Taylor in 1865. [PD-1923]

    James Hudson Taylor in 1865. [PD-1923]

    2013, including Charles Spurgeon, Amy Carmichael, and Billy Sunday.
  2. 5 Missionary Heroes Who Served China. The list begins with J. Hudson Taylor and concludes with Gladys Aylward.
  3. The British Invasion of the Christian Faith. Here’s a sampler of how the United Kingdom has contributed to America’s Christian faith.
  4. Lights for God in World War II. Introductions to 5 Christian leaders who served God during the war and what the 3 who survived did after the war.
  5. 8 Wonderful Salvation Stories  (pt. II). The second half of a list of eight unique conversion experiences of well-known Christian leaders.
  6. 8 Wonderful Salvation Stories (Pt. I). Here’s the first half of the list of quick descriptions of 8 unique salvation experiences.
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Born DECEMBER 2, 1848

Mary Slessor. [PD-1923]

Mary Slessor. [PD-1923]

Mary heard someone in the village screaming. She knew it came from the center of the nearby crowd. She ran to the gathering, pushing her way to the front. To Mary’s horror, a woman lay on the ground, tied to stakes, a man standing above her about to pour scalding oil over her. Mary threw herself between the man and the help-less female. The man danced angrily around Mary with the hot oil in hand. Her bravery eventually rescued the woman from the inhumane ritual, winning Scotland native, missionary Mary Slessor, a voice among Africa’s Okoyong people.


Mary didn’t seem at first to be missionary material. The woman who dubbed herself “wee and thin and not very strong” was timid in many ways. But her first 28 years had prepared her for the rigors of the mission field. She survived a difficult childhood, raised in poverty with an alcoholic father. Beginning at age 11, Mary worked half of every school day in the local mill. As a young adult, she served at a local mission

Mary had become a devoted Christian in her teen years. In 1873, when she learned that David Livingstone, missionary to Africa, had died, it deeply moved her. She read that before his death, he gave a general challenge for others to “carry out the work I have begun.” Mary felt led to respond to the challenge.

Mary applied to the Foreign Mission Board. She volunteered to go to the Calabar people of Nigeria. Following five months of preparation in Edinburgh, Scotland, Mary boarded a ship for Africa


Nigeria in West Africa. Photo by Tzzzpfff.

Nigeria in West Africa. Photo by Tzzzpfff.

Mary’s work began at a mission post in Duke Town. She found herself in a strange land in West Africa where alcoholism, ritualistic torture, and witchcraft devalued human life. Shortly after her arrival, she contracted malaria. Could the petite, redheaded missionary beat the odds on the dangerous mission field?

The fever sometimes sidetracked Mary. But she always forged ahead. She relocated further up the Calabar River to a mission in Old Town. To Mary’s advantage, she  mastered the regional Efik language.

The Calabar River and the Efik language kept taking Mary to new places. She spent more and more time in the villages. She connected with the people, letting them know she cared about what mattered to them. She brought medicine for their illnesses. She let her light shine in both actions and words, gaining the title of respect “White Ma.”


After a furlough that ended in 1885, Mary left her mother and sister ill in Scotland. She returned to Nigeria where she served for a while at a mission station in Creek Town. Mary had always wanted to travel further inland. In 1886, when word came that her mother and sister had died, Mary fought back the loss and loneliness by venturing further.

The mission board reluctantly sent Mary to a people who practiced human sacrifices and cannibalism. Mary made the trip on the river with these reflections: “I am going to a new tribe up-country, a fierce, cruel people, and everyone tells me they will kill me, but I don’t fear any hurt—only to combat their savage customs will require courage and firmness on my part.”

Mary Slessor and adopted children. [PD-1923]

Mary Slessor and adopted children. [PD-1923]

One of Mary’s greatest ministries was rescuing twins from death. Superstitious belief concluded twins to be a bad omen. They were often left alone in the wild to die. Mary took some of them as her own, raising many sets of twins at one time and proving the error of the superstition.

She eventually brought a dignity to the Okoyong women and children that didn’t formerly exist.


Mary defined the self-sacrificing missionary. She ate what the natives ate and lived under the same primitive conditions they did. Mary loved the people to Jesus, providing them with medical care, schools, and churches. Another way she advanced their lives was through her involvement with the Hope Waddell Institute, which trained Africans in trades.

Both the Nigerians Mary served and the British Government trusted her while not trusting each other. The British appointed her a magistrate for the area. Mary won favor with both sides through her astute and always fair decisions. In 1913, the Government acknowledged Mary’s service; they awarded her the Maltese Cross from the Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem.

Mary Slessor Memorial, Union Terrace Gardens, Aberdeen, Scotland. © Copyright Bill Harrison. Licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License.

Mary Slessor Memorial, Union Terrace Gardens, Aberdeen, Scotland. © Copyright Bill Harrison. Licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License.

Just as meaningful were designations of honor from the Africans Mary served. Along with “white ma” the Nigerians complimented her with the title”Mother of All the Peoples.”

Mary’s health declined after 1905. Her pioneer spirit once withstood jaunts through the dangerous jungle and risky encounters with locals, but that stamina and strength were ebbing. One final struggle with fever took her to her Heavenly reward in early 1915.

Two of Mary’s many statements about her missionary service were “Christ sent me to preach the gospel and He will look after the results” and “I am ready to go anywhere, provided it be forward.”

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




Youtube videos about Mary are on this page- http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=missionary+mary+slessor.


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Unique circumstances led some of Christianity’s outstanding leaders to salvation. Here’s the second set of four such stories. Discover each person’s greatest contributions to Christianity and what God used as the decisive factor to bring them to Himself


John Newton (1725-1807)

John Newton (1725-1807)

His Role In Christianity— John’s influence went far beyond penning his spiritual testimony in song, the hymn Amazing Grace. In the late 1700s, his preaching and his mentoring of some religious leaders of his day helped set the tone for England’s improved faith, especially within the Church of England.

His Pre-Conversion Life— John lived as he pleased, guided by two misconceptions: that he could freely indulge in all the sins he wanted and that he could only profit from selling other human beings as slaves. Suffering from malaria— a disease that killed many slaves traders—was one incident that told him otherwise.

John’s Decisive Factor:  A violent storm at sea. He awoke one evening aboard a slave ship that was beginning to rip apart in a violent storm. The storm continued for two days. During that time, John and others worked the pumps to free the ship of water. Then John was charged to steer the ship. During that storm, he denounced his wickedness to follow Jesus. John thereafter called that date his “great turning day.”

To learn more about John’s service to God, read here.



Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892)

Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892)

His Role In Christianity— His preaching drew listeners like a magnet. Charles’ mental prowess and sermon delivery never hinted at the fact that he had no formal training to preach. Today, volumes of his collected sermons (over 5,000 messages) and the books he wrote (at least 135) will easily fill a bookshelf. Over 120 years after his death, Charles Spurgeon remains “the prince of preachers” for those who continue reading his words.

His Pre-Conversion Life— When he was a baby, Charles’ parents faced extreme financial problems. He was sent to live with his grandparents. Since Charles’ grandfather was a pastor, Charles grew up in an environment of Bible reading and prayer.

Charles’ Decisive Factor: A snowstorm. One winter morning when he was 15, Charles walked to church. A snowstorm prevented him from reaching the one he planned to attend. So he ducked into a nearby chapel. A lay minister delivering the sermon continually emphasized Isaiah 45:22: “Look unto Me and be saved.” He accepted Jesus’ death for him that day. Walking home amid the falling flakes, Charles rejoiced that his sins were now white as snow.

To learn more about Charles’ service to God, read here.



Billy Sunday (1862-1935)

Billy Sunday (1862-1935)

His Role In Christianity— Billy became the leading evangelist of the first half of the 2oth century. His dynamic style, including what some termed “theatrics,” helped hammer home his strong message to repent and turn from sin. Billy pioneered many of the techniques used today by ministries around the world to preach to large crowds.

His Pre-Conversion Life— Billy and his older brother spent their childhood in the Civil War Soldiers’ Orphan Home. When Billy was 20, playing baseball in a local league in Marshalltown, Iowa, a professional player discovered him. Billy eventually signed a contract with the team known in 1883 as the Chicago White Stock-ings. He played with the team for seven seasons.

Billy’s Decisive Factor: hymns he recognized from his childhood. Billy and some other ball players went to a tavern one afternoon. When they returned outdoors, they sat on the curb to listen to the Christian song service being held across the street. Recognizing some of the hymns his mother use to sing made Billy cry. A Christian worker saw his reaction and crossed the street to invite him to the Pacific Garden Mission. Billy willingly went. There, he accepted Jesus as his savior.

To learn more about Billy’s service to God, read here.



Dawson Trotman (1906-1956) (Image: courtesy of the Navigators-http://www.navigators.org/us/)

Dawson Trotman (1906-1956)
(Image: courtesy of the Navigators-http://www.navigators.org/us/)

His Role In Christianity— Dawson founded the discipleship organization The Navigators. After impacting the military, Dawson wrote the materials for altar workers in Billy Graham crusades. His scripture memory program at the root of The Navigators also enhanced the work of Campus Crusade and Wycliffe Bible Translators.

His Pre-Conversion Life— As a teenager, Dawson led the life of a Christian hypocrite. His popularity as high school student body president attracted his classmates to attend church with him when he invited them. They didn’t know he was stealing money from the student body funds. After graduation, he turned to openly drinking and gambling.

Dawson’s Decisive Factor: a policeman’s warning. One night, a police officer stopped Dawson for drunk driving. Instead of a ticket, he gave Dawson a heart-to-heart talk. The young rebel began attending church. In the youth group, he excelled in a scripture memorization contest. The verses Dawson memorized eventually took root in his heart. He became a Christian and grew in his faith based on the word of God he’d memorized.

To learn more about Dawson’s service to God, read here.


You can read about the unique decisive factors that brought Adoniram Judson, D. James Kennedy, C. S. Lewis, and Lottie Moon to God in “8 Wonderful Conversion Stories (Pt. I).” 


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God sometimes uses surprising twists in calling individuals to make life’s most important decision. Often at the end of a string of whispers and appeals from the Holy Spirit, there’s a unique decisive factor. That element comes as a new sight, sound, or situation in the person’s journey to faith. Here are the uncommon experiences for four well-known Christian leaders.


Adoniram Judson (1788-1850)

Adoniram Judson (1788-1850)

His Role in Christianity— Adoniram and Ann Judson were America’s first foreign missionaries. In Burma, Adoniram faced a variety of harsh conditions, including imprisonment, to win the Burmese people to Jesus. His legacy includes translating the Bible into the Burmese language.

His Pre-Conversion Life— In college, Adoniram abandoned his religious upbringing to become a Deist. Apart from refusing to believe in a personal God, he had a brilliant mind. After graduating class valedictorian at age 19 wanderlust led Andoniram to join a theatrical group.

Adoniram’s Decisive Factor:  A dying friend. The night he checked into the inn, the manager told Adoniram there was a very sick man in the room next to him. He heard the man moaning throughout the night. The next morning, he learned the man had died. What shook Adoniram to the core was the dead man’s identity: the very friend who swayed him to accept Deism as superior to Christianity. He retreated to his home town, attended the church his father pastored, and returned to the Christian faith.

To learn more details of Adoniram’s service to God, read here.



D. James Kennedy (1930-2007) Courtesy of http://www.djameskennedy.org/.

D. James Kennedy (1930-2007) Courtesy of http://www.djameskennedy.org/.

His Role in Christianity— He formulated one of Christianity’s most successful witnessing programs, Evangelism Explosion. After founding the vibrant Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Jim became a familiar voice in the battle to restore conservative values to America. He did so through his radio called program, Truths that Transform, his  television ministry The Coral Ridge Hour, and the more than 50 books he wrote.

His Pre-Conversion Life— Jim never heard the gospel presented until he was 23. He became a skilled dance instructor at an Arthur Murray studio. He met his future wife, Anne, when she came to the studio for lessons. After they started dating, Jim believed all was well.

Jim’s Decisive Factor:  A radio alarm clock. Jim slept in one morning with a hangover after an all-night dance party. His radio alarm clock awakened him, but not with music. He heard a radio  preacher asking the question, “Suppose you were to die today and stand before God, and He were to ask you, ‘What right do you have to enter into My heaven?’ — what would you say?” Jim wasn’t sure. That began his quest to discover why God should welcome him into Heaven and how to prepare for it.

To learn more details about Jim’s service to God, read here.



C. S. Lewis (1898-1963)  Image: butterfunk.com

C. S. Lewis (1898-1963)
Image: butterfunk.com

His Role in Christianity— Clive Staples Lewis shared God with the world by sharing his God-given intellect with the world. He turned important Christian truths into profound non-fiction and fiction, each volume full of creativity and wit. Reading Clive’s writings sharpens our minds and our spirits. He showed us by example how to apply both the left and right sides of our brain to present Christianity to a non-Christian world.

His Pre-Conversion Life— Clive lived as an atheist for almost half of his life. During both childhood and his teens years, people Clive cared about died unpleasant deaths. His involvement in World War I added to his doubt that God really existed. As a person who greatly loved books, Clive chose a career teaching at Oxford University.

Clive’s Decisive Factor:  A Ride to the Zoo. First, he had to admit that God existed. God used the Christian faith of some of Clive’s fellow teachers who were also personal friends. A long walk and talk one night with J. R. R. Tolkein and another Oxford instructor brought Clive to conclude at least that God existed. Two years passed before he accepted Jesus’ death for his sins. While riding to a zoo in the sidecar of his brother’s motorcycle, every-thing clicked in Clive’s mind and heart. When they reached the zoo, he fully believed that Jesus died for the sins of the world, including his sins. He surrendered.

To learn more about Clive’s service to God, read here



Lottie Moon (1840-1912)

Lottie Moon (1840-1912)

Her Role in Christianity— The single female missionary stood four-foot-three but cast a giant shadow in China and around the world. Lottie set a standard for missionaries by enduring austere living conditions and prejudice. Among her frequent correspondence to the missions board, she suggested churches receive an annual Christmastime offering for missionaries. In 1919, the Southern Baptist Convention renamed that offering the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

Her Pre-Conversion Life— Lottie, the Civil War era Southern belle, had a pleasant, privileged upbringing. But she didn’t adopt her parent’s faith. Lottie graduated from boarding school then attended an all-female institute. She chose not to attend church and scoffed at the students who did.

Lottie’s Decisive Factor:  A barking dog. Lottie surprised her peers one evening when she appeared at revival services being held across the street from the school. A noisy dog outside her window kept Lottie awake most of that night. Her wandering thoughts returned again and again to the teachings of Christianity. By dawn, Lottie had decided to follow Jesus. That second evening of revival services, she went forward during the altar call. The next night, she was baptized.

To learn more about Lottie’s service to God, read here.


In “8 Wonderful Conversion Stories (Pt. II),” you’ll discover the unique ways God captured the hearts of  John Newton, Charles Spurgeon, Billy Sunday, and Dawson Trotman.


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Born NOVEMBER 3, 1930

D. James Kennedy. Courtesy of http://www.djameskennedy.org/.

D. James Kennedy. Courtesy of http://www.djameskennedy.org/.

It wasn’t a great start! When he concluded his first twelve months pastoring he’d reduced his congregation from 45 to 17. That’s how gung-ho seminary graduate, Dennis James Kennedy, ended his first year in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

How did he get to be a pastor? How did he rise above the disappointments of that first year to become so influential around the world? The answers help define one of Christianity’s great success stories of the Twentieth Century.


D. James Kennedy, commonly known as Jim, didn’t become a Christian until age 23. When he was 20, the Tampa, Florida resident took a job as an Arthur Murray dance instructor. Skilled at what he did,  Jim expected to make his career on the dance floor.

One day while giving lessons, Jim met his future wife. He became Anne’s dance instructor. They started dating. They agreed on many things, but didn’t see eye to eye concerning church. When she tried to get him to attend with her, Jim told Anne, “You don’t have to go to church to be a good person.”

Photo by Joe Haupt.

Photo by Joe Haupt.

One morning after an all-night dance party, Jim’s views began to change. He was sleeping in from a hangover. His radio alarm clock did more than wake him; it gave Jim a spiritual wake-up call. It wasn’t music that poured from his radio that morning in 1953; it was a preacher’s voice.

The radio preacher, Donald Grey Barnhouse, stated firmly, “Suppose you were to die today and stand before God, and He were to ask you, ‘What right do you have to enter into My heaven?’ — what would you say?” That ended Jim’s restful sleep, but the question sent him on a search.

Jim went to a local newsstand looking for a religious book. He purchased a copy of The Greatest Story Ever Told. When he finished reading it, Jim got on his knees, asked God’s forgiveness for his sins, and committed the rest of his life to following Jesus Christ.


Bethel Presbyterian Church, Clearwater, Florida.  © by James G. Howes.

Bethel Presbyterian Church, Clearwater, Florida.
© by James G. Howes.

Jim plunged into his new life with fervor. He read the Bible, memorized portions of scripture, and was soon leading the Sunday school class he’d started attend-ing.  Jim quit his job as a dance instructor and began preaching at a mission church, Bethel Presbyterian Church in Clearwater.

Some highs and lows awaited Jim in those early years. On August 25, 1956, Jim and Anne were married. He worked on his Bachelor’s degree at the University of Tampa.  They moved to Fort Lauderdale where Jim severely reduced his number of parishioners that first year. But hope awaited just around the corner, give or take a few hundred miles.

A friend from seminary invited Jim to his church in Atlanta to hold evangelistic services. Part of the agreement included the two of them visiting people in their homes. Not just visiting, but witnessing. Jim learned from those house calls that he didn’t know how to do it well.

However, the education he received from the experience burned something into Jim’s soul. Back in Fort Lauderdale, he turned what he’d learned into a witnessing training program. He named it Evangelism Explosion. That plan, also known as “E.E. turned around the attendance at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. Other pastors heard about it and wanted to repeat Jim’s success in their churches. Jim held the first E.E. clinic for other pastors on February 20, 1967. The successful program began spreading across the country. In 1970, Tyndale Publishers released the book Evangelism Explosion based on Jim’s master’s thesis. The program’s impact increased.


Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, Florida.            © by Jimmy Baikovicius.

Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
© by Jimmy Baikovicius.

As Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church continued growing, so did its influence.

In 1974, Jim’s book, Truths That Transform, led to the church’s radio program, Truths That Transform. In 1978, TV broadcasts of the Sunday morning services began under the title The Coral Ridge Hour. The content of Jim’s sermons made him a strong voice for conservative Christianity, which led to national magazines quoting him and to invitations to interviews on national television.

Jim Pastored Coral Ridge for 48 years. During that time, the sermons he preached and the 50-plus books he wrote clearly detailed Biblically based themes that he presented as God’s Cultural Mandate.


James Dobson has called Jim, “A giant in the battle to restore traditional values in our nation.


During his time at Coral Ridge, God helped Jim build the congregation from 17 members to over 2,000 per Sunday.

On February 23, 1996, E.E. became the first ministry to reach into all 221 countries of the globe.

In 2005, Jim was inducted into the National Religious Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame.

Following a heart problem in December of 2006, Jim officially retired. He died in his sleep September 5, 2007.

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



  • You can find books by Jim at Christianbook.com here- http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/easy_find?Ntt=D.+James+Kennedy&N=0&Ntk=keywords&action=Search&Ne=0&event=ESRCG&nav_search=1&cms=1&search=.
  • Books by Jim at Amazon.com begin on this page- http://www.amazon.com/D.-James-Kennedy/e/B001IXO3BK.


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Born October 8, 1914

Bob Pierce. ©2013 World Vision.

Bob Pierce. ©2013 World Vision.


Today would have been the 100th birthday of the man who started two important relief organizations.

Below are six essential facts about the life of Bob Pierce. Following each statement is a question concerning detailed information about that fact. The answers to all the questions can be found here.


The prayer-slogan that guided Bob’s life is  “Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God.”                                                                                                               (What dramatic incident brought about that prayer?)

In 1944, Bob and Billy Graham were two of twelve young evangelists who launched a national organization that ministered to youth.                                                                              (Can you name of the organization?)

Bob started World Vision in 1950, the year the Korean War began.                                   (After the war, to what segment of Korean society did World Vision minister?)

When Bob resigned from leading World Vision for health reasons, the organization  continued growing and making a difference.                                                                           (World Vision eventually gained what status among America-based charities?)

In 1970, Bob started a second relief organization, Samaritan’s Purse.                              (What does the organization’s mission statement say is the purpose for all it does?)

Bob died in 1978 at age 64.                                                                                                            (What disease led to Bob’s death?)


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