When I was in my early twenty’s I had a friend who was the daughter of a Church of God pastor in my hometown. The Church of God (Anderson, IN) had a statewide Camp Meeting outside my hometown every year. They would have something going on every day for a week. Every evening a preacher chosen for that specific year would preach. That year my friend persuaded me to go.
It was the last sermon on the last night of the week. I was sitting about three rows from the very back. When the invocation was given I wanted to go forward to the altar, but I just stood frozen. In my mind I said, ‘Jesus, I can’t walk up there. If you want me, you’ll have to come and get me.’ Immediately a hand was on my left arm, leading me to the altar. As I started to kneel, I looked to my left to see who had led me down that long isle. It was Jesus, the Son of the living God. As soon as He let go of my arm He walked around the end of the altar and knelt right in front of me. The pastor, my friend’s father, knelt to my right and the gentleman who had preached the sermon knelt in front of him. They both began talking to me, but it seemed like their words were coming from light years away; I was so overwhelmed by the Presence of Jesus that I couldn’t understand a thing they were saying. And that night, kneeling in front of the Son of God, I became a Christian at a camp meeting in the country.
From that night on I felt the Presence of Jesus every day for one to two months. His Presence was especially prevalent in the mornings when I would awake. I would fall to my knees as soon as my feet hit the floor in total awe of what I was experiencing. I didn’t see Him during these times, but I knew exactly where He was standing each morning, and the entire room was filled with His glory. (The Holy Spirit witnesses to my heart right now as to how precious and how real these experiences were and how, to this day, the Lord uses them to help me from time to time.)
A few years later an elderly lady invited several people to her house after church one Sunday morning for some snacks and cold drinks. My wife and I attended. At one point this lady asked us to come into her kitchen. Another couple heard her invite us and they came, also. The lady then addressed me and said that she was the nurse on duty when I was born. She said that when she entered the delivery room Jesus was standing in a corner. She explained His Presence as being almost overwhelming. She went on to say that Jesus was also in the room my mom and I were placed in after my birth. She would pause each time she came in to check on us because His Presence was so glorious it was hard for her to bear. He stayed in our room until we were released from the hospital. It was so humbling to know that Jesus was present at both my natural birth and my spiritual birth.
About six months after my wife and I were married, we moved to Houston, TX where I would attend Gulf Coast Bible College (which later became Mid-America Christian University in Oklahoma City, OK). We both worked for a year before I started school. A man I worked with that year happened to be a student at the college. He invited me to a prayer meeting at a house in the Houston Heights that several young men from the college had rented. The house was built like a mansion. Just inside the front door there was a huge foyer and two stairwells, one to the right of the door and one to the left of the door, both leading to an open hallway upstairs that formed a half circle overlooking the downstairs foyer.
There were approximately twenty people present. Most of them were standing in the upstairs hallway. A few were on the stairs. I took a seat about four or five steps up the stairwell to the right, hugging the wall, in case someone might want to get by me. There were two or three men sitting several steps behind me, but none below me. This was in the evening and there were a couple of lamps left on in the foyer and also rays of light from a street light shining through some windows with sheer curtains on the front wall parallel to the stairs.
At a point in the prayer meeting, I think near the end, there came a period of complete silence. During that silence, someone put his hands on my shoulders. I sat frozen, not knowing what was happening. I then heard a voice say, “I ordain you to preach my gospel”. When the person removed His hands I opened my eyes and saw that it was Jesus who had ordained me. He then started up the stairs. I leaned back and, with my right hand, I reached out and touched the hem of His garment. I saw His garment move when I touched it. He stopped, looked back, and smiled at me. He then walked to the top of the stairs and disappeared. A man who was standing in the upstairs hallway was made aware that the Lord had dealt with me that night. The Lord actually let him see the same thing I saw after my ordination, an unclean spirit that was pursuing one of the students present in the prayer meeting. Twenty-four years later a church presented me with an ordination certificate. There was no ceremony. Jesus is the only Person that has laid hands on me.
My ordination is not from man, nor through the agency of man, but through the laying on of the hands of Jesus. I did not choose Him; He chose me. I now belong to Jesus and my allegiance is to Him and the Father alone.
Several months after that night, I started Bible College. A few weeks into my second semester my wife got a phone call from my biological father’s wife. (I had met them when I was sixteen and my dad had a bad heart condition. My wife and I went to see him the day we left for Houston. He was still working and doing okay.) His wife said that he had recently been forced to take a medical retirement from his work. The doctors weren’t giving him much time to live. He wanted us to move back to Oklahoma before he died. When my wife told me about this, I thought, ‘I can’t just drop out of college. It’s a four year college.’ However, after a week or two, I began to feel that God might really want me to leave school and move back to Oklahoma.
I prayed about it for several days and the feeling wouldn’t leave. I asked the Lord to please let me know for certain if He wanted me to do this. I then put a cotton work glove on the grass outside our apartment and, with my finger, I drew a twelve to fifteen inch circle around the glove. I prayed and asked the Lord to let there be dew on the ground but not on the glove, nor within the circle, if He wanted me to leave school and move back. I checked the following morning and the dew was on the ground, but not on the glove, nor was it in the circle. I then asked that He do the opposite the next day, let there be dew on the glove and within the circle, but not on the ground. That next morning I overslept and was almost late for school. I rushed outside and quickly checked the ground, and it was dry. I crawled to the glove and it was wet with dew, as was the circle around it. We began packing our belongings and within days we were on our way back to Oklahoma.
After driving over eight hours we stopped and spent the night with my wife’s family. My dad lived approximately thirty-five miles north of them. The following day we visited with her mother most of the morning, then drove to my dad’s house. We arrived around noon. He and his wife were so surprised to see us. They had no idea we were coming. We never thought about letting them know. I had just asked the Lord what He wanted me to do, and then did it. They weren’t prepared for company so my wife and his wife immediately left for town to get some food to prepare for lunch.
My dad and I were standing outside talking when they left. They hadn’t been gone one minute and my dad had a heart attack. I helped him inside the house and laid him down on a cot by the wall just inside the door. In approximately one and a half minutes more, he passed away. I just stood there beside him, looking into his open eyes that were so still and so quiet, not knowing what to do. We had no cell phones back then so I couldn’t contact my wife. He lived a few miles from the nearest town so I didn’t bother calling an ambulance. I soon went outside.
My dad wasn’t a Christian when he died. I began asking the Lord to give him another chance. I sat on a porch step and prayed and prayed and prayed. Every once in a while I would stand up and pace back and forth on the patio and then sit back down. Twice I went back in the house and checked to see if my dad had come back to life. After what seemed like an eternity of sitting and pacing, sitting and pacing (it was actually about twenty-five to thirty minutes), I sat down for the last time and heard the words, ‘I have heard and I have answered; I have given you the desires of your heart’. I rushed inside and he was still dead. I went back outside for a few more minutes, and then went back in, and again, he was still dead. I thought, ‘Maybe I have to tell him to wake up,’ but, before I could speak, the last Adam, Jesus — the life-giving Spirit — breathed into him and he awoke from sleep. His first words were, “I was dead!” He said it three times and then began to praise Jesus.
As he was praising the Lord our wives returned. His wife went into a panic and started screaming, “What happened. He’s never looked this bad before.” I assured her he was okay and that he only needed a bath (he had passed his bowels and urine). After this day my dad still had a bad heart but he had renewed energy and vigor. He and his two brothers began going from one Church of God to another in Oklahoma, each giving their testimonies. My dad always worked into his testimony a statement saying, “People say that when you’ve been dead as long as I was, your brain will be affected, and I can attest to its truth – my brain was affected drastically — I was a sinner, now I’m a saint; I was dead, now I’m alive.”
Several years after this experience, I was at a prayer meeting in North Carolina that was being held in the loft of a barn. There were about twelve to fifteen people present. I was sitting in a chair beside a middle aisle that ran down the middle of the loft. As we were praying in silence, I was suddenly filled with faith that what was beginning there would spread to the north, south, east, and west. I stood and began to speak but was cut short before I could complete a sentence. In the blink of an eye, I was standing beside Jesus in a place far above the earth. I don’t know where we were, whether in heaven, or on top of one of the highest clouds. God knows.
Jesus was standing to my left, facing me; Peter and John were to my right. I saw someone coming up from behind us and turned to look, and it was James. When I saw him, I glanced down and saw my body lying on the floor in the loft. Jesus began telling me I had been born before my time, and that the knowledge I had received would be usable, but I must wait until God completed a work in His people. He didn’t tell me what that work was. While Jesus was talking to me, Paul appeared, walking from my right to my left, several feet in front of me. He was looking straight at me. I had the feeling that he knew me. Jesus then told me about my call and I returned to my body. My physical body ached for almost three weeks after this experience.
These have been just a few experiences that I’ve I held in my heart for nearly fifty years. Recently I shared them with two different people in two different places at two different times and both of them felt that I should share them with others. So I now believe the Lord wants me to share them. I have written them for the sole purpose of exalting Jesus and the Father, who love us beyond our ability to comprehend.
If you would pass me on the street you wouldn’t even notice me. I’m just another nobody from nowhere. There’s nothing good in me except that which Jesus has worked in me. I realize this may sound like a cliché, but it’s the absolute truth.
Rev. Jon Banks, God’s most unworthy servant
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