Monday Morning Devotional

Week of October 14, 2019

“For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry.” --- 1 Timothy 4:3-5

I did not watch the game on Sunday, October 6 between the Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers, but I heard the buzz surrounding it. Actually, there was a bigger buzz about an encounter between two celebrities at the game than there was about the game itself. This is how Caitlin O’Kane described it for CBS News:

“Ellen DeGeneres was spotted laughing it up with a former president at a Cowboys game Sunday, but the celebrity sighting received some negative attention. That's because the former president was George W. Bush - a Republican president with political views that differ from DeGeneres. She decided to address their unlikely friendship during her monologue, which was pre-recorded to air Tuesday on ‘Ellen.’…DeGeneres started the monologue off with a bit of humor: ‘It may not seem like a big deal for a celebrity to attend a football game, but I never leave my house. So it is a big deal," she told her studio audience…

“‘When we were invited [to the game] I was aware I'd be surrounded by people with very different views and beliefs,’ she said. ‘And I'm not talking about politics. I was rooting for the Packers — and get this, everybody in the Cowboys suite was rooting for the Cowboys.’ DeGeneres admitted to ‘secretly cheering’ for the Packers and her friend, quarterback Aaron Rodgers. But it wasn't her fandom that was criticized, it was the fact that she had a good time with Mr. Bush. During the game, the broadcast showed a shot of the two laughing, and ‘people were upset,’ she said.

“‘They thought, why is a gay Hollywood liberal sitting next to a conservative Republican president? And they didn't even know I was holding the brand new iPhone 11," she joked, but then her comments took on a more serious tone. Many angry people tweeted about the seemingly mismatched pair, DeGeneres said. The tweet that stuck with DeGeneres, however, was a positive one: ‘Ellen and George Bush together makes me have faith in America again,’ she read.

“DeGeneres said just because she doesn't agree with someone on everything, doesn't mean she's not going to be friends with them. ‘When I say be kind to one another, I don't mean be kind to the people who think the same way you do. I mean be kind to everyone,’ she said” (“Ellen DeGeneres explains friendship with George W. Bush,” 10/8/19).

In today’s passage, the Apostle Paul warns of people who have “itching ears” and “accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires.” New Testament Scholar, Matt Skinner writes, “It’s an accusation any group might make against those who don’t listen ‘properly,’ and at its root we find a common human tendency, that of surrounding ourselves with teachers and voices who say only the things we want to hear” ( 10/20/13).

Recently, I had the privilege of hosting Gardner-Webb University alumnus Frank Shelton in our Dimensions program. After working for two decades on Capitol Hill, Frank left the prestige and privileges of life in Washington, DC to become an evangelist. In his message he said, “We live in a climate and culture today, it’s so Christ-less that you wouldn’t walk across the street to shake hands with someone who doesn’t vote like you…If you only hang out with those who look like you, dress like you, walk like you, talk like you, and vote like you, you don’t look like Jesus.”

All of us would do well to listen first, and then determine if what we hear is truth, rather than deciding first what we want to hear and choosing teachers and voices who simply will affirm that. And ultimately, the criterion by which we all should judge what we hear is God’s Word, not our own subjective inclinations.

Prayer: Lord, help us to keep our eyes on what we’re doing; accepting the hard times along with the good; keeping the Message alive; and doing a thorough job as your servants” (adapted from 1 Timothy 4:5, The Message)