the astounding prison diary
of david berkowitz
I made a big mistake and I'm paying for it. The Bible asks the question, "Can two walk together, except they be in agreement?" (Amos 3:3). How true! God's Word is filled with good advice. If only we would heed it!
A little more than two years ago I was befriended by an attorney who wanted to involve me in a youth mentoring program.
Everything he said sounded so good, but he was not a Christian.
And even though God's Word says not to yoke up and enter into any kind of partnership with such a person, I tried to reason it out. I teamed up with this man. My motives were good. I wanted to do the right thing. But because I did not follow the Bible's instructions in this matter, I went off course. Aftert two years, I realized my error.
I was devastated when the attorney made off with hundreds of my belongings to include childhood and Bar Mitzvah photos, collegetranscripts, personal and legal documents, and much more.
It was in November of last year when I first discovered this man's true motives: to use me, and to cash in on our casual relationship. And I did indeed learn a powerful lesson by getting burned. I pray, too, that I will never make this mistake again.
Nevertheless, the Lord chastened me through my blunder.
He did not let me off the hook. For God is no respecter of persons. He had to discipline me, and there were times when I felt His displeasure because of my poor choices.
I have been going through a grieving process over this.
But I am also on the road to recovery. At one point, however, I was thinking of stepping down from my position as pastor of this prison congregation because I had become uncertain of my ability to truly hear from the Lord.
I do not want to dare stand behind a pulpit to preach to men if I cannot discern what God is speaking at any given moment. To many souls could get hurt by a minister who speaks from his flesh, and not from the Spirit.
God, though, strengthened and encouraged my heart through this experience. I am still grieving. I suffered personal loss. And I suppose my ego has also been hurt.
After all, it is painful and embarrassing to realize that one has been duped and deceived. That somehow a con man penetrated my defenses and played me for a fool. Yet the Lord has been a patient teacher. I'm wiser now, and much more cautious. I will forever be more discerning. I will continue to be forgiving, too.
David Berkowitz January 20, THE INVISIBLE KID, and
THE RED LAKE MASSACRE
Many are wondering what is going in the world. Acts of senseless violence have left us numb. And we're asking the experts why.
On March 21 a sixteen year old high school student brought a gun to his school and began to shoot people. He finally turned the weapon on himself leaving a total of ten dead.*
His bloody rampage sent our nation reeling. It was the worst school shooting since the 1999 Columbine massacre which killed fifteen.
In my area, in February, a 25-year old man walked into a crowded shopping mall with an assault rifle. He then began peppering the area with bullets. Approximately sixty rounds were fired, according to the local newspaper. Miraculously only two people were wounded, one of them seriously.**
I saw a color photograph of the 25 year old as he wasbeing led into court in handcuffs. The sleeves of his orange jail jumpsuit were rolled up to his elbows. So I happened to spy some odd tattoos on his forearms. Family members were in the courtroom too, His father was weeping.***
Acts of sudden and intense violence have become a sad characteristic of modern day America.
In spite of our technological advancements and our high standards of living, we have come to accept random violence as part of our culture. For many troubled young persons having a gun, mixed with feelings of anger, alienation, self-loathing, and bottled-up emotions make for a powerful but lethalexplosive force that could burst into unchecked rage at the slightest provocation.
My heart has been heavy because of these tragic events.
Therefore I plan to devote much of my April journal to the topic of youth violence.
As a minister, and as a man who once walked down the path of violence, I hope that what I have to say will be helpful and insightful.
There is an answer to the "spirit of violence" that issweeping our nation. There is hope.
THE RED LAKE MASSACRE
I vividly remember the Columbine High School shootings which left fifteen people dead, most of them students, including the two young gunmen and a heroic teacher. It was a brutal killing spree of pent-up anger and a desire for revenge over real or imagined hurts. It was unnecessary, and it made no sense. Columbine left our nation stunned and devastated and asking lots of questions.
Now it has happened again. History seems to have repeated itself, this time in the little town of Red Lake, Minnesota.
On Monday, March 21, on an Indian reservation in a remote area of the United States, a sixteen year old Jeff Weise brought a gun and ammunition to his school. He then began to shoot his fellow students. In the aftermath, five students, teacher, and a security guard were slain.
Later it was learned that this young man also killed his grandfather (whom he was living with) and his grandfather's live-in girlfriend.
Jeff Weise also killed himself. A total of ten peopledied,
According to an article in the New York Times for Tuesday,
March 22, 2005 (pages A-1, A-16), Jeff Weise walked through the
corridors of the 300-student Red Lake High School at about 3 p.m. firing off rounds from a handgun. I would assume his rampage was over in less than ten minutes.
Some of the ensuing reports I heard over the radio said that, like the two Columbine gunmen, who were also teenagers, Jeff Weise was fascinated with Nazism and Adolf Hitler.
Several who knew him said that Jeff Weise seemed to be an angry and aloof kid who was into the dark Gothic scene. That he experienced several sad and traumatic events in his youth, to include the suicide of his father, and his mother’s ending up in a nursing home after a serious auto accident.
Additional reports said he dressed and acted differently than his peers. That he was sometimes teased by the other kinds. Also that he had been the victim of bullying at school.
All told, it was a bad mix. A string of grievous personal tragedies and having to live with his grandfather and his companion, Jeff was clearly a troubled man with probably no one to pour his heart to and perhaps no close friends.
And according to additional news reports, Jeff Weise made frequent visits to a pro-Hitler chatroom on the internet where he frequently left postings of adoration for Adolf Hitler.
An article in the New York Daily News for Friday, March 25, 2005 (page 24) said that Jeff was on the controversial anti-depressant drug Prozac. Also that additional evidence had been uncovered by investigators that he had been planning the attack.
The Daily News article went on to say that Weise hadapparently posted on his own web site a 30-second animation titled "Target Practice" in which a person with an automatic rifle shoots several people and does some other acts of violence before putting the barrel of the gun in his mouth killing himself.
I could see that Jeff Weise was ripe for the demons ofhate, anger and revenge to do their dirty work on his mind.
Everyone is asking "why?' Family members, neighbors, school officials and law enforcement all want to know why this young man, Jeff Weise, who should have been dating girls and playing ball, instead became a lonely brooder suffering from deep depression, suicide attempts, talking about Hitler anddeath, and then finally killing nine people and then himself.
Each person seems to have his own theory. From Prozac to having experienced crushing blows like the suicide of his father and a crippling accident that has left his mother confined to a nursing home, the question following "why" is "could this tragedy have been prevented?"
We'll never know with a certainty. But this troubled soul had been crying out for help for a long time.
According to an article from the New York times dated Saturday, March 26, 2995 (A-7), "Family Wonders if Prozac Prompted School Shootings" by Monica Davey and Gardiner Harris, student Jeff Weise had been taking anti-depressants because ofhis depression. He had also attempted suicide once by cutting his wrist.
The Times' story said that Jeff had been receiving mental health counseling, and that he had been hospitalized for at least 72 hours following the attempt at taking his life. He clearly tried to reach out to others and communicate his pain because he had a web site in which he posted his thoughts and feelings. Also according to the article,Jeff Weise had aninternet posting which read:
"I had went through a lot of things in my life that haddriven me to a darker path than most choose to take.....
"I split the flesh of my wrist with a box opener, painting the floor of my bedroom with blood I shouldn't have spilt...
"After sitting there for what seemed like hours...I had a revelation that this was not the path."
I have since read several more articles from variousperiodicals, and they’re all basically the same. Other than reporting on the victims and the impact of this tragedy on the local community, there were no answers.
Some of the news stories reported that Jeff Weise would often wear dark clothing and that he was "obsessed with death."
Living on a Native American reservation with its poverty, and its higher than the national average rates of addictions to drugs and alcohol, its youth suicides and the high rate of "accidental" deaths for Native Americans under the age of 20, for Jeff Weise death was a close presence.
In such a world as his where Jeff's dad took his own life leaving his son with the guilt, and having to fend for himself and live among in-laws, how could such a young man live the American dream of hope for a good future?
"Hope" was not in Jeff Weise's vocabulary. There was nothing in his life to give the word hope any meaning.
Furthermore, I do not believe that Jeff Weise could see passed his own little world of despair and crushing disappointment. And I would not be surprised to learn that he had a lot of anger towards God.
The kids who insensitively tormented and bullied Jeff, a boy who was already suffering from an overload of emotional pain, were only throwing dry logs on a long smoldering fire.
They were no doubt ignorant of this young man's growing anger at life's seeming unfairness. And they were, in a sense, helping to make a human bomb that would one day explode in a burst of violence.
But until this day came, it appears that Jeff stayed onthe faceless internet posting his self-absorbed messages, while pleading for someone to take notice of him and show concern.
I read some of his postings that were published in various newspapers. Interestingly, I never saw any of the responses he received or if he got any.
For awhile, however, he managed to unleash some of his anger by writing his praises for Hitler on a pro-Nazi website.
I think that the Fuhrer's idea about a "Final Solution" to get rid of the unwanted touched a common thread in Jeff. There were a bunch of local teenagers whom he thought needed to be taught a lesson. His tormentors had to go. Eventually hesnapped.
Jeff Weise knew where his grandfather, a "long-timeofficer with the Red Lake Police Department," kept his guns and ammunition. A tragedy was about to unfold.
RED LAKE AFTERMATH
It's been a couple of weeks since the Red Lake tragedy.
Of no surprise, as the world and the media move on to other things, this even will probably fade from the memories of most
The experts and professionals, however, will be quietly digging through the life of Jeff Weise for awhile longer. But I don't believe there will ever be clear-cut answers as to why this sixteen year old went on his shooting spree.
I certainly don't know all the reasons. Yet what I do know is that Jeff was a lonely, angry, depressed and troubled boy who probably thought the whole world was against him and that fate had cursed him.
His father's suicide must have devastated him. But Icould not find any articles that gave Jeff's age when his dad took his own life.
I am certain, however, that Jeff needed a close friend.
He did have family living on the reservation. But having kin nearby doesn't mean there's a deep bond. Nowadays many family members are more like strangers to one another.
Jeff Weise needed someone to show him love and a healthy dose of attention. He needed affirmation that someone cared about him. Perhaps, too, that if he had one individual to tell him "I value you" and you are a "worthwhile" person, this disaster could have been averted.
He was on medication for his depression, and he wasinterviewed by a professional after his suicide attempt.
Nevertheless, as is often the case, his cries of despair went unheeded; he didn't seem to know whom to ask for help or where to find it.
Obviously there were many factors which came into play for this to happen, and many negative events in Jeff Weise's life converged to produce an explosive mix.
Choosing to murder someone, though, is always the wrong choice.
In our culture where young men are taught to act tough and hide their emotions, and where it is thought to be childish to ask for help, it's improbable to think that troubled adolescents will open up and talk freely about their difficulties, or about the seeming meaninglessness of their lives without lots of coaxing and encouragement.
Men are taught to keep a straight face and to be rugged. Guns, too, can sometimes be a part of this. In the movies and in books such weapons are seen as problem solvers. It's easier, young minds may reason, to dispatch a person with a firearm than to work hard at trying to have a good relationship with that individual.
Like Adolf Hitler's "Final Solution" to get rid of
"undesireables", a gun or knife seems to provide a quick remedy.
Unfortunately Jeff Weise was ready for this. He was open to violence. He felt he had run out of options. His cries for help went unanswered. No one loved him, so he thought, and he saw no hope of things changing for the better. Thus he would take as many as he could with him to a dark grave.
What a waste! I am convinced that this did not have to happen. The Red Lake High School shootings were preventable.
Jeff needed real friends.
April 1, 2005
On February 13th a twenty-four year old man walked into a mall crowded with Sunday afternoon shoppers and began to open fire with his Hesse model AK-47 Soviet assault rifle. About sixty rounds were fired, said one report. Fortunately and miraculously, no one was killed. But two men were shot. One of them, a 20-year old National Guard private was seriously wounded.
The Hudson Valley Mall where the shooting took place is in or near the city of Kingston, New York. This is not far from where I am. So the local newspapers were filled with stories about the rampage. As expected, in the days following the shooting, the media began to look into the psyche of this troubled man. He was obese, socially awkward, lonely, and he wore all black clothing to the mall that day, even down to his sneakers.
With his rifle in tow he must have looked like a Navy Seal on a mission. The report said he was also a high school dropout.
In one article, Ulster County District Attorney Don Williams was quoted as saying that Robert Bonelli Jr., had a "lurid fascination" with the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Colorado. And the same article said that a "cache of mews reports and other materials" about Columbine were found in Bonelli's home.**
While another report said that Robert Bonelli Jr. had two friends, both in their early 20's, who had just been charged with making and setting off pipe bombs, although this had no apparent part in the mall shooting.***
Nevertheless, in this case we have a troubled young man who vents with a gun while his friends, although not participants in the shooing, were obviously antisocial. They more than likely reinforced Robert's violent behavior. After all, these three made pipe bombs together for fun.
From all the information that has been given thus far, I could tell that this is clearly an unhappy man who probably believes that he has no future. Yet it appears that Robert has a loving father. His dad, heartbroken, was calling out to his son in the courtroom during the Grand Jury proceedings.
Expectedly, however, a newspaper article for February 17th ended with the standard often used response. Ulster County Police Chief Paul Watzka said that various law enforcement agencies will be looking into this matter to see if thereis anything else "we can learn" about what happened.***
Learning of these senseless tragedies and the loss of lives touches a nerve inside me.
Jeff Weise and Robert Bonelli Jr. should have been living lives filled with hope and promise. Instead they ended up destroying themselves and harming others. Yet in the deepest part of my being I believe that somehow, if I had only known these young men, and if I could have befriended them, perhaps these tragedies would not have occurred.
I also believe that, hidden beneath their pent-up anger, frustration, and feelings of powerlesssness, was a spark of hope that, somehow, life would finally make sense. That their plans for violence would not be necessary. Unfortunately, however, if there were periods of time when Jeff and Robert felt this way, no one ever came to their rescue. They had no one to fan those sparks of hope. And their desperate cries forhelp went unanswered.
Eventually they would both drift down the wrong road, and each would make the terrible choice to use violence in order to battle the real or imagined wrongs that they felt were done to them.
Jeff Weise chose death. The community he tried to hurt will continue to exist, while he will be written off as an aberration.
Robert Bonelli Jr. is alive, but he's facing his rampage.
Yet he will have many years, however, to think about what he did. And his father, meanwhile, will have to watch his son age in prison.
Finally, there will be the various law enforcement agencies, mental health professionals and social workers who will spend countless hours trying to figure out what went wrong with these two. But I do not believe there will be clearcut answers.
Without God in a person's life, anything can happen.
April 7, 2005
(c) 2005 David Berkowitz
*"The Invisible Kid" (front page headline from the Times
Herald-Record, Feb. 15, 2005, Middletown, NY.
**Times Herald-Record, Feb 15, 2005, by Ben Montgomery and Paul
***Times Herald-Record, Feb. 17, 2005, by Paul Brooks
****Times Herald-Record, Feb. 17, 2005, by Paul Brooks,
As a rule prisoners seldom talk about their cases. There are men whom I have known for many years, that I see every day, yet I have no idea what they're locked up for. Their crimes and the circumstances surrounding them are never discussed.
They've chosen to keep this part of their lives low-key and private.
There is an unwritten "Don't ask-Don't tell" policy that we instinctively adhere to. A man learns this when he first comes into the system. No one needs to know your business.
Of course certain inmates like myself have a "high profile" case. So most of the guys know about my situation.
And some of them have had their cases written up on the law books because they filed appeals.
These books contain various court decisions, and may give brief details and generalized histories of the crime, resulting arrest, trial, and court proceedings. Thus any inmate could read about another man's alleged serious errors that were committed by the prosecutor or judge during his trial.
I have found, however, that those who are adamant about their innocence are usually very vocal about it. They're quick to proclaim their guiltlessness, and they will talk to any sympathetic perssn they could find. While those who are guilty of the chrages against them stay silent. They, like me, seem to have accepted their fate.
Knowing this, I am suspicious of the reports I sometimes hear about a man getting arested for a serious crime, and then while he's confined in the jail to await his trial, he confesses to fellow inmates.
Prosecutors somehow seem to find those one or two prisoners, usually with long criminal records of their own, who are ready to swear in court--usually in exchange for leniency--that so-and-so admitted to them that he did indeed commit the crime he was arrested for.
In all the years I have been incarcerated I don't know of a single man who had ever confessed his guilt to fellow prisoners.
Of course this doesn't apply to those who enter the jail boasting of their criminal acts. This happens, too, but it's usually among gang members or with the younger men who want to quickly assert themnselves and gain what they think would be a more prominent position in the pecking order.
The men who boast know they're guilty, and they don't care. They only want to make themselves look tough.
Yet for those who protest their innocence from the moment of their arrest, it is extremely doubtful they would secretly confess to having done what they were arrested for.
I will always remain skeptical of the latter. To admit one's guilt to another inmate while at the same time proclaiming his innocence to everyone else, is silly.
Prosecutors are sometimes successful with this tactic, but not always.
April 15, 2005
GREEDY FOR GAIN
If you ever want to make lots of trouble for yourself and cause your loved ones a lot of grief, be greedy for gain. The Bible says that the "love of money is the root of all evil" (1 Timothy 6:10a.
Avarice is a poison that can ultimately destroy your soul. Judas Iscariot was infected by it. For several years he lived and walked with Jesus. He saw the Lord open the eyes of the blind and unstop the ears of the deaf.
Judas saw the dead being raised to life. Yet for some inexplicable reason Judas' heart was never moved by these miracles. Instead, as the gospel narratives reveal, he was a "thief" who managed to get put in charge of overseeing the moneybag.
While multitudes from all walks of life put their focus on the Lord and His loving power to heal and help the hurtng and downtrodden, Judas turned his attention to coins.
Eventually Judas' greed caused him to betray Jesus and sell Him to the religious authorities for thirty pieces of silver.
Yet this is not just a tale from the Sriptures. It is a story that's for today because the world is filled with greedy men.
We, too, like Jesus, could be sold out by any one of them.
And this has actually happened to me!
I have been betrayed for money. Even as I write this, there is a man who's trying to market me and turn me into an item to be sold. He's intent on riches and fame for himself, or so he thinks.
But what can I do? I could pray for this individual, and I could plead with the Lord to have mercy upon him.
In the end, however, unless he turns from his selfish ways, he shall not prosper.
Yet this is the path he has chosen. How sad!
April 22, 2005
This morning I stood before my congregation and loudly proclaimed the goodness, mercy and faithfulness of the Lord. I am not ashamed to call Jesus my Messiah and the King of my life.
I know the men were watching me closely ever since yesterday's media attack. I must admit that I am in great inner anguish at the lies and disgusting things that have been said. Nevertheless I live by God's strength and by faith in His Word. His precious promises are true, and they cannot fail.
Furthermore, a number of men in my fellowship have told me that they've been praying for me. The fact that I continue to press on gives them the strength and encouragement to do likewise. These brothers know at least some of what I have to endure because of the periodic media attacks that come my way.
So they reason within their own minds that if David could endure his trials, and if he could remain faithful to God, then so could we.
Because I am a living spectacle and an open book before the church and the world, I cannot afford to lose faith or quit.
For the Christian there is no reverse gear built inside us. We have been made to go forward.
June 5, 2005
(c) 2005 David Berkowitz
The Lord is merciful. His ear is attentive to my cries and pleadings. He knows my steps, and He knows my pain. The Lord even collects my tears.
I am fully confident, therefore, that God hears when I call. But for prolonged seasons no answers come. He remains willingly silent. I assume, however, that this happens so my faith can grow and I could learn to trust Him more.
And oftentimes the Lord allows me to experience weakness. My body and spirit become weary and drained. Yet somehow He gives me enough strength to make it through another day.
Then there are periods when my heart groans within.
Nevertheless I sttll manage to smile.
Moreover, waves of afflictions pass over me regularly. Yet I have never drowned.
For I know with a certainty that a day is coming when I shall be home. I will stand before my Creator. Like Job has said, "I shall see Him face to face." And I'll be in His presence forever, my sojourn on earth done.
June 8, 2005
(c) 2005 David Berkowitz
Earlier this month I wrote how that I had been falsely accused of engaging in a homosexual relationship with another prisoner. And I said how this came as a terrible blow, taking me by surprise and leaving me depressed and devastated. My pain has been enormous, and it still hurts.
Yet something wonderful has now begun to take place. My joy is returning.
Only yesterday I found myself focusing on my troubles.
Yes, they can appear to be overwhelming at times. But this morning, while I was reading the Bible, I came across a message
I'm very familiar with. It was a portion of Jesus' "Sermon on the Mount."
And when I read the Lord's words, I was reminded that I am "blessed" when others speak bad about me, and especially when they say things that are false. I am not to weep. I am to rejoice instead.
I am to be happy when people, whether out of ignorance or meanness, lie about me. They did the same to the Lord Jesus.
And they did the same to the apostles and many other Christians.
Even Stephen, the first official martyr of the church, was put to death because of falsehoods that were spread about him.
Herein is my victory. It is not in concerning myself with my own reputation. Rather it is by trusting in Christ and knowing that, even when lies seem to advance farther than truth, this wil only be for a season. In the end, truth will triumph.
In addition, my reward for enduring such grief will be much greater than had I never experienced sucb an ordeal. I am indeed a blessed man!
June 9, 2005
Throughout the centuries many Christians have experienced ridicule and beatings. They've had to face brutal treatment at the hands of Christ-haters, as well as ignorant individuals who have been used by Satan unwillingly. And this also happens today.
Frankly, not everyone who believes in Jesus is delivered from their enemies. God, for His own reasons, does permit some of us to experience martyrdom.
Unfortunately, multitudes of hearts are very hard. As the Bible reveals, the world will become even more cruel and wicked towards those in the true church, especially as this age draws to its close.
I, of course, have experienced some of society's ridicule.
First, because of the crimes I committed in the past. Second, because of the gospel message of hope that I now preach.
I'm sorry to say that the world is not worthy of the testimonies of those who have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus. Nevertheless, because God loves people I can therefore never stop talking and writing and proclaiming His love.
Woe to me if I should ever back down frmn wbat I believe to be a mandate from heaven. Like every Christian, whether the world hates me or not, I am to shine as a light in the darkness.
June 11, 2005
(c) 2005 David Berkowitz
Recently my friend Lorenzo, a Native American who grew up on a reservation and has seen much suffering in the lives of his family members from alcohol and other drugs, told me about the gang activity in his area. He's now living in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Lorenzo is a devout Christian. Like me he sees the world from a spiritual vantage point. And he grieves over all the gang-related madness and crime that's going on, even on his reservation.
One particular group in the meighborhood is called the "Triple Six Gang." In the Bible 666 is considered to be the number for the name of the antichrist who is yet to come. Thus the three sixes represent evil.
As with virtually all gangs, the Triple Six uses graffiti to mark their territories so as to warn other gangs to keep out, as well as to instill fear in the local community.
Many such gangs--and I am referring to the genuine ones and not the juvenile wannabes--are run like a cult. There are oaths and blood pacts, and one is threatened with harm if he should decide to leave the gang.
Furthermore, and probably without fully understanding the real meanings behind the satanic markings and symbols each gang uses, they ultimately attract dark spirits to themselves. Such satanic graffiti is exceedingly potent, and it invites and draws demons from the underworld. This, I believe, is probably the most dangerous aspect of being in a gang.
My belief is, that many gang members, more because of each one's choice to do bad things rather than actually participating in any kind of occultic ritual, end up getting deeply oppressed or even possessed by demons.
This dark spiritual element may be one reason why gang members often commit extremely brutal and vicious crimes that defy the imaginataions of criminal investigators.
And if I am correct that in many cases there is a demonic element,(though certainly not always), then the solution is a spiritual one.
While most gang members are not practitioners of the occult, nor are they outright satan worhippers (but no doubt some are), because of the very nature of the gang with their evildoing and the ignorant use of satanic symbols, any Christian seeking to minister to members of these gangs should be bathed in prayer both for himself and for those whom he wants to reach with the love of God.
Churches should be making purposeful prauers concerning the gangs and their respective communities. This is part of the spiritual warfare we have all been called to do.
As the Bible says, we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against demonic powers and spiritual wickedness at high levels. (Ephesians 6:10-18)
Such talk is of course foolishness to those who do not know Jesus Christ. But those who know the Lord realize that prayer is a powerful weapon against these gangs and the villianous spirits that are behind them.
These wicked spirits work to encourage and energize men to do evil. They compel gang members to go forth and hurt others as well as to steal and destroy. This has always been the devil's agenda, and gang members are but mere pawns in Satan's cruel game.
God, however, is stll able to deliver even the most oppressed of individuals. In His eyes there are no hopeless cases.
Yet more gangs are in operation today than ever before. They are swallowing up multitudes of young persons and placing them in terrible states of bondage. Evenually, and unless each one repents, these precious souls wll be lost to a flaming hell.
Who but the church has the message of salvation and hope? How could we sit on the sidelines at such a time as this?
June 15, 2005
(c) 2005 David Berkowitz
In the United States of America as well as in many places throughout the world, tens of thousands of our youth are joining gangs. Peer pressure and fear, or the hunger for meaning and purpose, or the desire to belong to something are irresistable forces that can, if misdirected, pull young persons in the wrong direction. They could venture into a lifestyle they will later regret.
I wish I could take these wannabes, gangbangers and roleplayers on a tour of my prison. They would see men who've been sitting in steel and cinder block cells year after year, many never knowing if they're ever going to get out.
I would show them the before and after effects of the criminal lifestyle. They will find men who have come to prison facing lengthy sentences. They will observe how the years have taken their toll upon each inmate. Youthful looks have eroded. Black hairs turned to gray. Strong bodies have bowed to weakness and old age. And the dreams and hopes these men had in their youth have long since shriveled and faded.
Sadly the guys in gangs and adolescents who've joined crime crews think the're so cool. But they don't realize the danger they are in. Getting busted or getting killed seems so remote, as if it could hapen to other individuals and not to them. How powerfully the devil traps naive and malleable minds with the falsehood; "It can't happen to me!" Prisons and graveyards are filled with young persons who believed this lie.
June 14, 2005
(c) 2005 David Berkowitz
This morning the prison's chapel was full. We had an unusually large turnout for the service, including some new men who recently transferred here from other facilities.
Anyhow, as I took my place behind the pulpit in order to open the service and begin our time of worship, I reminded the congregation that Jesus' desire is to "save sinners," and how that for the past two thousand years His mission has not changed. He has come to "seek" and to "save" that which was lost.
The religious rulers of His day, however, could not understand why such a person who claimed to be the Messiah would bother to eat with, and in their eyes, defile Himself with the outcasts of society.
These self-righteous leaders and "model citizens", I told the men, were obviously blind to God's love and mercy, because, according to the Bible, Jesus came to die for those who have sinned. He came to earth and lived a sinless life, and He willingly paid for our sins with His own Blood.
May I say, therefore, that throughout the centuries since the Lord Jesus walked this earth, not much has changed in the way of attitudes. While Christ stll seeks fosr the lost, the self-righteous continue to point their fingers and criticize.
They cannot comprehend what God sees in criminals, homeless people, prostitutes, or the poor.
But God sees the bigger picture, I explained. He sees the results of a cleansed, forgiven and changed life.
Unfortunately many of the so called "good people" of society are living a lie. I said this because, as the Scriptures state, there are really none who are good. "All have sinned and come short of God's perfect standard." (Romans 3:23).
So if there is someone who thinks he has his life altogether, I told the men, and if he looks down on those whose bad deeds are in the open, he is in the worst predicament of all. Why? Because he is proud and self-deceived. He thinks he's done nothing seriously wrong. And he does not grieve over his sins.
Meanwhile, in prison cells across the world, or on street corners wher prostitutes gather, the gospel is being preached and those " outcasts" are repenting and believing.
Those who are in such a wretched condition are eager for help, hope, and mercy. While those who are prosperous and successful in life often see little need for God or to seek forgiveness.
Plus, like the proud religious leaders during the days of Christ, they looked down on everyone else. Such people are spiritually blind, and this is sad.
But if we understand the gospel, we can know that God loves us. He has redeemed all who have placed their faith in Jesus, whether they have criminal records or not. What an amazing God!
June 26, 2005
(c) 2005 David Berkowitz
If we truly want to follow Jesus Christ, then I assure you, the devil will test us to see of our faith is genuine, and if our love for God is real.
Jesus warned Simon Peter that Satan was watching him closely. He was looking over Simon for any little flaw, something that the old devil could use against Simon to cause him to mess up and ultimately fall away from his faith in the Lord.
And Satan is still doing the same today. He's watching me. He's watching you. He's waiting for the day when he could launch his attack and make an attempt to shipwreck our faith.
Really I could just as well put my name in place of Simon Peter's. "David, David, the devil desires to trick, trap, and crush you."
Indeed I do know about Satan's diabolical tricks. His cruelty and cunning are unprecedented.
Satan will stop at nothing in his attempts to discredit and destroy a man. Likewise he will find plenty of unwitting (and witting) human beings to assist him in such endeavors.
For there are many who would love nothing better than to smash my spirit and silence my lips.
Nevertheless, as Jesus prayed for Peter, He does the same for me and for every Christian. And when our particular testings are finished, we are to encourage and strengthen our brethren while they endure what we had already gone through.
June 23, 2005
(C) 2005 David Berkowitz
Mike's sister Dee* is dying. She's forty-five years old, living in an apartment in New York City, and has AIDS. Several weeks ago he had asked me to write his sister to try to encourage her. So I sent a letter to Dee urging her to continue to trust in Christ, and that no matter how sick she feels, to never lose faith in the Lord.
Back in the late 1990's some of Mike's family members rescued Dee from a crackhouse. She had been missing for a few days and they were finally able to track her down.
When they found her Dee was semi-conscious and sprawled on a tenement floor. They had to carry her back home. But the years of being an addict and using intravenous drugs in addition to sniffing crack, all came crashing down on her life when she began to get sick. Then came the doctor's diagnosis.
Dee's tragic story is typical. Succumbing to the temptations of the streets while growing up in Harlem, she's now on her way to an early grave. A life once full of hope is eternally detoured.
Mike told me his sister may not have much longer. She's gravely ill, and most of the time, to weak to attend church. But it is in reaching out to people like Dee, however, that God has been showing me the value of simple things. There is everlasting worth in acts of kindness.
It's the small things we can do that will make a big difference in someone elses's life.
And as I travel on this spiritual journey with its many times of trials, tests, and temptations, I rejoice at the oportunities to touch needy lives in the same way that God has so often touched and helped me.
I am thankful, took for the occasions when I could help another man by writing a letter for him, or by getting him an item from the prison's commisary because he's broke and he cannot afford anything.
Then there are the times when I'm able to pray for a man who's sick or feeling stressed out. It is a joy doing what I believe Jesus Himself would do. I am certain that God takes notice of these simple things, as well as of every kind deed.
June 30, 2005
The Comforts of the Lord
His Coming Judgment of Sin
August 6, 2005 FAMILY DAY
Even though the sun was unrelenting as it beat down upon us, today was a time of joy for the Christian prisoners and their families.
This was a day when the members of my church were able to go to the prison’s large ball field to spend time with their families and friends. It’s a gathering that we have every year, and it runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Approximately 175 persons attended, including some of our volunteer ministers whjo regularly come into the facility to teach the bible to us or to conduct worship services. For me it felt as if I were in a public park as people sat on picnic tables and as children zigzagged around me.
This event was paid for by the inmates. We scrimp and save all year for it. Nothing comes out of the State’s treasury or from taxpayer dollars. Even the food is purchased by my congregations and it’s prepared and cooked in the prison’s kitchen.. The event is also supervised by my chaplain.
About twenty members of the Manhattan Grace Tabernacle Church from New York City attended our event, and we were able to worship with them. We also provided for their meals, and we gave them all the bottled water they could drink.
I had a lot of work to do when I joined the clean-up crew when the event finished, but it was well worth it. To have been able to play volleyball with a bunch of kids, and to have seen inmate fathers laughing with their sons and daughters was a happy occasion.
August 10, 2005
A BROKEN SPIRIT
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart, Oh God, Thou wilt not despise. Psalm 51:17
I spent much of the morning reading and meditating upon Psalm 51. A broken spirit and a penitent heart—these are things that were important to King David, a man who loved his Creator, but a man who plotted the murder of another man, and who also committed adultery.
Because of his sinful acts King David ultimately brought shame to his nation, and even caused the enemies of Israel to mock and blaspheme David’s God..
As the Biblical account goes, when King David’s sins were exposed by the prophet Nathan, he became a broken and tearful man. David recognized his wrongs and quickly repented. But his heart was shattered. And even though God forgave David and he was allowed to remain as the nation’s king, his life was never the same.
Even David’s family was cursed. As a result of his sins, his own household became filled with turmoil and betrayal; because there are consequences to sin, and God is no respecter of persons. Both kings and peasants must eventually reap bitter fruits when they allow sin to overcome their lives.
Yet King David’s transgressions and the harsh and bitter fruit he reaped as a result of them caused David to draw closer to his God. He flooded his bed with tears of repentance while the God of mercy and comfort surrounded David with forgiveness, love and grace.
For a prolonged season of time King David walked a path of grief and pain that I myself know so well. Yet in the long run, perhaps David’s struggles with sin and its consequences may have helped to stave off pride that could have developed in such a great ruler?
Who knows that if David had not fallen, he may have eventually grown proud and self-sufficient the way many kings and leaders do? He may have begun to think that his own political and military skills made his kingdom secure, and that it was not the powerful hands of the God of Israel who protected and watched over the land.
Thus I am realizing that for those who love the Lord, all things will ultimately work for our benefit. The Savior is able to make even the crooked paths straight.
August 13, 2005
This must be the hottest day of the year thus far. It’s been hot and humid all summer, but I do not recall a season like this in recent memory.
Right now it’s eleven o’clock in the morning. On most Saturday mornings I wash clothes, but not today. The heat is to oppressive.
And as I write this journal entry I’m noticing that not even my wasp neighbors are stirring. Some of them have parked themselves on the metal base of my window just below the meshed screen. And as they passively watch me, I think they’re struggling to breathe just as I am. Not even the biggest one of the bunch is making any effort to fly across the cell to get a sip of water from my sink.
The heat and humidity is also taking a toll on my sleep. I seldom get more than four hors of sleep in weather like this. Last night, for example, I was apparently sweating so much that when I got up around three o’clock I discovered that my pillow was soaked. Of course I found it almost impossible to get back to sleep on a pillow that had become like a wet sponge.
I have no appetite either. So I will skip lunch. But at 12:45 there’s going to be a worship service in the chapel, which I plan on attending. It will run until 2:45, when at this time, I must return to my cell.
The chapel, however, is going to be hotter than the building I love in. It has no windows. And while there are a couple of large industrial fans in the chapel which run constantly, in this kind of weather all they’ll do is circulate hot air in an enclosed room.
I’m counting the days to autumn.
August 19, 2005
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love Thee.
There is heartache and upheaval going on in Israel now. The Israeli government under the direction of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, has begun to evict all the Jewish settlers who now live in the Gaza territories. This is a land these people struggled to develop and risked their lives to live in.
I know by that the holy Scriptures reveal that God has a special plan for the Jews. They are the apples of His eye. Yet even in this grievous situation when large portions of what I is now the Gaza territories are being turned over to the Palestinians, God is still in control of things.
Personally, I do not believe God approves of what’s being done. But what I think He is hoping to show the Jews through this is that their own government cannot be depended upon to keep them safe. Instead, it is the Lord alone that the Jews must look to for their help and deliverance. Their trust in politicians or religious or military leaders must come to an end.
According to the Bible, at some point in time many more troublesome events will happen in Israel, as well as to Jews living throughout the world, that will cause them to have no choice but to look toward heaven for their help.
One day Jerusalem will be surrounded and overrun by her enemies until her Messiah gloriously and supernaturally appears to establish His throne and take command of the earth (Zechariah 14:1-11
August 20, 2005
OVER AND OVER
Wherefore I Will yet plead with you, saith the Lord, and with your children’s children will I plead. Jeremiah 2:9
I awoke this morning with a sense of dread, not in the things of God, for my heart is restful and I have God’s peace. Rather it is a sense that something horrific is coming upon the United States of America.
These are desperate and urgent times. I can feel Judgment in the air. And while I know it may sound negative and scary to many who are reading this, I must express what I believe to be true, and write without fear of offending.
As the Lord said to the prophet Isaiah, "Write my words down in a book and tell my people they are rebellious. They will not heed my instructions nor my words. Instead they want their seers to speak unto them "smooth things’ and lies." (Isaiah 30:8-10)
Is it any different today? Even those who do not believe that Jesus is the Messiah, or who may not have any religious beliefs at all, are sensing that our world is changing. In their hearts, I believe, they know things are not right, that there’s trouble ahead.
So are we coming into a time of judgment? Are we really approaching a period which the Bible calls the "Day of the Lord," and the "end times"?
And if so, what must we do about it, and what does this "prophesy" stuff mean?
It means that God’s word is real and true, and that what has been written many centuries ago in the ancient scriptures, is applicable to our day.
Most assuredly, therefore, at some point in time, the myriad of prophecies which concern the "last days" must begin to manifest. And if they do, then what will this mean for each individual?
Is God trying to warn us? Is He presently trying to call our nation to a state of repentance? Is God telling us to turn from our sins and place our trust in Him?
I myself, do believe that God has been speaking. His words have been going forth, but not all of us are listening.
I also believe He’s trying to warn us. For the Lord is a being of love, and He is not willing that any one should have to perish in Hell.
Over and over, again and again, God pleads with humanity. With generation after generation He pleads for people to turn from their wicked ways. And one day, maybe very soon or perhaps many years from now, the Almighty creator will stop His urgings, and then the final period of judgment will begin.
For now, however, over and over God cries, "Repent!" The Lord is begging us, "Follow Me and live. Do not turn from Me or forsake Me, oh nation once blessed!"
August 23, 2005
This morning I was able to finish my work assignment early which allowed me the chance to go to the recreation yard for about an hour.
Fortunately the outdoor yard was not as crowded as it normally is during the weekends or during the night hours, because on weekdays most of the prisoners are at their work assignments or in school.
And after what seemed like endless weeks of hot and humid weather, today was perfect. There was no humidity, and the sky was a deep blue decorated with dozens of powder white clouds. For me, today was also a day of spiritual productivity. God, I know, allowed me to go to the yard with a purpose, even though when I first went outside I had mo specific plan other than to get some fresh air.
I had been walking for only a short time when I ran into "Brother Charles", and elderly black man who uses a special walking cane to navigate, He has health problems, and he hasn’t been attending chapel services like he used to. So we talked for awhile and I tried to encourage him with God’s word. Charlie said, as our conversation came to an end, that he would try to make it to church this coming Sunday.
After this I met up with "Willie". As with many of the men who are doing a life sentence—he has to do at least thirty years—Willie was feeling depressed because, he told me, his family stopped coming to see him.
Willie dejectedly said that for the past few years his family has been promising to pay him a visit on both Christmas and Easter, but they never show up.
I told Willie that, when all is said and done, it’s about Jesus Christ. He’s the only one who’s promised never to leave or forsake us, and Jesus keeps His word.
Many times, I went on to say, well-meaning people will make promises to do certain things, but they will fail to keep their word. But not so with the Lord Jesus, I said. He will stay with us forever.
Note: "Brother Charles" and "Willie" are not their real names.
August 24, 2005
Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
1 Thessalonians 4:17
It is a gorgeous and sunny day here in Now York. The hot and oppressively humid weather that had left me drained and drenched for much of the summer, has disappeared. Today, like yesterday, the air is warm and fresh.
I know, too, that very soon the first signs of Fall will begin to show themselves. The leaves will slowly begin to change color.
Then, near the end of the Fall season, and shortly before the first of the morning frosts arrive, endless flocks of geese will be passing overhead, flying in near perfect formations, as they make their journey to warmer climates.
On and off throughout the day I’ve been looking up to the sky where I could watch the clouds as they float across the sky, changing their shapes as they go.
As each cloud disappears over the horizon, I cannot help but wonder if my sojourn on earth will soon come to and end. I hope so. I long for home.
August 26, 2005
FOR SUCH A TIME
For we are sold, I and my people (the Jews) to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish.
God is faithful to always make a way of deliverance for his people.
Once upon a time, when the Jews were enslaved by the Persians and they were forced to live in captivity, a series of events happened which allowed a young Jewish slave woman, Esther, to be elevated to Queen under King Ahasuerus.
The king, as the story goes, was taken in by Esther’s beauty and gracefulness, and he did not know she was a Jewess.
At this time, too, and evil and prideful man, Haman, who had recently been promoted to a very high rank of leadership by Ahaseurus, wanted to have the king issue an order for all the Jews living in the empire to be put to death.
When Ether’s uncle Mordecai got wind of this treacherous plot, he informed her about it. She, in turn, takes it upon herself to cautiously approach the king. She had a plan worked out to hopefully save her people.
Fortunately Esther was allowed to approach the king. She won his favor and her request that the Jews be spared was granted. Meanwhile, Haman, the one who plotted all this , was hung from the gallows.
Esther, as the story reveals, was placed by God into her royal position for such a time. And God, I believe, is doing the same today. His plans are being worked out for good, whether we could see His hands at work or not.
August 31, 2005
NIGHT IS COMING
I must work the works of Him that sent me, while it is day" the night cometh, when no man can work.
Suppose it is true, as many of Israel’s holy prophets have written in the Old Testament, that this world has a divine appointment with the Judge of the Universe?
The New Testament writers have likewise said the same thing. In the book of Revelation, for example, the end time scenario is clearly played out, although it is cloaked in mystery and symbolism. But its message is clear. There is a time coming when evil will launch and all out assault upon mankind that will continue until the sudden appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ. He will burst through the heavens to put a quick end to a prolonged time of chaos. At this time He will establish His throne in Jerusalem, and His coming will save the world from annihilation.
Suppose, too, there really is a being called Satan? That, as the Bible says, he is a great deceiver who works tirelessly to lead men and nations astray, and to their destruction?
This I say to those who read my words: the Bible is the Word of God. It is trustworthy, and it is true. It warns us, and it points us to the Truth.
Nevertheless, until the great Day of Redemption comes the earth is headed for a dark time of tribulation. It will be difficult to proclaim the truth, and many who at tempt to do so may end up paying with their lives and dying as martyrs. They will suffer, yet they will triumph.
The time to reach the lost is now.
(c) 2005 David Berkowitz