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Serving God With What You Have

Original Air Date 05/21/2003

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Lori Salierno-Maldonado shares some humorous stories from her life to illustrate that, no matter how imperfect we are, we all have something to offer God.

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Episode Transcript



Dr. Lori Salierno-Maldonado: Here’s a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish. But how far will they go amongst so many?’ There was plenty of grass in that place and the men sat down, about 5,000 of them. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

End of Excerpt

John Fuller: That’s a story that comes from the Bible, in the New Testament, in the gospel of John and it illustrates a fact that God can do a lot with whatever you have to offer Him, even if it’s just a small lunch. I’m John Fuller and, Jim, we have an energetic guest speaker to explain this and more.

Jim Daly: Yeah, we sure do and on this first day of 2018, what a great topic to explore. You know, the feeding of the 5,000 is one of my favorite miracles because it involves that little boy giving his lunch in an act of faith to the disciples. And, obviously, it turned intoa miracle and it’s just a sweet and innocent image of that boy. I wonder what Trent and Troy would do if they had been there-- would they have given their lunch? It’s probably the question every parent would ask, right?

John: I know what my son would do; he would trade his lunch for something else.

Jim: (Laughter) Trade up!

John: Yes.

Jim: Hey, think of the impression that made on that boy, to watch his little lunch feed 5,000! He must’ve been going, wow, where’s all that coming from? And that’s just the men that they counted, so think of all the women and children that were there too! What a faith builder!

And today’s guest is Dr. Lori Salierno-Maldonado. And she’s gonna bring that scene to life for us and share how that kind of childlike faith has worked in her own life and in her ministry.

John: And Dr. Lori is founder and CEO of Celebrate Life International, creators of the Teach One to Lead One Program, which is bringing truth to middle and high school students across North America. Here now is Lori Salierno-Maldonado, speaking at a Focus on the Family chapel service just a few years back.


Lori:Someone went to Helen Keller one time and said, “Helen, is there anything worse than being physically blind?” She said, “Yes, being able to see, but have no vision.” The word of God says that where there is no vision people will perish. Vision is the ability to focus on God’s plan for the world, to grow in his heart, to in his mind, but it’s also anticipating his power working through us to accomplish that plan. Vision is extremely powerful. In fact, it has been said, “Every great person and every great work has come under the influence of a vision.” And through this passage of Scripture we see that when God calls us to a vision he will invite us to be part of something bigger than ourselves. He’ll invite us to be part of something that requires the very best from ourselves and he will invite us to be part of something that will outlive ourselves.

But when God calls you to his vision he calls you to something that transcends safety. He calls you to something that transcends common sense. It is all about Jesus Christ. He will call us to be part of something bigger than ourselves that if supernaturally he does not intervene, we will not make it.

So when he saw the crowd coming toward them he said to Philip, “Philip, where are we going to buy bread for these people to eat?” He asks him this question because he wants Philip to see something. He wants the little boy to see something. He wants his disciples to see something. He wants the crowd to see something. He wants them to see who he is because as we come to understand who Christ is then we can begin to understand the vision that He has for our life.

In the gospel of John, the miracles, He uses them as windows to the reality of God. And Philip could not see it. He said, “Lord, if--eight months wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite.” He was inviting him to be a part of something much bigger than himself. What is interesting is that God is constantly initiating an invitation to you and to me to be a part of something much bigger than ourselves. The issue for us is, have we trained our souls to perceive His voice because he is initiating that call.

And when He invites us to catch a vision that will include something bigger than ourselves He’s going to ask us to live, to move, to breathe and to exist in the God space. Now let me tell you what the God space is. It’s where the need is greater than the resources. It’s where the opportunity is greater than your ability.But in this God space, complete and immediate obedience is required because it is not about you and it is not about me, but it’s about Jesus Christ.He’s inviting us to his current, and his current is so much larger than anything we can do, but he requires complete and immediate obedience. But He wants us as people of vision to live within the God space. Moses was in the God space when he had the Red Sea and the people of Israel behind him. David was in the God space when Goliath was before him. Elijah was in the God space when he was before the 450 prophets of Baal and brought fire down. He was in the God space. It’s the place where we move and we exist in the current of the power, the Holy Spirit and without God we cannot, and without us He will not. It’s an incredible invitation to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.

Now I was invited to speak at an inner city school at a public assembly in their public school. When I got there the superintendent brought me aside and he said, “Word has gotten out in the community that you’re one of those, um, what do you guys call yourself, you church people? What do you guys call yourselves?” I said, “Blood washed, born again, believers in Jesus Christ.” He goes, “Yeah, yeah.” He said, “Word got out that you’re one of those and it got everyone in the community a little nervous and they asked me if I would pull you from the schedule, but I’m a man of my word. I’m a man of my word. And I said to them I will still have her speak.” He said, “Now you have to understand, we have not had an assembly in this inner city school for seventeen years because the last time we had one there was a riot and it was absolutely horrible. But I believe now we can try to re-instate that.” He said, “However, in order to bring comfort to the community.” We were in the gymnasium. He said, “Do you see that row of policeman in the back?” And I said, “Yes.” He said, “Let me tell you why they’re here. Just in case you get so “led” to cross the line between church and state, they will come up, pull you off stage mid-sentence. Is there any part of that that you do not understand?” I said, “Well who are the people in front of the policemen?” He said, “Those are the educators.” And they are like this. I said, “Why are they so upset?” He said, “They do not like you.” I said, “They don’t know me, how do they know they don’t like me?” He said, “Just don’t do anything that would embarrass me or my administration.”

In came a thousand kids on one side of the gymnasium, a thousand kids on the other side with the balcony filled. I sat down, the youth pastor who was part of that process leaned over and he said, [in a whisper] “I would never do what you’re about ready to do.” [laughter] And I said, [in a whisper] “Lord, why am I here?” He said, “Lori, do you remember in your prayer time when you said, ‘Lord, if there’s anything that other Christians are too afraid to do, I’ll do it.’” I said, “Yes.” He said, “This is one of them.” [laughter] The administrator got up to introduce me; he could not even get the attention of his student body, which is not a good sign. I got up and took the mic. Before I could say my first word a girl on the third balcony to my right stood up and she said, “Lady, take this,” and she gave me the finger. And as I’m looking at her a guy from the balcony yelled out, “Hey lady what ya doing after the assembly cause my two friends and I, we want to do ya.” And in that moment the Holy Spirit of the living God said to me, “Lori Salierno, your struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world. You have my Person, you have my Power, you have my Presence, you have the word of God, you have the body of Christ, you may not be able to speak my name but you can speak forth my truth. And I want you to know that if you will speak forth my universal absolute objective truth my word will not come back void but it will pierce the darkness. Speak forth my truth.” (Whoo)

So I started telling those students, I told them that they were created to live by universal objective truth. Telling them how to live by wise choices. And I got to the part of my presentation when I was talking about the only way that you can have safe sex is within a monogamous relationship in marriage and that you were created to be virgins, not Virginians, virgins [laughter] until you get married. Well when I used the word ‘virgin’ you would think that I had just poured strychnine over them. They hate that word. Someone went, “Virgin! Virgin! Virgin!”

Eight guys to my left stood up and they started rocking back and forth. And as they’re rocking they’re inching their way toward me and so I looked at the administrator of the school, the superintendent, to see what kind of assistance will I be getting when these men get to my body. And this is what he did. [gesture]

So I said, “Lord, if you do not give me an idea immediately I will be seeing you in heaven very, very soon. [laughter] And as soon as I prayed that the Lord brought an idea to my mind and I said, “I want the whole school to look at these eight guys.” And the whole school went [gesture]. I said, “When I said the word virgins they stood up because they’re the virgins of the school and they are proud of it.” I said, “Men, I want to tell you, we need more men in this country that will stand up and say we are virgins and will continue to be virgins until we get married. Way to go you leaders of this nation in the future.” [laughter] Those eight guys go [gesture].

When the assembly was over the superintendent came to me, he goes [heavy breathing] he said, “How did you do that?” I said, “Well, let me cross the line between church and state and I’ll tell you.” One of those big ole guys came over and he walked over to me and he said, “Yo mamma, we ain’t no virgins.” I said, “I know.” He said, “But you got talkin’ about truth and how we’re supposed to live by objective universal truth and my friend leaned over and he said, ‘let’s shut the yappy chick up.’” He said, “You know no one else in the school will do anything about it cause they’re afraid of us. So we stood up, it’s our gang. We started rocking back and forth inching our way toward you so we could intimidate you to shut up. Then you had the whole school looking at us like we’re the virgins of the school.” He said, “We sat down and my friend leaned over and he goes, ‘now I hate her.’” This guy said, “You might hate her but she’s got you to back up, sit down and shut up.” He said, “Lady, do you really think I could be a leader of integrity in this country?” I said, “Yes, and not only that, but you can know the one who loves you more than anyone on this earth. He’s the one who created you, Jesus Christ.” He said, “How do you know he loves me?” I said, “Because he sent me here to tell you that.”

I went in the back of that gymnasium in a little tiny bathroom, knelt down to this toilet and I said to the Lord, “Dear Jesus, I will never do that again if you don’t want me to.” [laughter] And when I prayed that prayer the Lord said, “Not only am I going to have you do it again but I’m going to raise you up as point leader of the momentum in this country that’s going to take Biblical absolute universal objective truth into the public educational system of the United States and we are going to cultivate the hearts of young people and bring a generation out of darkness into light and I am asking you, are you available?” (sigh) “Lord the educational system is so big and so confused and so political.” “Are you available? I’m asking you Lori, to be part of something bigger than yourself. Something that you can not do without my supernatural intervention. Are you available?” I said, “Yes Lord.”

I don’t know how he’s going to do it. I didn’t know how he was going to do it there, but it wasn’t about the how, it was about the what. I simply had to be available to the what. And Focus I want to tell you something, the same is true of you. We may not know how he’s going to do it completely, but bottom line, are we available to be a part of something bigger than ourselves?

Program Note:

John: You’re listening to Dr. Lori Salierno-Maldonado on this New Year’s Day edition of Focus on the Family and we’ll have more for you in just a moment. Let me mention, you can get a free audio download of this presentation so you can listen again and share it with a friend at And she was mentioning being a part of something bigger and you can do that by becoming a monthly supporter of this ministry and being a part of what God is doing worldwide through Focus on the Family. Please, make your monthly pledge when you visit our website. Let’s return now to Dr. Lori.

End of Program Note

Lori: And then Jesus shows us this little boy. In Mark chapter six the same reporting of this story, Jesus says in Mark six, “Go see what is available.” He was inviting them to part of something bigger than themselves, but He required the best from someone. “Go see what is available.” So his disciples, they go and they find this little boy. Isn’t it so incredible, it’s a little boy. And the disciples go to him and say, “Son, what have you got there?” “I have a lunch.” “What’s in it?” “I don’t know. My mom made it.” “Could you check it out?” “Sure... um, five barley loaves and two small fish.”

Now we know by that lunch, that description has just described a boy that is in poverty, because the barley loaves were the bread of the poor and the two small fish were probably much like two sardine to keep them eatable in that condition while they were not refrigerated because they didn’t have refrigeration. So the disciple said to the little boy, “Um, son, Jesus Christ would like your lunch.” “Is He hungry?” “Well, no these people are.” Now he has an option. He can say, “What does that have to do with my lunch?” And the disciples could have said, “Well it’s a good question, we’re not sure but we believe that He wants to feed these people with your lunch.” And the boy can decide to deny it or join it. He could say, “Listen, I can’t help it if you guys didn’t bring your lunch. Anyway if I give you my lunch how am I going to eat? Besides, my lunch will not feed this multitude.” He could have denied the miracle and not been a part of the vision that God had for him.

And I want to tell you something, we can too. God will come to you and invite you. He’ll come to me and invite me and we can either say “yes” or we can say “no.” But if we’ve got ourselves so focused on the lunch, we’ll never say yes to the Savior. But this little boy said, “You bet, I gotta see this.” So he brought this meager little lunch to the Lord Jesus Christ. Once again God won’t do it without us and we can’t do it without Him. The little boy didn’t have much but he had the materials of a miracle. Moses didn’t have much but he had the materials of a miracle. David didn’t have much but he had the materials of a miracle.You don’t have much, I don’t have much, but we have the materials of a miracle. We have our little lunch. And when we surrender our lunch in the hands of the almighty God and the person of Jesus Christ it immediately becomes His unlimited possibilities. We don’t have much, but we must give him everything that we’ve got because God requires that we give him the best of everything that we are.

On a flight from L.A. back to Atlanta, Georgia-- I’m getting my doctorate right now, writing the dissertation, I had so many miles that they bumped me up to first class with those points. And I just asked the Lord when I got on the airplane, I said, “Lord, I love you to death. You know I do. I love sharing the gospel with everyone I meet, but could it be that this trip with three and a half hours of uninterrupted flying that I might be able to do my homework and progress toward my dissertation. I would just prefer not to share You with anyone today, if that’s just okay. Just this one time.” Well, I sensed that He said okay. I don’t know.

So I got on and I was next to the aisle and this lady was next to the window. And we got up in the air and she looked at me and she said, “Hi ma’am, how are you?” And I just went [gesture]. And I kept writing and reading. She said, “Do you fly Delta much?” Doing my work and she said-- the food came and I chose not to eat and she said, “You don’t like the food here on Delta.” And I’m like, I’m thinking lady consider yourself extremely fortunate because when I engage I don’t let go. [laughter] And so as I’m reading, a couple hours go by and she had consistently been asking me questions. I did not say one word but just gave her that polite little ‘could you just buzz off?’ And after about two hours she said, “Are you a teacher? I mean, is that what you do for a living?” (sigh) I looked at her and I said, “No. I am the CEO of a non-profit organization called Celebrate Life International. We are dedicated to student development by building character based on practical leadership skills and strong moral values. We provide personnel and programs and materials that help young people develop lives of integrity, stand strong in healthy habits, create positive relationships and multiply their influence among their peers. I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but we have, in the next few years, about seventy-three million teens between the ages of twelve to twenty-one and most of those guys are in fifty-one thousand high schools and we’re going to take the objective absolute universal truth that comes from God’s Word. We’re going to take it into that system, the educational system of the United States of America, bring a generation out of darkness into light, to cultivate their hearts to hear the gospel. That’s what I do for a living.” [laughter] She said, “Well, you just met your best friend.” I said, “Why, who are you?”

She said, “My name is Dr. Barbara Border. I work for the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, DC.” [applause] I said, “I’ve got to go to the bathroom.” [laughter] I got in that little bathroom and I said, “Lord, can you believe I have beensitting next to a woman who works for the U.S. Department of Educa…” “Lori, do I have your lunch?”

And in that little bathroom, thirty-three thousand feet in the air, I said, “Lord, don’t you think a football player would be a better point leader? What about a beauty queen with a title and a crown? Jesus, [tearful] I am so ordinary. This little lunch is nothing.” He said, “Do I have it? I do my work best in weaknesses of humanity.” Thirty-three thousand feet in the air I lifted up my handand I said, “Lord, metaphorically speaking, this is my lunch. Yes, I’m available. I’m willing and I’m obedient.” He said, “I need the best of everything that you are. Now get back out there.”

I went back out there, I sat down next to her, she said, “So, you’re going to transform public education in the United States of America with objective truth, teaching it in the context of kind relationship, is that correct?” “Um…” She said, “You did say that didn’t you?” I said, “Yeah, it just sounds more scary when you say it than when I say it.” [laughter] She said, “Exactly what do you need to do this?” “Well,” I said, “I need key conta--networking contacts with people that are decision makers. I need a tremendous amount of resources and I need a lot of prayer.” She said, “Would you be willing to come to Washington, D.C. and speak to the entire educational system, the Department of Education and share with the same persuasion, power and boldness the fact that you feel that you have a solution for our system. Would you be willing to do that?” “Yeah”She said this, “I’ve been in this system for thirty years and you’re right, it’s dark and we don’t have the answer. Maybe, just maybe you have the solution to our problem.” I said, “I don’t have the solution, but I know the One who does.” And since that contact I’ve been to Washington, D.C. twice, our program is in public schools, it’s in alternative schools for at-risk students and this fall, the juvenile justice system has opened their doors for our program. [applause] God will call us to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, call us to be a part of something that requires the best of ourselves, but it will also call us to outlive ourselves because we’re still talking about the little boy today.

Have you caught the vision of what God wants to do in your life because I want you to know when you take your little lunch and you surrender it to him, you will catch a vision of Jesus Christ like you’ve never done before. And surrendering it to him becomes his unlimited possibilities to be able to feed a multitude in the power of Jesus Christ because it is all about him. Jesus Christ was Adam’s redeemer. He was Eden’s tree of life. He was Abel’s vindication. He was Noah’s ark, Abraham’s sacrifice, Isaac’s hope. Let’s surrender to him. Jesus Christ was Isaiah’s prince of peace, Jeremiah’s balm in Gilead, Hosea’s love, Micah’s mercy, Amos’ justice, David’s music, Solomon’s wisdom, Zechariah’s birch and Malachi’s messenger.

And then Revelations says, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty who was and is and is to come. You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals because You were slain. And with your blood You purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. Worthy is the lamb who was slain. To receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise now to Him who sits on the throne and to the lamb [emotion] be praise, honor, glory, and power for ever and ever.” Focus take your little lunch, surrender it in his hand and you will reach a nation and I will be running right beside you because we want to prepare a people for the coming of our Lord. Amen, so be it, Amen.

Thank you.



John: And with those stirring words, we come to the end of this New Year’s Day edition of Focus on the Family. What a powerful message given to our staff by Dr. Lori Salierno-Maldonado, encouraging us to take, as she said, our little lunch, whatever talent or ability that might be and to surrender that to God.

Jim: And he’ll use it, John, just as He has in Lori’s life. It’s so amazing what God can do with very little and yet He chooses so often to work through us, rather than miraculously change a situation. He uses us as His hands and feet to minister to others. Why? So that our faith will be strengthened as we see the miraculous results. And I want you to know, that’s our mission here at Focus on the Family- to help you and your family thrive in Christ. It’s not just a slogan-- we mean it!

Here’s a recent note we received from Kathy and her husband Robin: “We lost our young daughter through a car accident and Focus on the Family was a spiritual lifeline. We wrote you a note and were amazed by your response. You sent us some powerful books about the grief process and assigned a retired minister to call us every few weeks to see how we were doing. Your organization reaches thousands of people and yet we were not just a number. We were parents in pain and you ministered to us personally. Thank you.”

John: What a privilege it was for us to be able to be there for this couple in that moment of sorrow and in the following days. Wow.

Jim: Ya know, John, it’s so true, this is about relationship. Jesuswas about relationship. As we begin the new year, I’d like to ask you to be a partner with Focus on the Family, in ministry together. The bestway for you to do that is to pray for us-- that’s always number one. And then consider making a pledge to be a monthly donor to Focus. It doesn’t have to be a large gift. But by giving monthly, you are helping us have a more stable foundation for the challenges of being here month in and month out for people who need our help. Through this radio program, our counselors, and so many more tools that we provide. So add us, if you can, to your 2018 budget, won’t you? You can make that monthly pledge online today and when you’re at our website, be sure to look for a free audio download with today’s message from Dr. Lori.

John: Yeah, our staff has the day off to spend with their families, so you’ll want to visit the website, And if you enjoyed today’s broadcast, certainly, get the free download and share it that way, but also, tell a friend to listen in tomorrow when we have another of our top programs of 2017 about the importance of spiritual training of your children through family devotions.


Jonathan Evans: Hey, it’s important for us to get around the table because that’s the time we can really spend with our kids and we’ve got all of their attention and we’re able to get the eye contact and get them away from the video games and away from the TV and really pour into them.

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Dr. Lori Salierno-Maldonado

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Dr. Lori Salierno-Maldonado is an author, speaker, and the founder and CEO of Celebrate Life International, a progressive youth development non-profit organization. She is the co-creator of the Teach One to Lead One® philosophy, and an avid spokeswoman for the cause of transforming at-risk youth into responsible citizens. Lori balances her time between the management of her organization and invitations to speak to audiences throughout the world. She resides in the Atlanta area with her husband, Jose. Learn more about Lori by visiting her website,