I really don't think you have any idea what you're talking about. If you were to tell a child "don't eat the chocolate bar or you will go to bed early" are you manipulating the child like a puppet? Of course not: you haven't changed the will of the child, you have merely warned them. They still have free choice.
We all discipline our children but we do not allow them to needlessly suffer if we can help it - and God can help it (if he exists, that is).
Herein lies the problem. Either God interferes with freewill and then everyone is predestined (unlike where you think predestination comes into the equation) or God doesn't interfere with freewill.
Richie, the Bible tells us that God has interfered with freewill on many occasions. He's even suspended the laws of physics, chemistry & biology to change the course of events - you don't get more meddlesome than that! Even now Christians all over the world believe he actively works in their lives by allowing certain events to unfold. I've lost count of the amount of times that Christians talk about God 'using' certain individuals to bring about the fulfilment of prophecy. Not much freewill there, then. You've even said yourself that God puts 'obstacles' in peoples' way to test them.
Following the logic of your beliefs we are all living in some sort of God-matrix where every thought, decision, and reaction is determined by God's will. Nothing on earth can happen without God allowing it to happen or causing it to happen. There's the rub; if we are beholden to some sort of omniscient, omnipotent power then we can't ever have freewill. It will always be an illusion.
There's an argument I can show which tells us human beings don't have free will until God comes into the picture...
You mixed up "free-will" with "free-choice".
Once a person is given a choice THEN he can choose and not before.
"Free-will" OTOH, is the ability to make an UNCAUSED choice, a choice that is not given
- which you cannot do. If you think that I don't know what I'm talking about - try it! Right now, make an uncaused choice. I dare ya, com'on - try harder.
A man living here in the state of Arkansas, for example, studies his Bible daily and belongs to the First Baptist Church (because that's the way he was raised and besides that, it the closest church to his home). Now, this man sincerely wants "the truth" - however, he can't choose to become a Christadelphian. Why? Because he's never even heard of it - his free-will to choose Christadelphia is out the window.
And doesn't Christadelphia say that Christadelphia is "the truth"? Just suppose this man decided that his church wasn't the right one and starts a search for "the truth". Right off the bat he's faced with about 34,000 sects of just Christendom alone. His chance of finding, studying and deciding that Christadelphia has it right are next to nil, and he is far more likely to end up a JW or a Mormon. That's because everyone has heard of them and they are presented as a choice.
I left the CDs a long time ago but it wasn't because of my "free-will" by an uncaused choice. No, I simply made the choice to leave because of the way that I had been treated, so it had a CAUSE. It wasn't free-will at all, it was free-choice, because I already HAD that choice and that choice was not uncaused.
Have you succeeded in making that free-will, uncaused choice yet? As soon as you do, I'll tell you what the cause was, you know, just in case you can't see it yourself.