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PLAYING GAMES WITH GOD

Christianity Oasis Ministry has provided this E-book titled Playing Games With God written by Author Robert M. Smith. We hope you will explore our many studies and programs at Christianity Oasis that look into all aspects of the Christian Walk and reveal truth and bring forth understanding and peace.


PLAYING GAMES WITH GOD

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God



Playing Games With God

by Robert M. Smith



TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction

Chapter 1 - Where Do Games Come From?
Chapter 2 - What Is at Stake?
Chapter 3 - Does God Play With Us?
Chapter 4 - The Word Game
Chapter 5 - The Listening Game
Chapter 6 - The Intellectual Game
Chapter 7 - The Spirituality Game
Chapter 8 - The Prayer Game
Chapter 9 - The Positional Game

Chapter 10 - The Seeing Game
Chapter 11 - The Priorities Game
Chapter 12 - The Blame Game
Chapter 13 - The Money Game
Chapter 14 - The Interpreting Game
Chapter 15 - The Ecstasy Game
Chapter 16 - The Church Game
Chapter 17 - Who Is the winner?
Bibliography


INTRODUCTION

One April many years ago I had stumbled onto something that has since changed the way I envision both society and the church. I had bought a home for the first time in my life, and my lesson stemmed, indirectly, from that. Along with our new house came the responsibilities of maintaining it, and I thought that replacing the door knobs and locks, for security reasons, was one of those responsibilities.

On the Saturday that I devoted to this task my wife, a registered nurse, had to work at the hospital in another community 15 kilometers to the west and, while she was doing her job in the neonatal intensive care unit, I was to do mine as a babysitter and a Mister Fixit. Needless to say, the jobs designated to me do not often go together harmoniously, especially with a Mister Fixit as mechanically inept as I.

After purchasing two new sets of doorknobs at the local Canadian Tire store the day before, it was approximately 9:00 AM when I started to work on the side door. My first task was to remove the old knob. Being a somewhat less than able carpenter, after considerable effort and puzzling I deduced that I would have to pry open the central casing of the existing unit, in which all of the essential mechanisms were located. Upon opening this self-contained section, I was able to remove both the outside and inside door knobs. Now, that may sound simple, but I fully assure you that it was not; and, to my chagrin, I found out later that I could not have chosen a more counterproductive way to remove a doorknob … the knobs were simply not meant to be dismantled in that fashion. The outcome of this approach sent springs and pieces of metal popping out of the main unit and all over the floor. This might have been disconcerting to others but, in my ignorance, I was not dismayed. I was about to install a brand new doorknob so of what consequence was the old one? To this point in time, the job was three-quarters of an hour old – undoubtedly a new speed record in my books!

Things took a turn for the worse after that, however. It appeared that I had not calculated or planned as well as I should. So, confidence waning with each passing minute and the children, although being among the best behaved I have ever known in my life, interrupting from time to time, I was quickly reaching the end of my wits. The salt in this wound was my sudden discovery that not all doorknobs are created equal; a great deal depends upon the type of door and the holes that are cut into it. As a result of my own lack of foresight the new door knobs did not fit! My education in these matters was coming at me fast and furious … and I was failing miserably.

Nothing quite disturbs me as much as mechanical malfunctions. They are the bane of my existence. I am totally lost in such a maze, unable to grasp the simplest technical concept. Being thus confounded I reverted and resorted to an age-old humanistic pattern that, though it provides no solution and merely exacerbates the difficulty, gives the practitioner a momentary emotional/psychological reprieve: I started whining and complaining. I thought, to that point in my Christian walk, I had dealt with a complaining spirit; that I had been to that wall and back; that I was a man who would stand apart from the misery displayed in the wilderness by the newly-birthed nation of wandering Israelites. I was wrong. Out came my lament, directed at none other than God, Himself: “Lord, why are You doing this to me? You know that I know nothing about doorknobs! Why are you playing games with me?”

With no way of leaving the house to search for a solution since my wife had our car and since I was babysitting and since I could not leave our side door open to all comers for days, my path was clear: I simply had to figure out how to get the old doorknob reassembled and reinstalled. Four and a half hours of unrelenting torture later I had the old unit – functioning properly, mind you – back in the door. And with the children having their afternoon nap, I grabbed my Bible and headed downstairs to the rec-room. Some serious self-examination had to take place after that fiasco so, among other Scriptures, I read James 1:13 [“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.”], and I cried.

Not only did I have a sense of shame for being so easily swayed toward despair and sin but I was intensely sorry for having judged God by assuming that He ever toyed with His children in a derogatory way. I wept over the fact that it was I – not God – who plays the games. If anyone plays games in this Divine relationship between God and man, it is man … it is me.

After spending time with the Lord in repentance and prayer I read Psalm 51 and took hold of my Father’s hand again: “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity.” “Against You, You only, I have sinned.” “Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” “Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.” “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”

Having dispatched this dilemma, I thought the matter was over and done with. However, during the next few weeks following that momentous Saturday the theme of playing games kept cropping up in conversations and circumstances. Impacted by my own personal encounter, and prompted by things beyond my control, it appeared that I was getting a distinct message to take this concept a great deal further than “private lesson” status. I began studying and researching. Then I began writing.

For many years my manuscript lay dormant as many others had done as well. The occasional sermon benefited from that storehouse of information but I did not unleash a concerted effort into utilizing this perspective in the church. It has only recently been brought “out of moth balls” as the old proverb goes. This new millennium in North American evangelicalism is proving to be in desperate need of it. With corruption rampant, not merely in government, business and society but rather in the church, all of us need to look at the root causes of these things instead of slapping a bandage on them after disease breaks out.

Before launching into this book I would like to leave with you a thought that had been given to me back there in the 1980’s. This little saying is worth memorizing for you will find it to be all too prevalent in our day and it will prove itself over and over again:

“We tend to worship our work, work at our play, and play at our worship.”

It appears that A. W. Tozer agrees heartily with this appraisal for it seems like an abbreviated version of his own estimates from the mid-twentieth century. In his book The Divine Conquest, published in 1950, he delineates the “gaming” of the faith, upon which I hope to expand: “Most men, indeed, play at religion as they play at games, religion itself being of all games the one most universally played. … For the Church has also its fields and its rules and its equipment for playing the game of pious words. It has its devotees, both laymen and professionals, who support the game with their money and encourage it with their presence, but who are no different in life or in character from many who take in religion no interest at all.

As an athlete uses a ball so do many of us use words: words spoken and words sung, words written and words uttered in prayer. We throw them swiftly across the field; we learn to handle them with dexterity and grace; we build reputations upon our word-skill and gain as our reward the applause of those who have enjoyed the game. But the emptiness of it is apparent from the fact that after the pleasant religious game no one is basically any different from what he had been before. The bases of life remain unchanged, the same old principles govern, the same old Adam rules.”[1]

There are far too many games being played within the church at this very moment. Some are subconsciously maintained and many are taken extremely seriously … but, I kid you not, they do indeed exist. Some will require a great degree of soul-searching and honesty for they dwell in the comfort zones of our lives and are dealt with only through major spiritual surgery. Others will be found among the more cavalier aspects of our lives, being ignored and tolerated simply because we do not have the intestinal fortitude to do something about them. It matters not where we sit or stand in the pecking order of our local church or where we are to be found on national or international circuits for each and every one of us plays a game of some kind. And to overlook these trouble spots leads only to the magnification of maladies within the church of North America as a whole. Like any infectious disease, a spiritually poor attitude or approach by any one of us can turn into a spiritual pandemic, defiling many.

One main portion of Scripture should be reverberating over and over again in the mind and heart of any ardent reader and thus be considered the overall theme of this book. Psalm 139:23-24 should be the headliner for every chapter, so let’s start immediately with it now:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.” (NKJV)

Read your Bible; examine yourself; read this book; but whatever you do, find out if some of these chapters are true about you and then do something about it. Spiritual maturity – something that God longs to see in you and I – may be hanging in the balance.

Robert M. Smith



[1] “A. W. Tozer, The Divine Conquest, Fleming H. Revell Co, Old Tappan, 1950, Page 32



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