Revive Our Hearts Podcast

The Attitude of Hospitality

Leslie Basham: Author Dannah Gresh describes an important lesson she learned about showing hospitality to others.

Dannah Gresh: When I think about hospitality I think about when I was a young woman at a Christian college. Here we are, young twenty-somethings and excited about life and finding our husbands and classes and studies. My RD, a sweet older lady, decided that we all needed a Bible lesson each week on hospitality. I'm telling you, we all thought that she had lost it. "Really? We're college girls. We don't need hospitality."

But as she unfolded the Scriptures to us, first of all, I fell in love with her and her obedience to the Word. She was a single woman. She was mother to hundreds of us in her dorm. She wanted us to become soft-hearted, feminine women.

So she opened with us the Scriptures on hospitality. What I remember most about that is one wee for the study she brought a bag of popcorn. She said, "This bag of popcorn can be the greatest opportunity for you to display hospitality if your heart is right." It took off all the pretense for me, a Type A personality, who always has to have everything right. If we are having Thanksgiving at my house, there will be the most beautiful turkey you've ever seen, and I want a Norman Rockwell table. I have to go to the 'nth degree.

My heart was changed that day because she said, "It's not what you bring, it's how you bring it."

There are many times when I remember that lesson. It's been twenty years now. There have been times when I have had the Norman Rockwell table but have not had hospitality in my heart. I've not had the picture of the gospel and servanthood and femininity and softness in my heart.

But there have been times when I have ordered a pizza and my heart has been in the right place, and I have served and loved my guests. All because one woman in my twenties said, "Hey, this bowl of popcorn could be the greatest way you could display hospitality."

Leslie Basham: Today Nancy Leigh DeMoss will open the Scriptures to show you how to offer that kind of hospitality.

This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, December 12.

Maybe this has happened at your house. You have guests scheduled to arrive for dinner. You want them to feel comfortable and show them the love of Christ, but in the process you’re griping at the kids, complaining, and generally making life miserable. That doesn’t have to be the norm when showing hospitality. Here’s Nancy to explain in a series called The Heart of Hospitality.

Nancy: Now this week we want to take some time to look at some of the practical principles of hospitality and how to cultivate an attitude and an atmosphere of hospitality. Today we’re going to look at this matter of the attitude of hospitality.

The first thingand I think this is so importantis that we need to focus on people more than on preparations. Now there are preparations to be made. It’s hard to be hospitable on a consistent basis if you’re not making preparations. One of those preparations may be just keeping your house picked up so that you can have people in. Preparing a mealthat takes time. So it’s not that preparations are unimportant, but notice I said focus on people more than on preparations.

Once you’ve made your preparationsand really, they don’t have to be quite as complex as sometimes we make them to bebut once you’ve done the preparations, then ask God to show you how to focus on the people. I will tell you this: Unless your house is a mess, people are not noticing how spic-and-span clean your kitchen floor is or your kitchen counters or whether you vacuumed the carpet within the last hour.

What they are noticing is the spirit with which you meet them at the door and the spirit with which you invite them to come into your home. If you are relaxed and enjoying them and listening to them and focused on them, they are going to have a great time, and they are going to be blessed.

We all know that story of hospitality in Luke chapter 10, where the Scripture says, “As Jesus came to a certain village, a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house” (v. 38).  I had not stopped to notice until this past week that it doesn’t say, “Mary and Martha welcomed Jesus into their house.” It was apparently Martha’s house. This suggests she was the oldest in this family, the oldest sibling.

But Martha welcomed Him into her house, and you say, “Yeah, Martha! What a hospitable woman!” That word welcome means to receive hospitably and kindly. She did the right thing. She welcomed Jesus, and remember, when Jesus came to dinner, it wasn’t just Jesus. It was Jesus and His disciples. So she has this group of at least thirteen men now who have come to her house, and she welcomes them.

That’s when she makes a mistake. She broke what was really the first and essential rule of hospitality and that is to pay attention to the guest. Martha got side-tracked with all the work and all the preparations and forgot about the guest.

So Martha gets frazzled and frustrated and uptight about all the preparations, and who is the one in this story who is really showing true hospitality? It’s Mary. What is she doing? She’s paying attention to the guest. She’s focused on the guest.

What Jesus ultimately says to Martha is, in effect, “Look, all this preparation stuffthat’s optional. The one thing that is necessary is that you focus on the guest.” Jesus is saying in effect, “Martha, I don’t want a domestic performance. I want you. I want a relationship.” That’s what hospitality is all aboutfocusing on the people.

Now let me say that hospitality is not just an event. This has to do with our mindset, our attitude about hospitality. It’s not just, “I’m having twenty-two people over for dinner Thursday, and my whole world is centered around pulling off this event."

There are events involved in hospitality. But hospitality, more than that, is a lifestyle. It’s an open heart. So rather than just enduring putting on events, we need to learn to
enjoy a lifestyle of hospitality. When it comes to your home, rememberand this again has to do with our attitudeeverything doesn’t have to be perfect.

I’ll never forget when my home was fairly new, one of the first times I entertained. I had company over, and it was a woman we were talking to about possibly joining our staff and coming to our ministry. So our ministry director was there and his wife and this woman we were trying to recruit.

Now some of you who are really great cooks, and I’m a little embarrassed to tell you this, but I will. I had bought a pan of frozen lasagna from Sam’s. What I didn’t knowbecause I wasn’t really experienced at this thing yetwas that, when the pan is frozen, it’s hard, and you can just hold it from both ends. But when it cooks and gets hot, it’s not hard anymore.

So I picked it up. As I walked over to the counter, and standing right over where the carpet starts, that pan just dropped right out of my hands. I mean that aluminum foil pan and that lasagna went right on my brand new, off-white carpet.

The next thing I know, we’re all on our hands and knees, scrambling to get this lasagna off the floor, but I had a brilliant idea. I thought, “I’ve got hamburgers in my freezer. I’ll just get some of those out and throw them on the grill.” And my grill burst into flames under these frozen hamburgers. So I’m calling for help to put out the fire in my grill.

It was a disaster. It was not perfect, but you know, we still talk about that day. We made memories. I tell people, “You stick with me when it comes to hospitality, and you will have memories.” That woman became a dear friend, and you know, we had a great evening. People, things do not have to be perfect.

The attitude of hospitality, by the way, begins at home. Don’t expect your family to love hospitality if you only treat guests well. Make sure that you’re treating your own family with grace and with kindness.

You may not fix the same kind of meals every day for your family that you would for company. But it’s important for your own husband and children to know that they are welcome in your home and that you love having them there, and then they will enjoy entering with you into the spirit of hospitality.

I was in email last week with a couple who are dear friends of mine and have been guests in my home numbers of times. They live a little distance from me, but I know that they have such a heart for hospitality. I had just asked them on email, “What does hospitality mean to you?”

Both the husband and the wife wrote a response, and let me read to you a little bit about what they wrote. Dana said:

For me hospitality means making people feel loved and at home. There are two kinds of company, expected and unexpected. We try to be ready for both kinds. In fact, Tom and I live expecting company and hoping for the Lord to bring them in.

We make them feel at home by being excited to see them, carrying on inquisitive conversations, serving them with special treats, and providing them a warm, comfortable place to rest and relax. Spending time with our guests, entering into their hearts, laughing and crying with them, and most of all, praying for and with them, has blessed us beyond measure.

Then Tom added this thought. He said:

When I think of hospitality, I think of feeling at ease, which has to do with both the surroundings and feeling welcomed and cared for. The spirit of the home and those who live there are equally important. A home can be clean and orderly without feeling sterile or too formal.

You should be able to relax and not have to sit up straight. Being nourished physically and spiritually are both important. Simple and healthy food, quiet, Scripture, peaceful music, someone to listen, and words of encouragement can really minister healing to a troubled soul. In order to do that, it really does start with an attitude of hospitality. "I’m glad to see you. I’m glad you’ve come to visit, and I’m here to love and serve and encourage you in any way that I can.”

Father, we do pray that You would cultivate in us that attitude of love and a servant’s heart that would enable us to extend hospitality to others. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been showing us what a true attitude of hospitality looks like. That message is part of a series called The Heart of Hospitality. If you've missed any of these message so far, you can hear them at ReviveOurHearts.com. That's also where you can order the series on CD.

Nancy, throughout the series so far, you've shown how hospitality puts the gospel on display. You've put our team in touch with a woman who's seen the power of hospitality first hand.

Nancy: I was so moved when I heard this story first hand from a really dear friend. She asked that we not use her name, but she was kind enough to talk about the power of hospitality. She'd seen the gospel in action through a family that was willing to open their home.

Leslie: Let's listen.

Woman: I didn't grow up in a Christian home. I was saved as an early adult and was discipled. At the same time, although I was really growing in the Lord and in the knowledge of the Word and what it meant to walk with Him, there were a lot of practical aspects of home and family and being a woman that just the culture in which I was raised had not equipped me to know.

Leslie: That began to change when a family at her church opened their lives to this young woman.

Woman: They were not looking for someone to bring in. They were a very close family. For some reason, this family felt a prodding in their spirit that they were to have a place in my life.

Leslie: This relationship began to redefine the concept of hospitality for this young woman.

Woman: I think a lot of times we just think of it in the sense of temporarily allowing someone into our space or into our home. But the way in which we do that is crucial. For me, it was whenever I would go for dinner at their home, they would remember what foods I like and don't like. They would not put things on a sandwich that they knew I didn't like.

That was huge to me. I had never really had someone pay that sort of attention to detail of who I was. It showed me a higher value of who God created me to be, than pictures that I had seen in the past.

Leslie: As she spent time with this family, this woman saw godly examples of how family members worked together in practical ways.

Woman: Through that I was able to see how that modeled out godly roles in their home. I also learned from very practical things that they knew to make the home a lovely place. Things that I had not previously experienced.

One of the things was setting the table. This family had a daughter that was several years younger than me. She was a teenager at the time. We were on a mission trip together. We were sitting down to eat dinner, and it was very casual because it was a mission trip. But I noticed that she had placed her napkin and her silverware in a particular place.

She saw me looking at it and made a comment about where the items were supposed to go. I didn't really know how to place the napkin and the fork and the knife and the spoon. I noted that, and we sort of laughed about me not knowing this as an adult.

Then months later I was in their home for dinner, and Mary asked me to set the table. As she asked me to set the table, I realized that there was a right way to do this, and I was not certain what the right way was.

Although my personality is such that I want to do things, I struggle sometimes with pride and I don't want to ask for help, especially setting the table when you're an adult. I realized that for me to ask for help would honor them, as well as give me tools to make my home a better place.

So I asked Mary how to set a table, and she taught me and showed me where the knife and the fork and the napkin and everything goes. There certainly is not anything biblical about how to set the table, and the table can be set in many different ways, and I’m certain that many families set their tables in many different ways, but it was just the attention to the detail of order and of creating a space and an environment that is conducive to a family sharing together and eating together and honoring the Lord together.

Most of all, it was an older woman recognizing that I was a bit of a fish out of water . . . that I would be in lots of situations where there would be social expectations of me that perhaps I hadn’t been prepared for. She wasn’t sitting down doing a Bible study with me, she was coming alongside me and saying, “I care about you, and here are some tools I can give you so that you’re going to be more comfortable in these things, so that Christ shines through more in other things.”

I’d had a relationship with this very godly family for several months, but in less than a year, Christmas rolled around. I had been at their home, and we had been decorating for Christmas. It came to the time of putting up the stockings.

I was a little bit awkward because it was the first time being around them, walking through their family traditions. I didn’t want to overstep, or assume, or do anything that would be inappropriate or rude. I remember kind of hanging back. Then someone opened a box. They had surprised me and had gotten a stocking for me to have on the fireplace.

I can remember trying not to make a huge emotional production about it, but just being excited and thanking them, and putting the stocking on the fireplace. Later I was so moved and so thankful to the Lord. I knew that it was a picture of redemption and restoration through the gospel that I never even knew was possible.

At the age of twenty-five or twenty-six, here I stood in the midst of a very godly family who was in just about every way that anyone could measure, identifying with me . . . in taking me in, and making that public. It was just such a picture of God’s grace and giving me a gift that I never would have thought possible to receive.

I have learned what a godly family is, what a godly marriage is, and it has transformed so much of my understanding of Who God is. Everything about my walk with the Lord truly has been informed and shaped because there was a godly family that opened their hearts and home and were willing to make sacrifices to allow someone else into their life.

I think sometimes that we all feel overwhelmed with responsibilities and with people and sometimes we can look in our church or in our community or maybe at your children’s friends, and you see someone, and your spirit is just nudging you, that there is a need there you could meet.

Maybe that need is physical, but maybe it’s emotional, maybe it’s spiritual. Maybe they need someone to come alongside them and help them to know how to carry themselves, or maybe they need someone to walk them through and disciple them more intentionally, or to show them how to run their home and how to provide for their children and nurture their children.

Whatever the need may be that you’re seeing, I would just encourage you to not be intimidated by that need, but to recognize in reality, there is no need that we actually meet. Every need that we are faithful to seek to meet, if it’s met, it’s met through the Holy Spirit and at the will of the Father.

We should never be afraid to step out in obedience. It may get messy; it may get hard, but in my experience, the messiness and the hardness is exactly what God uses to sanctify us. I’m convinced that God’s ultimate purpose is not great well-rounded families or great well-rounded individuals.

God’s ultimate purpose is to conform us to the image of Christ, and He uses people and circumstances to conform us to the image of Christ. If there’s someone in your life that you believe, by your coming alongside them and ministering to them and encouraging them, asking the hard questions, that will be used to more closelymove them to the image of Christ, I suspect that God will also use that to conform you more closely to the image of Christ.

Leslie: That story challenges all of us to think of hospitality in a new way. When you open your home, it can have a huge effect on the lives of others. We’ve been hearing from a friend. She asked that we not use her name, but we’re thankful she shared during this series, The Heart of Hospitality.

Throughout this series, Nancy Leigh DeMoss has shown us how often hospitality shows up throughout the Bible. I think the teaching has been deep, informative, and practical. It’s just one of the many teaching series you’ve heard on Revive Our Hearts this year.

What other series have stood out to you? Here’s what Kelly, one of our listeners, has to say.

Kelly: I loved the series on Noah and the Flood. I have done a lot of work with children, and have many times taught the Bible story of Noah and the flood. But never have I heard it described and told in the way that she told it, with the parallels to the day and age in which we live . . .  just how the gospel can be seen in that story.

Leslie: It’s this kind of practical, biblical teaching that brings Kelly back to Revive Our Hearts day after day.

Kelly: I love, love, love the broadcast. I listen to it almost every day, usually in the mornings when I’m cleaning up the breakfast dishes. It is just such an incredible time. By that time I’ve already had my quiet time, but I’ve already had interactions with my little “muffins,” and I just need that infusion.

It’s so incredible because I’ve never lived in the same state as my mom. I’m very blessed with a godly mother, but have always lived away, and I feel like when I listen to that podcast, I have this amazing opportunity to sit at Nancy’s feet as she opens the Word and speaks truth and rightly divides the Word of truth. It so encourages me. I’m so refreshed and challenged to be a better mother and a better wife and a better ministry leader.

I’ve told all my friends about it.

Leslie: Nancy, there are countless women just like Kelly, becoming grounded in God’s Word day by day.

Nancy: Yes, Leslie, I am so encouraged by all that God is doing in the lives of our listeners. I’m deeply thankful for everyone who has supported this ministry, making it possible for us to speak to women like Kelly.

As we’ve been sharing over the last couple of weeks, typically 40% or more of the donations that our ministry needs for the entire year arrive during the month of December. Some friends of the ministry understand this, and that’s why they’re encouraging you to support Revive Our Hearts this month, by offering to double your gift.

They’ve set up a matching challenge amount of $600,000.00, the largest challenge by far that we’ve ever had in our ministry’s history. Those matching challenge funds are only released as we’re able to match them. So would you help us meet this goal? In fact, we’re asking the Lord to not only help us meet this, but to help us to far exceed it, which will in turn help us to reach even more women in the year ahead.

So if the Lord’s blessed you and He’s prompting you to help support this ministry, give us a call at 1-800-569-5959 and let us know that you’d like to make a donation to help us meet that matching challenge. Or if you’d rather give online instead, you can visit us at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Leslie: Tomorrow, we’ll receive some advice on how to make our homes appeal to the five senses of our guests. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts, with Nancy Leigh DeMoss, is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the New King James Version.

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