Popular Bible teacher and speaker Ellie Lofaro delivers a humorous message with a serious theme as she encourages women to follow God and trust Jesus Christ with joy and confidence, no matter what problems they face. (Part 2 of 2)
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John Fuller: On our last "Focus on the Family" program, Ellie Lofaro explained how God led her from her Italian New York roots, to the suburbs of Washington, D.C., where she felt compelled to start a Bible study for her new neighbors. And she teasingly called them "the blonde women."
Ellie Lofaro: And the blonde women are coming to the Bible study and they've been in my house. (Laughter) And they help me to lose weight. (Laughter) They don't think fat jokes are funny. (Laughter) In New York, we love fat jokes. I was gaining two pounds a year and proud of it. (Laughter)
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John: And as Ellie reached out to those ladies with God's truth, she found a much bigger audience than she expected and she's going to share that story and many others on this, one of the most popular programs of the year. This is "Focus on the Family," as I said and your host is Jim Daly.
Jim:; Well, Ellie Lofaro is a funny lady and you can hear it there. We heard quite a bit of that yesterday, in fact. She's also a very insightful Bible teacher and in this message, she's using the crossing of the Jordan River by the Israelites from Joshua 3, to illustrate some great ideas on how we, as Christians, can overcome life's hardships. And you know what? Jesus told us, in this world you will have trouble, but take heart. I've overcome the world. And that's in John 16:33.
We need to especially remember the first part of that verse. Jesus said, "We will have trouble." Being a Christian does not give us a free pass to avoiding pain in this world. Instead, we have the comfort of the Lord walking with us through those times and that's where we put our trust and our hope.
John: And you know, Jim, that reminds me of another one of our top programs from this past year. It's in our best of collection and it features Mrs. Bo Stern, whose late husband, Steve had ALS and Bo was his caregiver for four very difficult years. And she said, God always met her in those hard places and carried her through the hard times.
Jim: Well, what a beautiful reminder that we don't put our hope and our faith in our circumstances and Bo, she just did the right thing and trusted in God to get them all through and when we aired that program two weeks ago, Bo pointed out that God is already in the future. He knows where we're going and He's making provision, not just for her, but for every one of us. And it's so important to our human soul to feel like God is there and He does care and when she would get to the end of her rope, as you said, John, she would find that provision He had made for her.
John: Well, you can hear that program and many other great radio programs from the past year when you order our Best of 2015 collection--lots of encouragement. This message today from Ellie Lofaro was also in there and you can get the CDs or find out more about the download collection at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio or call us and we can tell you more, 800-232-6459.
And I noted earlier that Ellie is from New York and she and her husband, Frank now live in Reston, Virginia. They have three grown children and here now, as we roll back just a little bit in case you missed the program last time, is Ellie Lofaro, pointing out how important it is to be established in your faith before hard times come. Let's listen in to this best of "Focus on the Family" broadcast.
Ellie Lofaro: If you're a Christian, you need to sit on the end of that hospital bed with more than, "Good luck; hang in there." If you're a Christian, you need to have something to say at the cemetery when the casket is lowered. We are overcomers. We are women of faith. We are women of substance. It is not, "Hang in there; do your best, good luck, come what may." He is God. We will live forever. We will meet again. That is a promise.
I'm not going six feet under. It's not "gonna bite the dust." I'm going to live and rule and reign. What does that mean? I have no idea; I can't wait. I'm going to rule and reign in heaven praising Him for all eternity.
We have answers. Why are people breaking down? Why do we have marriages not making it? Why do people end up hating the children that they gave birth to and vice versa? Why do families stop talking for so many years? Because we're breaking down. You don't take a Mercedes to a Ford dealer. You don't take a human to Tony Robbins. Where do we get our truth from? Where do you get your opinions from? Are you embarrassed to say what you think? Do you find yourself being quiet because you don't know what it says?
Religion is personal. You know why? Because you don't know much. So, it's so personal. No way, when I was in love with Frank, I told everybody. When I had kids, I showed everybody. If Jesus lives with me, you're gonna know it. How strange it would be if I was a Christian and nobody knew it. I don't want to go to heaven someday and wait on the judgment line and have somebody say to me, "You're a Christian? You were in the next cubical eight years; you didn't say anything. We sat on that soccer field 46 times; you didn't say anything. How could you not say anything? How could you not?"
If I had cure to a disease and didn't share it, what am I? If I have the fire truck and the house is on fire and I don't show up, what am I? If you know how to live forever, how to have joy and peace and patience and abundant life and you don't tell anybody, when did we get so polite? Hey, in the old neighborhood the aunts used to call when there was a sale on tomatoes. (Laughter) You don't want to tell people about this? The phone is used for a lot of garbage; you don't want to use the phone for this?
Preparation; you must be prepared and you must know the Word. God did not leave us to dangle in the dark. He's not a sadist in the sky, waiting to hit you with a rubber band or a disease. He did leave directions. He did leave instructions. Taxes, sex, mother-in-laws, it's all in here. (Laughter) I love my mother-in-law; she gave me Frank. Some days I'd like to return the gift. (Laughter) Sorry, sorry! (Laughter)
In Joshua 3 it says in verse four [FYI: verses 3 and 4], "You're going to move out behind the ark and follow it and you will know which way to go. You haven't been this way before." Many times in your life, you say, "God, I haven't been this way before. I haven't had a child. I haven't had a sickness. I haven't had a mother with Alzheimer's before. I haven't had my husband have an affair before. I haven't had this situation. I haven't had my best friend stab me in the back. I haven't been this way before." And God says, "Follow Me; follow Me, because then you will know which way to go." You'll know how to act. You'll know what to say. You'll know how to behave, because you haven't been this way before.
Verse five; "Consecrate yourselves." There has to be some sense of consecration. If you are not changed from when you were a non-believer, you're not a believer. You're not a Christian because you grew up in any church. I'm not a car because I'm in a garage. I'm not a bagel because I'm in a bakery. And you're not a Christian because you're in a pew.
When I got engaged to Frank, Grandma said, "Is he a Christian boy?" She didn't mean, does he love Jesus? She meant, is he not Jewish? (Laughter) And when you read about the wars and the Christians killing this one in Northern Ireland, those are not capital C Christians. Those are delineations that man has put on for socioeconomic reasons. We would love so easily to make the Christians in one group and the Muslims in the other and the Jews in the other.
A capital C Christian knows that she knows, that she knows, that she's saved, because she's so wonderful. No. (Laughter) She knows that she's saved because she's so rich and wealthy and she's really helped out at church. No. She knows that she's saved because she's jumped through all the right hoops and when she was married she was a virgin. No. (Laughter) She is saved because God put skin on and came to earth and hung on a cross and let the blood drip down and she's washed white, clean. Anything she's ever done is not only forgiven, it's forgotten. How does He do that? I have no idea, but I'm so happy. (Laughter) Forgotten. We must prepare ourselves.
The next one, separation; now listen, I cannot stand separatist Christianity. It bothers me. If you only have Christians in your life, something's wrong. We moved to Virginia. My husband worked for a Christian ministry; we put our kids in a Christian school. I was a Christian speaker. We were at a Christian church; we had Christian friends and I said, "Not good," because your world becomes this little bubble and it's important to be with people who don't look like you, who don't smell like you, who don't talk like you. I'm not saying for you to hang out with old friends with bad habits, but I'm saying, "Take those friends along with you where you're going." Make sure that you don't end all those relationships.
If we're "holier than thou," we're not gonna affect anybody. Jesus didn't win converts by being divisive and derisive and derogatory. He won converts by saying, "Hey, let's have lunch. Come on down from that tree. Hey, hang out with me. Reputation, who cares?" It was mercy and goodness and kindness. Mother Theresa said that if you are judging people you cannot love them; there's no time.
Separation is important as far as some sense of, that you must make sure that you are not acting like the world anymore. You're not watching that garbage anymore. You're not reading that smut anymore. You're mouth has cleaned up. Perfectly, no, none of us are, but are we getting there? Yes. Am I a better Christian than a year ago, five years ago? Yes. Do I hope to show improvement six months from now? Yes.
At the end of the first millennium there were monks called Pillar People and they decided that not to sin they would live up on top of pillars, plateaus in the mountainsides and rocks. They'd bring enough provisions for six months or so. Their friends would come up and bring a few more. So, they couldn't sin; they couldn't talk; they couldn't get in trouble.
Henry Jowett said this, "It is possible to evade a multitude of sorrows by the cultivation of an insignificant life. Indeed if a person's ambition is to avoid trouble, the recipe is simple. Shed your ambitions; cut the wings of every purpose and seek a little life with a few purposes, a few relations and a few contacts. If you want to get through the world with the smallest trouble, reduce yourself to the smallest compass. Tiny souls can dodge through life. Bigger souls are blocked on every side. As soon as a person enlarges his or her life, resistances are multiplied. If you are petty and selfish and just caring about yourself, you will have no trouble. If you are interested in the agenda of Christ, your suffering will be increased on every side."
My next book is gonna be called God Is Good, People Rot. (Laughter) Not really, but I think it's a good title. (Laughter) People are disappointing. People break your heart; they let you down. Where did you think you were gonna find the perfect person? His name is Jesus. And certainly not in a spouse, for those of you that are married. Husbands make lousy saviors. (Laughter) Frank is not the center of my world. He's so relieved. (Laughter) All those love songs, you know, that you're the center of my life and with you I'm born again and baby you're everything. That lasts a week. (Laughter)
John: Some seasoned perspectives there from Ellie Lofaro on today's "Focus on the Family" and in a few moments, she'll share an unforgettable story for every parent of teenagers. Now this show and the one I mentioned earlier with Bo Stern about her husband's battle with ALS are both part of our Best of 2015 CD collection. You can also get it in audio download form. Ask about that when you call 800-A-FAMILY or stop by www.focusonthefamily.com/radio. Let's go ahead and listen more now to Ellie Lofaro as she explains how we, as Christians, can be in the world, but not of it.
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Ellie: There must be some separatism; there must be some separation so that you know, you know what, I can love them. I can pray for them, but I'm not them anymore. It is so powerful to see the women in my neighborhood Bible study who are saying, "I didn't have to say to them, 'Stop this; stop that; stop this; stop that.'" They're saying to me slowly, "You know, Ellie, I'm not so comfortable anymore with that group or with that humor. I'm not so comfortable anymore with that TV on in my house." It is so hard, isn't it, ladies? Listen, you're the keeper of the gate. Frank works hard and long. He flies out of the country sometimes. I am watching what goes on in the house. That's my job. I run the house. I'm a domestic engineer (Laughter) and I'm tryin' to do a good job of it, but it's not easy and my kids are sharp and they're cultured and they want to do things and they want to see things.
I love the story of these three teenage children that went to their Christian father and said, "Daddy, please we know you have a strict rule about R-rated movies, but please, just, Daddy, this once. Sit down, dad. Can we talk to you?" They were so intense, he said, "Sure I'll sit down." "Dad, listen, this new movie, it's just really great and there's pros and cons, but dad there's just a couple of cons. There's a couple of curses, dad, but we asked some people at church who said not too many curses, not too bad." (Laughter) "And dad, there's a sex scene, but it's not right on the screen. It's kind of like suggested off screen. That's about it, but dad, the pros. It's the best actors and actresses in Hollywood. It's a great cast. There's a great story line. There's a great plot, dad. There's like a redemption scene at the end. Oh and dad, there's a lot of special effects. It's just unbelievable. And dad, we don't want to feel like nerds! Please dad, reconsider, just this one movie."
He said, "You guys really thought a lot about this. Give me a day." They left the room, those three teenagers, "high-fiving" each other. (Laughter) We got him now. Next night they came back in and they said, "Well, dad, what do you think?" He said, "You know, I've given a lot of thought and I'm gonna let you see that movie, but first you have to have one of my brownies." They turned over and on the coffee table was a plate of freshly baked brownies. And the father said, "You know what? Those brownies, they're special, but they've got a couple of pros and cons." (Laughter) " Let me tell you the pros. These brownies have been made with the most choice ingredients, the freshest, freshest chocolate, the most premium walnuts. These brownies have frosting on them. These brownies were made by your father's own loving hands. These brownies are moist beyond moist. There's only one con. I mixed in some dog poop." (Laughter) " I baked it at 350; I think I killed the bacteria." (Laughter)
The teenagers left the room. (Laughter) It's hard work being the keeper of the gate, but you cannot, you cannot consider yourself separated if you're doing the same old, same old. Now listen to me, those of you who have husbands that deal with issues of pornography and other such things. I'm not suggesting that you have control over everything in your house, but you have control over many things. The people that you gave birth to should not be ordering you around. You are in charge of your home and if … (Applause) if you need to find a counselor, if you need to find a pastor, if you need to dial 1-800-A-FAMILY, you do it and you take back those reins. Submissive does not mean subservient. We're not doormats unless we lay down, ladies. My heart is brokenhearted for the women who just feel like they're prisoners of their own home. When did that happen? That's not God's way. We must be separated, but it has to be an issue of a holiness. There has to be some sense where you are different. You are different.
Paris is 15. She's a honors freshman in English. I taught English for 10 years. I don't care about my kids' homework. I don't get involved with it. I say to them when they asked for help, "I did fifth grade. I did very well. (Laughter) Now you're in fifth grade. Good luck!" (Laughter) You know, what is it these days? We're doing our kids' homework. Have you visited these science projects there? The kids didn't do the project. (Laughter) What a joke! I want to take the projects to the parking lot afterwards and swap for next year. (Laughter) I don't think that's Christian. (Laughter)
But I really don't get into it, because I think, I was a teacher. I'm just kinda like, laissez-faire about it. My husband, on the other hand, is like a lieutenant colonel. He wants the first grader to do rough drafts. (Laughter) Frank, go easy on them. When my son got a C, he said, "You'll be in the streets." (Laughter) "You'll be homeless." You know, he was making some connection between the C and not making it in life. I was like, "Frank, take it easy; don't be so hard on them, honey." But there has to be a sense, there has to be a sense that we are separated.
My daughter has a wildly liberal English teacher with wild ideas, with wild philosophies. And she keeps picking books; they're not the classics and its' really killin' me, 'cause I want to tell her what books to teach. And okay, be quiet; you're the mother. Don't get involved. So, I don't say anything, but she comes back with this mumbo-jumbo, globbly, gooky books on all the philosophies. And one chapter is about how the words of Jesus really can't be substantiated. So, she had to refute that and I decided to get involved. (Laughter)
We spent 2 1/2 hours. We talked about the Synoptic Gospels. We talked about Josephus, the Hebrew historian. We talked about all kinds of things. She came back two days later. We got a D. (Laughter) We got a D! And Paris learned about what it is to be separate, what it is to be separate, to stand apart.
My daughter thinks I'm so popular because of this Bible study and I say, "You know what, Paris, for every woman sitting in the Bible study, there are two or three of her friends who do not like me." You will not be patted on the back when you become a Christian. You will not be "high-fived" every time you do the right thing. You're a Christian; you follow Jesus. They killed Him. What did you think would happen to you? Life is not easy. God promises trouble. There will be a cross. There will be burdens. Whether you have faith or you don't have faith, life has trouble. I want to go through life with faith. Every problem makes me bitter or better, bitter or better.
There's preparation and there's separation and there's anticipation. Three and twelve, "Now then, take for yourselves 12 men from the tribes of Israel, one man for each tribe. I shall come when the soles of the feet of the priests who carried the Ark when they're in the water." There's anticipation there. Verse 14; "So it came that when they set out from their tents to cross the Jordan with the priests, they followed him." There's anticipation; there's excitement.
Have you been anticipating something for this day? Dorothy and I spoke just a little bit six months ago, a year ago and then, when the months came closer, we talked more. I got her to promise me cannoli's. (Laughter) There's anticipation and I get excited. I get excited to come to these events. And what a privilege to be able to just come and address you and be an encourager. And I hope that you were excited about today and I hope that you weren't just spending a little money to get away on a Saturday. There's excitement, because we're gonna meet God here. We're gonna be with other women. We're gonna come together. We're gonna have unity and solidarity. We're going to hear from the Word; we're gonna be encouraged in our hearts. We're gonna have some laughter. There's anticipation.
The Jews were told to anticipate, get ready. Something great's gonna happen. You're gonna get in the river. And when they get in the river, the water will be stopped. I love that. I like the story of the senior woman who was passing slowly with a sickness and she called on her pastor. She was single; she never had children. She wanted to review her funeral plans and she told him everything she wanted--the dress and her Bible. And she wanted to hold that and she wanted to be in a certain way in the coffin and she wanted certain music played. And before he left, she said, "One more thing, Pastor." "Yes, what is it?" "I want to have a fork in my right hand." He said, "A fork?"
And she said, "Yes, I grew up in the … in the South and on Sundays it was a long way to church. We stayed there all day. We had church and then we had [a] picnic and we had potluck and then we had church at night. And after lunch, when the men said, 'Keep the fork; keep your fork," it meant something really good was comin', not Jell-O or pudding, but German chocolate cake (Laughter), apple pie. I want people to see the fork there and I want them to say, 'What's with the fork?' And I want you to tell them, Pastor, that something better's coming; something good is coming." Anticipation, anticipation.
The senior citizen's home that I visit, the Christian women in their 80's and 90's visit non Christian's in their 60's and 70's. And you would not believe that there's that age difference. They look the same age, because one's bitter and one's better. One is waiting to die. One is angry at the world. One feels like nobody's thanked her. One feels like she's never gotten her day in the sun; her ship's never come in. And one feels, ha, she has every promise given to her and that she has eternity to enjoy them. One knows that she'll see her mother again, her baby again, her best friend again. One is excited.
John: And that's a beautiful reminder from Ellie Lofaro on today's Best of 2015 edition of "Focus on the Family," as she was talking about the eternal promises of God and how we can hold onto those. And I really appreciated her word picture there, as she wrapped up that message about the confidence that those senior saints had, as they anticipate heaven.
Jim: Oh, John, I mean, that is how I want to be when I get older. I want to finish strong as a bold witness for Christ, have that joyful spirit that the Lord gives us. And you know, one of the reasons that we make CDs of this program available is because people can use them as a tool to reach others for Christ.
In fact, the last time we aired this program back in March, a listener wrote in and said, "I have a friend whose baby died recently and she's not a Christian. I'm gonna give her the CD of Focus's Ellie Lofaro program and I'm praying that it'll minister to her grieving heart."
John: Well, that's a great idea.
Jim: It is, John and we've said this before, but I'll say it again, Focus on the Family is here to promote the Gospel. Without that, everything else is just dust in the wind, as the song says. The Gospel is our firm foundation, upon which we stand. And from there, we can provide time-tested truths for your marriage, for your role as a parent and that's why we air programs like today's, to share yet another facet of God's love for us.
And as we get close to the end of the year, may I remind you that we are a listener-supported ministry and this is a critical time for us to hear from you. It costs a lot of money to buy time on radio stations and have the team members available to take calls and even pray with the folks.
And last year, I think we did something like 60 or 70,000 counseling calls and many of these are very difficult phone calls--people that are contemplating suicide. We count it a privilege to be able to be there in that moment, so we can provide help.
I hope you'll stand with us to be there, to do the job we need to do in the name of Christ. And if you can make a donation today of any amount, we'll send you a CD of this message from Ellie Lofaro, so that you can pass it along to a friend or family member who needs to hear the message. And right now, through a special matching gift, some friends of this ministry have offered to double your donation. So, if you give $25, it'll be 50 or 50, 100. Reach out to us and help us touch twice as many families in 2016.
John: You can do that at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio , also through our mobile app or when you call 800-232-6459; 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.
And please remember that our counseling team is here during business hours to take your call and maybe we'll have to take your name and number and get back to you. Sometimes volume is so high, but we are here to help and that number again, 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.
Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly, thanks for listening. I'm John Fuller, inviting you back tomorrow. Cynthia Tobias joins us to explain what parenting middleschoolers is really all about.
Cynthia Tobias: Well, it's like relaxing your grip on the steering wheel, but not taking your hands off the wheel. They still need you. They'll always need you, but how they need you changes through those developing ages, so you can't afford to hang on so tightly, but you can't afford to let go either.
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John: That's next time, as we once again, help you and your family thrive.
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Ellie LofaroView Bio
Ellie Lofaro is an author, a public speaker and the founder of Heart, Mind & Soul Ministries. Her books include Spaghetti for the Soul (co-authored with Kathy Troccoli), From Battle Scars to Beauty Marks, Leap of Faith and Slices of Life. Ellie and her husband, Frank, reside in northern Virginia and have three grown children. Learn more about Ellie and her ministry by visiting www.ellielofaro.com.