Izzy here. In the forty lessons of Hebrew Quest I read God's name as "Yahweh" when working through texts. This is a relatively common practice in academic circles - for instance, in the Society of Biblical Literature. It was also an expression of my personal love for God's name. I'm not sure if you noticed or not, but since then I've actually changed and started following the Jewish tradition of saying "Adonai" instead. I recently added a page to our website explaining this change and my thought processes behind it, including some serious concerns I have for the future of the Hebrew Roots movement.
Stephanie is following Yeshua in a Hebrew way! Here’s her story.
I grew up in a loving, happy Christian home. I presumed that everyone went to church on Sunday until early Elementary school. At the church my family went to (until I was about 8), they had an opportunity to pray the "sinner’s prayer" almost every week & I prayed it several times. I did not know if I should just pray it once or anytime it was offered, so I figured that I would just pray any time it was offered and that way I wouldn't miss out. I never really knew what it meant to be saved, beyond not going to hell. I remember when I was around 7, I took a penny from those "take a penny, leave a penny" things at a store. Well, I took a penny but I really didn't need it. So that night, I was so scared to fall asleep.....I couldn't fall asleep... I was terrified that I was going to hell for stealing a penny. My mom told me some thing about God loves me and that Jesus forgives me, and sent me back to bed. I would say that this was really the first time that I understood the idea of sin and that I sinned.
My family went to church every Sunday, until I was around the 3rd grade. We had moved around that time, and we couldn't really find a church that we liked...So we went to different churches and didn't go every week after the 3rd grade. Being a Christian and going to church was still just something that we did. It was not a personal decision, or choice, for me yet.
I was a very anxious child which grew into a battle with self harm (off and on, starting 2nd grade) and depression (starting around the 6th grade). I was terrified and so scared and upset when I had to share in front of the class or raise my hand to give an answer. It was terrible for me, I didn't know how to handle it- and like so many other things, we don't know how to handle, it went into a mess.
In the 7th grade, my world and what I thought I understood changed. My dad passed away in the Spring of my 7th grade year. It tossed my mom into utter confusion and sense of overwhelming depression. Now, it was just my mom, my younger brother, and me. My depression grew worse and I just wanted to be "normal" which lead to more sin and confusion over what was true.
In the beginning of high school, I was still anxious and more depressed. I didn't know what to do, so I kept myself busy with extra class and taking hard classes and found my value in these things. I also took care of the housework at home, since my mom was new to being a single parent and everything. I found my value in how much i could do and how much I knew. I was lost, confused, and alone. But Praise God, God was working in my life when I didn't even know Him. It all started, probably in the 8th grade- I remember thinking i didn't know if there was a god or even if there was I didn't know what that meant to me. I asked God are you real? A year or so after that, I fell through a storm door and my hand was cut up on my palm. At the time, this didn't mean anything besides don't run up stairs leading into a house... but now it is proof that God was at work way before I was even thinking about him or pursuing him.
God was faithful to that "prayer" asking if He was real. In my high school years, God drew my heart to His. I had a small group of Christian friends. I was always mad at my Christian friends because they were so cheerful and happy, and they reached out to me in friendship, showing me kindness, care, and invited me to go to church & youth group events. They also put up with my argumentative attitude, allowing me to ask questions and constantly challenging them (in a genuine curious sort of way, if there is such a thing). I am very glad and thankful for that small group of Christian friends who allowed God to work through them in reaching out to me. I had two wonderful teachers in 10th and 11th grade, who must have been praying for my salvation and dedicated to planting seeds that would one day bloom. My Chemistry teacher, Mr. Neil, would tell the class Bible stories and my History teacher, Mr. Radcliffe, would give mini-sermons through the context of contemporary US history in a public school classroom. Still today, I give them much respect for listening to the Spirit of God and speaking truth into my life (and thankful for their obedience to Messiah).
During this time (10-11th grade), I told myself that I had to figure out what I believed and why. I decided that there was a god, and then eventually that there was only 1 god. But I still didn't know who this god was. I did an internet search of monotheistic religions and I decided that I would learn more about Islam, Judaism, and Christianity (in that order). I just researched a small amount into Islam and was guided to the conclusion it was about fear. Next, I was lead to start reading the Bible - thank God. I started reading from the beginning, my plan was to read through the old testament/Hebrew bible and then make up my mind about that. Then, I was going to read the New Testament and make my mind up about Christianity. God softened my heart to go to church with my Christian friends even though I had no idea what was happening in the service.
This is really where God began to change my life.
I read Genesis - I had known some of the more common stories, but not a lot- It seemed so strange and bizarre as I didn't know if I believed in God at the time. But God was working on my heart, letting me get to know Him through the Torah. I began to feel a drawing in my heart, I eagerly read the Bible hungry for the Word and to learn more about this God. In the middle of reading Leviticus, I accepted that the God of the Old Testament (as that is what I called Him, not knowing what else to call Him) was the real God. I saw a glimpse of something by pure grace through reading Leviticus and all "those rules." I saw that God was real and Holy. While I was reading the Torah, I kept asking God if He was real and to reveal Himself to me. One day, I was reading and I remember thinking 'Wow (about all the laws and rules) this God really must be truly Holy' and something just clicked. I love the book of Leviticus because I love the God of Leviticus (and the whole Bible). Adonai (the LORD) is truly holy, pure, and righteous if all these things can't be in His presence. All of a sudden the scripture came alive to me. I eagerly desired to read the rest of the old testament to learn about my new God and new faith. I told myself that I would read the rest of the Hebrew Bible to learn more about Adonai. And then after that I would read the new testament and see what I thought about that. In regards to Jesus, I wanted to watch Jesus not follow him. But, I ended up fighting the power of God. Which wasn't smart, but God is good.
This was all happening, while I was going to a Christian youth group & church on Sunday so that I could learn more about it and investigate. I didn't tell anyone that I wasn't a Christian, actually I kept a lot of secrets, but I am pretty sure that they all knew I was searching. They invited me to a Christian Bible youth camp the summer between my 11th and 12th grade years. I didn't want to go, but I felt like I had to go. I felt like I hated Christians because they were always so happy and cheerful and even nice to me, so the last thing I wanted to do was to spend a week with them! But I had to go, I can't really describe the feeling just a longing and tugging. I didn't want to go to a church camp, but I just felt like I had to go. Now I am able to say that it was through the power of the Holy Spirit, an invitation to listen to the Almighty. I felt like I didn't have an option, it was that strong of a feeling (even though I did, since we all have free will). It was like the decision to go to camp was already made in my soul I just didn't know it yet. The Almighty had been preparing me for this and working in my life before I even knew it.
Through this process I learned that it is wise to submit to the Lord. I went to camp, but I surely wasn't going to sing about Jesus! I sung about the LORD, but skipped the lines/chores about Jesus. (I was stubborn.....obviously). During that week at a Bible camp, I accepted Jesus: that He was real and that He was my Lord and Savior. This is how it happened:
A few years before (at the time while I was asking God if He was even real), I fell through a storm door window and got a scar on my hand. At the camp, we went canoeing down a local river and I fell on some glass. I wrapped up my hand and finished the day. Right before dinner, I was in the cabin, getting ready for dinner and unwrapping my hand to clean the cut. I cleaned it. And then I actually looked at it. I was sitting in a chair and I saw that my previous scar and this new cut formed a perfect cross. I am not exactly sure how this happened, but the next thing I knew I was on my knees and confessing that Jesus was real. That night was one of the longest, scariest nights for me, I was literally shaking and trembling for hours, while I thought about the God of the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament), Jesus, and what had happened earlier in the day. I had a decision to make, that I had been putting off for months if not years. I was shaking and trembling, but yet I felt like I couldn't move. I could no longer put the decision off, was I going to follow Jesus (Yeshua) or not? I shook, trembled, thought, and cried..feeling like I couldn't move.. until I recognized Jesus as Christ (Yeshua was and is the Messiah).
I finished reading through the Bible the first time 3 years later, and was very involved in Christian organizations during college. I learned a lot during my time with the organizations. I didn't think much about the Hebrew roots of Christianity again until my junior year of college, but something seemed missing. Even though I believed in the God of the Old Testament first, I wasn't sure what to do with this. It seemed that majority of Churches (that I knew of) just pushed it aside. An old high school friend contacted me my junior year and told me about Messianic Judaism and explained to me about the Hebrew Roots of Christianity. This was the first time that I felt like things really really fit and were whole. It seemed very strange and weird, but at the same time it felt like I was coming home. I worried that I was going a little crazy since I didn't know how I could follow Torah and still be a believe in Jesus.....but that is exactly what Yeshua calls us to! 'If you love me, you will follow my commandments'
I found a congregation online, and through much testing accepted that I follow a Jewish Teacher who did Jewish things all His earthly life. He had a problem with the man-made rules, not the Torah (the Law). As I learned more about the Messianic movement, it has become clear to me that I, as a gentile, have been grafted into the commonwealth of Israel and I have found a deep wealth of Biblical truth in the Messianic Teachings.
Now the telling of my testimony would not be complete if I didn't warn you to stay away from the "sacred name" movement. Since being exposed to the Hebrew Roots of my faith and accepting them, I have begun to learn Hebrew and some of the traditional prayers. I feel that it has really drawn me closer to our Master Yeshua and helped me grow in my knowledge of the Word. (Yeshua even said that the Shema in Mark 12: 29-30, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; 30 and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength was the greatest commandment (This was from Deut 6:4-9 and included in the liturgical daily prayers).
Since becoming a follower of Jesus, I have worked hard on not self harming and changing my lifestyle. God says that I have no need for that and it isn't what he wants for me/anyone. I'm not going to lie, it was hard...I had gotten to the point where I was actually doing it in my sleep without consciously knowing it. My worth and value are in Christ, not things of man or how much I know.
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body. 1 Cor 6:19-20
Trust in the Lord with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6
I can say that the verses that inspired me to pursue God is true from my personal experience with our Creator. "But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul" Deut 4:29 and "You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. 'I will be found by you,' declares the LORD...." Jeremiah 29:13-14
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Shavua tov - have a good week!
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