I have, at times, referred to HGTV and the programs we have watched.  At other times, in conversation, Roxann or I may mention something we saw on Food Network.  I was thinking about the number of times what we saw on one of those television programs influenced what we did next.  We have put plants in our yard after we saw them on the television program. We have changed things in the house based on what we have seen on television.  J.C., our architect son, tells how the perception of renovation projects has changed thanks to HGTV. It is not as easy or as quick as a 30-minute program. Some of our favorite recipes and dishes came from something we saw on Food Network.  I am amazed at the times we use a technique or understand a process better because of the television program.

Now, the point: if you had asked me if we were influenced by television, I would have told you that we were not; the truth is that we are.  In fact, I began to look around and see all the things that influence my life and the decisions I make. I may try something in a restaurant because of someone’s recommendation.   I may want to visit a place because someone told the story of their wonderful trip there. I have been influenced by diet, exercise, activities, and so many other things because of something I saw, heard or was introduced to by someone else.  I have found interests that otherwise were not on my radar because of the influence of my children, grandchildren or friends. Roxann and I learn from each other, and that changes our lives constantly.

Clearly, there is power in the influence of others and the media around us.  Jesus understood this. His goal in calling disciples was to influence them by showing them a new way.   Such an influence rattles us out of our routines and offers us a chance to see things in a new and exciting way.  Jesus invited the disciples to come and see what He was doing and teaching. He sat with them and answered their questions—and the questions themselves were an indication that something was changing. Even if a person does not say yes to doing something; the very question shows interest and that his or her mind is moving off-center toward considering the new thing.  When the disciples asked questions, it was indicative of their spiritual awakening and early growth. Such requests as teaching us to pray indicated they realized there was something more to this whole idea of prayer and they wanted in on it.  

Jesus told us at the end of His time on earth that we are to be His witnesses.  The very mission of the individual Christian, and therefore the church, is to be the medium that the Holy Spirit uses to help open the minds of others to the things that can be done, believed and accomplished. The question Who is this Jesus? is a huge opening for a person to begin to move toward belief.  We see it in the curiosity of the Ethiopian with whom Philip shared a chariot and a conversation.  

I have talked only about the positive influences that draw us to a new renovation project, a new recipe, a new way of looking at things or to believe in Jesus. It is also important to know that the negative influences in our lives can warp our thinking, depress our souls and close our minds to the truth.  We need to monitor the influences around us and make sure we are being fed by positive words, ideas, concepts, and dreams. These improve our lives while the negative things—criticism, arguments and other things that offer struggle without clear direction towards something positive—weigh us down and eclipse the light of Christ’s hope.  Our parents were absolutely right—we DO need to watch the company (and media) with which we associate. God offers a way to influence that leads to hope, peace and eternity. We are His witnesses to others, and others are His witnesses to us.

Your Pastor,