Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Ministering to the Five Senses

Leslie Basham: Devi Titus spoke about hospitality at Revive Our Hearts' True Woman Conference. Hospitality made a big impact on her family.

Devi Titus: 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 can 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?

I had an answer that I was hoping that he would say, because it would fit really good in my outline, but he didn't say it. He said quickly, "Oh, that's easy, Mom."

I said, "It is?" I just knew he was going to say how we did our holidays. They were quite spectacular. The truth of it is, I was doing it for me, not for them. They could care less about the glamorous, gorgeous Christmas trees. 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 that 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. We were their home plan. Sometimes, in those days, in the seventies, they were hitchhikers. Because the Word says we were to include strangers, not just people from our church or our relatives. We are to include the sojourners and the aliens—that's people of other races, cultures, and habits.

He said that it was from the prisoners to the missionaries, people of all walks of life that stayed in our home from time to time. "That's what shaped my values. That's what made the gospel real to me."

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

Leslie: We've been learning how to open our homes in this way in a series called, The Heart of Hospitality, from Nancy Leigh DeMoss. This is Revive Our Hearts for Tuesday, December 13.

Inviting guests into your home can be an important act of worship to the Lord. Nancy’s been explaining that over the last several programs. If you’ve missed any, you can visit ReviveOurHearts.com to catch up.

We’ve focused so far on the heart attitude of hospitality. Today, Nancy will get practical. How do you actually make a guest feel welcomed?

Nancy: We can’t talk about hospitality, as we have been the last couple weeks, without talking about the atmosphere of hospitality and how to create an environment where people can be encouraged and nurtured and cared for.

I debated whether to start with the physical or the spiritual first. Definitely, the spiritual environment in an atmosphere is more important; but you know, the first thing your guests see is the physical. The first thing they see is what your home looks like.

So let’s talk about that first, and remember that the physical atmosphere in our home does communicate something. Think about your home. Think about how you left your home this morning. Does the atmosphere communicate chaos and disorder, or does it communicate peace, simplicity, beauty, sensitivity, joy, and honor to your guests?

Now, that doesn’t mean that your home (or mine—it certainly isn’t true of mine) is always perfectly presentable for guests. But I do try to keep some areas of the house so that I can have guests stop in and I won’t feel like I have to be scrambling quickly to make at least a pathway for them to walk and a place for them to sit down.

You say, “Why is this important?” Well, I was just thinking even last night about how much the Scripture has to say about the physical atmosphere.

Go back and study the tabernacle in the Old Testament, and you’ll see that there was beauty and order involved in this because it was a place where people could meet with God. You want your home to be a sanctuary. You want it to be a place where people can have an encounter with the presence of the Lord.

I remember a woman who came to a Bible study I was having in my home over a period of time. She said, “I just love to come to your home because I feel like God is here.”

It wasn’t just the Bible study; and I’ll tell you, my home is not fancy. I try to keep it fairly simple so that it can be kept up simply, but there was something that she had picked up on in my home, and part of it had to do with the physical environment.

For example, around my home I have lots of pieces on the wall, framed pieces that are Scripture. I figure, you’ve got to hang something on the walls, but why not have something meaningful, something that makes people be drawn to the message of Christ and His gospel and His ways?

There are so many things in the book of Revelation that talk about the sights and sounds of heaven. I think there’s purpose to that. God wants to make us long for His home. There are colors in heaven. There is beauty in heaven. There is singing in heaven.

Again, the goal of our homes needs to be to create a hunger and an appetite in people’s hearts for their heavenly home, to make them want to be in the presence of the Lord.

Now, the tendency is to go to one of two extremes with our homes. One is to be obsessed with the material things—the physical things, the cleanliness, the orderliness—to where we can’t really enjoy people.

The other is to pay no attention to the physical. I have to tell you, I’ve been in a couple of homes over the years where what was communicated did not make you feel comfortable because the home was so disorderly.

I realize that if you have children, there are going to be times when that’s just the way your home is. Don’t make apologies for that. But if that’s the consistent state of your home . . . If there’s not some basic cleaning going on in your home from time to time, then know that guests may not feel as comfortable as they could be if you were dealing with some of those matters.

As it relates to the physical atmosphere in our homes, creating an environment where people can be encouraged, one of the things I try to do in my home is to think, "How can I minister to the five physical senses that God has given to people?" He gave these to us for a reason. They’re to be enjoyed, and they are the means by which we can connect to people’s souls and hearts, which is the ultimate goal.

So I think about, for example, the gift of sight, the sense of sight. We minister to sight by the lighting in our home. Sometimes when I have company I like lighting candles. That can be not only sight but scent, as they can be fragrant candles.

I have a fireplace that is a gas fireplace—one little click and it’s on. It’s not quite as wonderful as a wood fireplace, but in the winter I like having that fireplace on. It brings an atmosphere and a light into the home that can be encouraging.

I mentioned having Scripture on the walls, hanging pieces that have Scripture verses. I know people who have done that with stenciling and some more creative ways, even writing on the walls of their homes with Scripture verses and meaningful quotations.

I remember the time when a couple stayed in my home when I was not there, but they just needed to get away. They were worn out, and I said, “Come and stay in my home. I’m not going to be there, but just come and stay there.”

When they left, they told me that one of the things that so ministered and was encouraging and refreshing to them were those Scriptures all through the home. They said everywhere they went, they were ministered to in their spirits because of the things they were able to see and read in my home.

Now, you can also minister through the sense of smell: candles, potpourri, flowers, a little air freshener doesn’t hurt. Sometimes it can be the smell of a meal cooking or cookies baking. These are things that can minister encouragement to people.

And then the sense of hearing. I love having some soft, relaxing background music. Personally, I love playing instrumental music of familiar hymns and choruses that kind of provide a subtle background but create an atmosphere where people can feel refreshed, where they can be encouraged.

I have a wind chime off my back porch, and on windy nights you can hear it from inside the house, just making a little sound. It’s a pleasant sound that adds to the environment of the home.

Sometimes the thing that most ministers to hearing is just quiet. Sometimes having a quiet atmosphere in your home is exactly what your guests need.

You can minister through the sense of touch. I have a whole room in my house that is just games and things for children. Those children make a beeline for that room. They can shoot some hoops down there; they can use crayons; there are lots of different things for children of different ages.

Having comfortable seating can help with the sense of touch. Just so people feel comfortable.

Then, of course, there’s that sense of taste—food and drink. Having some snacks on hand is a helpful thing to do. I encourage you to keep some things on hand that you can have there when you have guests perhaps you weren’t anticipating, things like Chex mix and nuts and cookies.

One friend wrote and said to me, “I freeze most things so I can pull them out as soon as I see someone coming in. I usually cook more than enough for our meals so that if someone pops in, we can ask them to join us. I also try to make extra to freeze so that I can pull that out for a quick meal and not make unexpected guests feel that they have inconvenienced us in any way.”

These are some practical ways we can create an atmosphere of hospitality in our homes, as we look at the physical atmosphere and say, “How can I minister to the physical senses of the guests who come into my home?”

But you know, I think some of the most important things that we do in an atmosphere of hospitality are the things you can’t see. It’s the unseen, the invisible, the spiritual dimension of heart connecting to heart.

The third epistle of John is a letter about hospitality. As we’ve said earlier in this series, John writes to a man named Gaius, who is known for his hospitality.

John talks about Gaius receiving itinerant servants of the Lord into his home, and he says in verse 6, “If you send them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God, you will do well.”

That little phrase “in a manner worthy of God” adds something to my understanding of meaningful hospitality. What does it means to receive someone in a manner worthy of God? And what does it mean to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God?

As I have been meditating on that passage, two thoughts have come to mind. First of all, it says to me that I need to treat my guests in a manner worthy of God.

How would God treat these people if they came to His home? How would Jesus treat these people if this were His home and these were His guests? I want to look for ways to treat people as God would treat them.

I think it also means to treat them as I would treat God if He were the guest—to treat them in a manner worthy of God. If it were Jesus coming into my home, would I be bothered about His tracking mud onto my freshly cleaned kitchen floor? Or would I be wanting to make sure that He did everything just right?

Would I be uptight, or would I say, “Take over. I honor You. I am pleased to have You here. What can I do to serve You?” Would I consider it an invasion of my life to fix a meal for Jesus?

Would I whine about the preparations? Now, Martha did, so maybe I would too. But if I’m conscious of thinking of my guests and treating them as I would treat God if He were the guest in my home, it affects the way I treat them.

By the way, it doesn’t hurt to think that way about your family as well. If you treat them in a manner worthy of God, you do well.

I think something that will be very annoying to your children and will make them think your faith is hypocritical is if you’re a screeching, demanding, impatient, inflexible woman in your home with your children and your husband, but then guests come to the door and all of sudden you get this little halo on your head, and you’re Mrs. Smiley and Mrs. Warm and Mrs. Welcoming.

Your children are going to say, “She doesn’t treat us like that.” Now, that doesn’t mean that in your home you’re always going to have the perfect attitude. I certainly don’t in mine. But it means we need to watch out for our attitudes. They do affect, and they do communicate. We want to treat those who live in our homes and those who come to our homes as guests in a manner worthy of God.

So how do we do that? We’ve touched on several of these things over the last couple weeks, but let me mention several here in this context.

I think first is a welcoming spirit. “I’m glad you’re here. Thank you for coming. You honor me by being my guest.”

You know, we all love to go into a place where people are glad to see us. They say when somebody walks in the room, typically they either draw attention to themselves, or they draw attention to the other people in the room.

That’s also true of hospitality. We want to have a spirit that makes people think, “My focus is on you, and I’m so glad you’re here.”

You’ve probably known what it is to walk into some environments where it’s kind of . . . you know, you can cut the tension; and you think, “I don’t know that I’m really happy to be here. I think I’d like to go back to my house.”

So we want to have a welcoming spirit with people, a spirit that is not uptight. And that takes practice. It takes the filling of the Holy Spirit. I know there are times when I get so uptight in my preparations because my life is busy, as is yours.

I remember the time when I was having two families over for lunch after church one Sunday. I kind of try to do it . . . when you’re single and you’re entertaining by yourself, sometimes you just need another set of hands or help.

I do have friends that know my kitchen and just jump in and help, but the people who got there first were the people I didn’t know as well. I was counting on the other family who wasn’t there yet to entertain the people that I didn’t know while I was trying to get lunch prepared. At that point I was fairly new at having a home, and I didn’t know how to get everything ready on time.

It’s amazing, I have I-don’t-know-how-many chairs in my house—lots of places to sit—but everybody stands around in the kitchen. This one family was hanging around in a cluster in the kitchen talking to me, but I couldn’t talk and cook at the same time. So I was trying to make some nice little hints like, “Wouldn’t you all like to move into the living room where you can be comfortable?”

Well, they didn’t take my hints, and finally I remember . . . I don’t know if it came out this way, but the way it felt to me was, “Would you guys please get out of this kitchen and get into the living room?” And they did.

About that time the other family came and rescued me. But I remember times like that, and I think, “Sometimes I am so uptight; I’m sure that company just wishes they could go home rather than feeling at home.”

But there are ways, as we’re filled with the Spirit, that we can create a climate that is really conducive to ministry and people. I want to create that in my home; I want people to experience the fruit of the Spirit.

Love—that means others-centeredness rather than self-centeredness.

Joy—I want people to experience joy in my home. We’ve had so much laughter in my home. We have fun. We’ve played games. We’ve had great times; times around the Word and times in prayer, but also times just laughing and enjoying each other. I want people to experience the joy of Christ in my home.

Peace—that’s a fruit of the Spirit. I want people to come into my home, and even if there’s a lot going on . . . I’ve had so many people in my home at times that the man who built the house, who came to know the Lord as we were building the house—I remember him being there with one group, and he’s calculating what kind of wood he used on the floor, hoping the house would hold up with this many people on that floor! I’ve had it very crowded at times, but still there can be an atmosphere of peace, the fruit of the Spirit.

Creating an atmosphere of hospitality—I think we do that with asking questions, showing interest in people. I find it’s helpful to think through ahead of time, who are the people coming? What are some topics that would be of interest to them? Sometimes as I’m making final preparations or getting dressed, I’m thinking through, “What questions could I ask these guests that would draw them out and help the conversation?”

I remember one time I was visiting in a home for a meal with a woman I had just met, and I had recently experienced the death of one of my closest friends. I could still hardly talk without weeping; I mean, I was a basket case.

I was still really, really grieving this loss, and it turned out that the woman who was the host in this situation had been widowed, but longer than the loss I had experienced. She began to ask questions about my loss and to give me a chance to talk about what we had just been through.

Then she began to tell me the story of how her husband had actually died through the same way that my friend had died. We sat there at her kitchen table, and I can still remember I just began to sob, to bawl. It’s like all this pent-up stuff inside of me came out at this kitchen table with this woman I hardly knew.

She had a listening ear and a caring heart, and she was sensitive and alert to the moment and was able to minister grace just by listening and sharing something of her story that ministered grace in that moment.

We create an atmosphere of hospitality as we have a learning spirit, as we let people come into our home to teach us, and we invite them to share with us what God has taught them of His heart and His ways. I’ve learned so much sitting at the feet of some of my guests, listening to them talk about what they understand about the ways of God, having that humble spirit.

We create an atmosphere of hospitality through generosity. I love fixing more for the meal than what I know we will need because I love sending home leftovers, especially with those who have large families and may have a limited income. It’s an opportunity to say, “I’m going to not only minister grace to you here, but I want to send you on your journey, as John said, in a manner worthy of God. I want you to go with grace and with generosity.”

One thing that’s been so important in my home and has been such a blessing to me in some other people’s homes has been this whole matter of prayer. I try to make it a habit to pray with my guests. Sometimes we gather together to pray briefly before everybody goes to bed for the night, to pray with them before they leave my house. We’ll often join hands in a circle, and I just pray a blessing on them. I pray God’s covering and protection over them. I pray for them.

My bedroom in my house is on the second floor, and my guest room is down on the first floor, so when I go to sleep at night I usually feel like I’m geographically, physically, over the top of the house and over these guests. I picture the responsibility and the privilege that it is, as I go to sleep at night, to pray for those who are under my roof and to pray God’s blessing and His encouragement and His peace in their lives.

I’ve been so ministered to myself as I’ve been in other people’s homes and they have said, “Before you leave, could we pray for you?” What a ministry of encouragement! What a gift of God’s grace!

Nancy: Thank You, Lord, for the people that You have brought into our lives who have treated us in a manner worthy of You. 

Lord, help us to minister grace and encouragement, peace, strength, and refreshing even in these non-tangible ways. Fill us with Your Spirit, that our homes may reflect the beauty of Your ways. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Leslie: Cooking, organizing, decorating, and prayer! Nancy Leigh DeMoss has given us some important steps in truly serving your guests.

Her current series, called The Heart of Hospitality, will transform your thinking about entertaining guests. It’s not about having a perfect home or being a masterful cook. Just doing your best is important to God and your guests.

Learn more by ordering the complete series on CD. You can find it at ReviveOurHearts.com.

When you visit ReviveOurHearts.com, you can get the latest update on how the ministry is doing in our current matching challenge of $600,000. Some friends of the ministry are doubling every gift up to that amount, and we’re so thankful for all who have participated so far.

One woman who gave during last year's matching challenge wrote to Nancy and expressed what it means to give with a joyful heart.

Nancy: It was so sweet. She said,

Today I made a donation to Revive Our Hearts, inspired not only by how your teaching has changed my life, but also by the generosity of those who have agreed to match funds.

There is NO financial donation I could ever give that could even come close to the value I receive from Revive Our Hearts.  I want to thank these friends of the ministry for making me feel like my donation is bigger.  After all, isn’t that what this is all about—the power of God and Jesus Christ that makes us better than we could ever be by ourselves?

Here at the end of 2011, some friends of this ministry once again want to double your gift. They believe in what God’s doing through this ministry and want to encourage others, like you, to get involved. They’ve agreed to match each gift given to Revive Our Hearts this month, up to a challenge amount of $600,000.

Now, I've got to tell you, God has really challenged our faith with this amount because we’ve never attempted such a large challenge before. But I believe it's what's needed but it’s needed for such a time as this. Meeting and exceeding this challenge will allow us to continue current levels of ministry in the year ahead and also to begin moving forward with some exciting new opportunities the Lord is giving us in broadcasting, publishing, and electronic communications.

If you’ve been impacted by this ministry and you want to see this message spread to hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of other women, would you help us take advantage of this challenge? To make a donation, give us a call at 1-800-569-5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Leslie: When you show hospitality to others, do you ever realize it’s like opening your home to Jesus himself? Find out why, tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts!

Scripture is from the New King James Version of the Bible.

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