David Wilkerson’s 85th Birthday


David Wilkerson

David Wilkerson


Today, David Wilkerson—founder of Teen Challenge–would have turned 85.

I read his book The Cross and the Switchblade, about the dramatic origins of the Teen Challenge ministry, while in high school. It captivated me. When I later watched the movie, it made David’s story even more enthralling.

If God could use a small-church pastor like David Wilkerson to reach drug-addicted gang members, I believed He could do something with me if I remained yielded to Him.

Little did I know then that I would someday serve as a Teen Challenge counselor.

Here’s a short bio of David Wilkerson that I wrote four years ago. His family read it and endorsed it. Since then, it’s received over 1,000 views—https://lights4god.wordpress.com/2012/05/19/david-wilkerson/.

Image: courtesy of World Challenge- http://www.worldchallenge.org/en/node.

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Johnson Oatman Jr.’s 160th Birthday

Johnson Oatman Jr. (I)

Johnson Oatman Jr. [PD-1923]

Prolific hymn writer Johnson Oatman Jr. gave us enduring songs. Among the 5,000 hymns he wrote are “Count Your Blessings” and “Higher Ground.” Today, on Johnson’s birthday, read the Christ-centered lyrical messages behind five of his most-sung songs today.

Celebrate his contributions to Christianity by learning more about his best-loved hymns, here.

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Thoro Harris

Thoro Harris. [PD-1923]


His gospel themes and children’s songs live on today. Thoro’s lyrics capture both the sense of deep-felt need and the internal peace of Jesus’ provision in songs like “Hide Thou Me” and “All that Thrills My Soul is Jesus.” Read his bio.


Thomas Dorsey  [PD-1923]

Thomas A. Dorsey [PD-1923]


When Thomas turned from a career in non-Christian music, God turned Thomas into the “Father of Gospel Music.” His two most enduring compositions, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” and “Peace in the Valley” were inspired by unforgettable circumstances. Read his bio.


Andrae Crouch

Andrae Crouch. Image: Sparrow Records (2003)


As a child, Andrae learned to play piano without a single lesson. He grew up to write and sing songs that won Dove and Grammy awards. Read the stories behind his songs, “The Blood Will Never Lose it’s Power,” “My Tribute,” and “Through it All” in his bio.

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I started a second blog in November of 2015. Titled “Mile Markers,” it’s devotional in nature. My Monday-of-each-week posts emphasize the blog’s sub-heading, “Gaining ground in the Christian Journey.”

Why Two Blogs? The purpose of both is spiritual inspiration. Apart from that, here are four ways they differ.

  • Lights 4 God highlights people of the past. All, heroes of faith, are men and women who kept the faith and finished their course.                                                                        Mile Markers addresses the day-to-day steps for those of us still completing the course.
  • Lights 4 God spans three centuries: 1700s-1900s.
  • Mile Markers refers to recent decades rather than recent centuries.
  • Lights 4 God has always appeared in text format only.                                                       Every Mile Markers post comes with an audio version.
  • Lights 4 God is mostly informational.                                                                                            Mile Markers always concludes with personal applications under the heading, The Road Ahead, with additional Biblical verses to read as Further Fuel.

Here are the titles and links to the first 10 Mile Marker posts.

Mile 1-Marker

Forgiving Others

Mile After Mile

People I Should Thank God For

Funny and Not Funny

Doing Good

Don’t Panic

The Journey to Bethlehem

This New Year: Read the Bible Wholeheartedly

This New Year: Pray Without Ceasing

This New Year: Witness Unashamedly






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120th Anniversary of Billy Sunday’s First Revival Campaign

On this day in 1896, Billy Sunday began full-time evangelistic ministry in Garner, Iowa. Here’s a repost of his rise to popularity and the results he accomplished for God.


Born NOVEMBER 19, 1862

 A simple, straight-forward message. A bold presentation. A clear call to repentance. In his heyday, evan-       gelist Billy Sunday was a modern-day Elijah or John the Baptist. His preaching attracted crowds by the thousands. They never found him boring. They always  returned home having heard a man with a message. The former baseball player spent most of his life at bat for eternal home runs.


Iowa-born William Ashley Sunday reached adulthood only after a series of hard knocks. The year Billy was born, his father (a Civil War soldier) died. When his mother remarried, her new husband, an alcoholic, didn’t stick around. In her poverty his mother admitted Billy and his older brother to the Civil War Soldiers’ Orphan Home.

The boys left the orphanage when Billy was fourteen. He didn’t stay home for long. A couple took him in, which led to a short stint in public school. Before he could graduate, Billy dropped out in search for greener pastures. He did however, have a skill he used to his advantage. He could run well. Billy put it to use as a volunteer fireman. That led to a spot on the local baseball team.


That’s where someone discovered him. During one of his baseball games, a visiting professional player watched Billy running and fielding the ball. Billy later received a call from Chicago. In 1883, he tried out for the Chicago White Stockings. They gave him a contract. Running remained his strength in the game. Crowds cheered his ability to steal bases and to slide when doing so. In his seventh season  in professional baseball, Billy batted .257 and stole eighty-four bases. Each month he took home more money than a factory worker earned in an entire year.


Billy eventually traded his income and his fame for something more. It started one Sunday afternoon in Chicago. He and some other ball players dropped by a tavern for a few drinks. When they returned outdoors, they saw a religious song service in progress across the street. They sat on a curb and listened. Billy recognized the songs as ones his mother use to sing in church and at home.

  One of the Christian workers came across the street. He saw Billy sobbing. When he invited the ball player to follow the singers to the Pacific Garden Mission, Billy did. There, Billy Sunday committed his life to Jesus Christ. He expected his team-mates to harass him the next morning at practice. Instead, they offered him their respect.

Three years later, Billy married Helen Thompson and joined the Presbyterian church. He became involved in the church. He went on to play for the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia ball teams, but he longed for the city of Chicago. In 1890, Billy Sunday hung up his bat and glove for good. He went to work at a Chicago YMCA.


Billy eventually joined the Wilbur J. Chapman ministry team. For two years he travelled ahead of the evangelist, arranging all the details prior to the revival campaigns and doing whatever was needed during the services. Then evangelist Chapman retired.

With his mentor’s blessings, Billy continued the ministry. He began in his home state, holding his first revival meetings in the town of Garner, Iowa in 1896. He delivered his sermons in the language of the common man. He did so with enthusiasm. When the former professional athlete combined emotion and athleticism, it attracted crowds. He used a bit of showmanship to gain listeners and then lead them to the cross.

 Billy Sunday’s name soon spread. What began as ministry in smaller, midwestern towns expanded to large cities. He gained fans and he gained critics. What really mattered was that evangelist Billy Sunday gained results. He concluded every sermon with an invitation for listeners to “hit the sawdust trail,” which meant to walk the aisle to the front to pray to become a Christian. He used the expression because rather than tents, he preached in make-shift buildings (which seated at least a thousand) with sawdust on the dirt floors.By 1914, Billy had become America’s most well-known preacher. Newspapers kept track of him. Many printed his sermons. Some gave a nod to the former baseball player by printing “box scores” of how many “hit the sawdust trail” in his meetings. Billy’s largest number of converts (98,000) came in 1917 during a ten-week campaign in New York.


Billy used a number of expressions that have caught people’s attention. Some of his phrases are still repeated today. Here are a few of them.

“Your reputation is what people say about you. Your character is what God and your wife know about you.”

“Going to church doesn’t make a man a Christian any more than going to the garage makes him an automobile.”

“Temptation is the devil looking through the keyhole. Yielding is opening the door and inviting him in.”

“I believe that a long step toward public morality will have been taken when sins are called by their right names.”

“I’m against sin. I’ll kick it as long as I’ve got a foot, and I’ll fight it as long as I’ve got a fist. I’ll butt it as long as I’ve got a head. I’ll bite it as long as I’ve got a tooth. And when I’m old, and fistless, and footless, and toothless, I’ll gum it till I go home to Glory and it goes home to perdition!”


During World War I, Billy strongly promoted patriotism. He didn’t just preach about it but financially supported it. The nightly offerings in some campaigns were huge. He gave a lot of the money away. The war effort was one of his favorite charities.

 During the 1910s, Billy strongly opposed alcohol. He preached for Prohibition prior to its passage. He made statements like, “The saloon is a liar. It promises good cheer and sends sorrow.” It became such a theme of his ministry that he declared, “I am the sworn, eternal and uncompromising enemy of the liquor traffic.”When the Eighteenth Amendment became ratified in 1919, some credited Billy Sunday’s sermons against alcohol as a major influence. The Twenty-first Amendment, which undid Prohibition, was ratified in 1933, just two years before Billy Sunday passed away.


By the time the famed evangelist died in November of 1935, he’d set new standards for mass evangelism. He’d improved the process of organizing large meetings. He’d showed that churches representing different denominations could work together to host an evangelist.

During his lifetime, Billy preached to over 100 million people in at least 300 revival meetings. He touched a lot of lives. An estimated 20,000 people attended his funeral at Chicago’s Moody Church.

The year before Billy Sunday died, another man named Billy surrendered his life to God. His name was Billy Graham. He would someday speak to even more people than Billy Sunday and invite and lead more to decisions for salvation. In his autobiography, Just As I Am, Billy Graham says that when he was only five, Billy Sunday became the first evangelist he ever heard.


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


  • Larsen, Timothy, ed. Biographical Dictionary of Evangelicals. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2003.
  • Temple, Todd and Twitchell, Kim. People Who Shaped the Church. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 2000.
  • Fisk, Samuel. Forty fascinating Conversion Stories. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1993.
  • Ellis, William T. Billy Sunday: the Man and His Message. L. T. Myers, 1914.

Billy Sunday biographies


(A few of Billy Sunday’s sermon texts) http://www.biblebelievers.com/billy_sunday/.



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The faith commitments of three young women born between 1840 and 1867, each in December, eventually led to the transformation of thousands of lives in China, Africa, and India.

Lottie Moon (Born DECEMBER 12, 1840)


Lottie Moon  [PD-1923]

Lottie Moon (1840-1912) [PD-1923]

Lottie’s name became synonymous with foreign missions for an entire denomination.

The Southern belle, born on a Virginia plantation, gave up plenty to serve God. She didn’t submit her life to God until in college. Afterwards she served as a school teacher in Kentucky and Georgia. Hearing a sermon from John 4:35 about the fields being “white already to harvest” persuaded Lottie that God had called her to the mission field.

Lottie arrived in China in 1873. It was a far cry from the comforts of home. She befriended those around her by wearing Chinese clothing and baking cookies for all who visited her. She won converts. A few. Then many.

She suggested to the home missions board that an annual Christmastime offering be received for missionaries. They liked and implemented her idea. Her death in 1912 brought an end to almost 40 years of faithful service in China. Seven years later, the Southern Baptist Church renamed their special, missionary offering the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

Click here for a fuller account of Lottie’s life.


Mary Slessor (Born DECEMBER 2, 1848)

Mary_Slessor.jpg [PD-1923]

Mary Slessor. [PD-1923]

A famous missionary inspired Mary to go places other missionaries were reluctant to venture.

Mary began her life in Scotland. When she was a teenager, a statement missionary David Livingston made before he died caught her attention: “Carry out the work I have begun.” She applied for missionary service, prepared, and was sent to Nigeria.

She’d spent half-days working at a local mill since age 11. That helped prepare her for rigorous missionary service. Early on, Mary contracted malaria, which she survived. Mary was a fighter. She bravely traveled, against advice, to locations where human sacrifices and cannibalism were practiced. Mary went on to raise the social and spiritual level of dignity among the Nigerians she reached.

God granted Mary favor with both the Nigerians and he British Government, who were often at odds. Those she ministered to titled her “white ma.” Her homeland appointed her to be a magistrate. Like David Livingston, Mary left words of her own that challenge us, including, “I am ready to go anywhere, provided it be forward.”

Click here to learn more about Mary Slessor.


Amy Carmichael (Born DECEMBER 16, 1867)


Amy Carmicael sitting. [PD-1923]

Amy Carmichael. [PD-1923]

An entire generation became indebted to Amy’s efforts to rescue their bodies and souls.

Amy first shared her faith among factory workers in Ireland. She held Bible studies for the female workers known as “shawlies.” It was so successful, a building had be built to accommodate them.

She arrived in India in 1895. Members of India’s lowest caste became Amy’s first converts. From 1901 on, she rescued girls from lives of temple prostitution. That number eventually surpassed 1,000 young individuals.

Amy’s prolific writing led to the publication of 40 books. Her accounts of the mission field, often taken from her journal, didn’t sugar-coat the work. Along with miraculous victories, Amy painted the harsh realities of daily missionary service. Her frankness opened the eyes of many who were too often spared the details.

Her death in 1951 marked the conclusion of 56 years of making a difference in India.

Click here for more details of Amy’s life.




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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 http://www.djameskennedy.org/.

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

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: butterfunk.com

C. S. Lewis.
Image: butterfunk.com

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 johnwpetersonmusic.com.

John W. Peterson. Image: courtesy of johnwpetersonmusic.com.

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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