The Table Experience: Creating Deeper Relationships Through Hospitality

March 26, 2010 Devi Titus

Session Transcript

Devi Titus: Good afternoon. I’m Devi Titus, and welcome to my home. If it were possible, I would have you all in my living room, but since I have come to Chattanooga, we are enjoying a living-room environment that we have created in our imagination here at this wonderful facility. Isn’t this an incredible—I don’t call it a conference. I call it an encounter. Does anybody here say “Amen” in this crowd? (Sounds of applause) Whoo!

Before we begin this session officially, and as the last few people are coming in, I’m just going to briefly share with you a few of the products that I have and just very briefly a little bit about me. I live in Dallas, Texas. It was seven years ago after speaking to 30,000 women that year in conference settings, I decided that we needed a different way of doing ministry. I opened what I call the Mentoring Mansion. I invite eight women at a time to come and spend four days with me, and I’ll be your mom.

So often we hear biblical principles taught, and you’ve paid to come to the conference. You want to do what the Word says. Now, just lift your hand if you want to do what the Word says—of course we want to. Our hearts are passionate about it, but unfortunately, we go home. We don’t even know how to remotely apply some of the practical things that the inspiration of the Word leads us to. So I tried to create products seven years ago that would practically be able to equip you in the how-to-do what Titus 2 says.

So, just briefly, what I brought to this conference is the book that I did create after I had over 1,000 women stay with me in the last six years for four days. It’s not a retreat. It’s not a spa. It’s a home, and you come and stay with me. I wake you up in the morning; I rub your feet at night and tuck you in like my little girls. How many want to come to my home?

I asked the Lord, “What would I tell you if you gave me the awesome gift of your time—which is the most valuable commodity you have in today’s world. What would I tell you in four days if I never saw you again? The Lord impressed to me to be a mentor is to merely pass the principles to you that have been the live revelations and values in my personal life starting as a young woman and have been my plumb line to hold me to the biblical values of womanhood.

So out of that curriculum with a thousand women—it’s tested; it’s proven; there are measurable outcomes in families and marriages and in personal lives—I’ve developed what now is in a coffee-table book. It’s called The Home Experience: How to Make Your Home a Place of Love and Peace. I’m going to talk to you today about the table, but I just want you to know about this resource.

Because my husband has “retired” from pastoring, and we are both mentoring in our senior years of mentoring, I understand the pastorate. I understand the church. I understand the need for curriculum and tools for you to be able to pass on the principles according to Titus 2. So if you were wanting to go home, you’re motivated, “How can I be a mentor to other women?” I have made it easy for you. I have what I am going to teach you in an easy coffee-table design so you won’t read it and put it away. It’s a reference. I have all of this on DVD, on CD, whatever you need to make it easy for you.

Then, I just brought a couple of other albums:

Ten Smart Choices a Woman Can Make to Improve Her Life. This is for your personal spiritual discipleship and your personal spiritual growth in your relationship with God.

I brought Raising Spiritually Sensitive Children. This is not behavioral psychology, but this deals with the spiritual heart of your children and how to till the soil so when the seed goes in, it will take deep root.

So, those are just a couple of advertisements and announcements.

It’s just an incredible privilege to be here, and, as I said a few minutes ago to you, your time is the most valuable thing that you have. I do not take it lightly that you have chosen to come to this class and to give me an hour and fifteen minutes to invest in your life. When I come to speak to you, I always ask God to do something that I cannot do, to unlock your heart, to open your mind, that every single one of you in the same way we offered you a nugget of chocolate, I am asking the Holy Spirit to give you a nugget of truth that you will remember and nothing can steal it and take it away from you.

I’m going to give you a lot of nuggets, but for every one of you, you will remember something very different.  You will remember because that’s God’s way of taking the Word, a truth, and then multiplying it according to our various places that we are in life. I believe that He is going to do that with you.

Our topic today is: The Table Experience: Discover What Creates Deeper, More Effective Relationships through Hospitality. I would like you to refer to your Manifesto as we open. This Manifesto is a wonderful articulation of a compilation of many, many, many biblical truths that are condensed and compiled into—what do we have?—fifteen, I’m going to call them, “set of values.” If you will refer to number nine today, this workshop is going to seek to equip you to fulfill it in maybe a more significant way in your life.

If you have number nine with you, would you read it with me together? Let’s just read it together:

Seek to establish homes that manifest the love, grace, beauty, and order of God that provides a climate conducive to nurturing life and that extends Christian hospitality to those outside the walls of our homes.

Why do you think that was put into this Manifesto, particularly in today’s culture regarding hospitality? Hospitality, in general, as we have known it in the past, is something that, in our busy lifestyles, our limited time, the expectations of our lives as women, some that we put on ourselves, and others that are perceived that others are putting on us, in the age of separation of families, of divorce, of increased responsibilities among women, how in the world do we create an environment of hospitality to be able to include others in our lives?

I always think of value as . . . Many of our values have eroded. It’s like an erosion. Think of a mountain which started out as being 10,000 feet high. Well, the peaks are the same shape, but in an erosion, it erodes from underneath or beneath, and you can’t tell that the elevation of that mountain is decreasing. But the reality is over the course of time, what used to be 10,000 feet elevation will decrease to 5,000, 3,000, 2,000. It looks similar on the outside, but the value of it is less. That’s what has happened to, not just our function of hospitality, but the value of hospitality as it is related to the New Testament church, which are the values that we hold to today as Christian women.

I always wondered why it was written in Timothy that in the list of qualifications of eldership, things that you probably can refer to briefly—he should be the husband of one wife, and so forth—why would husband of one wife and given to hospitality be on an equal plane?

I realized as a young woman, early, that if that list of qualifications for eldership or spiritual leadership for my husband, who was a pastor, was important to keep him qualified before the Lord, then I was going to have to participate in that call. I immediately embraced the fact that there was no way Larry could be hospitable without me embracing, creating the environment because there is one common element to hospitality, and that is that hospitality is done in the home.

Why is it done in the home? It is done in the home because God created the home to be the basis for human society. Stop and think about this: Church is not the basis for human society. Economics is not the basis for human society. Neither is education the basis for human society. Home is the institution that God created, not just . . . You know the country crafts that say “Home is where the heart is”? It’s not just where the heart is; it’s where the heart is formed. Everybody say that with me: “Home is where the heart is formed.” Say it again: “Home is where the heart is formed.”

So think about this for a second: The heart is either hurt, hardened, or hindered from the home; or it’s made safe, sensitive, and secure from the home.

Now, in pastoral ministry and counseling and talking and listening and now speaking to multitudes, I hear lots of stories, lots of struggle. We’ve heard them referred to already in this conference, and we’ve also been given incredible guidance toward the solution—Jesus Christ Himself.

However, in hearing those stories, every single story, every single issue relating to life, the Word flows out of the heart. God created the home to be the place where the heart is formed. It’s formed and shaped there. Every problem in life personally that you struggle with, you can track it down, and it will be what either happened or did not happen. Oh, I’m seeing heads. It looks like a wave across. I am seeing shoulders, heads, whole bodies going like this—because you know it’s true, isn’t it? What has happened is our minds—it’s not rebellion—but we as women have become so consumed with everything else besides the home. I always create a word picture. It’s like we have been living on a revolving restaurant. It moves so slowly. You can’t tell you’re moving away from the value until you look out the window and the scenery has changed.

I’m going to ask you right now: “What does your home look like? How did it look when you left? Could I come home with you?” (Sounds of laughter) Oh, my goodness. Maybe I should say it another way: “Why would you not want me to come home with you?” You answered your own question. I don’t know why. I have no expectation, but hospitality.

Let me give you just a few passages because in order for us to change an action on the outside, we must have a conviction on the inside. Otherwise, it’s like serving God and seeking to gain your own righteousness through works when we have no righteousness in ourselves. No matter how many genuflects we might do, or attempt to be good and do right, without the power of who Christ is in us, we simply are not righteous. It is Him who is righteous in and through us.

In the same way, you can go home and decide: “Okay, Devi says, the Manifesto says, I’m going to be a true woman, I need to be hospitable.” I did not tell you you need to be hospitable. I did not say that. The Manifesto does not say that. You told that to yourself. So you go home, and you try to do all these hard works, and then it just . . . you start, and you don’t follow through. Anybody start things that you didn’t finish? (laughter) Determined, “Okay, things are going to be different.” Then they’re different for a little while.

My goal is when I finish this one hour, the gift of time that you’ve given me, is that I will be able to embed a conviction into your heart from the Word. I’m not going to tell you how to do it or what you need to do it, the conviction will drive you. “Here is what God says, and here is how I’m going to apply this in my life.” It will look different with each one of us.

So regarding hospitality, 1 Peter 4:9 says, “Show hospitality to one another . . .” Now, this is the one that I think is important, that’s why I chose to read it first, “. . . without grumbling.” This doesn’t mean, “Oh my goodness, small group is coming up. Why did I sign up for this thing?” or “Oh. I’m done with this. They brought their kids over and tore up all my kids’ bedrooms. There’s no control.” Grumbling, complaining—hold it! Who owns what you have anyway?

I remember us using our home, and I had just gotten two brand new chairs. They were our first chairs. I saved Coke bottles. I know some of you are old enough to know we used to redeem them and get a dime. So I saved Coke bottles and everything I could do to collect money and save money, and I bought our first sofa and two velvet chairs.

W had been praying for this young man who was strung out on drugs. He was the brother of some people we were ministering to. He lived in an orchard out under the trees—literally, he slept in the leaves. He showed up on a hot summer day in cut off jeans—nothing else on—did you hear what I said? Nothing else on, including under the cutoffs—nothing else on.  On hot summer days, sweaty, filthy bodies stink like I’d never smelled before.

We had a split-level house. The doorbell rang. My husband opened the door. I peeked out the kitchen door, which was on the upper level aligned with the stairs. I saw this thing that looked like he had grown out of the earth, literally, and my husband said, “Oh, come in.” Larry turns and walks upstairs, and if looks could kill, he would be dead. (laughter) As he was walking upstairs, the young man was behind him. He couldn’t see me, so I’m going, “Take him to the basement; take him to the basement.” And my husband looked at me with a crooked grin—a crooked grin means, “I’m going to do what I’m going to do.” He stepped up, came up before my brand new gold, crushed velvet chairs and said, “Have a seat.” (laughter)

I went into the kitchen, and I said, “God, it’s not fair! I worked so hard! Once he sits in that chair, the velvet will be ruined!” And the Lord spoke to me, as clearly as could be, which, incidentally, is one of the principles (it’s actually chapter three); it’s the “use what you have” principle. He said, “Devi, when you use what you have, I will always see to it that you have what you need.”I surrendered that day my right to anything that I own.

I was in my twenties, and I’m so grateful that the revelation of Matthew 25, verse 10 through the end of the chapter, which is the “use what you have” principle: “He who is faithful with a few things.” The Master entrusts His possessions to us to build the kingdom. He was teaching about building the kingdom. How do you build the kingdom? One of the ways to build the kingdom is to use the possessions through hospitality.

Do you have a sofa? Do you have a chair? Do you have a cup? A saucer? Do you have a mug? Do you have a glass for cold water? That’s all that’s required. Do you have a chocolate? Did you feel special when you came into this workshop today? We used what we had. “What could I carry to give to the ladies when they come into the environment that I have created? What could I take in a suitcase this big?” Use what you have. I thought, “I could put—I don’t have a vase—I could put a cut flower on that tray, a little doily, and a simple piece of chocolate. It’s because there’s a conviction in here of using what I have is important.

So He says, “Use what you have with one another without grumbling and complaining.”

First Timothy 3:2: “Overseers must be above reproach, husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable. . .” Now, those are significant qualifications for spiritual leadership, and included in that is that we . . . Now the Word says, I didn’t say “need to be,” but this says “must be.” It’s not an option. This isn’t one of those choices that one has for spiritual leadership. I don’t know about you, but I’m not aspiring to leadership. I’m aspiring to godliness, and I want to be qualified spiritually in case He wants to use me in a significant way. Anybody feel like that in your life, or my children, or my grandchildren?

Incidentally, I want to tell you about my family. We have two children. My husband and I have been married 46 years, and we have two children. Our daughter was a stay-at-home mom and has raised four godly children, three of whom are married, and her baby is 17. He’s a junior in high school.

The oldest child of my daughter is now married and, well, three are married, but the oldest has two children, so we have two great-grandbabies. We have six grandchildren.

Our son has two children, and he is a godly man teaching Physics in a university. So he’s influencing the next generation of scientists in America. Hallelujah! God is moving. He’s working throughout the land.

I asked my son, now Dr. Aaron, a physicist, who teaches way beyond his age across America in his field of study—I was preparing a lesson, and I called him and said, “Aaron, growing up in our home, what would be one significant thing that you could think of that we did routinely as a family that made an impact on your character, on your life, on your choices, on your spirituality?”

Well, I had an answer that I was hoping he would say because it would fit really good in my outline (laughter), but he didn’t say it. (more laughter) Quickly he said, “Oh, that’s easy, Mom.” I said, “It is?” I just knew he was going to say how I did our holidays. They were quite spectacular. The truth of it is: I was doing them for me, not for them. They could care less about the glamorous, gorgeous Christmas tree. He wanted one with colored lights, not all white lights. I learned that, unfortunately, a little late.

He quickly answered, “Oh, that’s easy, Mom. What impacted and shaped my life the most for the choices I have made are the people that you and Dad invited into our home.”

Who were those people? In our personal home, they were people getting out of prison, and we were their home plan. Sometimes, in those days, they were hitchhikers because the Word says we are to include strangers, not just people from our church or our relatives, those sojourners. We are to include the aliens; that’s people of other races, cultures, and habits.

He said, “It was from the prisoners to the missionaries, people of all walks of life who stayed in our house from time to time, and that’s what shaped my values. That’s what made the gospel real to me.”

No wonder hospitality is a qualification for spiritual leadership, because hospitality does as much for you as the servant as it does for those who come into your environment.

Now, if home is where the human heart is formed, it’s not just for your children that it’s formed. For anyone who walks through your threshold, there is going to be an imprint of example made on their life. There’s a supernatural work that happens in the human soul when someone comes into your home and particularly is invited to sit at your table. That’s where I want to focus right now.

If you want to look at Exodus chapter 25, you will see that this is where the first table (and my newest book is The Table Experience: Discover What Creates Deeper More Meaningful Relationships) you will see that the very first table in the Bible is recorded in Exodus 25. It’s where God told Moses to build the table in the tabernacle. He said, “I want you to build the table.” Now, get the setting because the first verses in the beginning of chapter 25, verses 1 through 24 . . . I’m just going to go through this very briefly. It’s not the entire focus, so I can’t devote my whole time to this, but you have to get this conviction. It’s all in here. It’s in the other book. I have it on DVDs. I have it on CDs. It’s what I speak on everywhere I go.

Because I went to the Lord and said, “Why, with the larger conferences than we’ve ever had in history, the larger gatherings, the largest churches than ever in history before, why are the divorce rates among church-attending families now 1% higher than those who do not attend church?” I’m not in the entertainment business, going from conference to conference. If what I am speaking isn’t a message that makes a difference, than I’m going to stay home and curl up with my honey—46 years, are you kidding? We’ve got a lot invested in each other. I don’t need to be away for four days unless it can make a difference.

In my quest to find an answer to “God, why?”, I had come across some psychological research in universities that said, “Children who eat at tables [this was from the American Psychological Association] children who eat at tables are less likely to do drugs, to struggle with depression. They’re more academically motivated. They have better relationships with peers if they eat at a family dinner table a minimum of five times a week.”

Dr. Chris Stout, former president of Illinois Psychological Association says, “One key to raising emotionally healthy children is to treat each subject, such as problems with peer, or school, or work are more easily approached across the table.”

Other research: University of Minnesota, Harvard, Purdue, North Carolina: “Drug use, sex, violence, emotional stress were less likely in households where parents were present at crucial times, especially during meals.”

So I had read that; I knew that existed. They know it works. They know that there’s something significant about bringing people—whether it’s your family, your children, or outsiders. God knew that it was significant. He recorded it in His Word. And studies know in our culture today what is now missing because there’s such insecurity, a lack of focus—we call it “attention deficit disorder”—but it’s because the family isn’t coming to the table.

I wanted to know, ‘What’s so special about the table?” So I went to the Word and did this research. Well, the first table was built for the tabernacle. You will remember that God told Moses the specific instructions of how to build it. He said, “I want you to make four corners on four legs, so many cubits high.” Did you know the measurement of that table is the measurement of the tables that you and I sit at today? Did you know that Moses grew up in Egyptian culture, and Egyptian culture did not have tables with legs and table tops. They were slabs of marble on the floor. This was the first table built, the model that all over the world uses as a place to eat meals.

And, skimming over this very quickly, but you would know that in the beginning of that chapter, the first piece of furniture in the tabernacle God told Moses to build was the Ark of the Covenant, and that would be where the container of God’s presence would be. Now, you and I couldn’t experience His presence directly. We had to wait, bring a sacrifice. His people, and the priest would then, on our behalf, bring the blood of the animal to the table. Then behind the veil that separated the presence of God from us, he would go in once a year with that, having brought the blood sacrifice to the table, into the Holy of Holies for your sins to be remitted.

Well, what was at the table? This is what I want to read to you because it’s that second piece of furniture. “After you make the Ark of the Covenant, the place where My presence is, separate it with a veil,” verse 23, “make a table of acacia wood, two cubits long, one cubit wide, one cubit high, one and a half cubits high. You shall overlay it with pure gold and make a gold border around it.”

I’ll skip down, verse 26: “You shall make four rings, [fasten it to] the four corners on its four legs.”

Verse 28: “You shall make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold, so that with them the table may be carried.” Verse 29—“You shall make [plates, dishes, pitchers] and bowls in which to pour out drink offerings; you shall make them of pure gold” (NASB, see also Exodus 37:10-16).

I read that, and I thought, “The table in the tabernacle had plates?” Now, if you have an NIV Study Bible, look at the sketch there. There are no plates on the illustrations that you and I look at on that table—nothing that matches the text does the sketch illustrate. What’s happened? Tradition—tradition has skewed our perception of what the text even says.

It says, “Moses, after you make a table.” Then over in chapter 32, once it gets all built . . . Think of God as the architect and Moses as the general contractor. So he says later in the book, “I want you then, after it was all made, weave a fine linen tablecloth, put the linen tablecloth on the table, then I want you to make dishes” (see Numbers 4:7).

Now, do you have some different Bibles here? Read to me out of that verse what we’re to make to go on the table? According to your translation, just the items. I have plates, dishes, flagons, which are pitchers, and bowls. Does anybody have any other thing? Pans, spoons, jars, which are goblets, pitchers and bowls. So we have plates, pans, spoons, pitchers, bowls, jars, which are goblets, and no illustrations that you can see anywhere in any study books or commentaries to show those items that are listed in this text. Now, what happened?

Let’s look at the next verse, after you set the table (Exodus 25:30, NIV) and you shall set “the bread of the Presence [to be] on the table before me at all times.” Who is the bread of the Presence? Behind the veil is the Holy of Holies, which is the presence of God. Who is “the bread of the Presence [to be set] on the table before me at all times”?

Remember, the blood of the animal was brought  where? To the table. It was at the table, with the bread of the presence and the blood of the lamb that represents or is redemption. So it is at the table that the human soul is relieved from the oppression of sin through redemption, cleansed in order to enter in to the presence of God.

Remember when Jesus said on the cross, “It is teleo”? That word means “finished.” “It is finished” (John 19:30). What was finished when He said, “It is finished”? What was finished is that you and I no longer have to wait once a year to go through a priest to be able to come to the table and experience the redemptive presence of Jesus that works miracles in the human heart. It is so much so that academic motivation is evolved in your young struggling child’s life when we sit at the table. A husband who has become distant emotionally, when you set a table and prepare it, there is something supernatural that happens at that table. Sociologists and psychologists know that it happens. They don’t know why.

I am here to propose to you that just perhaps that at the table the bread of the presence that Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life,” that there is life when we come to the table. Life infuses us, therefore, when we practice hospitality.  We bring somebody who is discouraged in life, hopeless in life, who doesn’t want to continue in life, and we bring them to the table. It doesn’t say, “Prepare a fat meal.” He just said, “Set the table.” When you set the table, after you set the table, let Me do the rest of the work in the human hearts who come to the table.

So when Jesus said, “It is finished,” what happened? The veil in the temple slit—where? From the top to the bottom.  And there was a great crrrrrrrraaaaaccccccckkkkkk (sounds of a crash) earthquake. Is that right?

You know what I think about that earthquake? We’ve experienced great earthquakes in land today. You see that when there’s a great earthquake, everything shifts and nothing remains the same. When on Calvary Jesus said, “It’s finished.” You no longer go through the priest. The dividing veil from the presence of God came down. Everything on earth shifted. Nothing remained the same.  I think the earth quaked because the power of the presence of the Almighty God merged and infused with the redemptive presence of Jesus at the table and became the power that you and me have access to every single day of our life.

That means that there’s nothing that we encounter in our life that He has not empowered us to be able to go through, to have a solution to it, and to be able to overcome it. And that’s what redemption is about.

In this research I went all through the entire study of the Word, and I’m just going to show you some passages.

Revelation 3:20 says, “Behold, I stand at the door and” (knocking sound).  Hello? Anybody here? Anybody home? Oh, no, it’s youth group night. Hello? Anybody home? Oh, it’s choir practice night. Hello? Anybody home? It’s Bible study night. Hello? Anybody home? It’s soccer night. Hello? Anybody home? Oh, they’ve gone to a movie. Hello-o-o-o-o-o! Is anybody home? “I stand at the door and knock, and if anybody will answer the door” (paraphrased).

I had a lady stop by unannounced. I just met her; I had her over for coffee last week. She wanted to get this table CD, and I had it for her. She was by my neighborhood, and she rang my doorbell without letting me know she was coming. She was horribly apologetic, and I said, “You can stop by my house any time. You don’t have to call.” She wasn’t accustomed to that.

Does Jesus have to call you ahead? (Audience responds: “No.”) He says, “If you’ll open the door when I knock, I want to come in and” and do what? (Audience responds: “Sup with you.”) What? Eat with you. I don’t see in the text that He wants to eat with you driving through the drive-thru.

I went through and looked at the human soul. Here was a prisoner who had just gotten out of prison—2 Kings 25:29. I’m skimming over these very fast. For the rest of his life he took off his prison clothes. “For the rest of his life he ate regularly [where] at the king’s table” (NIV).

Now, it reminded me of the prisoner who had come to our home when he got out of prison. The day before he was to come, I got a call from the parole officer who said, “May I stop by your house, Devi? Everything is settled for him to come (I’m going to call him John) . . . Everything is settled for John to come to your house tomorrow, but I haven’t spoken to you face to face. And then all the paperwork will be finished.”

“Sure, come on by.”

I got up early that morning that he was coming by, and I had a busy afternoon. I got out a pot roast, put it in my oven, thinking, “What would a man in prison for thirteen years want to eat for dinner?” I stuck it in the oven, set it on automatic. I had some shriveled up apples, so I quickly home baked a couple of apple pies. It didn’t take me more than thirty minutes.  I know, I saw your eyebrows go, “What?” The young ones don’t even know what one looks like. No, I’m teasing. (laughter)

But he came to my house, and he said to me, “I just need to hear from you face to face that you fully understand why he has been in prison thirteen years before he comes to your house tomorrow.”

I said, “He’s been in prison thirteen years for assault and rape.”

And he said, “And it’s okay with you for him to come to your house?”

I said, “I trust my husband.”

He took a deep breath and said, “Okay.”

His hand gesture was this—as, “If anything happens to you, I won’t be responsible.”

So I got dinner ready, set the table, and my husband brought him home that day, just like Jehoiachin. There is something significant about bringing someone who’s lost everything. Here was a king who was in prison. He’d lost his reputation; he lost his wealth; he lost his dignity; he lost his manliness. And how did the king restore him? He said, “You will always eat at my. . .” (Audience responds: “Table”) Why? Because there is the bread of the presence, a supernatural something that none of us fully understands that can heal a human soul when they are invited at our table.  After that table is prepared, for those that we bring to the table, we intentionally in our spirit say, “God, do Your work. Jesus, be the Redeemer of this person.”

We didn’t quote Scripture—we prayed like we always do. But here’s what happened: When I invited him to the table . . . Stop and think about this. From the time in America that the feminism tide rose from the 1950s (we’ve been hearing about that this weekend), our homes were redesigned. Counters replaced tables. I can just see the enemy thinking, “If I can just get the American family, that culture that was founded on a biblical principle. They will never deny their God.” You won’t deny your God. Not one woman in this room will deny God. I know that. “So [the Enemy says], what I will do is get her so busy doing good things. I’ll redesign her home. I’ll get rid of their tables. I’ll build bars and counters. I’ll seat their family side by side instead of face to face, facing a wall to eat. They will emotionally disconnect. I’ll break down their values, and I will have their culture.”

I lived in a house that didn’t have a kitchen table. It had been replaced with a counter. There was a room that I could put a dining room table in. I hadn’t studied this yet, but for me, it was an instinctive value.

So I set the table that night. It was our everyday dishes like we eat from every day. My daughter was married, so we just had our son at home. There were four of us at the table. I invited John to his place and said, “Have a seat.” He crossed in front of me. He was very tall, from Philadelphia, with a Rocky kind of accent, and he kind of went, “Ugh” like Rocky. I said, “Have a seat.” My husband sat down, our son sat down, and he sort of lunged. It was like his feet were stuck to the floor. A look of consternation came over his face, almost like fear.

I questioned him two or three times, “Have a seat. Is something wrong? Have a seat.” Finally, he looked at me with eye contact. That great, big, muscular man, the day he got out of prison after thirteen years, said to me, “I’ve never sat (with a quivering chin) at a table before.” Now, prisons have tables. What he meant was at home with a family.

As I was doing this study, I reflected back to this experience.  I then thought, “What if he had sat at a table? Perhaps his life could have been different.” But because Larry and I showed hospitality, his life became different.

Did we have the power through our counseling? Did we have the wisdom? Did we have the understanding of the background of his lifestyle? The answer is, “No, no, no, no.” Do we have the power to change a human heart? No!

You don’t have the power to change your adult daughter you have conflict with. You have gone over and over the issues. You’re not changing; she’s not changing. It seems like you can’t get past the issue, and everything that you have said may be right, but it still doesn’t help. I’m going to suggest to you: Why don’t you set the table? Invite her over for whatever you want to serve her, and just see if the bread of the Presence will do in your heart and in her heart what you haven’t been able to do.

That’s the power of hospitality. It’s not the garnish on the glass that changes the heart. It’s the preparation.

I think of Abraham when he saw the three men coming ahead. If you look at that text, you will see several significant action steps that he took.  He saw three men who must have been at a distance because the Word says that he ran toward them—so in other words, he initiated. Now it ended up being the Lord he recognized. “Oh my God, oh Lord.” But then he also said, “Let me make You comfortable. Can I get You something?” So he got them comfortable. In other words, “Come on it. Have a seat.”

If I know someone is coming to my home, and I’ve prepared something for them, I know what time they’re arriving. I make sure I’m not back in my master bathroom when they’re driving up the driveway. I peek out the window. I try to meet them in motion, if possible, so they’re not standing, looking up on the porch wondering when I’m going to answer the doorbell. No, I want them to feel the love and the anticipation of me knowing that they’re arriving. That’s what hospitality does. It is the union and the connection of hearts coming together, the interweaving.

In the Old Testament days, in hospitality, when someone came to your home, the master took the form of the servant, and the guest took the form of the master. So the master did everything for that guest as if he was the master, and the master was his slave. So that’s our mentality, and it creates a supernatural union of human hearts and lives, I believe, from the beginning of time, it was because God created that table.

So I continued going through the Word and seeing the significance of the table. How was the prodigal son restored? Quickly, at the table. The father said, “Mom! Cook a meal. He’s home!” Now, I simplified it for the sake of time .

There was the woman that came with the alabaster jar of very expensive perfume which she poured on Jesus’ head while He was reclining where? (Audience: table). It wasn’t in the temple.

It’s wisdom to prepare meals. Proverbs 9:2 says: “She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine; she has also set her . . . (audience: table).” Say it: Proverbs 9:2. The reason I want you to say it is I want you to know I didn’t say that. The Word says it. Who was she? She is not gender. She is wisdom.

So the Word is saying, “It is wisdom when you have time crunches, you have a busy week, a scheduled week, a week of obligations and of responsibilities; it is wisdom for you to prepare.” Why? Because you know the value that something supernatural is going to happen when you eventually get to the table. Now, if it’s not today, you go ahead and set it. Your family will at least anticipate if it’s not today, it will be, maybe, tomorrow.

So I suggest when you unload your dishwasher, don’t take your plates to your cabinet that’s over there, if your table is over there. Take your plates out of the dishwasher and put them directly on the table. It saves a step.  But most of you are going to have to clear the table off . . . bills, newspapers, computer—everything except placemats and goblets.

So it’s just a practical way to shift the value. Why? Because the Word says it’s wisdom to prepare your meat. “What are we going to eat for dinner tomorrow night? It’s church night. We have to be there early; the kids have this. How are we going to have a meal together?” Well, that just might be the day that on your noon hour, you may need to stop at the deli, if you are employed. If you are not employed you prepare. But however it works into your lifestyle, you are shifting values. Why? Because you now have a conviction that there is something beyond you that is going to happen to the human heart of anyone that you open your heart to and will allow a coming together through the ministry of hospitality within your family and beyond your family.

The next one I want to read to you is Psalm 128:3. “Your wife will be like a fruitful vine [where?] in your house” (NIV).

Now, we women for the last forty years have been told, “If you get your education, your true sense of value, significance, and fruitfulness will be not in your house. You don’t feel significant from spending time in your house. Your house is not important.” While that diabolical spirit was lying to us, Martha Stewart became the wealthiest woman in America selling to us our values. She knew it was valuable to you, and she became the wealthiest woman proving that the feminist lie was truly a lie, that always in the heart of a woman is a value for the home. She sold the home during the season that we bought the lie that it wasn’t important, and we left the home. But the Word says we will be a fruitful vine in our house.

Now, I don’t argue the point if you should work outside the home. I sure don’t argue the point that you should or should not have degrees. My son has a PhD; his wife has a PhD; I have a high school degree. How’s that? (laughter) Hey, it rhymed. (laughter)

Those are not the issues. The issue is we all have a home, and the issue is what happens when you come into your home. How is it affecting and shaping the hearts there, including your own? Because true fulfillment and fruitfulness come based on how you treated the home, not on how you treated your job or your profession. That creates a lot of anxiety, actually, according to studies.

“And your sons [or your children] will be like olive shoots around your” (audience: table).  Say it again: (audience: table).  Not like olive shoots in the university classroom in the special lessons over here or here. It’s around your table. Why? Because the significance of an olive tree is that the roots of an olive tree go deeper than any other tree. For hundreds of years there’s life. No storm in life can uproot an olive tree. Did you hear me?

So the Word says, “Around your table, your children’s roots—their character—will form so deep that when they grow up, no storm in life that they will encounter will uproot their character.” Why? Because you set the (audience: table).

Do you know of people who are struggling in their personal life, in their character, in their identity, and sense of esteem? Friends, family, neighbors?

We just moved into a new neighborhood in Dallas, Texas, bought our home in October. It’s a down-size stage in our life. I sold three-fourths of what I owned, and I have to tell you, when I packed a historic home in Youngstown, Ohio, seven bedrooms, five bathrooms, four levels, oh me. I hated myself. I had collected and filled it. Why had I gathered so much stuff? I got rid of three-fourths of it. We moved into a little neighborhood, and one of the ladies that lives diagonal from me . . . No two human beings could be as opposite as that woman and me—philosophically, religiously. Her gardens are filled with Buddhas, Zens.  She’s a wonderful gardener with a beautiful home, but we’re just opposites.

Of all the neighbors that I have met, guess who loves spending time at my table? There is a supernatural work happening in that human heart. I know it. All I have to do is make a cup of coffee. It’s the easy part. I can tell it’s an excuse, but it’s always something about the garden that brings her over. “Here’s a little gardener’s book for Texas I thought you might enjoy,” or something. But the truth of the matter is she wants me to say, “Would you like a cup of coffee? Why don’t you sit down and stay for a minute?” Every time she says, “Oh, I’d love to. Oh, I guess.” An hour, and you know what? The bread of the Presence is working. That’s the significance of hospitality.

Ladies, prepare your homes. Prepare your homes for God to do the work. I don’t do the work. You think, “Well, Devi, I don’t know the Word like you.” You know what? I haven’t even taught her the Word yet. All I’ve done is make coffee for her, and the Holy Spirit is doing the work in her heart. It’s amazing. I’m watching her countenance change, and it won’t take long before we will be able to literally invite her to the table of the Word.

Psalm 23:5: “You have prepared a table before me in the presence of my enemies” (NIV). Now, stop and think about this just for a minute. What is the objective of an enemy in our life? The enemy wants to put pressure on you in an area in your life that he wants to win rulership over. He wants to dominate you in that area so you won’t be free there. It can be addictions, habits, basic things in relationships. He wants to rule you, so he puts pressure on you there. When the enemy is aggressive, you get on the defensive, and you begin retreating. Is that right?

Now, when I think about the enemy in my life . . . I grew up in a very functional, loving Christian family. Incidentally, when we talk about generations, I have eight godly generations. We have five living godly generations. Now, our two-year-olds aren’t measurable, so four measurable godly generations. We’re praying for them. We believe that God has given us the blessing of the inheritance of Abraham on our family. We have no divorces in eight generations, and probably none before, but  we don’t know how to track that but just given the era of that time, probably not.

Where was I? How did I get off on that?

For me, when I think of an enemy . . . I hate to say it like this because I loved pastoring. I love it. My husband left pastoring seven years ago so we could do this, so we could mentor the next generations in these significant values. It is a sacrifice for us to do this, I have to tell you, but it is very fulfilling. However, the church would be where I would have experienced the most rejection, not in family. The most rejection, resistance, jealousy, and all those things, so in some way, the church was my enemy, or a person in the church. There’s something about your enemy that you can feel your enemy’s presence. Is that right?

There was an elder’s wife who I honestly guess, I don’t know, I think I’m really nice, and I was really nice to her. She just didn’t like me. That’s all. When I would get to church, there were a thousand people, no 1,999 people there who liked me, and then there was one who did not like me, and it was her. I could walk into a service, and I could tell if she was in that service or not. I could literally feel the spirit of an enemy. As soon as I knew she was there, it would make me want to withdraw.

When the enemy presses you, his ultimate goal is he wants to get you to a place that you want to do what? Quit! Quit your job; quit your marriage; quit your church; quit whatever. He pushes and pushes, and you go: “I can’t handle this anymore. I’m not going through this anymore. That friend is driving me crazy. I am not reaching out to her anymore.”

You get to a place that you want to quit, and it’s at the point that you want to quit that the Shepherd says, “Oh, no. Hold it. No, no, no, no, no. Wa-a-a-ait a minute. You are not going to quit. I have prepared a table for you in the presence of your enemy. Come here. Sit down. I want you to look at Me face to face, eye to eye, and in the presence of your enemy. I want to tell you that you’re not going to quit because you and I are going to go through this together. I know it’s difficult. I know the pain that you’ve experienced. I know the unfairness of the way you’ve been treated, the lies that have been told. You don’t deserve this, but you sit at My table. I have prepared a table for you.”

Now, where did He prepare it? In the presence of the circumstance. He didn’t say, “Rebuke the devil, and he will flee from you.” Have you ever rebuked the devil for him to flee from you, and he didn’t flee?  I have. It’s like, “I rebuke you, Satan.” Press, press, press. He didn’t go anywhere. Jesus said, “Why didn’t you come here? In the middle of your enemy, who’s seeking to defeat you, I’m going to prepare a table for you.”

Listen, moms, single women, divorced women, women with children—when your babies go to school, they come home every single day having been in the presence of their enemies. Married women, when your husbands come home from work, guaranteed, he has been in the presence of an enemy. In today’s times, everybody is vying for his job, his position, and they come home, and there’s no table, the stove is cold, mother’s not there. And even stay-at-home moms today don’t stay at home.

If you’ll prepare the table, He will do the work in the presence of the enemy.

This study is so deep. I circle every reference “to eat with,” “dine with,” “banquet.” All I looked up was table, and I just want to bring this to a bit of a conclusion, reminding you that it was at the Last Supper. . .they were having dinner because it of value. They had to borrow a dining room, a table. I don’t know who cooked the meal, probably the staff of the owner of the house. But it was at that meal that Jesus took, what was served at every meal, bread and wine. This was not a religious ceremony; it was a meal. Now, it happened to be Passover, which was a special meal, but He picked up the bread, and He used the bread once again to define Himself as life. . .the Bread of Life, the Bread of the Presence, all the way back centuries before.

In a sense, in my own vernacular, He broke that bread. When you broke bread, it was pita, so it was all ragged edges. Jesus said, “See this? This is going to be like My body. It’s going to be ripped to shreds. You will have the tendency to want to defend Me, to be angry at those doing it to Me, but I want you to know, I’m doing this for you. It’s not about them. It’s about you. I’m doing this for you.”

Then He took the cup, and He said, “It looks like blood, and tomorrow you will see more blood flow out of a human body than you could ever imagine. Hang in there with Me, because it’s the blood of a new covenant. I’m never leaving you. I’m never forsaking you. Greater things will you do because I’m going to the Father.” He didn’t say all that right there, but when we put all the purposes together, it’s the blood of the new covenant, and that is a cup of the covenant to you.

Then He said something very curious to me, something that you are very familiar with because in most of the church denominations represented here, I would venture to say that it is customary in your churches at least once a month, some maybe once a week, to celebrate what we call, or some call, The Lord’s Table, or the Lord’s Supper, modeled after this dinner. But remember, this dinner was not creating a religious tradition to be held in a church. He was establishing a value, and it was a value of redemption to never be forgotten.  He established it at the table with bread and with wine, what was, in their culture, essential to life.

He said something so curious, “As often as you do this.” I ask you a question: Do what? Do what? Go to church on Sunday? What were they doing? Eating a meal. So, “as often as you eat a meal, as often as you break bread, which was served at every meal, I want you to remember.” Remember what? Redemption. He demonstrated it; He modeled it. “I am the bread of life. Because of Me there is a new covenant. Old things can pass away in your life. Truly, all things can become new.”

Do you understand, women? Truly, we can live free from our past, never to have it have any kind of hold on us again. Do you understand that is possible for you from this day forward? For anyone and everyone, the table, hospitality, the home is the environment where redemption is manifest daily in our life, in our hearts, in our motives, in our attitudes, in our spirit, how we dress, when we dress, why we’re dressing, what we’re dressing for—preparing the table.

What are the values of this day? Don’t tell me what’s important to you. That doesn’t matter to me. Show me how you spend your time and your money. If your home doesn’t show up on that calendar, don’t tell me that your home and your marriage is important. You don’t have to feel guilty for buying a new sofa. If you need one and you have the money in the bank, for goodness sake, go buy it. Make your family comfortable. It’s not a waste. It’s not materialistic. It’s important.

Discover what creates deeper, more meaningful relationships, because the bread of the Presence can do at the table what you can’t do. But you can set it, and you can invite others to it.

Let me just close out with some very practical hospitality tips for bringing strangers in or friends in or whatever.

Do like Abraham. Try to beat them at the door when they arrive.

Don’t worry about deep cleaning in every room. You’re not obligated to give home tours every time somebody comes over.

 I’m not impressed by homes that have carpet without spots and all the vacuum marks that go the right direction. (laughter) That tells me that your home is not used for the people most important to you. You’re more important to yourself than they are to you. That’s a standard you’ve created that has alienated the people closest to you.

Coffee drips mean somebody was there. It’s okay for things not to be perfect.

Sweep your porch. That’s preparation. It’s honor and respect for those arriving. Quickly sweep the porch.

Check your guest toilet. If you’re having couples in, lift up the seat because we girls aren’t accustomed to lifting the seal up to see if you need to just quick get some tissue and tidy it up a bit. (laughter)

Always look on the back of the bathroom door and see what’s hanging there (sounds of laughter) because you don’t often remember because the door’s open for you, but when a guest closes the door, there might be a surprise. (Sounds of laughter)

If at all possible, try to have your dishwasher unloaded so you don’t have to dig into it for the things that you need.

If you’ve invited someone in advance, create one action (it doesn’t matter if you have lots of kids) that would cause them to feel like you’re prepared, even if you still have some things to do after they arrive. Have at least have one thing done. It can be crackers and cheese on a tray that could entertain them a little bit while you’re finishing up what you didn’t get done before they arrived.

It’s that preparation, and I would like to just remind you that Jesus is preparing for us right now the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. He’s preparing a table, and when we encounter Him in eternity, we’re not going to be at an altar. We’re not going to be in a temple. We are going to be at the table. There’s going to be a placemat or a place card there with my name on it and with your name on it. He’s prepared a place for you.

Incorporate your children. If you’re a small group leader and you have a small group in, and you’re just serving beverages and maybe having a little something (pop some popcorn) . . .  If you have a four- or five-year-old, they can carry a basket of popcorn because it’s okay if it spills. It’s not a big deal. So think ahead of how the children can participate but if they make a mistake, it’s not going to be distracting to you. You’re not going to be upset, and they won’t be embarrassed. Incorporate them—they can pass out napkins. Include them. Don’t send them to another room to “get out of my way.” So they don’t think, “Every time somebody comes over, Mother’s all stressed out and tense, and we hate this,” or  “I hate the church because we always get shoved into the back room. I didn’t like those kids they brought there with me because they always mess up my room and break my toys.” Include them. Incorporate them. If they can’t be included, then look for another way to show hospitality so they can be included because you are molding and training their character.

Stop and think about the table. Any there any questions? Have I provoked anything in you?

Lady in the audience: What do you do if you are a working mom and your husband is at home; you come home from work and you’re tired and feel your husband should be setting the table?

Devi: Unload your dishwasher the night before and set the table before that day comes.

Honestly, ladies, we can say, once this becomes a value, the value has been here. I’ve elevated it. My mission and my goal and my passion in life is to restore the dignity and sanctity of the home in the way you think about home in relationship to human hearts. You know what I am? All I am is a hydraulic lift. I use the Word, the Scripture, and stories and pump up in the value. Then you’re going to figure it out. With the value up here, you’re going to figure out how to shift your life to be able to be obedient and fulfill and develop. That’s what I was going to say, the table develops character.

So with your children, put them in highchairs. It’s the first table in a highchair, and you look at them eye to eye, face to face. You speak into their spirit, into their soul. They ask permission to be let down. You take the tray off. You transition them to the table. They learn to share. They learn to converse. They learn eye to eye. They learn to wait their turn. It’s the beginning place of forming character.

So the same with inviting guests. God will do His redemptive work if you’ll prepare. So think ahead, simplify. It doesn’t have to be exotic. Use dollar store items if you need to buy things. We have everything in our resource to be the most hospitable generation of ever in history in the church because everything is accessible to us. So I just encourage you to be fruitful vines . . . where? Fruitful for the kingdom, Matthew 25, at the table . . . in your house.

God bless you. (Smooching sound) I love you.

Leslie: The message you just heard was presented at Revive Our Hearts True Woman ’10 conference in Chattanooga. You can hear any of the messages delivered there, and more, by visiting www.TrueWoman.com. There you’ll find even more ways to connect from books and resources for yourself, your friends, or your life group to on-demand multi-media, to ongoing conversations you can be a part of.

True Woman ’10 is a ministry of Revive Our Hearts, helping you become God’s true woman.