We have a strong faith-based family practicing principles found within Scripture. We strive to keep, as our number one priority in all aspects of our lives, the commandments and teachings of God (whose proper name is יהוה in Hebrew, transliterated into English as YHVH and, with all vowel points, pronounced Ye-ho-vah; also the shortened name יה or Y'ah) and of the Messiah (whose name is יהושע in Hebrew, transliterated and pronounced Ye-ho-shua - or Ye'shua for short - which means "Salvation from Yehovah"; - see more regarding the topic of names below), commonly referred to in the Western World as 'Jesus'.
We strictly reference the Biblical Scriptures as the primary source and authority in forming our beliefs without adding or subtracting and within context of the original script. This includes a faith based on the full Ten Commandments (including keeping the Seventh-day Sabbath), keeping Yah's established instruction for food, observing Holy Festivals (i.e. Feast of Tabernacles and others listed in Leviticus 23) and avoiding man-made traditions & practices that add to these requirements directly (or indirectly) or that are in opposition to Yah and His instruction (such as mixing Pagan traditions, titles and dates included in such holidays as Christmas, Easter, Lent, etc). Both mainstream Christianity and Jewish traditions have been slowly adopted by men before and after the time of the Ye'shua. Many of these traditions have modified the original instructions within the Torah (or commonly referred to as 'laws') changing days & times (see calendar), suppressing the use of Yehovah's name and, in many aspects, completely replacing Torah (labeled as being "Old") with faulty discernment of Messianic writings (confusingly labeled as "The New Testament"). Adding/subtracting from scripture (or "destroying" the original construct) is a practice that goes against the very nature of Yah, whom we are told in scripture DOES NOT CHANGE (Malachi 3:6), and explicitly commanded us not to do (Deuteronomy 4:2). This practice was upheld and re-confirmed by Ye'shua who served as a living example of Torah that we should follow - an example that will remain unchanged as long as Heaven and Earth exist (Matthew 5:17-18)!
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We do not consider ourselves associated with any "one" physical "church" (church is best translated assembly, or a group of people ... Yah has only one spiritual group, or body of believers, and it is NOT a physical building or legal organization). Although, such organizations are a great tool (among others) for spreading the Good News Gospel of the Scriptures (or the Bible) to all nations as we are told to do by Ye'shua the Messiah (Matthew 28:18-20). It is through many of these organizations, along with personal evangelism, that His body of believers can reach out to others and teach them so that they too may choose to live according to His instructions (Torah) within their own hearts. In order to create a legal organization, however, many are forced to create doctrines that may, or may not, be completely based on scripture but, rather, man-made conclusions. It is up to each of us, individually, to discern these differences within doctrines and be able to prove them as truth using scripture, solely, to any specific topic/issue without adding or subtracting (Deuteronomy 4:2). This can prove, at times, to be challenging when wading through various translations and man-made traditions. However, it is important to meet with other like-minded individuals and encourage one another (Hebrews 10:25).
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Our family does associate with many like-believers regularly whenever possible, even though we may have slight differences in beliefs or differing opinions (such as the Biblical calendar), which we fully respect. Yah works with everyone differently and each person serves as different parts of the body, as a whole, that allows for different perspectives so that we can help one another to eventually come to His truth (Proverbs 27:17) and have the same mind as Yehovah God (Phillipians 3:15-16).
Currently in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, we often attend a small local group associated with the United Church of God. Some of the organizations we have met with in the past have included the Albuquerque, New Mexico area (Western Region Church of God and Church of God, New Mexico), Colorado Springs, Colorado (Colorado Springs Church of God 7th Day), Lansing, Michigan (The Assembly of Yahweh), along with other National organizations (Ronald L. Dart's Born to Win Ministries, Michael Rood's A Rood Awakening, Living Church of God, Church of God Ministries International and Intercontental Church of God). We have also met with other like-minded individuals in our home when we lived both in Denver and Albuquerque along with groups over the internet, such as Authur Bailey Ministries (also see PalTalk link below for a local group in Albuquerque that broadcasts online).
If you are interested in joining any one of these assemblies either online or in-person for a Sabbath service/gathering and would like to learn more information about a mentioned organization above, please let me know via e-mail or click on a link above. If you live in Sioux Falls, we would also love to meet with you for Sabbath fellowship (see our link on the Aviv Moon Network for further details or contact us via e-mail).
Name of God (YHVH)
Use of the specific name for God is a practice that we believe is important and should not be easily dismissed. The specific name given within scripture is יהוה (letters sounded-out from right to left as Hebrew is written: Yod, Heh, Vov, Heh - or YHVH being the English equivalent). Biblical translations often replace this proper given name with the unrelated title of "Lord" or "LORD" ("Adonai" in Hebrew). Others use the generic descriptive term "God" and that is most often the term used to replace His name in everyday practice throughout the world and prominently in the Western World. Although these can be dismissed as simply titles, we have taken it a much larger step further by using these titles in place of YHVH's proper name (and use them regularly as such) to the extent that many have never even heard of the name YHVH! The closest English name is Jehovah thanks to the Jehovah's Witnesses. Not only should the use of titles be considered improper, it is technically incorrect. At best, the descriptive term "God" would only be considered an English alternative to the Hebrew "Elohim", neither of which would be used as a proper name any more than we would refer to one another in every day conversations as simply "man" and "woman". Eventually, this leads to confusion for the reader of scripture (especially when you consider translations of translations - i.e. Hebrew to Aramaic to Greek to Latin to English) to the point of most today being ignorant to what they are doing.
To muddy the matter even further, the origin of the generic English term "God" is borrowed from the German word "gad" that was derived from a Pagan origin meaning "fortune" and "good luck". The title "Lord" is also the proper title and translation of the Pagan god Ba'al. In the Ugaritic language, Ba'al was used in conjunction with the descriptive name of the Philistine god Beelzebub (or "Ba'al-Zebub" meaning "Lord of the Flies"). The Hebrew equivalent of "Lord" is "Adonai", which also has its origins from the name of the Pagan deity Adonis. Certainly the origins of these titles, in their descriptive sense, could also be construed as dishonorable when they are used to replace the proper name of an individual - especially one we consider should be worshiped and celebrated as hallowed and worthy of the one the name represents. The regular use of names for other Pagan gods, we are told by YHVH Himself, should not be treated lightly - preferring them to not even be invoked from our lips (Exodus 23:13). Perhaps this should be considered more closely before replacing the name of YHVH!
We believe the use of vague titles and phrases such as these have created a stumbling block to those that want to serve the Heavenly Father depicted in scripture (the Bible), YHVH! These stumbling blocks have caused many in the present day to not even know His actual name - or worse, diminish it to mean nothing! In fact, many have already reduced YHVH to nothing more than a philosophical hypothesis, compartmentalizing Him as "your god" vs. "my god". This makes "God" non-specific and is simply the perception of a given individual. But YHVH is not a concept, He is YHVH! We should worship the YHVH within scripture in the manner that he commands of us, not worship our own idea of Him! Without using YHVH's name, even a modern-day Pagan could say he worships "God" (his god that is). Ask most on the street that claim to be Christian and they will not even know that "God" has a specific name other than one of these titles - none of which can be translated or transliterated in any way from the Hebrew name יהוה (YHVH). By using vowel points (small markings above and below the Hebrew consonants that assist in pronunciation), the earliest manuscripts that contain all of the grammatically-correct markings indicate the name as "יְהׂוָה" (pronounced "Yehovah"). Alternatively, the scriptures also use the name "יה", which shortens the name Yehovah (pronounced simply as "Y'ah" - not pronouncing the letters e h o v in between).
If you were to translate the Hebrew name given in scripture into English (retain the same meaning), it would be similar to "I am that I am" (or using the shortened version, "I am"). This phrase should be familiar to you if you know the story of Moses at the burning bush within English scriptures (such as seen within the King James Version of the Bible). When you include the three Hebrew vowel points (whose meanings each represent past, present & future), the name can be translated as "I will be, I am, I was" (or "Eternal" - a much more proper, descriptive title). In practice, however, proper names should never be translated into their descriptive meanings, but rather transliterated by using (as in our example) English letters to produce a word that sounds like the original spoken Hebrew out loud. The burning bush story is an example where the King James' translators ignored this rule and, instead, chose the descriptive phrase over the spoken name. In most other parts of scripture, the translators chose to replace the proper name with a general title of "LORD", although they have indicated this replacement by using all capital letters (and some printed versions indicate this replacement in the preface). But this process should be no different than if you were to visit another country that speaks a different language - you would not introduce yourself as a phrase, permanently replace your name with a title, or even replace it with another name - even if that name maintained the same meaning within their culture (if you even knew one existed). Instead, you would simply sound-out your name as usual and would, in turn, be prone to replying to someone else if they spoke your given proper name out loud (even if they had an unusual accent or a slightly different pronunciation). Furthermore, if you desired to have any kind of meaningful conversation or relationship with others with any level of respect, you would attempt to articulate their names in return as accurately as possible to match how it sounds. Finally, you would not permanently replace their given name with a title - especially if it sounded demeaning in any way. Only the use of proper names is specific and eliminates all ambiguity.
YHVH (Yehovah) is a proper name - not a title or phrase - and appears in scripture nearly 7,000 times in the Tanakh (or Old Testament), which supports the importance of His given name. There are also numerous scriptures that refer to "the name" suggesting the power behind its usage. Isaiah claimed to honor and praise the name (Isaiah 25:1) while David claimed "your majestic name fills the Earth" (Psalm 8:9). Just as you and I relate to one another using a given name day-to-day, if we are to have any hope of building a significant relationship with the Father, should we not use His name when referring to Him? When you read the scriptures, it becomes obvious that names are very important to Yehovah, often changing names of individuals based on specific events. Certainly we should maintain the importance of a given name - especially if it is given by Yehovah Himself! There certainly is no reason for us to ignore Him by replacing His proper name with another name or generic title, regardless of their origins. If we have a desire to hallow (set apart, make holy) His name, as stated within the prayer (Matthew 6:9), deliberately using word replacements like "God" and "Lord" for His given proper name does not make it holy. Instead, it affectively hides His name completely causing everyone to forget it completely. This is exactly what has happened over the centuries where, in some areas, it is considered "superstitious" (for lack of a better term) to even pronounce the name of YHVH out loud in any way - a tradition considered as being "honorable" yet historically enforced by a death penalty! Some go as far to say that the name is unpronounceable (even though individuals with scripture quote the name - even greeting one another using the name in passing: Ruth 2:4).
This erroneous perception regarding the name has even been engrained into Jewish traditions to use "אֲדׂבָי" (transliterated "Adonai") whenever they read the name "יהוה" in Hebrew. In fact, this is a Rabinical law (a self-appointed authority that claims power over Yah Himself through takanot - or decrees) that has demanded the practice of replacing the actual name when spoken or removing the middle vowel point (whenever vowel points were used within the earliest original manuscripts). Many Jews even apply similar rules to Western titles by writing them as "G-d" and "L-rd" or use generic phrasing such as "Hashem" (Hebrew phrase that translates as "the name"). Failure to follow these Rabinical conventions was, at a time, punishable by death. This anxiety created toward the name has muddled the pronunciation and has even distorted ancient writings containing the name eventually causing its usage to become scarce along with the very specific pronunciation. It has made the name Yehovah virtually unknown in the modern Western World and within mainstream Christianity that now teach in the name of, what results as, an imposter. This is not to say that a person using a different name has this intention or that Yehovah Himself does not know the heart of someone seeking Him regardless of what name they use.
Similarly, the name "Jesus" is not a Hebrew-rooted name at all (although, it is a name and not a title), nor is it a direct-to-English translation or transliteration of the Hebrew name "יהושע". The formal English transliteration would be "Yehoshua" (with "Ye'shua" or "Yeshua" being the shortened version). Although Yeshua was given a Hebrew name when He was born, the Western World has replaced it with the name Jesus through Hellenisation that replaced the original Hebrew name with the Greek word "ΙησοŻς", or "IesoŻs" (not a direct transliteration). It has also been generally accepted by many in the Western World that most, if not all, of the Messianic scriptures (New Testament) were originally written in Greek and, therefore, spiritually inspired by the Greek writers to use the Hellenized name IesoŻs (which is then transliterated into English as Jesus). But Yeshua was not Greek and would not have been given a Greek name. Regarding inspired translations, however, it is regrettable that the original writings by the authors themselves are not available for study - only copies that were made (and likely translated into the languages of the time period). By studying the copies, there is strong evidence that much of the Messianic texts (New Testament) originated in Hebrew and/or Aramaic (a sister language of Hebrew). This is due to the fact that there is more commonality between the various surviving copies of manuscripts written in Hebrew/Aramaic than within the Greek versions or other languages (even though the earliest surviving texts are written in Greek). Hebrew and Aramaic also provide poetic structure within much of the text that is simply lost within the Greek translation. And, of course, the Hebrew/Aramaic texts retain most of the Hebrew names found within the Hebrew Takakh (Old Testament). Even the Greek manuscripts have phrasing (or sayings) that only make sense when translated into Hebrew - these are known as "Hebrewisms". They suggest that most, if not all, of the Messianic scriptures originated in a language other than Greek and was later translated within the first few hundred years following Yeshua's death. Additionally, there are several versions of the Greek translation of the Tanakh (called the Septatugent) where some copies retain the original Hebrew name for YHVH while other versions replace the name with the Greek term Kurios (translated "Lord" in English) showing a trend of the replacing Hebrew names by Greek writers. In either case, all Hebrew names should always be transliterated, not replaced. And since all Hebrew names contain meanings within their construct, the original meaning should be preserved, at a minimum, with any replacement - never should a name be replaced with a title or arbitrary word. By doing so, you lose the meanings and overall nuances contained within the original Hebrew. For example, the formal name of "Yehoshua" also contains Yehovah's name within its construct because it means "Yehovah is our Salvation" or "Salvation from Yehovah"). This meaning fulfills the dual prophecy given in Exodus 23:20-21 and substantiating that salvation comes directly from Yehovah through His Son Yehoshua. This perception is entirely lost in English when you replace "Yehoshua" with "Jesus".
Ask most on the street in Israel that claim to be Jewish and most believe the name "Jesus" is a Western World, Pagan-Christian mixed deity (based on a man that once lived as a teacher) whom influenced later acts of violence and evil throughout recent history. Given the name Jesus is not even a Hebrew-based name and cannot possibly contain the name YHVH within its meaning, it's clear why "Jesus" is not a favored candidate for their sought-for Messiah (a prophet they still expect to rule in flesh and bone). Given the recorded history of Constantine's early Catholic Church, which adopted Pagan traditions and celebrations by enforcing doctrine through extermination of "non-believers" (including many Jews), they would not be far off the mark.
This later spawned into other so-called Christian religions teaching salvation by simply believing that Jesus is the Christ. Even the title "Christ" (a title, not a last name), is also a Greek term meaning "covered in oil" or, more accurately, "smeared with grease" that, again, loosely translates the Hebrew term "משיה" (transliterated directly into English as "Messiah") meaning "anointed one". Christ is a general Greek term used by various historical entities (including Greek gods) whereas the term "Messiah" specifically points to one particular prophet (the anointed one) that would help bring salvation anticipated throughout the Tanakh and, specifically, within Jewish history as the one to whom we are to listen (Deuteronomy 18:15).
There are variations on the believed pronouncement of the full name YHVH. Given there was a period of time in history where the entire Hebrew language nearly became extinct combined with the "superstitions" of pronouncing the name that affected both dialogue and written documents, it's no wonder there are disputes today over the exact historical pronunciation. For example, the Hebrew letter "ו", transliterated as "Vav" (or simply "V"), is believed by some to have originally been spoken as a "W" sound (or "Waw"). Although the modern-day language can contain a mixture of these two sounds in practice, the current-day grammatical sound is "Vav". Original manuscripts, written prior to the usage of Hebrew "vowel points", used Hebrew consonants within the name YHVH that were also interchangeable as vowels (this alternate practice continues today). This influenced some Greek manuscripts, written after the time of Yeshua, to use all Greek vowels when translating the Name. Samaritan poetry has also been referenced as a source for determining the sound of the Tetragrammaton based on rhythmic patterns of other words (see Jewish Encyclopedia). A combination of these issues have lead to variations of יהוה as being "Yahweh", "Yahaweh", "Yahveh", "Yehowah", "Yahovah" or similar. Others add sounds from modern English, such as the letter "J" (which does not exist in Hebrew or Greek) giving the name "Jehovah". The use of "Yehovah" is often discounted based on the Masorite practice that would insert the vowels of "Adonai" and be read as a "keri perpetuum". However, they also used this same method using the vowels of "Elohim" and this practice is not the basis for determining the pronunciation - rather, the study of Hebrew grammar in combination with the fully articulated appearance (using all grammatically correct vowel points) located in the oldest surviving manuscripts, including the Aleppo & Leningrad Codexes. But the truth is we cannot be 100% certain exactly how any Hebrew name may have been pronounced at any given time throughout history. Without any concrete evidence supporting a different pronunciation other than what is used within the Hebrew language today, many of these arguments are simply speculation. There is, however, little dispute regarding the pronouncement of the shortened, contracted versions "Yah" and "Yeshua" while the lengthened "Yehoshua" often depends on the preference for pronouncing YHVH (such as "Yahshua" and "Joshua"). Certainly, any attempt to use the Father's actual name, even a mispronunciation (however slight), is better than a replacement all-together (especially one with additional Pagan ties that could confuse and possibly violate scripture)! Attempting to learn how to speak a name as it was originally pronounced is merely another step toward showing respect. However, the use of an exact pronunciation is not commanded within scripture and, because of that fact, no one version should be treated as such.
There are some that have chosen to use particular pronunciations of Hebrew names that go as far as forcing, or demanding, that others also use their preferred articulation. Some are part of organized groups referred to as the "Sacred Names" movement that stipulate such a principle. While individuals within these movements boast varying degrees of severity (some going as far as stating you must speak/read Hebrew to have any level of understanding of scriptures), many of these groups do consider it sinful for others to mispronounce the name - much less use titles in any manner, such as "Lord" and "God", or replacement names, such as "Jesus" - making it a matter of salvation for anyone joining their group. Thankfully, we are given a tremendous gift of grace whenever we do fall short (Romans 3:23) and Yehovah judges what is in our hearts when it comes to actual transgressions of any kind (not a group made up of perfect articulation). Again, without specific scripture regarding pronunciation, this type of doctrine should not be conferred upon anyone. As for the Hebrew language, it certainly can be useful to understand the language in your own studies of scripture, but the Spirit of Yehovah is not limited to just the Hebrew language (Acts 2:1-3). Only by combining such titles with the proper name, though, can you clearly express yourself specifically that "Yehovah is my God!" or "My Lord is Yehoshua!"
Although we do not insist that others should refrain from using these titles, we do believe everyone should be fully aware of the history and realize, once considered, they may find a desire to show a higher level of respect and distinction to the Heavenly Father that only they, themselves, would desire from others (to be called by your own proper, given name). Since there are many that do not even know the name of YHVH, using the modern English language equivalents may be required to converse with others until they understand to whom you are referring. But there is no reason to remove the specific name YHVH from our conversations and, consequently, should become a common practice as it once was. Only by restoring the Father's name can an individual have further clarity when reading scripture that, in turn, helps build a personal relationship with Him in their lives. It is also simply a matter of logic that we should want to call Him (and His Son) by the name He has given us. By using a specific name, it also helps to set Him apart from all other gods and lords (this is the concept of hallowing, or sanctifying - to set apart from all others). It can be a challenge to not be caught up or lose the significance of scripture in translation. It is safe to say that some titles can be appropriate - just as Yeshua will be "King of Kings" and "Lord of Lords", Yehovah will be "God of Gods"! Regardless of any title, His name will be forever! May Yehovah bless and keep you.
If you would like to learn more about the Name YHVH for yourself, understand the history of the earlier manuscripts and the grammar construct and interpretation, please feel free to visit some of these great resources: The Pronunciation of the Name, by Nehemia Gordon, Revive Israel Ministries & His Hallowed Name Revealed Again, by Keith Johnson, Names (Volume 2 of "Walk in the Light" series) by Todd Bennett.
Calendar (Holy Days)
We believe the entire Bible is relevant and includes the "Old Testament" law (or instruction - called "Torah"), which was partially fulfilled through Yeshua's death (with the remainder to be fulfilled at His return); but, as even He claimed, the Torah was by no means done away with (Matthew 5:17). The meanings and principles behind every practice of the Torah still apply to us today and include, among many things, the recognition of Yehovah's commanded annual Holy Days (Leviticus 23), which were ordained (set apart) by the Heavenly Father to be kept forever (even into the coming Kingdom - Zechariah 14:16)! Many who decide to keep the Biblical Festival days do so based on the modern Hebrew Calendar (and this is certainly a positive step). It is our belief, however, that the calculations and rules applied to the architecture of the Hebrew Calendar are man-made and not fully based on Biblical instruction causing the Festival dates to vary slightly from their intended dates.
Below, please find links to my personal papers of study regarding the Biblical calendar as given in the scriptures. The mathematical concept of a fixed calendar of days based on rules is a modern concept that has distorted our perception of times and seasons used within the Scriptures. The Bible does not give a calendar based on mathematics, but rather on the observation of celestial objects: the sun for determining days, the moon for months and the seasonal harvests for years. Calculated calendars (including the Hebrew calendar) use the average length of days, months and years and are calculated using unseen mathematical concepts (such as solar midnight or lunar conjunction) to determine the complete cycles to be averaged. These averages are then placed into a repeating table that then must be adjusted (leap days and months) to better align with celestial movements. By applying timezones and datelines, everyone can then rely upon these mathematical averages to then result in a consistent pattern that can be predicted far into the future. This concept of time, though, is not Biblical! You cannot prove any calendar from scripture based on mathematics. Additionally, there are other man-made rules that further adjust the Hebrew Calendar for convenience that are also not Biblically based. Rather, the Biblical calendar is based on visible signs that indicate the start of days, months and years. There are no datelines or timezones, but rather the celestial signs that are continually in a state of flux and change controlled by the Creator - the one in charge of times and seasons.
A calendar based on observation is not a new concept (including observing the Seventh-Day Sabbath that begins by observing sundown)! Several modern calendars are based on observation and have been historically for centuries - including the Islamic calendar and the Karaite Jewish calendar (Yes, all Jews do not keep the Hebrew Calendar). Historically, observing signs has slowly converted into mathematical methods over many centuries, slowly adopting man-made rules, both before (in the institution of Pagan & Babylonian names for months) and after the death of Yeshua the Messiah. It is not until the Jews were exiled from the Promised Land in the Fourth Century of the Common Era that we find documentation of a rabbinically (Pharisaical) calculated calendar that eventually led to the creation of the modern, mathematically-based, Hebrew Calendar.
We believe that Yah's original method of observation, supported by scripture, trumps any calculated average of any Biblical sign in order to determine the true calendar of the Bible. By adding man-made rules not directly supported by scripture goes against Biblical principle of adding or subtracting from the laws of God. The Biblical reference of the new moon has always been defined historically (as well as in Jewish history) as being the thin visible crescent as the light upon the surface is renewed in its monthly cycle (meaning of the Hebrew word Chodesh). The Bible gives us a direct command to begin our years with the Abib (ripened) barley harvest (the first of seasonal crops harvested every year). For a detailed study on this subject, please view my paper The Mathematical Bias of the Biblical Calendar.
Crescent Moon Sighting
If you would like to provide future reports, I welcome anyone to serve as witnesses to the sighting of the new moon crescent by submitting your sighting via e-mail. Together, as Yah's people, we can all be of one accord with the blowing of a trumpet to communicate to all of His people when the new moon has occurred (Numbers 10:10). We will also post our own sightings from time-to-time for your reference.