Category Archives: Culture

No One Else Is Coming

That sure sounds like an awkward theme for a Christian conference. But that was the theme for the 2019 Vous Conference in Miami. This theme hit on a key point that strangles today’s churches and Christians. Frequently, we look around waiting for some charismatic leader, innovative ministry or new move of God before we act.

But Jesus left His earthly ministry thousands of years ago. And Christ sent us forth to carry forward the Gospel. So, what are we doing standing around with our hands in our pockets?

Each person in the body of Christ has something to offer. We can’t stand around and say we don’t have what we need. Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and hearth has been given to me, so therefore go and make disciples of all nations.” Sure, this command was directed to the disciples. But it equally applies to Christians today.

Christians have the call, the example, the resurrecting power of Christ, the anointing of the Holy Spirit. What else are we waiting for? Nobody else is coming.

Vous pastor, Rich Wilkerson Jr., challenged the conference attendees. He said, “Reaching the world for Jesus depends on the Church. Everyone and everything we need to change the world is in this room. We shouldn’t look around waiting for somebody else? We have a responsibility to carry forth the Gospel. If not you, then who?”

We all know people who need to know Jesus. So, why don’t we just make an introduction? We don’t have to cram religion down somebody’s throat. All we need to do is tell our story. We need them to know that Jesus is for them, no matter what they have done. Repentance is sweet, and it is the key to unlocking freedom from our past.

Rich said, “The Church of Jesus is the most powerful force on the planet.” Jesus declared  that the Gates of Hell would not prevail against the Church. Gates are defensive measures. Basically, Jesus was saying, “Not even hell is protected from the Church.”

The key point that Rich made in his opening talk was the importance of unity. He admitted,  “The devil doesn’t fear a big church; he fears a united Church.” Unity is crucial for the Church to fulfill its mission. Rich added, “If you don’t have unity, you can’t have community.”

The key Scripture that Rich used was Jesus’ prayer as He approached the cross.

John 17:20-23

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

Jesus stressed unity that leads to intimacy. It centers on love and directs people to God. More than just unity, Jesus was calling for oneness — when people are unified around the thoughts and plans of God.

Rich talked about the four things that get in our way:

1.) Comparison

Rich said, “It is really hard to carry out your calling if you are focusing on what others are doing around you.” You must be who God has designed and called you to be. Comparison is a trap that robs us of our potential. And in this social media driven culture, comparison is like a plague.

 

2.) Competition in Ministries

Many of those you are competing against don’t really care about competing against you. People want to do big things for God. But sometimes our call is smaller than we wish. As Rich said, “You will never get big if you refuse to be dedicated to the small.”

Rich stressed, “Authenticity comes from identity – what God has put inside of you that attracts others.”

The big problem is that competition causes jealous, which brings division. We need to get to a point where we say, “Your win in ministry is my win…Collaboration is multiplication.”

Rich said, “I am super competitive. You just have to know who your real competitor is.”

 

3.) Critical Spirit

Sure, we need to be discerning. We don’t need to approve of everything that another preacher or ministry does. My motto has been, “Eat the meat and spit out the bones.” I try to look for what I can learn from others, even from those who may a bit off in places.

I also know that other ministries are not accountable to me. There is one Lord, and He will judge each believer for our actions. As the Apostle Paul asked, “Who am I to judge somebody else’s servant.” But Christians can be the worst in shooting our own.

Rich admitted, “I was ready for criticism. I just wasn’t expecting so much friendly fire.” If you are doing anything for Christ, expect to get some crossfire.

Where does a critical spirit lead? It will always lead to a doubting heart. It makes your vision smaller. We can choose if we want to a critic or if we want to be creative. But it is hard to truly be both.

 

4.) Character Falls Apart

Rich pointed out, “Charisma gets man’s attention. But it is character that gets God’s attention.” Your character is critical if you want a long, successful life and ministry. Charisma can only carry you so far if you don’t have the character to sustain your life pace. Every minster that falls starts with subtle compromises. We stop reading the Word for ourselves. We stop praying for the Lord to search out our heart and show us any wicked way within us. Character is not optional. It is the one thing we need to be a leader worth following.

Have any of these four stumbling blocks impacted your life or ministry? What is getting in the way of reaching your full potential in Christ? How could unity make the difference in your community? Now more than ever, it is critical in a country so divided.

God has sent you. Nobody else is coming. What are you going to do with God’s call?

Note: This is the first blog post in a series that is going to explore key themes and messages from the 2019 Vous Conference. 

Advertisements

Camping with Jesus

Have you ever wondered if Jesus was an outdoorsman? I think he must have been to gain the respect of a bunch of fishermen. He walked from place to place and lived on the move during his three-year ministry. He sometimes didn’t even have a place to lay his head. Jesus loved to find solitude in the wilderness. Yeah, I believe Jesus must have been at home in the great outdoors.

Thinking about this led me to consider what I like and dislike about camping. I love getting away from everything, especially technology. I really like all the varied landscapes and outdoor activities. There is something just soul filling to stare into a camp fire. So, what don’t I like about camping? That’s easy — the difficulty cleaning up after cooking, not taking a shower for days and having to leave at the end of the trip. I always want to stay a little bit longer. But sometimes, you just have to go back down the mountain to reality.

While Scripture doesn’t tell us if Jesus ever enjoyed a smore, we know that he once took his three closest disciples to a high mountain to experience something that they would never forget. This story in Mark 9:2-10 is a first for the disciples. This moment cracked the divide between heaven and earth, revealing just how amazing Jesus truly was.

 

Mark 9:2-10 (NIV) — The Transfiguration

After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.

Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)

Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.

 

Sometimes Jesus has to takes us away from the crowd to get our attention. He knows that we need to get away and unplug. These three disciples had no idea what the Lord had in store for them.

Suddenly, Jesus was transformed before their eyes. The disciples got a glimpse of Christ in some of his true glory. Jesus became what he always was. His clothes became a dazzling white suggesting his purity. And as if this wardrobe change was not enough, suddenly Elijah and Moses show up and start talking with Jesus. These are two of the most important figures in Jewish history. Moses represented the Law, and Elijah was one of the foremost prophets from the Hebrew Scriptures. I have always wanted to know what they talked about. But the Bible doesn’t tell us. These little missing details always bug me, but they also create a sense of wonder and mystery.

The three disciples must have been stunned, amazed and frightened. Then, Peter said (Chaille translation), “This is amazing, let’s stay right here. We can pitch three tents — one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah. Let’s just camp in this moment for a while.”

Maybe Peter said this because he wanted to mark this unbelievable situation and create a memorial to it. Maybe he was scared and didn’t know what to do, and he wanted to create some privacy and protection for this unique encounter. Maybe he just wanted to make this amazing interaction last forever.

The whole situation got more intense when a cloud covered them and suddenly a voice from the cloud identified who Jesus was and his relationship with God the Father. Secondly, the voice instructed the disciples to follow what Jesus instructed. Without any time to debrief or discuss what happened, you see the disciples quickly coming down the mountain.

That was the last thing they probably wanted to do. I can just see them asking, “Where did Moses and Elijah go? Can’t we just stay here a little while longer? Why do we have to go down the mountain?” Even if they didn’t say those things, that would have been what I would have thought and maybe had the courage to say.

I believe that Peter wanted to camp out in this moment. It was the kind of thing that was so unreal that you would want it to last forever. But Jesus knew something that Peter did not realize at the time. The crowds were waiting at the moment. Jesus’ mission was going to be fulfilled down there not up here.

Sometimes we can be transformed and inspired on the mountain. But we can’t fulfill God’s mission until we come down the mountain.

The mountain experience is meant to sustain and inspire us when all those people and situations down there become too difficult to handle. The mountain may seem like a safe place, but it can be perilous to stay up on the mountain when a storm comes.

Take note that Jesus did not turn this miraculous encounter into a self-promotion vehicle. Quite the opposite, he told the disciples not to tell anyone until after his resurrection. Even this command, was a head scratcher. The disciples didn’t know what Jesus meant by rising from the dead.

The two lessons that I see here is that sometimes what we experience with the Lord is just for us. We aren’t intended to share it with others until the time is right. We need to just marinate on it ourselves and let the experience transform and fuel our lives. Secondly, we may not always understand in the moment what Jesus said and did. Our job is to trust and obey not to fully grasp the entire plan. For those who like to be in control and know what is going on, this reality can be a huge challenge. But just as this episode with the disciples demonstrates, many times we aren’t in control. We just need to let God be God. We need to embrace the unexpected.

That is all part of moving on from transfiguration or God moments so that we can embrace our primary mission. The people we need to impact aren’t usually found on the mountain tops. They live in the valley and on the hills. We find them in our everyday routines and lives. As great as it is go camping, we can’t live forever high atop the mountains. We have to return to “normal” life and that is where we can have the greatest impact if we don’t lose sight of what we discovered on top of the mountain. Think about those moments as fuel for what awaits you down the mountain.

Consider this question, “Why do you need to come down the mountain?

Mistaken Identity

The Biblical story of Adam and Eve has caused controversy through the years. And it recently sparked an Internet faux theological firestorm after a female rabbi used it to depict Eve’s story in Genesis 3:1-16 as the first case of sexual assault.

Tamara Kolton suggested that Eve was the mother of #Metoo movement and that God was the culprit.

While it is a good thing to honor women who have the courage to stand up and speak out against abuse and discrimination, it is not good to misrepresent God and hijack His book for a social agenda. That is particularly true when you paint a picture of God that completely betrays the integrity of the original text.

You can read Kolton’s depiction of the Genesis 3 passage at https://forward.com/scribe/393778/the-first-story-in-the-bible-was-the-first-case-of-metoo/.

Kolton wrote, “It’s time we all acknowledge an overwhelmingly powerful source of shame and silence — in the bible…The story that begins the bible, the first one that we learn in Sunday school, the founding story of man and woman upheld for thousands of years by Judeo-Christian religion, is actually the story of the first sexual assault of a woman. The woman’s name is Eve. And the perpetrator? God.”

Notice that this is not a passive suggestion. Kolton is calling out God in this story claiming He acted in a way that we would classify as criminal today. Before anyone goes and makes such a strong allegation, this person should have significant proof. Shouldn’t that same burden of proof be applied to God?

Kolton commented, “She’s hungry, so she does the most natural thing in the world and eats a piece of fruit. For following her instincts, trusting herself, and nourishing her body, she is punished. Her punishment? She will never again feel safe in her nakedness. She will never again love her body. She will never again know her body as a place of sacred sovereignty.”

Let’s look and see what Scripture actually says. The serpent asked Eve if they were forbidden from eating fruit from all of the trees in the garden. Eve corrected the serpent saying, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden.” God made a beautiful garden, set Adam and Eve in it giving them dominion over the plants and animals. They had freedom to eat from all the trees in the garden except one. That doesn’t make God sound like a villain does it?

Eve further clarified, “God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.'”

By her own words, Eve demonstrated that this is more than just choosing the wrong thing for dinner. Like a loving parent, God had set boundaries designed to protect both Adam and Eve. This was no normal tree. It would give them the ability to know the difference between good and evil, and that could only come about for humans if they experienced and participated in sin.

Eve’s act was not simply eating a piece of fruit. It was rebellion and disobedience despite all the blessings that God had provided. Kolton suggested that there was nothing wrong with Eve “following her instincts and trusting herself.” But in many cases sin may seem like no big deal until we realize that it is. Sin frequently occurs when we trust ourselves and our own morality instead of following God’s commands. Our instincts can get us in trouble when they go against divine instruction.

Kolton further portrayed the scene, “’What have you done?’ He God thunders. Eve wants to defend herself, but she is too ashamed to speak. Eve, our first mother whose name means the ‘mother of all living things,’ is silenced, much the way the ‘patients’ of Dr. Nassar were.”

Wow! A number of scholars have explained this situation as both Adam and Eve being caught with their hands in the cookie jar. They appear to be like two teenagers who get caught doing something they shouldn’t, and they deflect blame. God asks questions much in the same way a parent would when fishing for the truth. The comparison of God with a serial abuser of women is so outrageous that it doesn’t even deserve a response.

And unlike what Kolton wrote, Eve does respond. She claimed to be deceived by the serpent. She was not crouching on the floor in shame, unable to speak. She deflected blame just like Adam.

At first, God addressed the man with a series of questions. The first question is telling because God asked, “Adam, where are you?” Since God knows all things, He wasn’t looking for information. Some scholars believe, and I agree that this is a question asked out of longing. It reveals a break in the relationship caused by their sin. This is the question of a loving Father wanting his lost children to come home. This is not the question of a serial abuser.

Kolton in her essay paints God out to be the bad guy. She makes the reader question and doubt God’s motives. You know who else does the same thing in the Genesis story? The serpent does when it suggested, “You will not surely die…For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God knowing good and evil.” The serpent was insinuating that God was holding out on them. He knows something that they don’t. It is interesting that the pursuit of “knowledge” can be a trap. Some things are best left undiscovered if it leads to sin, pain and death in the process.

Remember, God is desiring to protect here, not control for domination. He has already shared His authority with them. And He made them in His image. The fact that God bestows His image on them means that he values them. You don’t abuse someone that you value.

Just as God is merciful, He is also just. Their sin produced results. The punishment comes as a natural result of their sin, not because God was an ogre who wanted to put them in their place. And ultimately, the story of Adam and Eve leads us to the story of Jesus. He exemplifies the ultimate love of God by choosing to take our punishment. According to the Hebrew Scriptures, Adam and Eve introduced sin into the world. And Christians believe that God redeems it through Christ’s work on our behalf on the cross. This is a love story where God goes to great lengths to show mercy and redeem his wayward children.

Kolton’s further commentary reveals that she wrote her essay informed by a mistaken view of God. She applied to God evil things that were done by wicked men, some who even claimed to speak for God. She lamented, “The founding myth of Judeo-Christian religion, the story of Eve, granted generations of men permission to violate women. It teaches us that women are liars and sinners. Even if ‘She’ is telling the truth, she deserved it. God told her not to eat that apple, or wear that skirt, or go out after dark, or be pretty, or desirous, or in that bar or on that street or in that car or born a girl… This God, this man-made figurehead of the patriarchy, is not my God. He is a fiction, a man-made myth, but yet one so powerful that it’s poisoned and limited our notion of what GOD, the truly divine, is and can be, especially for women.”

Yes, it is true that some men have misused Scripture to justify their own positions and dominate women. But that is not God nor His heart. Truth is that all humans are liars and sinners. Both men and women are in the same boat. Kolton seems to want to raise up the ‘holiness of humanity’ while denying the glory and righteousness of God.

Reading Kolton’s essay my heart broke for her because I believe she doesn’t know the God who created both men and women in His image. I read years of hurt in her words and don’t deny those experiences. I just wonder if her ire is misplaced. Maybe it is humanity that really is the villain here not God?

——————————-

Holy Spirit, may you awaken Tamara Kolton to know the love of God. May she see the great lengths that God will go to reach and save anyone. May she see that following our own instincts when it contradicts your Word does not lead to life. It is a trap. May she see the beauty in the Genesis story not a distorted view of God. You are both just and loving. That is why sin begets punishment. But thank you God that Jesus took our place. Amen!

The Enemy Wins When We Hate

Jesus said, “And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand” (Mark 3:25).

As I have watched the events unfold both before and after the election, I am aware that my real enemy is not the person who disagrees with me politically. It is not the person who has a different worldview or follows another religion from mine. My real enemy is Satan, the forces of darkness, lying spirits and sin. In the Beatitudes, Jesus called on His followers to love those who hate you. As a Christian, I am called to love everyone, including those who anger or annoy me. It is hard, and I struggle with it just like the next person.

The real enemy is anger, hate, sin, pride, lies and those things that would divide the body of Christ. Some “Christians” have said some horrible things over the past six months. And any way that I have fueled those flames, please know that I apologize. I am asking for forgiveness for the body of Christ for those who claim to be Christians and have spewed hatred, malice and anger.

Can we disagree? Sure, we can. Can we vote for different people? You bet. Can we believe in different futures for America and the world? Yes, we can. But at the end of the day, we need to treat each other with mutual respect. This means allowing those who are upset about the outcome of the election to vent or mourn. And it means those who are happy with the result can celebrate. This situation calls on everyone to be aware of the feelings of others. The guy who I openly liked (Gary Johnson) didn’t win either.

Elections have real outcomes, and those who win get to decide what the agenda will be. So this is not an editorial calling for the Republicans to fold up and sheepishly put away their agenda. But it is a call for civility to listen and understand the other side. All the major players in the presidential stage have acted with extreme grace and maturity since the election. This includes President Obama, Secretary Hillary Clinton and President –elect Donald Trump. I hope and pray this continues even though I know the various sides will work to defend the principles they hold dear.

As President Obama said this is an intramural scrimmage not a war between two different countries. I have friends and family on all sides of this election. And I want them to know that I love them. I want them to know that I am here to listen. Do I believe that God is still in control? You bet. Do I understand how that thought might not be very comforting to those who are overcome with grief in the moment? Yes, just like it may not have seemed a comfort to the Israelites in the Bible who were oppressed and lived in exile.

Even though I was not a fan of Barack Obama, I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt and pray for him. I was a bit afraid when he was first elected because of strong disagreements with his policies. As a person, I liked Obama and was proud that the country had overcome racial barriers. As a politician, I feared his solutions would only make our problems in the country worse. And I understand that at this point in time, there are millions who feel the same way about Trump.

I have no idea what the man I have called “Hair piece” will do as president. But I am going to give Trump the same benefit of the doubt as Obama. And I hope that Trump can be a better man in the White House than he has shown on the campaign trail. I do believe that people can change. Otherwise, the cross would be useless. I do believe that Jesus can redeem anyone.

If Trump turns out to be a nightmare and tramples on the rights of U.S. citizens or acts in inhumane ways, I will be right there with the oppressed standing for them. And I will publicly stand up for them in any way that I can. I will fervently defend the Constitution if Trump tries to become some sort of fascist leader.

Do we need to move on from hysteria? Yes, at some point. And I will be patient enough to realize that some people need a chance to decompress. Do many people have legitimate grievances with Trump and his rhetoric? Yes, I think so. I have personally criticized many things that Trump has said and done in the past. But even for Trump’s harshest critics, the best thing they can do is be vigilant, pray and act to mobilize socially to defend their rights in peaceful, non-disruptive ways.

Upon reflection, the real enemy is within when I and others let anger, fear, frustration, disillusionment or resentment lead me/them to act in ways that do not reflect Christ, who is the essence of love. The real enemy is not the other person but the powers of sin and darkness in the world. The real enemy wins when we hate.

Why worry?

Scripture is full of great questions. Jesus knew how to ask some real zingers. This is one of the hardest for me to grapple with in my everyday life.

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? (Luke 12:25)

Honestly, I tend to worry too much. Prayer should be my default response, but sometimes, I find it so easy to worry instead. I am getting better. I am taking so much more to my Heavenly Father in prayer than  I did in the past. But it is a struggle.

In Jesus’ question, we see the futility of worry. It accomplishes nothing. It tends to hurt ourselves and the situation we care so much about. Worrying can’t even give us an extra hour in our day — actually it robs us of precious time to actually act and pray.

I am resolving to worry less and pray more. Who’s with me?

 

Can a Christian Be a Libertarian?

It seems that the core of the Libertarian worldview is both very Biblical and also anti-Christian at the same time. I am not talking about particular political positions as much as its  focus on individual liberty and what it means to be free.

Christianity is full of apparent paradoxes. One of the hardest to cope with is the fact that to be free from sin we have to submit and give over our liberty to Christ.

The official Libertarian party platform preamble states, “As Libertarians, we seek a world of liberty; a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values for the benefit of others.” It goes on to further state, “We hold that all individuals have the right to exercise sole dominion over their own lives, and have the right to live in whatever manner they choose, so long as they do not forcibly interfere with the equal right of others to live in whatever manner they choose.”

Scripture in many places suggest that God has given man free will to make decisions, and that we will indeed be held accountable for our actions. Instead of stamping out robots, God created humanity with the ability to reason and make choices. Although God does intervene in many cases, He also takes a very hands off approach at times allowing us to discover for ourselves the folly of our ways. The parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) is a perfect example of this situation. Just like that father who allows his son to squander away his inheritance, God doesn’t micromanage our lives, and indeed in many cases He seems to hide so that we have to really search to find Him. God could blind us with His glory at any given moment and create a situation where we would have little choice to acquiesce to His demands. But God doesn’t want that. He wants us to truly love Him and become like Him in character. And that is more caught than forced upon us by an edict.

So in many ways, God seems like a classic Libertarian. But then again, He is far from it when you see the values that He demonstrates and calls His people to follow. The perfect symbol for Jesus is the cross. And that is the ultimate example of Him setting aside his rights and making sacrifices. It was direct divine intervention to solve humanity’s biggest problems. Instead of running the show, Jesus submitted to the will of His Father. Jesus demonstrated complete humility and selfless love. True, it was His own decision. But he set aside His rights for a greater glory and purpose. For the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the cross. And that joy was you and me coming to salvation and true freedom. Jesus knew that freedom comes at a cost. And many times it requires us to set aside our rights.

One of the pitfalls I see for Christians when it comes to Libertarian political philosophy is the emphasis on individual liberty can easily turn the focus to self and our own desires. But that is not what Jesus promoted. He said that whoever would follow Him, must take up a cross, deny himself and follow Christ’s example (Luke 9:23). This is symbolic language with a real world application. We are to put aside our desires for actions that achieve God’s purposes in the world. And that is exactly what Jesus did. He is our example.

Libertarians came make their arguments so much about freedom that they don’t realize the things they fight for actually cause addiction, depression, bondage, self loathing, or possibly even death. While God calls us to be His sons, we are also His slaves. And that means true Christians lay down their rights knowing that they can trust God and His ways to be best.

I am reminded of what Michael Card wrote in his book, A Better Freedom, “The New Testament does not offer the choice between slavery or freedom, but only whose slave we will be — the world’s or Christ’s. Jesus does not offer freedom from slavery but instead a a new kind of slavery that provides the only true freedom. I cannot buy my own freedom. Only Jesus can.”

This is difficult if not impossible to do without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. So it isn’t that liberty and personal choice are bad. The problem for a Christian is when we elevate personal choice over the Word of God.

These are tough words, and nobody really wants to hear them – certainly not Americans. What the Christian Gospel offers is a radical reversal to the values of humanity. The cross is freedom. Death leads to life. And renouncing our rights to God’s direction leads to true freedom. Our pursuits are our undoing when they lead us away from God’s best. It isn’t that desire is bad. It is that our desires take pleasure in lesser things  that lead to less and less freedom.

Can you be a Libertarian and be a Christian? Yes. Just like you can be a Democrat, a Republican or a third-party voter and be a Christian. We are not saved by our politics. But our spiritual beliefs should guide our political stances and positions. The problem with some Libertarians that I have met is that they value their freedom above all else. And in that they will find it difficult to let go and truly trust God who offers the greatest freedom imaginable.

Choosing Among Evils

With that headline, you already know what I am going to write about – the 2016 presidential election. For the record, there is no candidate that I can enthusiastically support. I have severe problems with all of the four candidates who are on enough ballots to theoretically be able to win – Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein.

In the primaries, the candidate I liked the most was Rand Paul followed by Marco Rubio and then Ted Cruz. If I had to describe my party affiliation it would a Tea Party Libertarian. I know such a thing doesn’t exist. I like the Tea Party because it wants less taxation, smaller government, more local control and less interference from federal regulators. I like the Libertarians because they are the only major party left that agrees with small government and individual freedom. I don’t like the Libertarian party’s stance on abortion, but I do know that there are many Libertarians who are pro-life.

There are a number of much smaller third parties that do have some quality candidates. But these are on so few state ballots and would require such a massive write-in effort to achieve any substantial vote totals that I believe voting for them is pretty much a wasted vote. At least a vote for the Libertarian or Green party will register some protest on the national political radar.

When it comes to voting for a president, you have to analyze the platform, character, experience and leadership qualities of the candidates. Some people don’t care as much about the person as the party affiliation or platform. Others focus more on the personality of the individual. Some will talk about the Supreme Court and who the various candidates would appoint. I believe that you can love Jesus and vote for practically any candidate running. I do not stand in judgment of any person who votes his or her conscious before God.

It is important to keep this election in perspective. Anyone who is a Christian must remember that his or her ultimate trust is in God not earthly leaders. In Scripture you can see that God even works through pagan, evil kings to work His purposes. Sure, we need to make our votes count and use wisdom when we enter the voting booth. But ultimately, I lose in this election if I allow the current media circus to destroy my public witness and ability to be an ambassador for the Kingdom of God. No matter how mad I get. I have to remember that my trust is in God alone. Whoever becomes our next president, I will pray for him or her to lead with sound judgment.

The issues that matter most to me are controlling the national debt, turning more control over to state and local authorities, preserving individual liberties, protecting the unborn, creating sane immigration policies, the safety and welfare of the American democracy and increasing economic opportunities for all. My problem is that I feel no candidate reflects my views in all of these areas. I tend to side with Donald Trump on tax law changes, environmental reforms, gun rights and pro-life policies. I sort of side with Hillary Clinton on immigration policy. I don’t really find agreement with Jill Stein on much except for reining in the NSA and the surveillance state.

Generally, I believe that liberal policies are not best for the economy nor for fixing social problems. In many cases though, I do care deeply about the concerns that liberals raise – racial inequalities, high college debt, prison and sentencing reform, fixing the illegal immigration problem in a humane way and improving health care for all, etc. For far too long the media has painted conservatives as people who don’t care about those issues, and that is not true.

When I took a test to analyze my stances on major issues, I found that I agreed most with Gary Johnson, and that was only 80% of the time. I definitely do not like Johnson’s stance on a number of core issues. These most notably are his opinions on abortion, religious freedom and environmental policy. But when it comes to the other major issues, I tend to side with him. And I do believe both Johnson and Bill Weld have experience in doing what matters most – improving and cutting the size of government.

Yes, I know about the recent foreign policy gaffes made by Johnson. But I think that is why Bill Weld is there to help make up the difference. It seems clear that Johnson would defer a lot to Weld’s political experience and background.

Many people will say, “You are voting for Hillary. You are throwing away your vote.” But those are bad arguments for pulling the lever for a man you wouldn’t let watch your pet cat much less run the country. I hope that enough people are like me that they will vote for Gary Johnson too as a protest against the current two-party system that does not reflect how many of us believe today. Some will say, “That is only going to play into the Democrat’s hands.” And I believe they are right for a time. I believe the GOP will crack first. But eventually (probably in only a few elections), three parties will lead to four or more. And then we will start to see our views more widely represented. Collaboration will become even more important.

When we demonize the other people in the process, we are making it more difficult to fix the problems that we claim to care about. Honestly, we will need to work with everyone to create meaningful change in this country. I happen to have some strong political and even philosophical differences with many liberals, but I still respect them as people who mean well. Unfortunately, I feel that many times those on the left can’t say the same thing about those on the right. And my biggest problem with Donald Trump is that he is the embodiment of every false lie that the media says about conservatives. I don’t think Trump is truly conservative. And he certainly is not a Constitutionalist. I haven’t seen him say much about the Constitution in his rallies or TV interviews.

Just when you think the revelations about Donald Trump couldn’t get any worse, out pops tapes that may have just shipwrecked Trump’s candidacy. Long before the latest revelations I had severe reservations about Trump and was leaning strongly against not voting for him. Now, I know that I have no choice. And I really feel that voting for a respectful atheist who will defend the Constitution and work to bring common-sense solutions is better than a die-hard liberal or a fake conservative, business mogul who is the biggest narcissist to ever seek the presidency.

The only way I could change my vote is if Trump drops out and the Republicans nominate Pence in his place. Otherwise, I will be voting for Gary Johnson in November. And I urge others to do the same. You can find out more about Gary Johnson and Bill Weld at https://www.johnsonweld.com/.