Amusement Park: Game Booths
Legs still shaky from the roller coaster they had just exited, and not ready to chance another ride, Amalia asked Jesus if they could walk around for a little bit.
“Sounds like a great idea. I love watching people.”
Although there weren’t too many people, Amalia had to agree it was fun watching the ones that were there. Smiling couples, excited children, chatting seniors – everyone seemed to be happy to be there. The sun was bright and warm, filling the area with a sense of peace that could almost be touched. Amalia held Jesus’ hand and delighted in the pleasant fragrances of flowers and popcorn that drifted past her in the breeze.
Then they went turned a corner.
Things were different on this side. Gone were the peace and joy and light that Amalia had been enjoying. An ominous cloud seemed to hover over the various booths that lined the path, putting everything in its shadow. The booth attendees compensated by using a variety of artificial light sources. Amalia sniffed. What was that odor? It wasn’t very strong, but definitely unpleasant. However, she forgot about it as soon as she saw the first booth. A lady, dressed in a flowing purple and black robe, and wearing a matching turban, beckoned to Amalia.
“Come, let me tell you of your wondrous future! Would you like your palm read? Or would you prefer to gaze into my crystal ball?”
That sounded intriguing. Who doesn’t want to know their future? She started towards the lady, but Jesus held her back.
“No, Amalia. I hold your future. And I will reveal what is good for you to know. Don’t seek that knowledge from anyone else.”
“I know, Jesus. And I don’t believe she is for real. But what harm is there in playing along? It sounds fun.”
Before He could answer, her attention was drawn to the next booth filled with stars. Pinned on the walls, hanging from the ceiling, and piled on the counter, stars were everywhere. Even the man behind the counter was covered in stars. She loved stars!
“Come right over here, young lady! Come see the heavenly beings that are all around! Forget your future – think of your present! These stars have great power, and can do wondrous things for you. Have a problem? There’s a star for that! Need more money? There’s a star for that! There are stars for protection, for finding lost things, for bringing you peace. Aren’t they beautiful? They would look great displayed in your home. And you can even share them with your friends. Come, let me find just the right stars for your needs.”
“Look, Jesus! Aren’t these stars glorious?”
“You don’t need any.”
“But they are real, right? I mean, I can see the stars in the sky at night, so I know they are real.”
“Stars do dwell in the heavens, but they don’t do what this guy is claiming. Don’t look to them for your needs. Look to Me. I am all that you need.”
Amalia nodded, took a few steps, and then stopped. Maybe she shouldn’t want any, but they sure were tempting.
“What if I took a few home just for decoration? That won’t hurt anything because I will still look to You. I just like looking at them.”
“Amalia, suppose you had a friend who got married. She loved her husband, but wanted to keep some pictures of other men she found attractive in her home. She would never do anything with these men because she was totally committed to her husband, but their photos pleased her eyes. How do you think her husband would react?”
“He’d hate those pictures. He’d want her to get rid of them.”
“Why would he do that?”
“Because he’d be jealous. He wouldn’t want share his home with other men. He’d want all of his wife’s affection. And it might hurt him to think she thought he wasn’t enough for her.”
“But they are just pictures.”
“It’s what they represent.”
“Just like the stars.”
Amalia got it. Just because something looked good didn’t make it good. And it made her feel good to know that Jesus loved her so much that He was jealous for her affection.
The passed the next booth, where a woman offered to contact Amalia’s “dearly departed loved ones” for her.
“Nope, keep walking.” Jesus said. “The only one who’s ever died that you’re allowed to contact is Me.”
“What’s wrong with hearing from someone else?”
“What do people seek from that communication?”
“A lot of people get comfort. Or maybe an answer to a question they have.” Amalia stopped. “Oh, I get where You’re going with this. It has to do with jealousy again, doesn’t it? You want us to go only to You for comfort and answers.”
“And, in this case, to protect you from things you can’t see.” He frowned at the woman. “Besides, most of the time, these people are just playing games. They get good at guessing, reading body language, and being vague enough to deceive you.”
The sound of guitar chords drew Amalia to the next booth. Several people were singing about God’s love. Hearts and flowers were displayed in tasteful ways throughout the booth. Amalia stopped. Finally a good, clean booth. One that Jesus would like, too.
“Hi, would you like to play?” asked the man with the guitar. “You can win some great joy and peace.”
Amalia nodded, but at the same time she noticed Jesus shaking His head. Confused, she turned to look at Him.
“What’s wrong with this booth? They are singing about God’s love. That’s good, isn’t it?”
Instead of answering her, Jesus addressed the man. “Who is God?”
“That depends, man, on who you want god to be. God takes many forms and has many names. It doesn’t really matter which one you choose. Come play our game – the grand prize is a free ride to paradise.”
Amalia shrunk back. Many gods? But their song had sounded so right, so beautiful.
Jesus smiled sadly at her. “Many people have been deceived. You have to look past the outside and see what’s at the core. Don’t let pleasant words deceive you also.”
They continued walking, passing booth after booth of people promising prizes – mighty wonders, or prosperity, or power to make you whatever you wanted to be – all with one catch: you had to pay to play. She tried to stop several times, but each time Jesus pulled her along with the words, “empty promises”. Finally she insisted on stopping at a plain booth where a sweet looking lady was reading the Bible.
“This one has to be okay, She’s reading a Bible!” Amalia told Jesus, and then greeted the woman.
The woman looked up, smiling at first, but then frowned. “If you want to play my game, you have to get rid of some things, like your earrings. And your colorful clothes. You’ll need to put on the ones I give you. Everything must be proper. We don’t want to displease God, do we?”
“But God likes colors…” Amalia began but was interrupted by the woman.
“We need to get rid of everything that might cause us to be prideful. See, it says here in the Bible that God opposes the prideful.”
“And it says here,” she turned to another page, “not to be puffed up with pride.”
“You do agree that these scriptures are in the Bible, and that the Bible is God’s Word, don’t you? So you have to obey them.”
“But there are many other scriptures. You have to read them all to get what God is saying. You can’t just take one or two out of context like that. When He said not to be prideful, He was talking about…” Again she was cut off.
“You can’t play my game if you don’t agree to follow my rules. And since my rules are from God’s Word, they are God’s rules. Anyone who chooses not to play my game is rebelling against God.” Her frown softened. “I can see you love God. Come play my game, it’s the only one God approves.”
Amalia turned to Jesus. “Talk to her. Tell her the truth.”
“Come on, Amalia,” Jesus said, guiding her away. “Her mind is made up. She won’t listen to either of us.”
A few steps later, Amalia stopped again, shaking her head. “What is wrong with this place? I thought these games would be fun. But they’re not. And some of them are even scary.”
“Did you notice what they all had in common? They are all under a cloud of deception, so whether they meant to or not, deception was at the root of each. Once you walk under that cloud, it becomes easy to be deceived. And it’s not easy to walk away from it.”
“Unless we have You. You kept me safe from losing in those games. Why…?”
“Why don’t I do the same for everyone else? I try, but they aren’t listening like you are. And some, believe it or not, prefer the deception over the truth.”
“Well, I don’t want any part of deception. Let’s get out of here.”
This time when she started walking, she kept going.
What do you think is the greatest deception we face?
Abominations (don’t do as the pagans)
Deut 18:10-14 There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omen, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD. And because of these abominations the LORD your God is driving them out before you. You shall be blameless before the LORD your God, for these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the LORD your God has not allowed you to do this.
Lev 19:31 Do not turn to mediums or necromancers; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them: I am the LORD your God.
Rom 12:2 Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Deut 4:24 For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.
Ex 34:14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God),
Is 42:8 I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I will give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.
James 4:4-5 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us?”
Col 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
Eph 5:6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.
Col 2:18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind,
Col 2:23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.
2 Cor 11:13-15 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.
2 Peter 2”1-3a But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words.
Aroma of God
2 Cor 2:15-16a For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. (Personal note: if Christians have an aroma, then couldn’t those in the enemy’s camp also have their own aroma? Thus the smell Amalia noticed when she entered the game area.)