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Our Current Virtual Church Message

HOLDING CHRIST
Part 1

When we speak of spiritual matters, we are speaking of the invisible. When we speak of the spiritual, we are left to use similes, figures of speech, parables, parallels, and analogies. When we use these constructions of grammar we are trying to express what may not be expressible. When we try to express the workings of God, the love of God, or the actions of Christ within a person's life, we will always fall short of the mark. We will fall short of the mark because words can never truly express His love, let alone the workings of His love in the heart of a sinner or in the heart the redeemed. 

YOUR HEART IS LIKE A VESSEL OR CONTAINER

The heart of a human being is like a vessel or a container. What you put into your heart is the result of choices you make. God does not invade your heart or the container of your spirit. God permits you to make your decisions about Christ and about other matters freely. You are called to eternal life by the love of God in Christ Jesus. Your decision is to either accept Him or reject Him. 

1 Timothy 6:12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (NIV)

In addition to accepting or rejecting Christ, holding God's love in your heart is also a decision you can make. You can make a decision to hold Him in your heart and pray in your mind for Him stay within you as you walk your daily walk. When you want to hold Him and have Him live in your heart, you must open your heart to let Him in.

To have Christ in your heart to hold Him, you must invite Him in. You can think or say the words "Lord Jesus, please come into my heart." However, just because you say these words does not mean you really mean them. Too often, people want Christ in their hearts solely for a selfish emotional benefit for themselves. To have His love in you and to sense His presence you must in your heart then open the door of your heart without regard for self. 

OPENING THE DOOR

Revelation 3:20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. (NIV)

The door of your heart can open as you stand at the foot of the Cross, as you see Christ's suffering, and as you feel the guilt of your sin pinging your conscience. When you stand at the foot of the Cross and the grief of your sinfulness overwhelms you, then your heart is in a position to be surrendered to Christ. If you stand at the foot of Cross and do not feel any grief or you do not feel or acknowledge any responsibility inflicting upon Him His suffering then your heart is not ready for His love. When your heart is hardened and closed to the grief of Christ's suffering, you can ask Him to come into your heart but you may not really want Him. You can repeat the invitation in your mind but if your heart is not open then you will leave Him out.

YOUR INVITATION

Your invitation for Christ to come into your life may not take the form of active words of invitation. Your invitation may take the form of offering your life and your heart to Christ as you fall prostrate at the foot of the Cross in godly sorrow. Most often, we expect every sinner will use words to communicate to Christ. However, your invitation for Christ to come into your heart must go beyond words. Like all communication with God, you have the desire in your heart and soul for Christ to come in and live within you. You must have this holy unction or desire underpinning anything you say to Him. What happens, often beyond our understanding, is we have a vision of our life and our guilt for crucifying Christ before us. Upon seeing this vision of our life and our guilt we then turn towards Christ standing at the door of our heart with His light and love of forgiveness. Then, with Christ standing and knocking on the door of our heart, there is an opportunity to open the door. There is for you and all others, an opportunity to invite Him in.

YOUR NEED

Just the mere realization of your need for Christ and your turning towards Him combined with His willingness to touch you, forgive you, and live within you culminates in His love filling your life. In so many instances, Christ has an answer for you before you have a question for Him. The Great Shepherd knows His sheep and being one of His sheep, He guides and leads you. In your need, Christ is already working to restore your broken heart before your heart breaks. 

Matthew 6:7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 

GODLY SORROW 

 2 Corinthians 7:10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. 11 See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. (NIV)

When you fully accept the fact you personally crucified Christ, and you then fully realize the gravity of what you have done, there is the probability you will be overcome with godly sorrow. When godly sorrow comes over you, your heart will break from your grief. You experience godly sorrow when you take responsibility for placing Christ on the Cross. Godly sorrow consumes you and makes you want to change.

Some persons may not experience godly sorrow. Their heart may not accept they were responsible for Christ's death. There may be circumstances in their life preventing them from going to an emotional point where godly grief can be experienced. It has long been debated whether a person can accept Christ into one's life based solely upon an intellectual decision. Only God the Father and Christ the Son can look into a person deep enough to know whether the person fully accepts the responsibility of nailing Christ to the Cross.

We must understand people are different. People are often different in dramatic ways. Some people want eternal life so in their mind, without great feelings of passion, guilt, or emotion, they do ask Christ to come into their life. People can invite Christ into their life like they ask or invite a repairman to come into their house to fix the washer or dryer. If this is the case, does He come into a person's life in this instance? Answer: Yes. Christ does come into these person's heart and He does so very politely, very tenderly, always calling, always asking people to get to know Him more. It is because Christ does come into the heart of every person who truly asks Him in, regardless of how the asking occurs, that we must not be judgmental or demanding about how the asking takes place. For millions of persons, the Christian life walk of faith begins at different points and different levels of understanding. As we walk His path, our understanding grows and our capacity to hold His love in our heart grows and expands.

Acts 4:10 …then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. (NIV)

When you experience godly sorrow and grief over having been the person who placed Christ on the Cross, your old heart cannot take this grief and pain. Your old heart is crucified with Christ. 

Romans 6:6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with,A that we should no longer be slaves to sin-- 7 because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. (NIV) 

The only way godly grief and sorrow is assuaged, or the only way the crucified heart can be made new, is to express "heart-felt" contrition to Christ and to express ones desire for His forgiveness. Saying in one's mind, with no real meaning or intent, the words "I'm sorry" does not suffice. Firstly, anyone can say "I'm sorry", but do the words mean anything to the person saying them? Secondly, anyone can say "I'm sorry" but to whom are these words addressed? On a personal level, if you come to the Cross with Jesus hanging there and you do not fall upon your knees in grief and sorrow over what you have done, then any words thought or spoken are of limited consequence. However, you may come back to the Cross at a later point in life with a fuller understanding with a heart more ready to accept Him.

If you come to the Cross with Jesus hanging there, and you do fall on your knees in grief and sorrow over what you have done, then there are no real words you can say in your grief to match the condition of your broken heart. With Christ, words are so often feeble. However, you need not worry for Christ sees your heart as well as hearing your words.

Psalm 33:13 From heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind; 14 from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth-- 15 he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do. (NIV)

It is presumed anyone who has fallen at the Cross in grief and sorrow does express their contrition and guilt to Christ. There is, at the moment of contrition, a great time of healing, for Christ is suddenly no longer on the cross but is, at this instance, now holding a person's heart in His nail-scarred hands. In His Holy irony, when we go to hold Him, He then holds us.

HOLDING CHRIST

Part 2

EXERCISING YOUR LOVE FOR CHRIST

Matthew 10:8 . Freely you have received, freely give. (NIV)

Mark 12:28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" 29 "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: `Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' 31The second is this: `Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." (NIV)

You cannot hold what you do not have. When you have Christ living within you, as a result of your being forgiven for producing the trauma of His death on the Cross, you keep Him or hold Him by exercising your love for Him. To exercise your love for Him you must send your love for Him, first toward Him, then toward others. The more of His love you send to Him the more of His love you receive back. You send His love to Him on the wings of thanksgiving and gratitude for His loving you and forgiving your sins, even the sin of crucifying Him. When you send Christ messages like "Thank you, Lord Jesus" and "I love you, Lord," then you find His love filling your heart and life.

To hold Christ and His love within you, you must be obedient to His teachings. If you are not obedient to His teachings, then His love will slip away from you. When you make His teachings a part of your everyday life, everyday behavior, and everyday thought patterns then His love will most surely stay within you. When you give His love to others, then His love comes back to you and His returned love lives in your heart. 

John 10:27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. (NIV)

When you are a constant daily disciple or follower of what Jesus taught, He lives within you. When you live your life like He taught you to live, He brings blessings into your life. His blessings in your life are so numerous you cannot count them all. When you live as He taught you to live, you will have His grace and love within you until you reach paradise.

YOU SHOULD HOLD CHRIST ONLY BECAUSE YOU LOVE HIM

1 John 2:12 I write to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name. (NIV)

Your heart holds Christ at your will. You should hold Him only because you love Him, not because you feel some kind of obligation imposed by customs, tradition, or theology. You should hold on to Christ because He forgave you for crucifying Him. You should love Him because He loves you and He willingly permitted you to crucify Him. You should love Christ because He loved you first, without knowing whether you would accept Him or reject Him. You should love Christ because He has loved you from the moment of your conception and He has always been waiting to pour out His grace upon you. You should love Christ not because someone tells you to love Him, but because His presence in your life compels you to love Him. How could you not love someone who loves you in this way?

GOD'S WILL

It is God's will that you love Christ and accept Him, but you are free to reject Him or shut Him out of your life. At any minute you can turn away from Him and walk your own path. You should hold on to Christ and His love for you just as if you were holding onto a rope trying not to fall to your death. For when you let Him slip out of your fingers, certain death awaits you.

LIVING WITH A CLOSED MIND

1 Corinthians 15:2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. (NIV)

Christ dying on the Cross is too often passively viewed from a distance far away. However, there will be no love, no grace, and no peace from Him if you are not willing to hold Him within your heart. Holding Christ means you hold His wisdom, His truth, and His word so tightly in your mind and heart, you exclude any thought or idea that is not of God.

As a Christian, are you supposed to have a closed mind? Yes, because you are supposed to close your mind off to the dark forces that would destroy you. If you open your mind and heart up to the darkness then the darkness will come in and destroy what Christ is building up within you.

HOLDING ON TO CHRIST IN EVERYDAY LIFE

John 3:6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. (NIV)

In your everyday life, you must try to live in both your physical dimension in this world, as well as live in the Lord's spiritual or supernatural dimension. Although you live in a physical realm, you are a spiritual being. Your body is physical but your life or the energy keeping your heart beating and lungs working is a spiritual energy. In your everyday life, you must exert maximum effort in holding on to Christ who is love. The love of Christ that is Christ is a spiritual energy and His teachings help you hold on to His love.

ACTION OF SATAN

Matthew 4:1Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. (NIV)

It is the intent and desire of Satan to inflict pain, suffering, and temptation upon you; Satan wants to do these things so you will lose your grip or lose your hold upon the love of Christ. By inflicting suffering upon you, Satan causes you to lose your ability to focus. With enough pain put upon you, you begin to lose your ability to keep Christ's teachings and His love within you. There is always a battle between Satan and the love of God through Christ within you. 

Ephesians 6:11Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 

Your heart, soul, and spirit are the battlefield. Your free will determines how much of a hold or grip you place upon Christ's love within you. How tightly you hold to His love and His teaching determines whether Satan can influence you. The more you hold fast or hold on to the love of Christ and His teachings, the more victories you will win over Satan.

EXERT YOURSELF

John 8:31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (NIV)

Nothing comes easy in life. The love of Christ can be alive in you. However, His love stays alive in your heart and mind only as you are willing to hold Him in your heart. To keep and possess the love of Christ in your heart you must exert yourself. You must continually try to hold the truth of Christ and His love within you. You must surround and protect the love He stores in your heart by filling your mind with His teachings. Each day, as you wage war against the power and force of darkness, you must grip His truth and keep His truth in your heart. To hold His love in your life and heart you must pray until every moment is a moment spent with God, always do the right thing in every circumstance, be at peace in every moment, and live with the full knowledge of your salvation.

Ephesians 6:13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15  and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. (NIV)

1 Timothy 3:9 They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. (NIV)

EXERT EVERY OUNCE OF YOUR STRENGTH

Once you have Christ in your heart, you must then exert every ounce of your being, every minute of your life, to keep Him within you. The avenue to Christ is within your heart. The road to the Cross begins and ends within you. To hold Christ you must do the very difficult task of confronting your sinfulness. When you confront the sinful nature of your heart you then see how far short of the mark you have fallen. When you truly see you crucified Him then you are stricken with grief. When you truly see you pierced His innocent hands with nails then you are again stricken with grief. When you truly see that you are the one who beat him and tore the flesh off His back, you are overwhelmed with the grief of your act. You might wish to run away from your personal responsibility in putting Christ on the Cross. No one wants to experience this kind of grief and guilt. No one wants to admit they had anything to do with taking the life of another person. Most of all, you would certainly not want to admit you have any responsibility in crucifying Christ. However, to hold Him, you must admit you did indeed crucify Him. Although you do not want to accept it, it was your sin that put Him on the Cross. You must confess your sin. You must admit to your role in Christ's murder. When you are able to stand before the Cross and accept the reality of your role in His suffering and death you are overcome with guilt. It is at that moment, when you are crippled and broken with your grief, you are to say to Christ, "Lord Jesus, I am sorry. Please forgive me." At that moment, Christ comes and puts His arm around you and says to you, "It's OK. I forgive you." At this moment in your life, your heart is open and touched by the healing love of His forgiveness. At this moment of your confession and your being overwhelmed with grief, His grace and love fill your heart. When you receive His forgiving love, you must then wrap your heart around Him. 

No matter how much you plead for Him to come into your heart and life, you must understand pleading for Him to come in without your wanting Him to come into your heart, does not make it so. Only your godly sorrow and grief that opens your heart…followed by your asking His forgiveness for your sin, causes Christ to come to your side. Only your godly sorrow and your grief from your putting Him on the Cross will open the door of your heart so He can come in and cleanse you from all your sins and unrighteousness.

YOU ARE WITHOUT EXCUSE

There is the temptation to say that surely among you there are those who should be exempt from the confrontation of the facts about your putting Christ on the cross. However, you are without any excuse. You are guilty of crucifying Christ. Every person on earth is as guilty as the rest. God judges you based upon what you know about Christ and what you know about your part in His crucifixion. If you say there are some people who can be excused from confronting their own sinfulness, these people are thus excused from the glory of His forgiveness, mercy, grace, and everlasting life. 

DAMAGED HEARTS

There are those among you whose lives and hearts are damaged, not by their own hands, but by the evil hands of others. These people need the Lord's healing grace. Must these people endure more hurt and more grief by confronting their own sinfulness? Have these people not been hurt enough? What they and everyone else must understand is that confronting your darkness and sin is healing. Confronting what the sin of others has done to you is ultimately healing. None of you can run away from the hurts of the past. You must confront the sins of others and the consequences these sins have had on your life. You must confront your own sins. In the middle of this terrible darkness within you, there is a Light who understands you and loves you.

God understands the scars placed upon your heart and He does have ways of judging every person individually. God's will is you find His healing touch in your life. It is not God's will that anyone should suffer. With Christ, you can receive a new heart and a new life. All the hurts from the past are sealed over. When you accept Christ into your heart the old memories remain but the memories do not hurt anymore. Remarkably, you are healed and able to forgive and love others. You are able to forgive those who hurt you. All this forgiveness is possible if you have accepted Christ's forgiveness for putting Him on the Cross.

To heal the hurts of the past requires a new heart. A new heart that is clean does not carry the darkness of the past. The more darkness from the past that you carry in your heart, the heavier your daily burdens become. Christ died so you can cast off the darkness in your heart no matter where the darkness came from. 

The darkness put upon you by life, by others, and by your own mistakes has no business being carried in your life. Christ calls you to turn away from the darkness of your past and turn away from the darkness in your present.

It is a dirty, stinking business to have to ask people who have been broken by the sin of others to confront their own sin. It is a dirty, stinking business to have to ask people to accept the guilt of putting Christ on the Cross when they have been broken, cheated, beaten, molested, or deformed by the sins of others. Yes, Lord, I know this must be done. I know that you love them beyond measure. I know that at the end of this dark alley lies paradise with no pain, no painful memories, no fear, no distrust, no panic, no dark corners, only encompassing and surrounding love. Please Lord, give me the words to reach this reader.

YOUR SUFFERING AND HIS SUFFERING ARE JOINED

When you see Christ suffering on the Cross and see that even the suffering that was put upon you, also put Him there, then His suffering and your suffering are joined. At that moment, He calls you to turn away from the darkness that causes your suffering. He calls you to turn away from the suffering that is darkness. In the reality of your world, darkness and evil are passed from one heart to another. Hatred and bitterness are passed from one person to another until whole families or whole regions of the earth are infected. Sinfulness is passed from one person to another. Without turning away from this sinfulness, your heart is eager to receive the darkness.

YOU ARE ADDICTED TO SIN

The truth is that you are addicted to sin and cannot live without it. People easily become addicted to drugs, alcohol, pornography, lust, greed, glutony, and sinful activities and thoughts of all kinds. Darkness and evil has a grip upon you from the moment you are born. When you are able to stand at the foot of the Cross and see your Savior dying there for you, He is undergoing this suffering so you can be free. It is God's will that you have a heart free from the chains of sin that enslave you.

DO NOT FEAR

Those persons who are caught up in the slavery of sin who know the truth of Christ yet who run away in fear must understand that Christ does not want to hurt them. Instead, Christ wants to heal them of the present pain and emptiness they feel. However, like all things in life, you cannot receive His love that takes away the pain within your heart unless you take responsibility for your life. You must stop running away from your pain and let Christ touch you. It is the fear of God or godly fear that makes people want to run away from Christ. It is godly fear that makes people want to avoid anything that might confront them with the reality of their own sin. However, godly fear is a good and wonderful thing for it is godly fear that scares out the power of Satan within you. 

GOOD ACTS, HEAVY HEARTS

If you attempt to make your heart right, clean, and whole before God by being a good person, that activity is a good activity but it is not enough. You can dedicate your life to others but still have a heart that is heavy laden with darkness. The heavy burdens you carry on your heart need lifting off. You need a heart in you that is free of humiliation, shame, and fear. In Christ, you are safe. With Christ beside you, there is nothing to fear.

THE GRIP OF SIN THAT BLINDS

If sin has a grip upon you and you know it, then there is for you a chance at freedom. If you are enslaved by sin and you do not know you are enslaved or you do not want to be free of sin's chains, then you have no hope in your life. Sin blinds you and keeps you from seeing the world or the people in the world. Sin keeps you from seeing the hurt in yourself, the hurt in others, and the hurt you do to others. Satan has many ways of spreading sin around and keeping it going. Satan does not want you to be aware of who you are. Satan does not want you to be aware of what you are doing. Satan very much wants you in utter denial and utter ignorance about yourself, about your sinful nature, and about the sinful nature of others.

If you knew that a certain group of people would kill you, you would not associate with them. Yet when you are locked into the prison of sin, you eagerly want to associate with persons who live in the darkness. You want to be around them and you avoid, if possible, those people who you know live in the Light.

To stay in a dark prison cell of sin and corruption Satan encourages you to work hard to avoid the Light. While in the darkness, Satan wants you to work hard to avoid confronting anything that is of Christ because Satan wants you to love the darkness more than the Light.  When you admit that you love the darkness, the Lord does have a chance at getting to your heart. The heart that admits to loving the darkness is at least being honest. The heart that is in denial about being imprisoned by darkness is the heart that is, for the moment, without hope of being released from prison.

HOW DO YOU REACH THOSE HEARTS

How do you reach those hearts that are imprisoned? How do you reach those hearts that are running away from God's love? How do you reach those persons who do not want to ever see Christ hanging on the Cross? You must pray. You must not only pray that God will touch these hearts but you must also pray that you can witness to these people in a way that glorifies God. You must pray about whether you are to witness in a confrontational way or whether you are to witness in a non-confrontational way. When you witness to a person in the darkness you must do all that you do in a spirit of Christ's understanding, love, kindness, caring, and forgiveness. In witnessing, your acts speak louder than your words. Your words are important, but your words that are not spoken with a heart full of Christ's understanding, love, kindness, caring, and forgiveness are hollow words. 

WHAT CHRIST SEES

He looks down at you from the Cross and calls each of you to cast off your tired and darkened hearts.

GOD'S WILL FOR YOU

It is the will of God that you have Christ living and alive in your heart and life. It is the will of God that there be a constant and unrelenting beam of Light and Love between you and God, with Christ as the Light and Love. God wants you to submit your life to Christ and let Christ reign in your life. God wants Christ is to be the master and shepherd of your life. There can be no presence of Him, no reigning by Him, no shepherding by Him until you experience His forgiving love and grace as He comes to soothe your godly sorrow. 

HANGING FROM A ROPE

If you were hanging from a slender thread and ready to fall to your death from a building 30 stories high you would be gripping or clutching the thread with all your might. It is not fashionable in today's social thinking to see your relationship to God as that of your hanging by a slender thread ready to fall to your death. However, you are here and are alive today, only by the will of God. It is the will of God that keeps the slender thread we call life attached to your physical body.

YOUR DECISIONS

You want to see yourself as comfortable and secure in the hand of God. However, the error in believing you are comfortable and secure in the hand of God is that your being in the hand of God is solely a result of your decisions for Christ or against Christ. You are hanging by a slender thread of life. Satan will come at some point and cut the thread and your life will be no more, unless…you accept Christ as your Savior and Lord. 

1 Timothy 6:19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. (NIV)

YOU MUST DECIDE

Everyone decides, on some level, to accept or reject Christ. Before you decide to accept Christ into your life and heart, you must realize that you are hanging by a slender thread over the unknown darkness of death. Human beings do not want to hear about this reality of hanging by a slender thread over the outer darkness. A decision you make to accept or reject Christ determines whether God will protect you after you die. Without accepting Christ, you are hang by a thread over an unknown future after death. Your future consists of two options. One option includes the fires of hell or outer darkness. The other option includes the glories and grandeur of Heaven. When you decide to accept Christ, you then have the protection of God for all time and the assurance of Heaven.

This message first appeared in August, 2006, in the Virtual Church web site at http://www.findthepower.com

 

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Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (RSV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Copyright © 1952 [2nd edition, 1971] by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Entire contents copyright © 1999 - 2010 by Rev. Patrick Kelly, All rights reserved.
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Shepherd's Care Ministries author and webmaster, Rev. Patrick Kelly, is affiliated through ministerial ordination with Church of God Ministries, Anderson IN 46018