Sunday, January 17, 2016

Losing Forty-Five

I'm not a numbers guy but I tell my classes that I've roughly 4200 Facebook friends in conjunction with the facts I've lived in many places and how interconnected we are today. You're reading this devotional through the kindness of the good folks at blogger which in turned is manged by google. Blogger has a tool by which one blogger can follow another, similar to friends on Facebook. My number for months was static, remaining at 658. And then, one morning last month, I woke up and 658 had shrunk to 613. No explanation why my disciples had been reduced by roughly 7%. I looked in online help rooms and I wasn't the only one whose clientele had been reduced for no apparent reason. I'm not going to lie- it bothered me. Here's what's funny- I don't even know which followers I lost! My guess is that it was some housecleaning measure, maybe those with inactive accounts, but it stung. And it still does but I'm not sure why. Pride, maybe? NOT ME!

Our society and its view of success seems too often driven by numbers and counts. Nielsen ratings. Class rank. Oscar nominations. Number one in the polls. Market shares for companies. Even stats like highest attendance at football games matter. Popularity is driven by accounting practices. But things happen. Public figures fall from grace suddenly and fatally. I ask my students how many of them know President Gary Hart. Of course, they look confused so I tell them how Hart had a legitimate shot at the Democratic nomination for the Presidency in 1988. Rumors of an affair with a young lady named Donna Rice, however, sent his supporters scattering, a blow from which there was no recovery for the would be Commander In Chief. Instead, Michael Dukakis found his name on the ballot in the election of 1988 that saw the first President Bush elected. History may have been altered by indiscretion as it, I suspect, often is.

One thing that I think surprises my students is how the popularity of Jesus would rise and fall during His ministry. Just days after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the day referred to as Palm Sunday, the Christ was executed publicly after the crowds demanded Pilate put Him to death. But that wasn't the first time the Savior was deserted. In John 6, right after He fed the five thousand and walked on water, Jesus declared this in verse 53-56:
“Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.  For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them."
Then John adds this update in verse 66 after many had complained this teaching was difficult:

From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
If you are familiar with this story, you know that the Apostles stuck with Him and that Peter declares there is nowhere else for them to go, while affirming that Jesus was the Holy One of God. Why did Jesus make that statement right then, when everything seemed to be going so well? Crowds were embracing Him but He said many for the wrong reason. Early in that chapter, He accused them of liking Him simply because He fed them. But when the teaching is not so palatable, the throngs disperse like the morning fog. It's easy to be faithful when things are easy. The test is when times are tough and the water on which our boats are floating  turns choppy. You know, the old coaching cliche, separating the men from the boys. It's not very hard to follow somebody on a blog. You just push a button. I'm following many blogs myself that I've forgotten. But the question is who will I follow when it matters....and who will you? That time is coming and it won't be measured on some blog counter or a Facebook timeline. We need to be ready- it could be tomorrow. Or tonight.

Applicable quote of the day:
Luke 18:1
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