What one Sacred Name group did (and continues to do) to my family.
The attitude these people have demonstrated toward my family in the name of their religion is truly amazing. It has caused me to conclude that they serve a god other than the one true God revealed in the Scriptures.
First, you should know that we were second and third generation members of a church near the town of White House, Tennessee. This church changed what it formerly believed to become a sacred name church.
In 1992 and 1993, the minister started preaching and teaching what he told us were the Hebrew names of God. He pronounced the name of God as "Yah-wah."
At first he said our Savior's name was Yasha. He pronounced it like the name of the Russian born Jewish violinist, Yasha Heifetz. Later he linked it with YHWH and said it was YHWH YHWSH. This combination he pronounced as "Yah-wah Yash-wah."
[NOTE: You may have noticed, as we did, that the SH is in the last syllable of the written word, YHWSH, but in the first syllable of the pronunciation, Yash-wah. Little inconsistencies like this seemed to go unnoticed by most people in the congregation.]
During his teaching, this man maintained, even emphasized, that he was not using any vowels as he pronounced these names. His logic for this went something like, the Hebrew language does not use vowels and neither are we. This kind of logic and misappropriation of facts is pervasive within the religious movement promoting the use of the sacred names.
[NOTE: The ancient Hebrew written language used no vowels, either letters or points. But as language cannot be spoken without vowels, the spoken Hebrew certainly did have vowels.]
In researching these teachings, I was surprised to learn that the pronunciations he was using were not Hebrew at all. These were pronunciations that this man and others in their ignorance had simply invented and guessed at. They made their pronunciations up.
These folks began to base their service to God almost solely on the use of these "sacred names." Every sermon was on the Hebrew names. Every Bible study was another lesson on the imagined Hebrew names. Funeral sermons were looked upon as just another opportunity to proclaim the so-called Hebrew names to a captive audience. Knowing that these names were simply made up, I could do no less than reject them. Salvation cannot be predicated upon using a made up name.
It later came to light that one of the women in the church told the preacher that God had revealed to her the correct pronunciation of the Savior's name - Yash-wah. He changed his pronunciations to match hers. In August of 1993, he apologized to the congregation for any part he "may have had" in their mispronunciation of the name.
Hebrew scholars do not use these pronunciations. Bible language scholars and Bible history scholars do not use these pronunciations. Jewish people do not use these pronunciations. But this sacred name congregation uses these pronunciations because they had a "revelation from God." This minister said that he got what he taught just like Paul got what he taught, directly from God.
WE REFUSED TO LEAVE THE TRUTH!
When the church changed its beliefs to coincide with this man's teachings, they were rebaptized, in 1994, in the name of Yahwah Yashwah Messiah. My family and I held true to what we believed. We left that congregation in late 1993, before the preacher had all these people baptized again. We refused to go along with this made up teaching in order to maintain a place in the church. We had to stand for the truth no matter what our friends and family were doing. Because of this, we were treated like we had died and worse.
Friends and family members who stayed in that group no longer associate with us at all. They have told us that we are dead to them. Some even said they will never again be in the same room with me. Some have refused to attend weddings because I performed the ceremony. Two of my daughter-in-law's sisters and her mother refused to even come to her baby's shower because my son and his wife are no longer members of their church. It would appear that their preacher told them not to come. He controls their lives. Because of this, my daughter-in-law's mother seldom sees her grandson. He is growing up without her. That is a shame!
We had to leave that church to stand for the name of Jesus. We left that church, but we did not leave the Truth.
THE WORKS OF SATAN WERE MANIFEST
When we left, the powers of darkness rose up against us. Attacks began to be made on our character. Accusations were circulated that we were liars, thieves, spiritual wolves, adulterers, fornicators, and other such nonsense. It was said of us that we were rebellious, that we just wanted to get away from any kind of authority, that evil spirits had taken us over, and other less complimentary words.
Not a single one of these accusations is true. But these lies are still being circulated and believed among these people. We were advised that we would have a good defamation of character and slander case in court. While we would not be happy to pursue such a course, we have not entirely ruled it out.
These false accusations were made only to dehumanize us and kill our credibility and influence among the people who had loved us for so many years.
We left that church some years ago. Yet, we are still being maligned, vilified, and persecuted.
While we were in this church, our family was as well respected as any family in the church. When we left, it was said that we had manifested a bad spirit for a long time. We suddenly became evil personified, if one is to believe the gossip mill.
Why are we persecuted by these people? The reason is simple enough. We stood firm for the name of Jesus. We refused to accept this "new revelation." We had the temerity to disagree with the "leader" of this group. We held to the Bible which is God's word. This false teacher gave us his word, which was only his imagination. We simply did not believe and accept the sacred name doctrine this preacher began teaching. We rejected their spiritual leader and the hobby-horse doctrine he chose to ride.
Now, many people whom we have known for years will not even speak to us. They go to the other side of a store or street to keep from speaking to us. Some will walk right by and when we speak to them, they act as if we were not there. More than once, we have been in restaurants when some of these sacred name people entered and upon seeing us left the premises, refusing to eat where we were.
My daughter has received a very upsetting and harassing phone call. One is enough. While she was pregnant with her first child, she was home alone at night when a despicable person phoned her and in an obviously disguised, gruff, and whispered voice called her, "Backslider," and hung up.
I have received a number of threatening phone calls. Someone calls who feels that Heaven has ordained them to tell me what God thinks of me. A call or two has been about how God will get me sooner or later. One sad person called to accuse, threaten, and try to intimidate me into not telling the story of what has happened to my family and me. He was most angry about the Cult Awareness Seminar I give. I told him I love him. What can you say to someone like that?
Yes, I have been threatened with bodily harm. If you think all the religious zealots with hatred in their hearts are in the Middle East or Northern Ireland , you need to think again. Sit and talk with my family and me for an hour or two. None of us has been deterred in the least from serving the Lord Jesus by these intimidation tactics.
ENEMIES OF GOD?
When the leader of the group says we are his enemies and the enemies of his god, how can you expect the congregation to act?
Here is a statement this man made in a sermon about those of us who left, "It would please me if God would just take 'em off of the face of the earth."
This pitiful man actually hopes we will die. Let him keep hoping. Is it any wonder my life has been threatened.
When the leader of the group stirs his followers with these inflammatory words; when he encourages the congregation not to shake our hands, not to speak to us, not to have anything to do with us, and then states openly how it would cause him pleasure if God would take us off the face of the earth, he has knowingly set the stage for someone in his congregation to do a violent act against us and our children. We have no way of knowing what else he has said in this same vein. Someone in the group was ashamed of this man's conduct and thought we needed to know what was being said toward us. It looks like this kind person was afraid someone from that church might do us harm and wanted to get a taped copy of one of this man's tirades to me in order that we might by forewarned. From this tape we have quoted the above words. As a matter of fact one man from that group did call me and threatened my life.
Such a god! It is certainly an interesting study in human behavior. It surely is not godly behavior.
If this is how receiving the revelation of the sacred name causes one to be, why would anybody want it revealed to them?
LETTERS WE HAVE RECEIVED
Here are excerpts from letters we received from former friends who remained in that assembly.
1. "If you are not for YHWSH, you are against him & that makes you my enemy too." [We did nothing except keep believing what we had believed and that has now made us someone's enemies.]
2. "You have done worse than all the preachers thats been here and there has been many." [I was this lady's pastor for over twenty years. As you can see, she has been turned against me and now thinks I am the worst of the worst.]
3. "Enclosed is the 20 dollars you sent J----- for his birthday. We felt to return it to you." [This is from my wife's niece when we sent her little son a birthday gift. She refused to let us be part of this little boy's life anymore. When this child, who dearly loved us, sees us now, he does not even speak to us. How sad. My wife still cries many tears for this little boy.]
4. "God has been showing us what you are. A SNAKE. As you know the word of God teaches us a snake or serpent is called the devil." "I feel like I can't stand to look at you, with pride written all over your face." [This letter is signed by a couple with whom we went on vacation, stayed in their home, regularly ate out, and had many wonderful and good times. Their one time love has become twisted by Satan into hate.]
The sad part of all this is that these things are done with the blessing and encouragement of the leader of this group.
WOLVES, LITTLE WOLVES, AND PUPPIES
Here is an interesting occurrence which exemplifies the thinking and attitude of this sacred name leader and his assembly.
My wife's mother died Thanksgiving week, 1998. This same sacred name preacher was in charge of the funeral service. After spending less than a minute (I timed it.) telling about the life of my mother-in-law, (She was a great and courageous Christian lady who had done many good and often sacrificial deeds for the name of Jesus, for the advancement of his kingdom, and had never believed the sacred name teaching.) the preacher spent the rest of his time teaching and attempting to prove the doctrine of the sacred names. A the same time, he speculated that if this lady had ever heard his doctrine, she would have believed it.
Three pastors were there, including myself, who were associated with this church before it went into the Sacred Name Movement. The sacred name preacher, who could not find a full minute to speak about the exemplary life of the fine Christian lady whose funeral he had been asked to preach, took plenty of time to do the most insensitive and asinine thing I have ever witnessed at a funeral. With this good lady's seven children present, knowing that four of them did not agree with his teaching, he derisively challenged those who disagree with him to either "put up or shut up."
These four family members and a number of extended family members, not to mention others who were just friends of the family, took this inordinate challenge as a malicious personal insult and a mockery of the funeral service. They took it as an especially disrespectful affront to their kind and loving mother's memory. They also see it as a rash and uncaring offense against the memory they will have of their mother's funeral service. If ever there were to be a time or place for such a thing as he did, this funeral service was neither.
Since that funeral service, this man has taken an extra ordinary amount of time delivering harangues to his people about staying away from the "three wolves"- the three pastors who were there. He put pictures of three wolves on his overhead projector to graphically illustrate his point for the congregation. He has told them to also stay away from the little wolves. By this he indicates our children, who are all adults.
This sad and fear-filled man, who apparently cannot tell how contemptible his words are, told his congregation to have nothing to do with the puppy wolves. He is obviously talking about our innocent grand children. There are five between the three of us. This attempt to demonize even our babe-in-arms grand children shows the level to which this man has devolved. Such silliness as this will eventually bring its own reward.
But, God works all things together for good. At least one fine person took all they could take of this nonsense and has since left that sacred name assembly saying that they will not go back.
TOO HOLY? MAYBE NOT!
On a recent [Sept. 2004] Sunday evening, my wife and I were walking around the circle where we live, when we had an interesting encounter with a sacred name couple. The man has become one of preachers at the church that adopted the Hebrew sacred name teaching. This couple had also chosen the same beautiful day to walk their dog. As we were walking in opposite directions, it was quite natural that we should meet.
When we were a few yards apart, both my wife and I spoke to these people, casually greeting them and making a nice comment about their dog. They ignored both us and our greetings, staring away as if we were not there.
Apparently we were not worthy enough to warrant a word of greeting from these people. Did their holiness so far exceed ours that they could not lower themselves to say one word to us or even acknowledge our existence? It looked like they plainly thought they were better than us? Perhaps their new-found light has given them a case of old-fashioned holier-than-thou Phariseeism.
An interesting sidebar to this occurrence is the fact the both my son and daughter at one time were employed by this man in his business. His business got into financial trouble and ultimately went into bankruptcy.
During these financial difficulties my daughter loaned this man $1,000. He still owes this debt. He has started a new business, built a new building, a new house, bought new cars and trucks, and gotten new light on the sacred name doctrine; but he has conveniently forgotten to pay back this personal debt. Are we so unholy that God has exempted him from even repaying his debts to us? It seems like I have read somewhere if a man preaches that others should not steal, we may ask him if he steals.
Well, my family and I haven't forgotten about it. And we can’t imagine the Lord Jesus has forgotten about it. Are we being unreasonable to expect those who want to adopt a holier-than-thou nose-in-the-air attitude toward us to repay what they borrowed from us?
This has been a trying experience for my family and me. However, the experience has given us the ability to view the sacred name doctrine and its adherents from a perspective not shared by most people.
None of us will ever believe the sacred name doctrine, not because we had a bad experience, but because we see it for what it is, error. At the same time, neither will we ever be back as part of that congregation.
We got out. And just in time. If we can find others who are inclined toward getting out of that or any other sacred name church, we make it our goal to help them get out.
We still serve Jesus. Satan may loudly roar, but he has no teeth. His teeth were pulled on a hill outside Jerusalem hundreds of years ago.