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.
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.
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
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
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?"
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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:
tend to worship our work, work at our play, and play at our worship."
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.
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
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.
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)
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
 "A. W. Tozer, The Divine Conquest, Fleming H. Revell Co, Old
Tappan, 1950, Page 32.
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