I shared Lloyd Ahlem's "A Christian Manifesto for People Who Aren’t Great Theologians" (which I have posted on my bradboydston.com server) with someone today. So I thought I'd share it again with a more general audience. In someways it reflects the cultural emphases of a few years ago when Lloyd wrote it but I always find it fresh and appreciate an unpretentious presentation by an intellectual.
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God is in charge of everything. He designed it all, made it all, and will end it all. How he goes about it is curiously captivating to consider. You can get some fancy college and seminary degrees trying to figure it all out.
God thinks he is self-evident. He is not too worried about your proving whether or not he exists. Simple people can find out a lot about him without much mental hassle. Brainy folks have to be more childlike.
God loves people. He turned himself into a man so he could be like you. He gurgled through babyhood, colic, and wet pants. He squirmed through adolescence, emerged into strong manhood, and into full divinity. He is the strangest combination of qualities you have ever heard of. He is called Jesus, and he will not fit any of your notions of what God ought to be like.
Through the years people who yearned for him and began to understand him wrote down what they learned about him. They used their own words and descriptions as best they could. They did very well for they still tell us about him today. Their thoughts are true and full of hope. Some people like to argue about the words, but their fussing is not important. The plain stuff will compel you more than you expect. If you don't think so start with the Gospel of John, then the Gospel of Luke, and the Acts of the Apostles. They are easy to find in the index of your Bible.
God knows you screw up your life and make a lot of booboos. Knowing you could hardly do otherwise, he decided to forgive you before you even started being so awfully normal. That way the heat is off you and on him. No use keeping score in a game where the results don't count. You can forget about feeling guilty for all your nonsense unless you decide to be your own god and fix everything yourself. Some people try to do this and they get very tired; tired of themselves and tired of never succeeding at setting things straight. There is always somebody to apologize to, some stupid act to rationalize, or some dumb mistake that cannot be corrected. In time you will not care or your conscience will be so beaten up you won't feel either pain or joy. Fortunately, Jesus paid all our moral and spiritual bills. You don't have to contribute a thing-just accept the gift. This is true even if you have done something hideous.
Since God has no memory of your klutzy deeds and lusty motives, he likes what he sees in you. He enjoys your company. He laughs and sings and dances when you come around. He is like a father who wants to do more for his kids than they can imagine. He tries not to be too indulgent because they might get spoiled. So you may not get everything your heart desires.
God is not half as hard on you as people are. He loves you so much he will forgive stuff most religious people would like to hold you accountable for. Do not worry about these people. They can't take away the gift. In fact, a lot them haven't accepted the gift themselves. That's why they are so pious and cranky. Try copying God when it comes to forgiving yourself. You are probably tougher on yourself than he is.
God will give your life direction and meaning. Just start doing the things that show love to people and let God put all you do into a personal mission. By loving and serving you will discover your abilities and God will expand your opportunities. A lot of books have been written about special secret and mysterious ways to dig out what God has in mind for people. Most of these can be ignored. Just read the New Testament. Then do the things that are obvious to do.
Sing a lot, love even more, worship joyfully, hope strenuously, and remember God must have a sense of humor to make the likes of you. He always has a surprise when he moves you along in your life. He is never completely predictable. He loves to put quirks in your plans just for the fun of it. Accept the fact with cheer for he has final plans you can scarcely imagine.
Someday those people who decided to be their own god will get to live with themselves forever; totally alone, unloved, bitter, hopeless, remembering what might have been. The place is called hell and the door will likely be locked from the inside, for this is what they are used to doing. You, on the other hand, are invited to live in his mansion. Living with God will be so fulfilling you will be tickled you dumped all the other options. No death, no tears, no grief, no suffering. Hooray!
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Lloyd Ahlem, EdD, is a retired psychologist, professor, college and seminary president, retirement community administrator, and businessman. He is a member of Cornerstone Covenant Church, Turlock, California. An earlier version of this article originally appeared in the Covenant Companion.