About sanctification

I have found nothing in the Bible that even insinuates that sanctification is a second stage of spiritual growth, or a second work of grace to be sought after becoming a Christian. In John 17, Jesus asked the Father to sanctify us in the truth (His Word is truth), and He sanctified Himself that we also might be sanctified. The author of Hebrews says that Jesus came to do the Father’s will, and that by His will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all; and that by that offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified, 10:9-10,14. In chapter 13:11-13, he says, “…the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an offering for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Hence, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach.”

Hebrews 12:14 says, “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.” Here, the writer is exhorting the readers to maintain the race, strengthen the hands that are weak, and the knees that are feeble, so that no one comes short of the grace of God, vs. 12,13,15.

So, we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all; Jesus sanctified us through His own blood. That is, we have been separated unto God, set apart and made holy by the blood of Jesus, a people for God’s own possession. We are to continually go out to Him outside the camp, a people set apart for God; offering ourselves as living sacrifices to Him who loves us. We are to maintain the race set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, through whose sacrifice we became a holy nation. 

Sanctification is therefore not a work which we achieve; it is a finished work by Christ Jesus, the perfect Savior. We need only persevere to the end; and we do this by taking up our cross daily, walking by the Spirit daily, and offering ourselves to Him as living sacrifices daily. 

Rev. Jon Banks

P.S. It is my sincere hope that everything I write be tested, not by what others have said, but by the Holy Word of God. Please weigh everything I say on the scales of the Word of God before you discard them. May the Lord bless you.

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Some more thoughts:

In Colossians 2:2-3 Paul speaks of all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, and a true knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; wealth and treasures worth more than all the earthly wealth and treasures combined; worth so much that anyone who gets a glimpse into its beauty will sell everything he owns just to partake of that beauty.

Oh, yes, dear friends, this is the prosperity gospel that I preach. This is true prosperity. This is biblical prosperity. This is prosperity that is worth losing one’s life for. This prosperity is found in the kingdom of the living God. This is true wealth, true riches, true treasures, and it is freely given to the meek and lowly by the One who loves us beyond comprehension. This is Christianity.

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When you pray — consider this — who is there to challenge? Who will deny our quest? Already we are more than conquerors: We are heirs of our Father; our Father is God; God is love; love never fails; — our triumph is sure as the dawn.

He comes to us like the showers, like the spring rain watering the earth — refreshing, renewing, providing — rewarding our faith in His love. His coming is with power in ways unencumbered by thought — ways that only angels (and perhaps small children) recognize.

Deeply touched by the vulnerability of our human frailties, He shields each trusting footstep from snares that lie in wait — leading, guiding, protecting — providing ways of escape. Surely we may always pray and not lose heart. Surely we are children of a most wonderful and magnificent Father!

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Little things, like staying within the speed limit and observing all traffic laws, cleaning up after ourselves in public restrooms, and even opening doors for our wives, help us to learn obedience to God. If we do these things and other things like them out of respect for our heavenly Father, because His Word tells us to be respectful of others and to obey the authorities which exist, we will find ourselves coming closer and closer to an intimate walk with Him. He will begin teaching us the secrets of walking by the Spirit.

You see, one cannot walk by the Spirit and disregard the speed limit. It’s impossible; the Holy Spirit won’t allow it (with the exception of maybe emergencies). One cannot walk by the Spirit and be disrespectful of, or to, people; the Holy Spirit will not allow that either. So the more we press forward and maintain an obedient attitude in little things, even seemingly insignificant things, the closer we will find ourselves to the Lord; for we are obeying His Holy Spirit. And the more we obey His Holy Spirit, the more He will entrust to us. Self will ultimately find itself diminishing, and the image of the Son of God will begin shining forth.

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If a Christian sits in judgment of someone, and that someone senses the judgment, the one being judged could possibly be devastated to the point of self-condemnation and thereby lose his, or her, salvation. As Christians, we have more influence on others than we are aware of and we must be careful to let our love for others keep our tendency to judge at bay. We must never put a hindrance between any one and the love of God.

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When you’re trusting God for something, don’t stand on the Word, or claim the promise, simply endeavor to trust Him within your heart. When doubts arise apologize to Him and ask for help to overcome your doubts; He will move heaven and earth to help you.

Standing on the Word and claiming a promise are not in the Bible; trusting the Lord is. Circumstances sometimes hinder, or cloud, trust (faith) and the Lord understands this; He will most assuredly help us when we are honest with Him.

Never speak to your problems or your circumstances; instead, depend on the Lord to lead you through your problems and circumstances; persevere and learn the lessons contained in your journey. The Lord is truly our Shepherd, and we shall not want.

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Men of God and Ear Ticklers

A true man of God reveres the word of God and approaches it honestly, treating it with the utmost respect. He knows the word of God is sacred and refuses to form his own opinions; what he doesn’t know, or understand, he leaves in the hands of God, trusting the Holy Spirit to reveal what He wants to reveal, when He wants to reveal it. He simply trusts in God and speaks of things the Lord has shown him and leaves questions to be answered when God wills. A true man of God faces reality, that is, he faces Jesus at all times, knowing that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Him; he would never go outside of Jesus to find an answer to any question concerning God or His church. A true man of God is just that, a true man of God.

in contrast

Many preachers today use clever clichés, and/or add to, or take away from, verses of Scripture to make them mean something that people want to hear, rather than what they actually say. They seem to prefer popularity with people, rather than the perfect will of God. This has left the church with the task of separating one preacher’s viewpoint over another’s viewpoint; and this has subsequently left many Christians choosing one preacher over another. All this has unfortunately produced misguided souls following men and doctrines, rather than following Jesus.

These things were foretold by Paul in 2 Timothy 4:3-4, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths.” We are most assuredly in those days now. 

conclusion

The time has come for us to awaken from sleep and walk in soberness of mind, redeeming the time. We must weigh all we hear on the scales of God’s Holy Word, being careful to lay aside any preconceptions we might have. We must approach the Word with humility of mind and soul, and allow the Holy Spirit to reveal its truths to us. This is the will of God.

Rev. Jon Banks

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The Bastard

God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him…

As a child, the boy spent many hours hiding in his closet crying out to Jesus, asking for His help. Outside the closet, the boy endured such things as being struck and/or shoved around when he would walk past his step-dad. He would also get slapped and/or backhanded when his step-dad would see him using the wrong utensil to eat, or for holding it in the wrong way, both at home and in public restaurants. At times the step-dad would hold the child by his hair and force food down his throat, food he knew the boy didn’t like. The boy wet the bed frequently and his step-dad would tell his friends that he wet the bed, and at home he would rub the boy’s face in his urine soaked bed sheets, while at the same time telling him he was no better than a dog, and that was how you house-break a dog. The step-dad frequently told the boy that he should apologize to everyone he passed on the street for breathing the same air they breathed. Throughout his childhood his step-dad consistently called the boy a bastard. 

Once when the boy was about thirteen or fourteen years old, the step-dad saw the boy vomit in the toilet, and told him to remain kneeling there, and then ordered him to eat his own vomit from the toilet. The boy refused. The step-dad began repeatedly forcing the boy’s head into the vomit filled toilet water, each time holding it there longer than the last time. Finally, for fear of drowning, the boy ate his own vomit, handful by handful, until there was none left in the toilet. 

The boy tried to run away many times but was always found and forced to return home. Just seconds after midnight on the morning of his sixteenth birthday, the boy left home for good. As he was leaving his step-dad told him that he didn’t care if he lived, or died. This boy’s step-dad had been the only father he had ever known. 

When this child became a man, he became a Christian, and for many years he had a hard time accepting the love of his new Father. He knew the Father loved him, but in the depths of his being he had set up a barrier to keep from exposing his feelings, and from trusting anyone. You see, as a child, when his step-dad found out the boy liked, or wanted, something, he would scold the boy and tell him why he wasn’t worth having it. This barrier was set up subconsciously by the boy, little by little, throughout his childhood.

This man’s Christian life has been somewhat similar to his childhood, in that many of his Christian brothers and sisters refuse to accept him, and his relationship with the Lord. Many would despise him even before they got to know him (much like his step-dad). For instance, a friend invited him to a Bible study at her house. When he arrived he found that the study was being led by a man he had never met before. The leader opened his Bible to begin the study and, before he even looked at his Bible, he looked at this man and pointing his finger at him said, “I don’t care who you are, or what you know. I don’t want to hear a word out of you tonight.” The following day the friend who had invited him to her house told him that she had never seen this man behave in such a manner. She said he had always been kind and considerate to everyone. She was dumbfounded by what he had done. He told her not to concern herself with it, because similar things had been happening to him for some time. 

Sometimes he would share experiences he had with the Lord with his Christian friends, and many, many times he was laughed at, or called a liar, and many times just dismissed. These and other such incidents happened quite often, and, actually, still do. (After many years of this, the Lord revealed that the treatment he received from many Christians, as well as the treatment he had received from his step-dad, was due to the heavenly call that had been placed on his life.) 

The man struggled with these things for years until one afternoon, while in prayer, the Lord spoke to him saying, “You were a bastard, now you are a son.” From that moment on the Lord began slowly penetrating the barrier the man had set up as a child, and soon darkness gave way to light, grace showed itself as free and unconditional, fear bowed to hope; and, in all this, God showered him with His love. This process took several years. 

Today the man still has problems with the barrier, but has learned to dwell not on the past, but on what lies ahead, taking comfort in the fact that he has been counted worthy to share in the sufferings of Christ, who, like himself, was despised and rejected among men. And now each pain, each scar, and every other wound of his childhood, and his Christian life, is consistently soothed by the compassion found in Jesus. Each day he lays aside his old self, and puts on the new self created in righteousness and holiness in the truth. 

Now, rather than withdraw into himself when he is maligned, he prays for those who mistreat him. He has forgiven his step-dad and all who have hurt him, and he loves everyone, whether they accept him, or reject him. By God’s grace, the terrors of the past have become the triumphs of today, for just as Paul said, “God causes all things (the good and the bad) to work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.”

Rev. Jon Banks

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The other side of the coin

Years ago I was walking down a country road with three Christian friends. We were talking and joking with one another, having a good time. Just as we neared a clump of trees, I became unaware of our conversation and found myself engrossed with sounds unlike any I had ever heard before; the trees were praising God. One friend noticed that my mind had gone to another place, and asked me what was going on. I told him about the trees singing and praising God, but he couldn’t hear a word. 

Throughout my Christian life I have had experiences similar to this. Plants and flowers have spoken to me and birds have sung for me. And these things happen all of a sudden, out of the clear blue. Once I had been feeling bad for a few weeks and a bird told me I had diverticulitis. I asked my wife what diverticulitis was and she said the word didn’t exist, but there was a word diverticulosis. That same evening we found out that the bird was right and my wife was wrong, diverticulitis was a word; a day or two later the Lord healed me. —- Just for the record, I’m not saying birds are smarter than wives. 🙂

Yes, God has been gracious to me and given me these experiences, but recently He has revealed that things like these go on all the time; trees praise Him; birds sing for Him; the entire creation, having been subjected to futility, anxiously waits for the revealing of the children of God, in hope that the creation itself will also be set free from its slavery to corruption. And just as we groan to be set free from our mortal bodies, so also, the creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth, that it also might enter the freedom of the glory of the children of God. And, until the day arrives when a new heaven and a new earth appear, the creation will continue to offer praise and adoration to the Father of glory, just as we do. 

So, why do I see these things when others don’t? I’m not sure, but I believe it may possibly be because I have PTSD. It is a known fact that people with PTSD have heightened perception. They tend to see and sense things that average people miss. They are more in tune with their inner being than the average person. This heightened perception shows itself in many ways, such as when one senses a threat. A person with PTSD will sense a threat long before an average person, and will sense it far more deeply than the average person. It also shows itself when one is hurt, or falsely accused by another. A person with PTSD will become overwhelmed with pain and doubt for days, weeks, months, or years, while an average person will just walk away from the situation.

A person with PTSD lives in a world of doubt, worry, helplessness, hopelessness, fear, aloneness, horrific nightmares and extreme mental anguish. But there’s a bright side to all this:  With the right treatment these symptoms can become somewhat controllable, relieving the stress. This is wonderful.

But there is one thing more wonderful than this: When a PTSD victim offers himself, or herself, to the Son of God, and walks with Him in humble obedience, things unimaginable can begin to happen. Because of the heightened perception resulting from the PTSD there’s a very good chance that person may see things that most people only dream about. The Lord might very well lead him, or her, down a path strewn with divine delicacies that are meant only for the broken; delicacies that can raise one to a place where trees praise God, and birds sing to Him, and flowers and plants know you by name; delicacies that, when tasted, reveal the deep things of God. 

Oh, dear ones who have been abused and cast aside, take heart, the sun of righteousness has risen with healing in its wings, its rays dancing upon a river of life from which you may drink. The good Shepherd stands on the banks of this river, His arms of the cross outstretched to welcome you, and lead you home. O, how blessed are you who are poor in spirit, for yours is the kingdom of heaven; how blessed are you who mourn, for you shall surely be comforted. 

May the Lord give you ears to hear when I say, “Your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom; you may dare look away from yourself and unto to Him; you may dare lay your cares at His feet, and follow Him; and as He leads you into His rest — you may dare refuse defeat — I tell you from experience — He weeps for you.”

In Jesus,

Jon Banks

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Think and Speak of Good Things

Something most Christians don’t understand:

There are people who have emotional and psychological problems, and they are nothing like you. They are vastly different. For instance, I read an article several years ago that said people with PTSD are more in tune with reality than the average person. And the reason for this is they are more in tune with their inner being than the average person. They see and feel more deeply than the average person, thus are more in tune with actual reality. When something mean or unkind is said to an average person, he can usually shrug it off. But a person with PTSD will be ripped apart by it, because he senses and feels things deeper than the average person. 

Did you know the brain of a PTSD victim will change its shape? Also, a child who is raised in an abusive environment grows up with a brain shaped drastically different from a normal brain. PTSD is not just an emotional response to troubling events; it’s the expression of a persistent deregulation of body and brain chemistry. The brain is assaulted by neurotransmitters — brain chemistry can be altered for decades. Trauma creates chaos in the brain. This is why we, as Christians, must always think and speak of good things around all people, for we really do never know what another has gone through. 

Because of things I endured in childhood, and things I endured in the Army, I have PTSD. And I say unequivocally, and without reservation, that I have been hurt more deeply, and more devastatingly, by Christians, than by my childhood and the Army combined.

Am I whining? No, I am not; nor am I hinting for special treatment. The things I’ve gone through have all worked together for good, even to the point of giving me a deeper understanding of the things of God. I just don’t want others to suffer through years of torment because of people sitting in judgment of them, making them feel like outcasts. I don’t want another person to bang his, or her, head on the wall, or on the floor, because he, or she, can’t measure up to some unachievable standard others have set.

Dear friends, there are many more like me out there, and you will never know which one is, or is not, like me. And you do those like me a grave disservice when you sit in judgment of them. You can harm fragile souls when you jump to judgment. It goes beyond hurt feelings; it could easily end up stealing their relationship with God.

We are supposed to work together with God, not against Him. Let us do so; let us work together with Him; let us think and speak of good things at all times. I believe this would please our heavenly Father; I believe it would please Him very much.

In Jesus,

Jon Banks

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The Principle That Evil Is Present In Me

Because of the sin of one man, Adam, all mankind was sold into bondage to sin, (Romans 7:14); and having been sold into bondage to sin, we are incapable of controlling our sinful nature, as Paul says, “For the good that I wish, I do not; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish,” and then he says, “But if I am doing the very thing that I do not wish, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good,” (vs. 19-21). In these verses of Scripture we find that there is nothing we can do to tame or control our sinful and carnal nature; it is beyond our control. We wish to do good, only to end up doing the things we don’t wish to do. In and of ourselves we are absolutely helpless; we cannot control our sinful nature. 

In verses 24-25 Paul continues, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” and, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.” In Romans 8:1-4 he continues, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did:  sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” Jesus became sin for us in order that the sinful nature we inherited from Adam might be done away with, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

In Romans 6:6-7 Paul says, “…knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.” And in verses 17-18 he says, “But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.”

According to these Scriptures, there is only one way to be freed from the carnal and sinful nature, and that is to believe in the Son of God, that He is the Savior of your spirit, mind, soul and body and offer all four to Him as a living sacrifice, as vessels of righteousness. Our body of sin was crucified with Him, resulting in our release from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set us free from the law of sin and of death. Have faith in Jesus; He is a complete Savior; and we are saved to the uttermost.

We were crucified with our Lord Jesus Christ, my friends, and our sins and our sinful nature were both on the cross with Him. We are now to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him, walking by faith in Him, not according to the flesh as we once did, but according to the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law, (Romans 5:16-18). Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh, (Galatians 5:16). 

Never entertain impure thoughts, praise the Lord instead; submit to Him and he will deliver you because of your faith in Jesus. Our God is good, and His mercies are new every morning.

Rev. Jon Banks

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Jesus is the Savior

“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them,” (Ephesians 2:1-10).

In accordance with the will of God, Jesus is the Savior and we are the saved. Touch not, taste not — rubbish — believe in the Son of God and you shall be saved. Consider yourself dead to the world, having been crucified with Christ. Enter the rest of God by believing in the One who conquered sin and death, and believe that He has become unto you wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption. Rise above the lusts of the flesh and of the mind by believing the truth that, having forgiven us of our sins, God raised us up with Jesus, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places. And He did this by the power of His might; the same power and might that raised Jesus from the dead raised us up with Him, to the end that we should be to the praise of His glory.

God has done all this with the kind intention to bless us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. As did Paul, I also pray that the Father of glory may give to each of us a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him, and that the eyes of our hearts may be enlightened, so that we may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.

Dear friends, we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that we may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. We are in Christ by God’s own doing, not of ourselves, lest we should boast (I Corinthians 1:30), and Christ became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption. In view  of this great salvation that has been bestowed on us, we must walk away from everything that hinders and encumbers us, including the sin which so easily entangles us (unbelief), and worship our Beloved Savior, giving thanks to God in all things and in all situations. We must refrain from arguments, whether they be with others, or within our own minds, and think only on things that are worthy of praise.

Let us lay down our pettiness and selfish ambitions, and follow the One who gave Himself up for us; let us worship Him with grateful hearts. In so doing I am confident the Lord God will bless us with all spiritual blessings that abound in Jesus, And He will do this because of His great love with which He loved us. We belong to Him; let us allow Him to shed His great love abroad in our hearts, that we might share His nature, and the nature of His Son, Jesus, in order that the light which once shone on the face of Moses may now shine in and through our hearts for His name’s sake.

If we walk this way, we are denying self; if we don’t walk this way, we are denying Jesus.

Rev. Jon Banks

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God chose us in Him before the foundation of the world

We who are in Christ are there for one reason — because God chose us in Him (Jesus) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. We were predestined to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to God, the Father, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.  And, we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ should be to the praise of His glory, Ephesians 1:4-6;11-12.

I fear that many Christians think too highly of themselves, and it’s understandable; they’ve grown up in a time when Self has been elevated to a place of prominence. In today’s society wives are no longer taught to be submissive to their husbands, and people speed on a regular basis. My wife and I are constantly being passed on the streets and highways, and many times by cars with Christian bumper stickers. I want to both scream and cry every time I see this. It’s so sad to see a Christian doing this, and it’s also irritating. How dare they be so blatantly disrespectful to the Jesus I know, the One who took me out of darkness and placed me into His marvelous light, the One who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Why would, and how could, a Christian be so disrespectful to Him? I don’t understand.

Jesus teaches us to deny ourselves and obey God; He teaches us to become nothing, esteeming others above ourselves. What on earth has happened to the church? I see and hear Christians taking Scriptures out of context just to prove a point, or prove someone else wrong. I see them contradicting their elders and those who have been put in charge of them by God. And they don’t do it in a humble manner, but in a haughty manner. No wonder Jesus asked if He would find faith on the earth when He returns.

My friends, the times we are living in are horrendous; we must redeem these times by looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. We are IN Him; we are HIS body; His love should flow through us to every human being we come in contact with. We, of all people, should abide by the laws of the land wherein we live. We were not created for ourselves; we were created for God, that we might be holy and blameless before Him, and that we might be to the praise of His glory. 

Let us deny ourselves in ALL things, from our desire to feel special, or equal, to others, to our desire to satisfy ourselves by lifting ourselves above the law, and above authorities God has subjected us to. Let us BE Christians. We were chosen before the foundation of the world and predestined to adoption as children of God through Jesus Christ, according to the kind intention of God’s will. And we were predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. Acts 13:48b says, …and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. Beloved, it is beyond doubt that we have been predestined in accordance with God’s purpose, that is, that we might walk before Him, holy and blameless, to the praise of the glory of His grace, and that we might live with Him throughout eternity. May we govern ourselves accordingly, step by step.

Jon Banks

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It is no longer I who live

I have been a Christian for a number of years and I don’t recall ever seeing the term ‘die to self’ in the Bible. Consequently, I believe this term has been misused by many; a better term, and a more biblical one, would have been ‘deny self,’. I believe our old self was crucified with Jesus, and the new life we were born into is now hidden with Him in God. We are citizens of a new realm; we have come to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.

Having been left in our mortal bodies, we must continually deny the self of the old nature. I believe we do this by believing in the work of Jesus, that He took upon Himself the punishment for our sins, and that God raised us up with Him when He raised Him from the dead. We are now to consider ourselves dead to sin, and alive to God through faith in Christ. There is no need to die to the old nature, or to the Self, for that person was crucified with Jesus; Self is already dead; for as it is written, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin;” and “For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 6:3-7,11).

Being found still in human form, we must humble ourselves and become obedient, denying to gratify the old nature that once had control of us, and put on the new nature by simply believing that God’s divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them we might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust, (I Peter 1:3-4).

We, as Christians, are to set our minds on the Spirit because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, we are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in us. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. And if Christ is in us, though our bodies are dead because of sin, yet our spirits are alive because of righteousness. But if  the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in us, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to our mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells us. So then, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh —- for if we are living according to the flesh, we must die; but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of our bodies, we will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God, (Romans 8:6-14). 

By the words, ‘if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of our bodies’, we know that we are not putting to death our old self, but only the ‘deeds’ of our bodies; in other words, we are denying our self, considering it to have been crucified with Christ, and not allowing it to control our actions; we prevent our self from taking control of our actions by taking up our cross and following Jesus, while all the while trusting our Father, who cannot lie, to work mightily in us through the power of His Holy Spirit, because of our faith in Jesus, leading us from victory to victory for His name’s sake. 

I think some call forsaking our will and giving ourselves to God’s will dying to Self. But I can find nowhere in the Bible where this is even hinted. Even Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, is nowhere found to have died to His Self. Rather, He humbled Himself and became obedient to God, turning from His will and doing the will of God. For He says, “…I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me,” (John 6:38). So submitting to God’s will is not an act of dying to self, but rather an act of denying that self, by humbling ourselves and learning obedience through the things which we suffer, in order that God’s perfect will may be done in us, and through us.

Some may say that in John 12 Jesus said that unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. In this instance, Jesus was referring to His own death, for in the sentence prior to this He says, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”

Others may ask, “What difference does it make which term we use, dying to self, or denying self? They both seem to lead to the same end.” The difference is this, one is correct, the other is not, and by using the incorrect term many people have been misled and hurt. For instance, as a baby Christian I was constantly told that I had to die. My pastor was constantly telling me, “Old Jon has to die,”. I was very tender and I thought that pastors, as men of God, would always speak the truth. So I tried to die, only to find, after years of trying, that it was impossible. The harder I tried, the more ‘Old Jon’ popped up in my face. During a time when the Lord pulled me away from the church in order to teach me His gospel Himself, my eyes were opened to the truth — I had already been crucified with Jesus — I didn’t have to die —- I was already dead. My spirit was finally free to follow Jesus with joy and with faith that God had also raised me up with Jesus into newness of life. All I needed to do was to believe, deny myself daily and follow Jesus.

No matter how hard we try, self will always rear its ugly head. We can only deny the self, and this we do daily, each and every time he wants his way. Our self is us; it is not some foreign thing attached to us; it IS us. Having been born again into newness of life we find that the principle of evil is still present in us, (Romans 7:21); and Romans 8:2 tells us that, even though that principle is still in us, we are freed from its power and influence because the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set us free from the law of sin and of death. So we must deny our self, take up our cross (lose, or walk away from, our old life) and follow Jesus in the new life, the life of doing God’s will instead of our own.

We must follow Jesus one day at a time. For just as God’s mercies are new every morning, so, also, are His promises; and we must walk in them day by day, persevering to the end. We must fight the good fight daily. In this way, and only in this way, can we be so bold as to say, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me,” ((Galatians 2:20).

I would like to finish by saying that the pastor I spoke of loved me deeply. He and I had a special connection in the Lord. He never meant to hurt me, and I never told him I was hurt by his words. He passed away many years ago and to this day he holds a special place in my heart.

Dear friends, I mean only to help people, not tear them down. If anything I’ve said is contrary to what someone else has said, or believes, I mean no harm, nor do I sit in judgment. I speak only of what I’ve seen and heard.

Rev. Jon Banks

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He Alone is Worthy

 

Colossians 1:9-12, “For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.”

The goal of every Christian should be to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will so that we might walk in a manner pleasing to our Father, and to be strengthened with the power of His glorious might so that we might attain steadfastness and patience. 

Our kind Father has seen fit to require every follower of Jesus to be born again, and to begin our lives in Christ as little children, in order that He might train us up in the way we should go. He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness (Hebrews 12:10).  

It is the Father’s will that we attain steadfastness and patience; it is His will that we learn to persevere in all situations. And those who persevere to the end will receive the crown of life, (James 1:12). So it is absolutely imperative that we not run from trials, though they be by fire, and that we submit to our heavenly Father in the midst of each one, trusting Him to keep us safe and deliver us. 

All the fulness of Deity dwells in Jesus and in Him we have been made complete, (Col 2:9). He is now our wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, (I Corinthians 1:30). And it is by God’s own doing that we are in Christ, in order that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord,” (Jeremiah 9:23-24). So, even when we endure the hottest of fires, we cannot take credit, for we are in Jesus, and it is by faith in Him that we are able to endure. It is by submitting to the Lord that we are able to endure trials and tribulations, trusting the Holy Spirit to intercede when we don’t have the words to convey what we feel. We have nothing whatsoever of which to boast, except the love of our Father and His Son, Jesus, in whom we were sealed by the Holy Spirit, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory, (Ephesians 1:13-14). 

One of the hardest trials I have ever gone through was when my only child was going crippled right before my eyes.This went on for approximately a year and a half, or maybe a little longer. The Lord had witnessed to my heart that He would heal my son, and I believed Him. But, even after the Lord witnessed to my heart, my son continued to grow worse and worse. Several times I had to pull off to the side of a very busy highway because I couldn’t see through my tears. I would burst into tears unexpectedly just from the weight of the burden I was bearing. 

Once a dentist who was giving my son a dental check up came out into the lobby of his office and told me that my son had a small cavity and wanted to know if I wanted him to fill it during that visit. I immediately burst into tears and shook my head, yes. He looked dumbfounded that I had started crying over a small cavity. But it wasn’t the cavity I was crying over; it was the fact that my boy’s body was decaying right in front of me, and had been for many months. The pressure seemed to be unbearable throughout this process, but, thanks be to God, I had help to ease the suffering, for no matter how hard, or how dark, it became, the One who loves me gave me glimmers of hope in the darkness. Time after time He would remind me that He is trustworthy. He would also comfort me by telling me He understood what I was feeling and that He didn’t judge me for those feelings. He was so very kind and understanding; He bore my pain with me; He loved me, He loved me beyond words. 

When the Lord healed my son, He did so in an instant. And He did it when I spoke the words, “In the name of Jesus be healed, be whole, be well,”. These words came out of me without any thought on my part. I have no idea why I said those precise words, but I do know my son was healed instantly when I said them. From that moment on the ordeal was over; it was nothing but a memory. 

Now, I would like to tell you the impact this whole experience had on me:

I was not proud that I had endured this year and a half trial, nor was I proud that it ended by my speaking in Jesus’ name. I was thoroughly aware that I had nothing to be proud of in myself. Instead, I was humbled beyond words at what the Lord had done for me from beginning to end; from His concern and His understanding of what I felt everyday, to His ever-present help in my time of need, as well as His comforting my wife and my son throughout the process. He was so good to us. I had nothing of which to boast about, other than the Lord, who exercises lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness on earth because He delights in these things, (Jeremiah 9:24). And I feel that same way to this day.

My friends, we are nothing; He is everything. We are pieces of dirt; He is the Creator of all things. We are chunks of clay; He is the Potter. By His own will and by His own power we are in Christ Jesus, who has become to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, that just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

In our walk with the Lord we should never be proud, we should always be humbled by His dealings with us. The closer we are to the Lord, the less we see of ourselves, and the more we see of His purpose for us in His kingdom, that of being filled with the knowledge of His will, in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, that we might walk in a manner worthy of Him, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in good works, and increasing in the knowledge of God; and that of being strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.

Dear friends, it is one thing to believe, and another to rest in that belief. It is one thing to cite the written Word, and another to place our hope in the Living Word. It is one thing to say we are Christians, and another to receive our life-blood from Christ. It is one thing to talk the talk, and another to walk the walk. You will know the difference by their fruits (Matthew 7:16)). And how do we bear good fruit? by walking in a manner worthy of the Lord, (Colossians 1:10).

We must continually gird the loins of our minds for action, fixing our hope completely on the grace to be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ; for we were redeemed with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ, (I Peter 1:13,19). Let us attain all steadfastness and patience that we might please our Lord, and enter into His glory at the return of Jesus. Let us forsake ourselves at all times, and submit to Him in all things, that we might share in the inheritance of the saints in light. Let us forever serve Him who exercises lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness on earth simply because He delights in these things. Let us look away from ourselves and acknowledge Him, giving Him praise and honor and worship, now and throughout eternity. He alone is worthy.

Rev. Jon Banks

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Will there be faith?

Jesus  asked the question, “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” This may have sounded strange the day it was asked; however, today it sounds like a reasonable and logical question. Consider what has happened to the church through the years:  For a long time the Catholics sold what amounted to atonement for souls they swore were stuck in purgatory. Breaking from this terrible wrong, the Protestant Reformation was born. From there came denomination after denomination, each with different beliefs and different interpretations of the Bible. 

In the 1880’s D. S. Warner and others misinterpreted Isaiah 52:11 and, believing it to be speaking of the many denominations, they tried to remedy the diversity by preaching, “Come out from among them and be ye separate”, saying the church was comprised of all true believers, and free of creeds, believing only the Bible. From this the Church of God, Andersen, IN came into being, with only one requirement to be a member, that of being born again. They claimed to believe and adhere to the entire Bible, however, I know of at least one Church of God minister that was defrocked because he spoke in tongues. There are most likely many others. So, the Church of God also ultimately became just another denomination. And now, here we are, with people still breaking out claiming to be non-denominational, only to be found as nothing more than another denomination. Merriam-Webster says a denomination is ‘a religious organization whose congregations are united in their adherence to its beliefs and practices’. 

But, are different denominations really so bad for those who truly follow Jesus? One who walks by the Spirit walks by the Spirit everywhere he goes, whether it’s to a grocery store, or to a church. To walk by the Spirit is to walk by the Spirit, period. I believe Christians are Christians regardless of which church they attend. I go to a Methodist church and I disagree with some of their beliefs and practices, but that doesn’t prevent me from worshipping God there. I am a Christian wherever I go and in whatever church I attend. I am not a Methodist; I am a Christian who attends a Methodist church.

There are many who are Methodist first, and secondly Christians, or Baptist first, and secondly Christians, etc. etc. etc. In other words, they are united in their adherence to their church’s beliefs and practices. But all who find their life-blood in the Vine of God are always Christians first. It matters not where they go to church, or whether they are members, or not; nor does it matter what others believe; they are simply followers of Jesus, — nothing more, nothing less. They cannot be coerced into believing something the Lord hasn’t revealed to them, nor can they be hindered by someone who believes something they know to be untrue. 

Jeremiah 29:7 says, ‘…seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare,’. 

Finding a church whose beliefs we can completely agree with is most likely impossible. It is most likely impossible because so few have been yielded to the Holy Spirit, allowing Him to lead them into all truth. There has always been an abundance of scholars, and those who consider themselves to be scholars, who interpret Scriptures with their own understanding; thus all the different doctrines and denominations. But, in spite of all this, whichever church we choose, we should seek the welfare of that church, regardless of whether or not we believe everything its organization believes.

Seeking a church’s welfare does not mean we promote its doctrines; it simply means we   do our best to make it a better place. We do this by loving all people with the unconditional love of God that flows in, and through, our hearts. We make it a better place by our actions and reactions that stem from our obedience to the Holy Spirit. In short, we make our church a better place by sharing the fragrant aroma of the Son of God with all whom we come in contact. And, in so doing, its welfare becomes our welfare.

So, will there be faith on the earth when Jesus returns? I believe so. God has always kept for Himself a remnant who have stayed the course. I believe He will also have a remnant when the end comes. And each person in that remnant will, without exception, be a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, — nothing more, nothing less, — regardless of where they went to church.

(At the end of the age angels will separate the tares from the wheat. We are to allow them to grow together until then.)

Rev. Jon Banks 

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Some thoughts:

Too often Christians become overly concerned with a certain belief, or something that’s dear to them, and concentrate on promoting, or defending, what they think is right. And, in so doing, they find themselves walking in a realm of thoughts and words pertaining to their passion. They get caught up in working to become proficient in their knowledge of what they feel passionate about. 

They believe in Jesus, they use His name, but they no longer walk before Him as a little child. They have left their first love. They didn’t mean to, it just happened because they got caught up using the Scriptures to prove their points, rather than allowing the Scriptures to lead them to the feet of Jesus.

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The Lord, our kind Shepherd, guides us in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. He does this because He will not share His glory with another, nor will He allow His name to be profaned, Isaiah 48:11. This is a wonderful, wonderful truth.

By His doing we are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption, (I Corinthians 1:30). He will fulfill His Word and accomplish His will for His own name’s sake. All we need do is believe and obey Him; He will do the rest.

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“Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having an abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me,” Philippians 4:11-13.

Paul said he had learned the secret of being filled and going hungry; the secret of both having an abundance and of suffering need. Whether he was being filled and had an abundance, or if he was hungry and was in need, he was content; for he had learned that he could do all things through Christ who strengthened him. There was nothing he couldn’t bear, for he was a child of the King.

What does that say about those who continually seek and pray for prosperity? It appears they just can’t learn the secret — that a child of God can do all things through Christ who strengthens him.

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Dear friends, every once in a while take a moment to listen to the trees and the flowers and the birds; listen closely, for we all worship the same God.

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Walking by Faith

Dear friends, try this:

Place both of your hands in front of your face, touching your nose. Spiritually speaking, this is how far you should be able to see if you are trusting Jesus. If you find yourself squirming to see what lies beyond your hands, you may very well be double-minded and/or have a hard time with trust issues; again, spiritually speaking.

If this is the case you would do well to change some habits such as picking up trash when you see it, rather than just walking by; cleaning public restrooms before you leave them, even if you didn’t dirty them; opening doors for your wife; changing your eating habits for the better, and drinking one soda, rather than two or three a day, etc., and do these things as unto the Lord. In other words, begin to practice discipline for the glory of God, doing what is practical and right, rather than what you want, thereby striking a blow to Self.

If you are diligent to practice these and/or other similar things, you will find it becoming easier and easier to let go of any preconceptions, and any hindrances you might have. Trust will slowly, but surely, become a part of your life. Looking beyond your hands will be something from which you would shy away; for the simple reason that Self is decreasing, and Jesus is increasing; Self is being relegated to a place of nothingness, and the Life of Christ is taking its rightful place.

Few will take this advice; most will shrug it off and continue down the wider road, where if you attend church regularly and are brushed up on your church’s doctrines, or if you spend enough time praying and reading the Bible, or preaching, your faithfulness in church attendance, and/or your knowledge and zeal alone should get you into heaven. And this wide road is crowded with the souls of those who want to control their own lives, their own destiny.

But this word is only for those chosen and called by God; those who know they were called to be His people; a people to work together with Him and allow Jesus to be Lord of their lives; a humble people who forsake all to heed that call. This word is for them.

Do you want to do the will of God? Walk away from yourself, and follow Jesus. Don’t look beyond your hands pressed against the nose of your face, as it were. Follow the still, small voice within.

The Lord bless and richly fulfill the longing of those who hunger for Him.

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Ambassadors for Christ

There is a difference between the truth of having been crucified with Christ, and the truth of carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus; they are completely different. All Christians have been crucified with Christ and raised a new man, but not all carry about in the body the dying of Jesus. All are called to take up their cross and put off the old nature of sinful man, and to put on the new nature created in the image of Christ. Only a few are called to carry the dying of Jesus, and those few are the apostles of Christ.

Decades ago the Lord showed me about the call of an apostle of Christ, and since that vision I have always thought that no-one in his right mind would want to be one. It is the most lonely walk on earth, and the most misunderstood; it is a path no-one would choose for himself. It is completely different, in all aspects, than the walk for everyone else. Death is at work in the life of an apostle of Christ, while life is at work in everyone else, (2 Corinthians 4:12). Some of you have known and been taught by an apostle of Christ, and if you could get a small glimpse of this truth, you would appreciate and cherish much, much more than you already do, the walk of that humble servant. He carried in his body the dying of Jesus, in order that the life of Jesus might be manifested; and he shared that life with you; he received by giving. 

His ordination came directly from heaven by the laying on of the hands of Jesus, the Son of God. This fact alone speaks to the depths of the separation of himself to God, for the calling of an apostle is not just a calling, it is an appointment, an appointment to be an ambassador for Christ, (2 Corinthians 5:20). That is why Jesus chooses and appoints His apostles Himself (John 15:16), because they are to be His ambassadors. One does not choose, or seek, the call of an apostle, or to be an ambassador for Jesus; one is both chosen and appointed by the Lord Jesus Himself to be His ambassador.

Many have misunderstood the writings of Paul and think that all Christians are ambassadors for Christ. They think that because they preach and/or witness to people they are Christ’s ambassadors. They seem not to understand that an ambassador is a representative and does not speak of things he chooses, nor does he express his own thoughts on a matter; he speaks only the words and thoughts of the one he is representing. So it is with ambassadors for Christ, and therein is the loneliness of the office. 

I have not written these words to lift up the office of an apostle; no apostle would want to be lifted up and praised; for an apostle is nothing in himself, he is simply a representative of Jesus, and a  servant of all. I have written it to bring attention to the subtlety of Scripture distortions, and how they cause people to form false beliefs. This may seem like a small thing to some, but to our Holy Father, it is sin; and it is a dangerous one. We can find the truth of this in 2 Peter 3:16, where Peter is talking about the letters of Paul. He states that some things in Paul’s letters are hard to understand, and that the untaught and unstable distort them. Peter also infers that if one would distort one Scripture, he will most likely distort all Scriptures, for he says, ‘…some things are hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do all the rest of the Scriptures,’. He goes on to say they do this ‘to their own destruction,’. So we see that distorting Scriptures leads to one’s own destruction. It is a very dangerous sin.

Dear friends, The Lord our God will not share HIs glory with another, and He will not allow His name to be profaned. We must guard our tongues at all times, and walk with reverence and honor in our hearts towards the Lord. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

May God bless all who have read this with a sincere heart and an open mind.

Rev. Jon Banks

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