“A lot of people like lollipops. I don’t like lollipops. To me, a lollipop is hard candy plus garbage. I don’t need a handle. Just give me the candy.”
Demetri Martin

Just give me the candy.
Do you notice the little bit of “trash” that accompanies the “candy” we encounter on a daily basis? Have we become desensitized to the tabloids, gossip, and scandals as we check out our groceries? Do we “see” those ads lining the sides of our social media pages? Does what we are influenced by, effect what our influence is? Can we choose our influences?

I love this quote by Dr. Harvey Herman: “Mystery in an age of information, hope in an era of skepticism, confidence in a time of doubt, and truth in a climate of relativism.”  This is what we are called to be! We have an opportunity to choose wonder and awe in a culture consumed with “Google-ing.” We can offer hope and encouragement in a cynical and pessimistic world where focus on tragedy and negativity abounds. We can empower people to become something greater and emancipate them from uncertainty and disbelief. And we can choose to display candor, honesty, and truth in a tolerant atmosphere of shifting and dubious moralities.

There is an old saying “garbage in, garbage out.” This phrase was developed in the field of computer science and refers to the fact that computers will “unquestioningly process unintended, even nonsensical, input data (“garbage in”) and produce undesired, often nonsensical, output (“garbage out”).” Can you think of any “undesirable” or “nonsensical” music, TV shows, and/or movies that might be full of garbage? Sometimes we refer to these things as guilty pleasures… that should be a red flag right there. As you evaluate your influences, you may need to choose to “sacrifice” some of these things! If we feed ourselves with evil, anxiety, and hatred… these we will re-produce these things. Likewise, if we feed on love, joy, peace, and hope… we will generate these things in our lives.

This post is about our influence. Here are three important things to consider:

1. His Perspective of Us– Missing Identity

Colossians 1:22 makes this statement about Jesus: “He has now, in His human body, reconciled to God by His death, to bring you, holy and faultless and irreproachable, into His presence…” In other words, He sacrificed Himself so that we would have the opportunity to be re-united with God and in His presence… He sees us as blameless and pure. This is the scandal of Grace. So how have you been identifying yourself? How has the world around you been trying to influence your identity? Here are some of the ways the Creator of the universe sees you:
A child of God.
But to all who have received him–those who believe in his name–he has given the right to
become God’s children (John 1:12).
A friend
I no longer call you slaves, because the slave does not understand what his master is doing. But I
have called you friends, because I have revealed to you everything I heard from my Father (John
15:15).
Accepted
Receive one another, then, just as Christ also received you, to God’s glory (Romans 15:7).
His house…His dwelling place
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? (1 Corinthians
6:19)
New and fresh
So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away–look, what is
new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Free
For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be subject again to the yoke of
slavery (Galatians 5:1).
Peace-full
And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ
Jesus (Philippians 4:7).

2. Our Perspective of Him– Misperception

In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus tells a story of an employer who goes away on a trip and entrusts his workers with his property. To each of his three employees he gave differing amounts of property to take care of. Two of his employees doubled the value of the property that he gave them in the time that he was gone. The employer was so impressed by these two that he thanked them and gave them promotions right on the spot! But, one of the employees decided to take the property that was entrusted to him and hid it in a hole in the ground; here, it did not increase in value or even gain interest. The employer was disappointed in this employee because of this wasteful behavior. Then the employee makes this statement: “Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent (property) in the ground.” (Matthew 25:24-25 NASB).

The point is… The last employee had a misperception of his employer, a faithful, trustworthy, and generous man. He says “I was afraid…” and because of fear, the third employee missed out on a promotion and an opportunity for greater blessing in his life. We have been given the chance to increase the value of our lives if we want to! If we view God as anything but good, and full of unconditional love… We will live in a state of fear and potentially miss the opportunity to influence others to live the life they were created to! Others can benefit from your faithfulness and faith.

3. Our Responsibility to be an Example– Misrepresentation

Thomas Jefferson once said: “Whenever you do a thing, act as if all the world were watching.”
We cannot control the world around us, but we can influence it… and we can certainly make choices about what we allow ourselves to be filled with. If you fill a cup full of water, water will pour out… if you fill a cup full of poison, poison will pour out. If we say that we love God and do not love His people… we are misrepresenting Him. We are proclaiming that we will pour out water, and instead spill out poison. This is because we are not aware of our influence! When we fill ourselves with good things, they feel better going in as well. I love this statement in Ezekiel 3:3- “And he said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly with this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it.” Then I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey.”

Most of us don’t desire for others to get discouraged, angry, disgusted, or frustrated by the words we say or the things we post on social media. But… they do. In this culture, our ability to influence hundreds of people a day, simply by posting one thing on our Facebook, is exponentially higher than decades past. We have to learn to use this influence in a meaningful, responsible way. We have all seen how this privilege is abused and perverted on a daily basis.

* Some easy questions to ask before “sharing” on social media are… Is this helpful? Am I just complaining? Why am I posting this? How will others view me because of the content I share? Could this confuse someone or cause them pain? Is this encouraging to others? Is there any garbage in this content?*

We are called to, “Imitate God, therefore, in everything [we] do, because [we] are His dear children,” (Eph 5:1). Because we are His children. There were certain expectations my parents had, growing up, for my siblings and I. They expected that we would use manners, do our chores, “put things back where they go,” take turns, forgive, and make healthy choices. They even sacrificed their needs and time in order to provide an environment in which we were able to carry out their expectations. Looking back, I know I fought these expectations (or “rules”) but I think these are more than reasonable expectations for parents who provided everything we needed to grow up in a safe and “nutritious” environment.

Being asked to imitate a God, who sacrificed to provide us with an “environment” that is pure and blameless, and who is called Perfect Love, shouldn’t be such an “inconvenience” to us.
Because we are His children, shouldn’t we be compelled to be more like Him?
Shouldn’t we want to do what He expects, especially because these expectations are for our benefit, health, fulfillment, and joy?
Shouldn’t we?

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”
Matt 5:15-16 (MSG)