Friday, September 20, 2013

Read The Fine Print

I like to watch America's Got Talent.  I'm not sure what the attraction is for me, but I enjoy watching the show most of the time.  After watching this year's finale, my wife noticed the fine print rolling at that end of the show.  So, I backed it up and paused it long enough to read it.  Moments earlier I watched as they announced the winner thinking, there's a new millionaire.  I know that Uncle Sam will get a huge hunk of that million, but before taxes that's what the winner wins.  Or, is it?  All season long the show mentions that the contestants are competing for a million bucks and a show in Vegas.  However, when you read the fine print, things are not as you assume them to be.

Kenichi, this year's winner does not get to take home a million.  Not even close.  His million dollar payout is done through an annuity over the course of the next 40 years. So, what does that look like in dollars and cents?  About $25,000 per year before taxes.  He can elect to take a lump sum payout, but that is somewhere around a third of the million promised.  And that too is before taxes.  Now, I know that the exposure one gets from that show can equal huge dividends in the years to come, but they do not instantly become a millionaire as the show would like each of us to think.

Now, I really don't care how much they win.  I'm thinking a $25,000 annual addition to my bank account would be a really good thing.  The point I'm making is that a lot of times there are things we assume to be true that just aren't true.  It's only after a closer look that we find out the real truth.  I don't know about you, but I like knowing the real truth.  I can't stand fake, fraud, or deception. I hate hype and manipulation.  I despise white lies, black lies, and every other colored lies.  I just want to know what's real and what's true.

Ever since I was a kid I've been a "seeker."  Let me explain what I mean.  When I was a child I remember having conversations with my Dad prior to entering a store.  "Now Tim, don't touch anything!  I mean it.  Keep your hands to yourself and don't touch anything!"  Those pre-store speeches were the product of my inability to inspect anything from a distance.  I had to touch it.  I had to feel it.  I wanted to know what it was made of and how it worked. Around the house, I would take things apart not because they were broken but because I wanted to see what was inside.  Stereos, televisions, computers, watches, cars, cameras, and many other things fell prey to my desire to get a closer look.  Often, I wasn't able to put them completely back together which would result in a different conversation with Dad.  To this day I still struggle to keep my hands off of stuff when I enter a store and I find myself occasionally taking something apart just to see what's inside.

This "seeker" thing in me also manifests in my desire to get the "real" story when I see a movie based on a true story.  I have to know just how historically accurate they are.  Although I'm often disappointed in the "Hollywood" version once I know the truth, at least I can't rest good at night knowing the truth. So, when I say I'm a seeker, what I mean is that at the very core of who I am, I need to know the truth about a thing.  I'm never content to take something at face value.  I want to go deeper.  I don't want to just put my feet in the water, I want to jump in.

So it is with my journey with God.  I'm not content to just hear about Him.  I'm not ok with hearing somebody else tell me what they think or believe about Him. I want a hands on, first hand revelation of this Creator of the universe.  Don't get me wrong, I value those who know this God and I love hearing them share their encounters and experiences and the truths they have learned about Him.  What I'm saying is that's not enough for me. I'm not content with second hand knowledge when I know I can get much closer than that.  Much like walking down the aisles of those stores and seeing something on a shelf.  I can't help myself, I've got to get a closer look!

Religion, tradition, and culture paint a picture of God that is not at all accurate.  If we simply accept that picture as an accurate portrayal we'll miss what is real and what is true about Him.  We have to move past all of that.  We have to be willing to slow down and get close enough that we can see the fine print.  From my experience I can tell you that as I've determined to take a closer look, there is much about God that I once thought was true that I no longer do.  Assumptions I've made about Him in the past have given way to the truth as I've determined to move past the fluff of religion, the traditions of men, and an increasingly deceptive culture.  God is real but we'll never really know Him if we allow anyone or anything other than the Holy Spirit to reveal Him to us.

I'm sure that many don't really care about how the whole million dollar payout is handled by America's Got Talent. To be honest it's completely irrelevant to me except for my unquenchable desire to know the truth.  I just had to put the TV on pause and read the fine print.  In the same way many are content with their concept of who God is and what He's like.  They are less concerned with knowing the real truth about Him as they hold tightly to assumptions about Him that they are convinced are true.  I can't approach my journey with Him that way.  I have to put things on pause every now and then and evaluate what I believe about Him and why.  Are they assumptions?  Are they true?

The truth is that Kenichi will get his money for winning America's Got Talent.  He'll just get it in a completely different way than most who watch the show assume he will.  Knowing that truth is not life changing for any of us.  However, not knowing the truth about who God is and what He's like?  That's a completely different story.  It's the difference between freedom and bondage.  It's the difference between life and death.  Choose to slow down and get close enough to read the fine print!

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