A spiritual house

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“As you come to him, the living stone – rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him – you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” –1 Peter 2:4-5

I recently brought my youth I teach through a series titled “living loved” and we focused on the life of Jesus from His birth to when He performed His first miracle. One thing they kept bringing up was if Jesus was always all knowing from birth. And I stressed that just as Luke 2:52 says, Jesus grew in wisdom, in stature, and in favor with God and man just like we need to do. He wasn’t born with all this biblical knowledge and spiritual maturity, He needed to grow in  it. The same is true for us.

Sometimes we want to rush the process of being molded and built into a spiritual house but it takes work. It takes willingness of heart and spirit in order to become who God has called us to be. We need to be content in the process allowing God to build, to add, to take away, that we would be mighty soldiers for the kingdom of God. I’ve learned what God does through us on earth is for spiritual kingdom purposes. Whatever your current walk of life, God is using it to prepare you for future preordained plans. So my encouragement for you today is to allow God to build you up which may sometimes look like a breaking down. God is the holy potter that wants you to explore with Him what needs to go and what needs to grow in order for you to be built into a spiritual house.

Love is patient, Love is kind.

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Being that Valentine’s day just passed, I want to address the huge elephant in the room. The one in the form of bubbly hearts, expensive chocolates, even pricier roses, and cuddly teddy bears. One thing you should know about me is I love valentines day; not for the excuse to eat chocolate but because it’s a great reminder to show love and be love. And to put it simply, we all need reminders. We need to be reminded to be kind and patient. But mostly, we need to be reminded to love even when it’s hardest to love because that’s when it counts. But what exactly is love? Not that artificial, high caloric, sugar drenched love made by humans on valentines day but that real, authentic, raw, unconditional love.

The other day I was watching a movie on Netflix that really got me thinking about human love versus godly love. In the book of 1 Corinthians, Paul the apostle was writing a letter to the church at Corinth. In this letter, he addresses many things the Corinthians were concerned about. One of those things was love. In 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, it says, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always, hopes, always perseveres.”
I’m sure you’ve heard or read this somewhere. But I believe God wants to remind you what you have forgotten or maybe what you haven’t known. Let’s break down these verses and really reflect on the nature of Gods love and how we can reflect the love of Christ.

  1. Love is humble and zealous. That means you lay down your own desire and eagerly desire the well-being of the one you love.
  2. Love is self-less and slow to anger. This means it isn’t selfish or quick tempered. Next time you do or say something to someone, question your intentions. Is it for personal gain or godly reward?
  3. Love does not keep a checklist of what people have done to you. It is forgiving.
  4. Love is always honest. It isn’t merited on human standards but on biblical truth.

Godly love is without conditions. This simply means whatever you do cannot exempt you from the love of God. In the same way, our love for others should not be contingent upon what they can do for us or what we’ve done for them. It should rest on who our foundation should be: Jesus Christ. 1 John 4:8-9 says, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” We need to love as if we are living through Jesus. This means we must be his hands and feet, his heart and ears. But this can only happen when you place God as “the one” for you before a wife, a husband, a girlfriend, or a fiancé. Knowing the love of God first hand places you in a position to spread love the godly way. Let us strive to love as God loves us.

Watch my spoken word poem “The One” on youtube here

Project Healing

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When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
– John 5:6

             In honor of bringing in the new year this past Sunday, I had the youth I teach do a praise report for 2016. They had to think of good things God had done in their lives for 2016. Oftentimes, we focus on all things that go wrong that we leave no room to see the blessings. It was important for them to reflect on the goodness of God in their lives because it would set up the atmosphere for 2017. It would enable them to believe God for even greater things in this year before us. So, for my praise report I wrote how I was graced with the privilege of teaching the youth. Had it not been for God orchestrating events in my life, I wouldn’t have this beautiful opportunity to teach them. I wouldn’t have been apart of what God is doing in their lives individually and as a youth ministry. It has been a tremendous blessing to say the least.
As a youth ministry, I recently brought them through a teaching series titled, “Meeting God in different seasons in different ways”. For one particular lesson, they learned about “The God who heals”. During Jesus’ ministry on earth, He healed countless people from a myriad of diseases, blindness, ailments, possessions, and spiritual unbelief. As I studied the aspects of healing, I realized how much we have control over our own healing. Let me explain. . .
In John 5:1-9, Jesus is in Jerusalem near a healing pool called Bethesda. While He was there, He noticed a man who had been an invalid for 38 years. Now it’s important to note this man was paralyzed in some way for a full 38 years, yet the first question Jesus asks him is, “Do you want to get well?”. When we are in a certain state for a period of time, we become conditioned to being that way. We become accustomed to living with the aches and pains, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual. It becomes our normal. So the first aspect of healing is to actually Choose healing. We have to choose to want to get well. The second aspect is to realize only Jesus can heal you. In John 5:7, the invalid says he has no one to help him into the pool. He comes to the realization that only Jesus can help him because no one else has been able to.
The third aspect is to believe in the healing. In Matthew 9:28, Jesus is in his hometown of Capernaum and He comes across two blind men. As they are following Him, Jesus goes indoors and asks them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” Healing isn’t a question of whether Jesus can heal or not, Jesus is healer. But it is a question of “Do you believe?” You need to believe to be healed. You have to believe in the healing even before it comes.
The last aspect of healing is being aware of what you need healed. In Matthew 20:32, Jesus comes across two blind men as well and the first question He asks is, “What do you want me to do for you?” In order for healing to begin, you need to be aware of your need for healing. Awareness is powerful because it means you are no longer blind to your wounds.
I want you to pay attention to the fact in all these stories of healing, Jesus asks the person in need of healing a question. Sometimes we go to God asking Him what to do but because we aren’t expecting a question, we misinterpret God’s answer for silence. Sometimes God speaks in questions too. So as you go forward, remember the acronym: CRBA.

  1. Choose healing
    2. Realize only Jesus can heal
    3. Believe in the healing
    4. Awareness of what you need healed

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An open letter from me to you:

When I began Project Healing in November of 2014, I had no idea what God had in mind. All I knew is I had this God-given dream birthed in my heart and I needed to take action. I needed to share what God had done in my life in hopes of you too being infected with the healing bug. Project Healing was birthed because of tears found in open wounds, failed friendships, and broken relationships. But more because of transformation and healing. So while I haven’t made time to write newsletters as frequently, you are all in my prayers.
Entering 2017, my prayer is that you, yes you, realize your God-given potential and more-so your God-given dreams. I pray you would take courage and follow Jesus into the unknown. I pray you would see God’s hand in your life because I assure you, He is there. I pray when you hear His voice, you would not harden your heart. I pray you would grow in love and be stretched in wisdom. I pray you would bring every little thing that fills you with guilt and embarrassment to the foot of the cross and not to the pit of shame. But most of all, I pray you would be healed from the very thing(s) that may be stopping you from entering freely into the love of God.

As always, with love and tons of blessings,

Neli

HAPPY 2017!

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Strange Fire

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“That same day Nadab and Abihu, Aaron’s sons, took their censers, put hot coals and incense in them, and offered “strange” fire to God – something God had not commanded. Fire blazed out from God and consumed them – they died in Gods presence.” – Leviticus 10:1-2 MSG

The bible says Aaron’s sons offered up strange fire to God in the context of a holy and sacred offering. They tried to mix holy with unholy and God consumed them; they died the same way they tried to cheat God. The moment you try to bring in an unholy thing into the holy things of God, you automatically negate the sacredness of a holy act. For example, the bible speaks on meditation; to meditate on the word of God but if you begin to practice yoga as a means of meditation, you are bringing “strange fire” into a sacred act. You cannot do yoga and expect it to be a good offering to the Lord because it is a spiritual practice that has its origin in offering incense to other gods.

In the same way, you cannot incorporate practices from other religions into your relationship with the Lord. It is strange fire that is an abomination to the Lord. While God is all loving, it’s important to be aware of your practices and habits. If it is not biblical or biblically supported, you should always bring it to the foot of the cross.

Bible Cuteness

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I decided to do this post because so many people (all the ladies) always ask about my bible. Now if you know me, you know I love all things girly. Pink, flowers, glitter; it all makes me happy. So when my sister bought me my own bible tabs, I was obsessed! But after wearing out my NIV study bible, I bought a new ESV journaling bible and had to get new bible tabs as well.

My bible is from barnes and noble. Check it out here . It’s only $28! Although this is a journaling bible, I always have a cute journal to write down any insights, questions, and prayers when I have my bible study time. I usually have the moleskin journals but the one I’m currently using is from Green Room Eco which I also purchased at barnes and noble. These are made from 60-70% recycled fiber and they come in a pack of 3.

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My AMAZING super CUTE bible tabs are from The Salty Biscuit on etsy. They are only $15 for a full set. I’ve purchased from them about 5 times because I’m the youth teacher at my church and the girls fell in love with them. So of course, I had to get a set for them too. Each time I’ve purchased, they’ve never disappointed. I also got the decal on the front of my bible that says “It is well with my soul” from The Salty Biscuit. They have a few different options to choose from in different colors and different sayings as well as different bible verses.

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As for my pen, I’m currently using the glitter gel pens from Yoobi which I bought at target. (Told you I love glitter:) They came in a set of 12 for $10 and for each item you purchase, a Yoobi item will be donated to a classroom in need.

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Now it doesn’t matter what your bible looks like, as long as you read it and make time to really soak it in. If you do decide to purchase any of these things, let me know! 🙂

The way everlasting

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“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” – Psalm 139:23-24

This is a dangerous prayer. David was so bold when he asked God to search him. I’m in a season of God revealing to me things within me that need work; things that do not lead to the way everlasting and it’s hard. You feel bare and naked. You feel exposed. But here David is giving God access because without that invitation, God is not going to force His way in. God is patient and has given you free will for a reason. So if you don’t give Him access to search you, healing won’t happen. Now God doesn’t need to search you, He already knows your heart. But David is saying, “Okay God, you can come in. I invite you in to help me, to mold me, and ultimately to heal me.”

Because the moment you give God that invitation, you are on the road to healing. You are on the road to wholeness. David says, “Lead me in the way everlasting.” What he’s saying is that he can’t get himself to wholeness. Another yoga class or deep breathing exercise is not gonna get him on the right path. Another bible study class or life group isn’t going to open the door to fulfillment. Another diet or self help book isn’t going to set him on the straight and narrow. But Jesus is. Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the light.” These things might help but you need to allow God to search you so that He can heal you from the inside out.

Jesus can bring light where there is darkness. He can set you on the right road when you are lost. He can guide you out of the lies and into the truth. And the truth is, we all need work. I know I do! We are all a project only God can take on and bring to full completion. The bible says God brings every good work He begins in us to completion; you know why? Because He loves you, He cares for you, and He’s concerned about the smallest details of your life. He wants you healed that others may be Healed too. The way everlasting is to say “Hey, Jesus, come on in. There’s more than enough room for you.”

Meet Maria

I kind of squealed a “let’s go see the horses guys” before walking off to be extra touristy with my iPhone 6+ in the middle of the campo in Sancti Spiritus, Cuba. Thank goodness a few of my team members followed behind me as I snapped a gazillion photos of the less than mediocre brown horses patiently eating yummy grass. Being born and raised in New York City, you don’t see horses just lounging around. You catch the occasional police officer perched on top of a horse but for me it’s a rare sight. So the inner city girl was joyous each time I saw one of these majestic animals. I must have driven my teammates insane with the “oh my gosh, I love horses” for the hundredth time. But thankfully they were patient with this city girl. 


As I walked away from the horses, we all walked down the broken streets of colorful homes. Everything seemed pretty silent until I stopped to say hello to a few kids sitting outside. After introducing myself, they all seemed pretty intrigued. Before I knew it, my team and I were walking down the street & a whole crowd of about 12-15 kids gathered around us. It was amazing! They asked tons of questions like where we were from & how long we were staying. Ironically enough, they knew we were with the church without us having to say anything. 


As I spoke with them & asked them questions, I noticed the cutest little hotdog (or a dachshund for you dog lovers) waddling past me. Because there are so many stray dogs in Cuba, I knew better than to pet just any dog. But when I saw the cutest little lady following behind this even cuter dog, I asked if it was hers and she said yes. So I leaned in to pet my new little dog friend Suzy. Too bad Suzy was not at all friendly. She was too scared of this super smiley New Yorker chasing after her to pet her than anything else. So I settled with not petting her & began to speak with her owner whose name is Maria. 

After a few introductions, Maria asked us what we were doing in Cuba & I shared we were working with the church just up the street. Because it is still illegal to have or build churches in Cuba, the Cuban people turn a portion of their homes into a church. So I pointed her in that direction & she wanted to know more. One thing led to the next & I asked her if she had ever heard of Jesus Christ. As she leaned in closer, her eyes full of questions, she shook her head no. 

Without hesitation, I told her how Jesus died on the cross and three days later he rose again to show her that not even death could invade the love he has for her. I told her how Jesus wants to have a relationship with her. As she listened intently, I knew how much God loved this woman. He loved her so much that he sent his only son Jesus to die for her that she may have eternal life. In that moment, Maria was famous in the kingdom of God! She was famous because Christ died specifically for her. And not only her but for you too. 

It was in that moment, I knew God strategically placed me on that road, on that day, in that hour, that Maria might know Jesus’ love for her. He set up a divine appointment that Jesus would divinely intercede from the throne through me. I was so humbled to know the truth of Romans 10: 14-15 which says, ““How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”” God sent me so Maria would know Him. That is the good news of the gospel; the faith of Maria in that moment activated the power of the gospel. 

When I asked Maria if she wanted a bible, she eagerly said yes. I asked my leader Mark for a bible & helped her understand it a bit. With my leaders suggestion, I told her to start reading in the book of John & she said okay. 


As she was getting ready to leave, she made me promise her I would come back to her home for coffee.  And so I promised her knowing God would bring me back. And thank God, two days later I walked up to her little home who’s walls were made of wood & called out, “Mariaaaaa”. Surely enough, she called back & as I made my way in, Maria’s bible was on the sofa because she had been reading it. 

Maria nestled into my heart in such a profound way that I understood the power of Gods love for you, for me, and for the entire world.