To read Part 1, click HERE.
My spiritual journey over the course of the last two years has been so painful that I need to play detective a little bit and carefully document all the pieces and parts by writing these posts. Although it helps me to systematically understand how and when these things took place for my own mental record, the worst part is discovering this underlying, painful truth: no matter how much people tell you they love you, they won’t hear you if they don’t believe you...
...this wall goes up.
Ever try explaining the theories of time travel to somebody? Try explaining the “mechanics” of those theories to a person who doesn’t believe time travel exists in the first place. The pain comes from believing that in a person’s love for you they would just listen to you. It’s ok to disagree, but I don’t think it’s ok to paint a derogatory picture of them or accuse them of things because you do disagree. If they are your friend, they may not agree, but at least you can know you’ve been heard and they still love you regardless.
And that was the mistake that I made when I tried to explain why I was leaving the American Evangelical church. I wasn’t heard. I was called various things by the people closest to me. It became personal somehow (most likely my fault, but that was not my intention to portray it that way) and the careful attention that I needed for my reasons wasn’t there- turns out it wasn’t going to be there, unfortunately.
In order to paint a full picture, I need to give certain details about my church, and as with any assembly, there will always be issues to iron out since perfect churches don’t exist. However, for the most part, we were pretty tight knit and there was probably more freedom to convey your ideas or beliefs or disagreements than most churches which was very nice. So, before my spiritual changes took place, there was this idea/belief/teaching in my church that it would be wise to stop listening to popular preachers and Bible commentators because we didn’t know anything about their personal lives, nor could we hold them accountable for error. There is truth here because Biblically speaking, anyone could be privately disqualified to teach or preach and unbeknownst to us, we’re heeding their public, albeit, disqualified teaching.
Ultimately, if we are a part of a local body, we should submit to that local body’s teachings where we can see with our own eyes the elder’s personal lives, hold them accountable if need be and determine realistically if they are fit to feed the flock in the first place. If they are not, actions are to be taken and then we no longer heed those teachings.
Sounds reasonable enough.
At first, when I heard that we shouldn’t listen to any outside sources, my knee-jerk reaction was that it didn’t sound wise to me. But looking back on it, it ended up being the wisest thing ever.
But we need to be congnizant of the downside to this and it's if you aren’t careful, this can be like walking a razor wire with daggers on both sides. On the one side, you have leadership telling you that all other outside interpretations are, or have the potential to be dangerous, because of “A” and “B”. And on the other, if they’re wrong, you’ll never know it since you’ll never look to any other opinion or study! As in all things, it’s very important that we utilize great discernment.
And, in order to not misrepresent the situation, the true goal of this idea/belief/teaching was for us to simply stick to the text, read the scriptures plainly and try to stay away from outside sources- because let’s face it, the majority of professing Christians these days are extremely illiterate, Biblically speaking. What I do not know is if this recommendation was for a period of time, or forever. But, we should just read the Bible. Read it. Over and over and over again.
I felt like the problem with this would be akin to reading the alphabet over and over and over. Being familiar with the Bible is one thing, but repetition eventually leads to boredom. I’m sure not everyone felt like that, but that was my feeling on the matter. But, in the end, this idea/belief/teaching to stick to the plain text ended up being a blessing and… I don’t want to say a curse– it ended up being a tremendous blessing at great cost.
When I started reading the plain text and came upon sections or verses I needed clarity on, I went to a Greek dictionary as I desired to go straight to the source. With BibleHub (and other sites/apps), you can deep dive into a wealth of information on the original language, do various searches, cross-references, and view other usages (not necessarily Biblical). There are many different sites you can visit to view the actual manuscripts, or read articles from linguistics majors and translation experts, all kinds of information right at our fingertips. It’s almost a crime NOT to utilize these tools!
And I was learning soooo much.
This was the blessing.
But when I started talking about it, I was met with resistance. There wasn’t a whole lot of discussion because the resources I used were the “wrong” kind. The leaders used “better” Greek resources that were very old and very expensive, hard to access, things like that. My excitement at being able to share what I was learning fizzled out in no time and it greatly discouraged me. Not only that, but when I had a difference of opinion over a subject, I was quickly reminded that I didn’t have an education in Koine Greek. This is true, but the references I could cite were from people who did! None of it was original to myself, my goodness. Besides, if I remember correctly, the Apostles weren’t formally educated and the last time I checked, having a formal education wasn’t a precursor to having the Holy Spirit.
At that point, I knew I had two problems, 1. prior pressure to stop outside teachings, and 2. all other online resources, where the Greek/Hebrew language was concerned, were either too precipitous for someone like me, or not good enough. It was clear that it would be in my best interest to listen to their teachings alone and their interpretation of the Greek/Hebrew.
Anything I came to understand that was different from their understanding would never stand a chance because their degree/education trumped my lack of one every time. Even the amazing prospect of a continual open-door invitation for discussion, dissension or disagreement lost its luster when it was slowly revealed that it wasn’t to reason together or come to some kind of unity, no. I believe now that it was simply a way of discovering who didn’t agree with their teachings.
But here’s the crux of the matter. I’m reading as many resources as I can. Even resources that go against traditional American Evangelical theology. I’m reading Jewish scholars, I’m reading Messianic and non-Messianic Biblical materials, I’m reading everything… even things that go against the grain of American church orthodoxy. Why? Because deep down in the core of my being something was beginning to grow that knew something was wrong with the way America does church.
Based on what? Outside commentaries, sermons or study guides? Things I wasn’t supposed to be doing in the first place? No, I was going to the Greek language. I was reading information on how it was translated and discovering so many different ideas and opinions and choices for why it was translated the way it was. Do you know how many times I read, “It’s unfortunate this phrase/sentence was translated this way…” or “these verses are not in many of the original manuscripts…” or “this particular sentence is very difficult to translate into English…” Sometimes, it was very clear that certain phrases were translated BASED on the theological persuasion of the translator! That should send chills up everybody’s spine.
But here was the end result after a great deal of time: I was treading the path to a system rejection, not a rejection of its people. Not in any way shape or form. I tried so very hard to make that known, but it was an epic failure.
My growth had resulted in a production of disagreement so vast that I had to leave after years of congregating and that hurt more than I can explain. Make no mistake, I love these people with every fiber of my being. Nothing has, nor will change that. Ever. But my lengthy explanation wasn’t received well and how could it be? I got accused of “puffing myself up” against them. I was “arrogant” for even daring to assert a different understanding. After all, they’re educated, and I am not- who was I to question their knowledge? It came to a point where it was on par with daring to question the very Apostles themselves.
From even a very superficial glance of the Bible, I believe most people can pick up fairly quickly how important His name is to Him. It’s so important it’s near the top of the ten commandments, number three, and from this command, we can know that God tells His people that they are not to call Him anything they think or feel or believe is right other than what He has declared it to be. He made it known, it was not a secret- He wouldn’t have revealed it otherwise. But over time, my eyes were opening as to how men had begun to use it in a way that it wasn’t prescribed throughout history (precisely what the commandment was trying to protect against in the first place). I discovered:
- For the Jews, it became “too holy” to speak and is no longer said, even to this day.
- In 2017, the Catholic Church came out and admitted to suppressing the name for centuries.
- One of the professors on the NIV translation committee said they would lose money if they translated it using His name, so they chose not to use it and went on to make millions.
- And on, and on.
For further proof, the evidence began to swell up around me every single day. Let's face it, His Name is so obscure in America as to be used barely at all due to the Bibles we have today and the way they were translated. Would you say that this violation makes the God of the Bible happy, angry or indifferent? From what I gathered during this journey, the general consensus is that He does not care one iota about this.
Ever wonder why we don’t see “In Yahweh We Trust” on our cop cars or dollar bills? I came to the sickening realization that it’s because we don’t trust that God.
Like a light switch flicking on, I saw that American Christianity wants nothing to do with Yahweh or His commandments for Israel (nor did I for so long!). The truth is, the God that America claims to worship on Sunday became so different from the God of the Bible as to be unrecognizable to me. It came from undertaking the arduous process of learning history- history about cultures, nations, traditions, superstitions, and anthropology. And the fantastical thing about all this, if you really think about it, is if you grew up on a deserted island with a Bible using His real name and no other outside influence, I can assure you that your worship practices would not look the way it does here in this country.
Whether I wanted to admit it or not, I slowly began to understand how much American evangelicalism is entrenched with Replacement Theology (supersessionism) that hardly anyone can see straight (and very few would admit to it). But I truly believe we’ve taken the term “the fullness of Gentiles” so far and to the point that there is no Israel here. Sure, we’re allies of the nation of Israel and I pray that it stays that way, but I mean a “spiritual” Israel.
For the most part, there is no spiritual Israel here.
And a large portion of this journey, starting with Covid shutting all the churches down began with, who is God and what is His name?
For example, how long do you suppose you would be my friend or stay in contact with me if you told me your name but I continually called you something else? Think about this. What if that name was so far removed from your actual name as to be ridiculous to you? But I just wouldn’t stop- no matter how much you tried to correct me. Would this be disrespectful? Indifferent? Sinister?
What if I refused to call your child by the name you had given him/her? Would you allow me to do that all the time? For years? Would you keep correcting me, or eventually give up. Would you smile over me and say, “Aw, shucks, they don’t mean anything by it…”
If you want to sit there and tell me that it would be ok for you, I wouldn’t believe you. Because it wouldn’t be ok for me and it certainly wouldn’t be ok to do to my child. Nicknames are one thing, but taking it upon yourself to rename my child is usurping my authority anyway you slice it.
Who are we, or who was I to determine that it was ok to violate the third commandment? Because we in America, do it every single Sunday. And yes, although He has revealed His character through many different descriptions in accordance with His character, such as Yahweh-nissi, or Yahweh-jirah, for example, we can know that He has given us a revelation of His personal name based on scripture. At this point in time, after talking with several believers, it's the truth that we've CHOSEN not to use it. It's been a conscientious decision to violate His commandment and I was continually reasoning within myself for far too long that He didn't mind at all. And, I was literally sick over this new understanding.
Over time, in trying to discuss this with others, I was met with the argument that we just can’t possibly know what it really was because we don’t know how to accurately pronounce it. All we have are the consonants, or the tetragrammaton. This is true. Is that a free pass though, I was wondering? I was genuinely asking- are we now allowed to violate the command? Is it now ok to dismiss the very real, very documented suppression of His name throughout history even? If we can’t know what it is, why did that happen?
As I came to a deeper understanding of this commandment, Sundays became increasingly difficult (and that's an understatement). The name of “Jesus” started to become difficult. I don’t have any other way of describing it. “Jesus” was Jewish- no debate. He had a Hebrew name, a common one at that- Yahshua (a combo of Joshua/Hosea), I read. In English, this translates to “Joshua”. Regardless of where you stand on translating a name from Aramaic, to Greek, to Latin, to Old English, to our English, we have the book of “Joshua” in the OT. Somehow that came out OK? But for the very Messiah, He has something different? Somehow the translators weren’t able to get that one correct?
So how could I get around the fact that the very ink that dripped from the pen and onto the scroll by the writers of the NT came to write "Iisous"? I was firmly asked if the Apostles got it wrong. I was asked very sternly, 'They wrote it that way, didn’t they?'
They did. Why is that? Was I really going to question the Apostles themselves?
Have you ever wondered why, in this land, it’s completely acceptable to use “Jesus Christ” as a disgusting swear word? Is it proof that there is something special there? Could it be that because depraved men use it as a cuss word simply validates the proof of its holiness? After all, depraved men void of the Holy Spirit hate holy things, right? I was told this all my life: the very fact it’s a swear word PROVES that it’s His true name and by golly, there’s power there!
But actually, it doesn’t prove anything. We can assign "power" to anything we choose, but that doesn’t make the power we "give" it effective or true.
Why do you suppose Revelation 19:12 states that the Messiah has a name no man knows? It begs the question: does Yahweh not care that the name of His Son is trodden under foot and spit upon millions of times a day? Or is He impotent to do anything about it? Or does it go much deeper than say… it’s not even the name of His Son to begin with? I had all these theories and deep longings for truth and conversation but at that point, I had never felt so alone.
Truthfully, I was teetering over the edge, with one foot out the door. And, I cannot express how hard that was and how I felt.
In any event, after all was said and done, the truth is, I do believe depraved men void of the Holy Spirit hate holy things, but I also believe that men everywhere love their idols just the same. They can also love falsehood and no amount of evidence will convince them otherwise as long as it benefits them. I mean, nothing was going to convince me for thirty years and just like them, I held on to my man-made traditions just as much as anyone else. For far too long and just like far too many men, the name of Jesus Christ is an American cornerstone, where he loves them because the Bible tells them so and no amount of evidence will convince them otherwise. They can commit horrific, horrific atrocities in this name with no consequence, and at the other end of the spectrum, it can be their bread and butter.
And his Father doesn’t seem to mind at all what you do with it?
Sometimes, when you have deeply-held nationalistic generational ideologies ingrained in you, like I did, it appears to take the very hand of the Almighty to root it out; and, it blew my mind at the discovery of how ingrained the cultural beliefs of your country can really be. For a really good example of this phenomena, I read about how people view “possessions” based on the country they live in. If you grow up in capitalism, you view possessions as a sign of prosperity, wealth, and blessing. But if you grow up in the UK, or any other socialistic country, having a great deal of possessions is viewed as selfish, greedy and not to the benefit of your neighbor. It’s practically immoral!
The point is is that in America (and I say this without any emotion, they’re just facts), regardless of the “freedom of religion” that it boasts of, everyone grows up with a Sunday worshiping church on every street corner that almost everyone goes to at some point in their lives where “Jesus loves me” is the church’s anthem. Vacation Bible School's goal of inoculating children with the sinner’s prayer is about as American as McDonald’s; and, it certainly comes nowhere close to resembling the “pearl of great price” hidden in a field.
I’m confident that what I just wrote will bristle some feathers (it would have bristled mine). And truthfully, I would continually try to convince anyone and everyone that we, in our Sunday worshiping churches, really do worship the God of Israel. Actually, we're quite fond of saying that we worship the God of Israel, BUT the proof is in the pudding. We, in America, look nothing like the people of Yahweh. We do not do anything that they do. Have you ever asked yourself how many Jews show up on a Sunday morning that you know of? I know I certainly asked it over the years. If we are to provoke them to jealousy, in what possible conceivable way would the Jews be jealous of American Christianity? I don't think they are at all. No way, no how and it’s unfortunate how much my eschatology had gotten the better of me- the results speaking greatly to fruitlessness.
In this journey, I came to believe and understand more fully that as we are grafted into the cultivated olive tree (Israel), that we are to be growing in love toward His people and the ways that Yahweh commanded them to follow.
And, that’s exactly what happened!
My love grew and grew until it outgrew the system I was born into (but I didn't outgrow the people!). It’s a very serious undertaking to acknowledge that we are grafted into them, not the other way around. We become the spiritual children of Abraham through a spiritual birth, they are the physical children of Abraham through a physical birth where Messiah’s work on the cross made us both into a one new man. This work gloriously brings us into His Father’s kingdom, where His laws, commands, statutes and judgements are to be known and celebrated, where they are now available to us Gentiles and we don’t have to physically become Jews to participate in that. It’s by simple faith! How cool!
I think... in our depraved nature, we were born anti-Semites and then carefully chiseled and molded through our national religion to not hate them 'overtly'. We are to be just careful enough to not imitate them in any way (whether we want to acknowledge that or not). It’s been centuries of picking things here and there from the Bible to suit our American tastes that are not overtly Hebraic… Yahweh? Too Jewish. Sabbath? Too Jewish. No pork? Too Jewish. Passover? Too Jewish. We Gentiles do nothing Jewish- you and I both know it. And we hate the thought of even considering doing those things ourselves in the name of "Christ", our very Jewish Messiah because well… He freed us from all of that.
He freed us… from His Father’s commands?
Is it any wonder in Part 1, that at eleven years old my family quickly came to my side to make sure that I didn’t take on anything Torah related? We’ve been indoctrinated since birth that Jesus loves us because the Bible tells us so and that He came to free us from being Jews. As I was cleverly equipped to defend our national religion, I see now that there were forces at work beyond what my tender mind could comprehend. I was groomed incessantly to defend it. And I did. I was a good disciple.
After a study on Genesis 46-47, there was an ancient belief that “gods” were territorial- they didn’t cross national borders. In 46:4, “I Myself will go down with you to Egypt and I Myself will bring you back.” apparently needed to be said. And according to the ancient Hebrew mindset, although false, this was a real belief. In fact, in the book of Daniel (chapter 10), there appear to be angelic forces for particular nations referenced there but, whatever you may or may not believe about this, I think shades of this ideology still occur today.
Evangelicals want to rock themselves to sleep with the belief that they worship the God of Israel because deep down they know that He is the one true God, but the sad reality is, in our minds and in our worship practice He is a God somewhere over in the Middle East far removed from here. At least, that was my mindset, not sure I can speak for anyone else. It's a belief or thought that He doesn’t come here because we know that if He did, we’d have a lot to answer for. After all, just take a look, we’ve created our own religion, with our own Bible, our own preferred name, our own day of worship, our own holy days (holidays), our own diet, our own apparel, our own way of life, our own songs, our own own own own...
In the end, over the course of my journey, in His timing, I came to a very difficult place where I, myself couldn’t deny these things anymore and I wanted out of this system. I wanted a divorce, but again, I didn't want to divorce my Christian family! I felt so scared and sad and I didn't know how to express it any way that wouldn't hurt them. It seems it just wasn't possible to avoid.
And I felt so sick over it.
I’m going to end this post with something the Apostle Paul said that really hit me in my core while I was writing this post. Paul, who through a direct revelation of the Messiah, came to a very painful realization that the religion he was born into had to be left behind in order to obey Yahshua the Messiah to go preach some very Good News to the Gentiles…
"Brothers and fathers, listen to the defense which I now make to you.
When they heard that he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, they were even more quiet. He said, "I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, instructed according to the strict tradition of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God, even as you all are to this day. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. As also the high priest and all the council of the elders testify, from whom also I received letters to the brothers, and traveled to Damascus to bring them also who were there to Jerusalem in bonds to be punished...
It happened that, as I made my journey, and came close to Damascus, about noon, suddenly there shone from the sky a great light around me. I fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to me, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?' I answered, 'Who are you, Sire?' He said to me, 'I am Yahshua of Nazareth, whom you persecute.'
"Those who were with me indeed saw the light and were afraid, but they didn't understand the voice of him who spoke to me. I said, 'What shall I do, Sire?' He said to me, 'Arise, and go into Damascus. There you will be told about all things which are appointed for you to do.'
When I couldn't see the glory of that light, being led by the hand of those who were with me, I came into Damascus.
One Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well reported of by all the Jews who lived in Damascus, came to me, and standing by me said to me, 'Brother Saul, receive your sight!' In that very hour I looked up at him. He said, 'The God of our fathers has appointed you to know his will, and to see the Righteous One, and to hear a voice from his mouth. For you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard. Now why do you wait? Arise, be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of Yahshua.'
"It happened that, when I had returned to Jerusalem, and while I prayed in the temple, I fell into a trance, and saw Him saying to me, 'Hurry and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not receive testimony concerning me from you.' I said, 'Sire, they themselves know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue those who believed in you. When the blood of Stephen, your witness, was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting to his death, and guarding the cloaks of those who killed him.' He said to me, 'Depart, for I will send you out far from here to the Gentiles.'"
They listened to him until he said that; then they lifted up their voice, and said, "Rid the earth of this fellow, for he isn’t fit to live!" As they cried out, and threw off their cloaks, and threw dust into the air, the commanding officer commanded him to be brought into the barracks, ordering him to be examined by scourging, so that he might know for what crime they shouted against him like that.
When he got to the part that he was to be sent to the Gentiles they wanted to kill him. How is this not unlike us Gentiles who should be saying, we must go to the Jews? Maybe that doesn't anger Evangelicals enough to kill anybody but it sure is fought against.
...to be continued.
For Part 3, click HERE.
-May Yahweh through His Son bless you all.