Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

20 Years Ago Today

When I enrolled in Texas A&M in the fall of ‘97, the only option for on-campus housing was to join something called the “Corps of Cadets.” I had no real idea of what it was, but I soon learned. That first semester was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. It was full of hazing, so much so that the outfit I was in was disbanded by the university and all remaining cadets were dispersed across all the other corps outfits to make sure the mindset was also disbanded.

Anyway, a couple things made that semester bearable. One was working on the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Bonfire. The only way we could get out of the hell they’d put us through was to go work on bonfire, so we went a lot. It was quite the atmosphere, building a 5+ story stack of logs around the clock. The other thing that got me through that semester was a guy named Jerry Don Self from Arlington, Texas. Jerry Don and I were old ladies (roommates) for a time and quickly grew close. He was really tough, physically and mentally.

But what struck me most about him was his love for Jesus. You see, I had come from a family that went to church…it’s what we did. I knew all the right language and was steeped in the culture. But in my heart, it wasn’t real. That was also part of the culture I grew up in–a bunch of church kids that were playing the game they were taught to play. But Jerry Don was different. He was perhaps the first real friend I had that really loved Jesus and lived his life for Jesus. He talked about Jesus all the time. I called myself a Christian and I was uncomfortable about how much Jerry talked about Jesus. It wasn’t that he beat you up about it or evangelized on the corner. Rather, Jesus was who he loved the most and he talked like it, and he acted like it.

The Lord used Jerry Don to change my life. I learned what an authentic Christian looked like, and I also learned that being a Christian man didn’t mean being a sissy. (I had learned that from my dad, but this was different coming from a peer.) Jerry Don loved Jesus, but he would tie you in a knot in 2 seconds if he had to.

When the semester was over, I knew that I wasn’t going military so there was no need for me to pursue more ROTC. Jerry Don went on to another Corps outfit. We remained friends though I didn’t get to see him as much.

20 years ago today, at about 6 in the morning, I turned on CNN in my apartment and saw the news…the bonfire stack had fallen. National news crews were setup just a few miles from where I sat. I at first thought it was a joke…that stack was invincible. Then even when I saw the footage, I immediately assumed everyone was okay. Everyone was not okay. In a few hours, I would learn that my friend Jerry Don had lost his life, along with 11 other Aggies.

Jerry’s funeral was at one of the largest churches in Dallas. Even though I got there early, I was forced to stand with hundreds outside and listen to the service over loudspeakers. Thousands knew who Jerry was…he was that type of guy. And thousands knew who Jerry was all about, because he talked about him all the time. I miss my friend Jerry. I’m thankful to God for Jerry. I would be such a different person without him.


Wow, what an amazing and heart-wrenching story Ben, thank you for sharing it.
God was using Jerry Don to advance His kingdom; thankfully He reached you through him, and now He is doing the same through you. That’s a wonderful tribute to your buddy… and to the Lord’s Grace. :slight_smile:


I heard a phrase the other day and it has been resonating… “ripples throughout eternity.” The impact Jerry Don had on those around him was great. He impacted you (Ben), and that changed you. Those changes in you impact others. It’s impossible for us to even start to imagine how those impacts all unfold. As Maggie said, Jerry Don advanced God’s Kingdom, and that impact is still going on and being magnified today… ripples that will spread throughout eternity. I am sorry for your loss, but I am very happy that you got to know him.


I did a quick meditation this evening after I saw Ben’s post. I thought it was appropriate I shared it. So here it is… To do some reality check…


We all have to face death. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death (I Corinthians 15:26) which will be at Jesus’ second coming.

However death can be swallowed up in victory. How?

Death has a sting called sin (I Corinthians 15:55). The potency (strength) of sin is the law. In other words… Sin is sin, no matter what. But when there is no law, sin is not imputed, as one would not know what sin is.

In order to have victory over death, we can conclude, i. One needs to be removed of this sting sin and, ii. One needs to be brought into a domain that is not under law. Jesus has fulfilled that requirement for removing sin and he has made such domain possible in “In Christ”.

The domain change is achieved in faith by repenting and believing in Jesus. People in the default domain are earthy and people in the “In Christ” domain are (expected to be) heavenly.

Paul says in I Corinthians 15:47,48,

47 The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven.

48 As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.

If you and your actions are of Adam, you are earthy, you go under law and therefore transgressions or violations will be held against you.

If you and your actions are of Jesus (Second Adam), you do not go under law to be considered sin. You will be heavenly, under the kingdom of God rule, keeping or fulfilling Jesus’ commandments with Jesus’ help. Death will have no business with you, as its sting upon you is removed.

Now for a reality check on whether one is earthy or heavenly.

Take Jesus’ commandment from Matthew 6:24-

24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?

Everyone will agree the one master is God. Who is the other master? Anything other than God such as wealth or material things as described here.


In the example commandment chosen, if you worry or care (in the sense of worrying or prioritization) for your future physical needs, you are serving the other master. As you might not look at things from what is right and what is wrong perspective, and you might put your interest ahead of God’s. You would look at things from what is beneficial to you and what is not. For example, with your future physical needs in mind, you would probably support a discriminatory (James 3:17) company or government policy that is beneficial to you. When you do so, you are NOT smart in God’s eyes! You are no longer heavenly, you are earthy rather!!


If you are heavenly (truly born again of God), you would seek heavenly things, that is, the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Godly things will be your one and only priority. Thus you make God your habitation. God charges (commands) his angels as in Psalm 91:11,12 to keep you in all your ways and to bear you in their hands. Your future needs are all taken care!

Thus you have the kingdom of God in you. That is, kingdom rules are followed and kingdom benefits are realized in you. It will be there for people to see and to be able to join this kingdom.

I Corinthians 15:22,

22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.