Monday, March 30, 2009


Mark 10:32-45
Jesus has just told his disciples that it is very difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. That stunned them. If it was difficult for a rich man, a man who had so many things going for him, a man who was able to do so much good with his money, a man with so many advantages, then who could possibly be saved? This left the disciples astonished. And in this condition they followed Jesus toward Jerusalem.

The other followers of Jesus were afraid. That makes sense. They were anticipating trouble in Jerusalem. Jesus was walking right into the teeth of the religio-mafia. They were probably afraid of what was going to happen to Jesus and then what might happen to them.

It was a time for teaching. Jesus took the Twelve off by themselves and said it as clearly as possible, “The Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.” (Mark 10:33, 34) That is serious and sobering news! It should shake them up and bring them to their senses as far as understanding what Jesus was all about. I would expect them to walk on for awhile in silence as they pondered this heavy news. I would expect them to ask questions. “What would you have us do when this happens, Lord? How can we best prepare for these events? What will all these things mean to us and to your kingdom? Is there anything you would like us to do for you?” These are good questions.

Then James and John came and actually asked a question. They requested a favor of Jesus. “Let one of us sit on your right and the other at your left in your glory.” (Mark 10:37) What? What did they just say? What are they thinking? Jesus just told them about the pain and suffering he was about to experience and these guys are thinking about how they could angle for places of superiority. Hopefully the other ten disciples were thinking about what Jesus had said! No. When they heard what James and John had done they became angry with them. Why? Why didn’t they just brush that off and continue thinking about what they should do to advance the kingdom of Christ? Because they were angry that the brothers had stepped up and sought the honors they all wanted.

I read this passage and am disgusted with the shallowness and selfishness of the disciples. Why were they so concerned about themselves? Why weren’t they thinking about the horrors Jesus was about to experience? How could they dismiss his pain and suffering while thinking about their own honor and glory? And then comes the unavoidable question, “Am I really any different from those guys?

Jesus said to them, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:43-45)

I am a pastor. Pastors have to work hard to avoid giving into the temptation to seek honor and praise. We have to intentionally work to be servants. It’s too easy for us to think that people owe us something. We often see ourselves as well-educated scholars who should be listened to because we have so many wise things to say. We deserve to be well-paid because we are like CEOs. Jesus came to serve. If I want to be like him, that is what I need to do.

Friday, March 27, 2009


Mark 10:17-23

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” I take it that this was a sincere question. He ran up to Jesus. He fell on his knees. I can’t imagine that this man was just trying to trap Jesus like the religio-mafia was always doing. It genuinely appears that he was concerned about his eternal destiny and wanted to know what he could do to ensure it would be spent in heaven.

Jesus told him that he must keep the commandments. Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother. The man’s response tends to rub the reader the wrong way. Teacher, all these I have kept since I was a boy. Such a statement bothers us because it sounds like he is very self-righteous. There is the vague sense that he thinks he deserves eternal life because he has been righteous all his life. But I don’t think that is what he meant. Again, I believe this man was sincere in his search and he felt that even though he had tried to keep the commandments all his life, something was missing.

Jesus looked at him and loved him. This is the phrase that stopped me in my tracks and made me start to think. How would I have responded to this man? How would you have responded? Really! Think about it for a minute. OK. Now I’ll confess. I am afraid I would have said something like, “Oh you think you’ve kept the commandments do you? Let me just point out how far short of God’s righteousness you have fallen! You are a lost sinner and if you depend on your good works for your hope of salvation you will be condemned!”

You see, that is what makes me feel convicted. Jesus looked at the man and loved him! I fail to love so often! I am afraid I would have heard arrogance and I would have judged him and failed to love him. How many people do I encounter every day and fail to love them?

It was out of his love that Jesus told this rich man what he lacked. He had to sell all he had and give it to the poor. And this man showed his real poverty. He could not part with his riches. And Jesus said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” I think Jesus was pained. I tend to judge the rich. I think I am typical of many people who live from paycheck to paycheck. We tend to think it is a good thing that the rich have trouble entering the kingdom. And that is where we are so wrong and so different from Jesus. Jesus loved him.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Mark 10:13-16

People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them. Can you get this picture in your mind? Jesus is constantly swamped by huge crowds of people. Frequently he has been unable to even eat because of the demands of the crowds. He has sought to escape with his disciples in order to minister to them and give them rest. People are constantly bringing the blind, the lame, the deaf, the diseased, and the demon possessed to him so he would heal and deliver them. And now we learn that parents and perhaps grandparents are bringing little children to him; infants, toddlers, and young children. Why? So that he would touch them. Inherent in the touch of Jesus is his blessing. If Jesus would touch them then they would be blessed. They would be part of his kingdom of followers.

The disciples were offended by this practice. We’re not really told why. But the disciples rebuked the people and tried to stop them from bringing the little children to Jesus. We can only guess why the disciples thought this was something that needed to stop. Did they think it was a waste of time? The little children could do nothing to advance the work of Jesus. They could not donate support to the ministry. They were not really aware of the blessing Jesus gave them. They could not influence other people to become followers of Jesus.

When Jesus heard what his disciples were doing he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.

The kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Such as these? What does he mean? Those who receive his blessing without any sense of entitlement? Those who don’t try to offer any merit in exchange for the kingdom? Those who simply accept the blessing of Jesus? All of the above? Jesus said that the only people who will enter the kingdom of God are those who receive it like a little child. It is a gift of grace. It cannot be deserved. It cannot be earned. It is simply received because Jesus offered it.

We can only assume that Jesus blessed many, many little children during his ministry. There is absolutely no word mentioned or hinted at that every one of these little children ended up in the church when they arrived at their seniority. That isn’t the point. The point is that we should not only accept children into the family of God but we should seek them out and give them the blessing of Jesus. If Jesus blessed them, who are we to withhold his blessing from them? Are we not the hands and feet of Jesus on earth? May God keep us from following in the footsteps of the disciples and teach us to bless the little children and welcome them into the family of God!

Friday, March 20, 2009


Mark 6:30-34
Jesus’ disciples return from their mission and they gather with Jesus to report all the things they did. As usual, a crowd begins to gather very quickly and Jesus isn’t able to debrief the disciples. In fact, once again, they are so crowded that they can’t even get a meal on the table. So Jesus suggests a private retreat for the thirteen of them.

They head off in their boat to a private place but the crowds are almost like the modern paparazzi. They see the direction the boat is heading and take off running. By the time Jesus and the disciples arrive at their getaway spot, there is a huge crowd waiting for them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.

This verse means a lot to me as a pastor. Jesus has an agenda. He really wants to get his guys away so they can recover from their ministry trips. He wants to hear about the things they did. And he wants to teach them. He can’t escape the crowd and instead of being frustrated and angry at the people who just won’t leave him alone, he has compassion on them! The only times I’ve ever been in situations somewhat similar to this have been in India. Walking through rural villages and towns we have been surrounded by large crowds of people. They bump you. They reach for you. They stop you from moving ahead. They are anxious just to be near you. It can become rather frustrating. But Jesus had compassion on them. Will I have the same kind of compassion on the people around me who have needs?

What reason does Mark give for Jesus’ compassion? They were like sheep without a shepherd. I once talked to a shepherd in Romania about what happens to sheep if the shepherd is removed. He told me that they begin to mill about aimlessly. They have no direction. They don’t know where to go to find grazing or water. They will become increasingly confused and continue to mill around until they are overcome with exhaustion, lie down, and die. All this while there may be good grazing ground very nearby.

So are the crowds who do not have Jesus. These people around Jesus had no direction. Their lives were aimless. They didn’t know what to do or where to find life. And so are the people who live around us every day. They don’t look like they are lost. They don’t appear to be starving. But they don’t know where to go to find what they need for true life.

Here’s the kicker for me. Faced with a huge crowd of people who were like sheep without a shepherd, Jesus began to minister to them. What did he do? He taught them! He didn’t organize recovery programs for them. He didn’t put together activities to help them feel like their lives had meaning. He didn’t entertain them. He taught them! It’s obvious that there are a lot of pastors and a lot of churches who think people need something more interesting and more fun than teaching. I think I’ll follow Jesus’ example. That way I can be sure that at least something of value is being accomplished.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Mark 5:21-43

Jairus was a synagogue ruler. By definition, he was an enemy of Jesus. The teachers of the law who had been sent from Jerusalem to deal with Jesus had declared that he was possessed by Beelzebub. Therefore, as a synagogue ruler Jairus had to take a position against Jesus, regardless of his own personal convictions. If he were to break with the official position of the Jerusalem religio-mafia he would be stripped of his position and be cast out of the temple.

Jairus was a father. He had a darling, a twelve-year-old daughter who was his pride and joy. She was sick and soon to die. Oh, Jairus had done everything he could for her. He had spent vast amounts from his treasury on the best doctors but none of them had been able to reverse the disease that was wasting her body away.

Now Jesus was back in town. Jairus knew beyond any shadow of a doubt that Jesus was capable of doing marvelous miracles of healing. He had seen it himself. Jesus had healed a man right in his own synagogue! He believed Jesus could heal his daughter. How he could do it really didn’t matter to him. He just believed. So Jairus was faced with one of those difficult situations. Was he a synagogue ruler or a loving father? Jairus ran down to the lake to try to talk to Jesus.

When the people saw their synagogue ruler running toward them they weren’t sure what to think. Was he coming to confront Jesus? Was he going to demand that Jesus and his evil powers leave their town? The people opened a way for Jairus to get to Jesus. But instead of confronting Jesus with his power and authority as a synagogue ruler, Jairus fell on his knees and begged Jesus to come and heal his daughter before she died! Jesus went with Jairus. Perhaps the disciples murmured to one another, “What is he doing? Doesn’t he know this man is our enemy?”

They were walking toward Jairus’ home when Jesus suddenly stopped and said, “Who touched me?” Now the disciples were certain Jesus was acting strangely. With such a crowd pressing around him how could he ask, “Who touched me?” Jairus must have been supremely frustrated with this delay! Jesus just stood there. Valuable time was passing and his darling might die at any moment. Finally a woman stepped forward and admitted what she had done. Jesus blessed her and freed her from her suffering.

But before Jesus finished speaking to the strange woman some men came from Jairus’ home to tell him there was no longer any need for Jesus to come. Jairus’ daughter had died. Jairus felt his knees begin to buckle under him. Jesus said, Don’t be afraid; just believe, and he proceeded toward Jairus’ home.

The mourners were already mourning. Jesus threw them out. He went into the room where the girl lay, took her hand, and raised her from the dead. He restored Jairus’ darling daughter to him.

For whom did Jesus come? We know he came for the sick, for the sinners, for the lame, the lepers, the blind and deaf, and demon-possessed. We know he came for the poor and simple people. But did he come for Jairus too? Am I willing to show the love of Christ to those who are his enemies?

Jesus brought life. Life to the woman who was dying slowly, bleeding to death over twelve years. Life to a twelve-year-old daughter of a synagogue ruler. Life from death. I was just as dead as Jairus’ daughter. Jesus took me by the hand and raised me to life. I can do no less than reach out to anyone God brings into my path!

Sunday, March 15, 2009


When Isaiah saw the vision of the LORD high and lifted up he saw seraphs above him and they were calling to one another, Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory (Isaiah 6:3). God is holy. That seems to be the essence of who he is. And it is something we American Christians have a very difficult time understanding. It is impossible for us to spend too much time meditating on the significance and meaning of God’s holiness. The seraphs repeat this truth over and over again and they say the whole earth is full of the glory of his holiness.

Leviticus 9 and 10 have passages that illustrate the holiness of God. Beginning in Leviticus 9:7 Aaron celebrates the sacrifice of atonement. What is this sacrifice? In his law God provided a sacrifice that could be offered by the High Priest to make atonement for the sins of the people. Why did atonement have to be made? Because God is holy and he will not tolerate sin in his presence. If the people were to be allowed to live then atonement had to be made for their sins. The people of Israel seemed to have some degree of understanding of this truth. The text explains in detail how Aaron went through the whole process God prescribed for the sacrifice of atonement. When all was ready, he and Moses went into the tent of meeting, into the very presence of God (9:23). When they came out they pronounced the Lord’s blessing on the people and God revealed his glory to them (9:23). Then, Fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown (9:24). The people shouted for joy because their sins had been forgiven and they had acceptance from God.

The very next verse (10:1) says, Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, contrary to his command. The holiness of God had just been clearly demonstrated before all the people. How Nadab and Abihu could do what they did seems beyond understanding! But they brought sin into the presence of the LORD! So fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. The same fire from the holy God that accepted the sacrifice of atonement was the fire of judgment that brought destruction of sin! Why did God destroy these men? Moses told Aaron, This is what the LORD spoke of when he said: “Among those who approach me I will show myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.”

Twice fire came out from the presence of the LORD. Once it came because he is holy and he accepted the sacrifice of atonement that allowed his people to live. Once it came because he is holy and he would not tolerate sin in his presence. Same fire. Same holy God.

When Jesus hung on the cross he cried out to his Father, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? The sky grew darker than night. The earth shook. The holy God accepted the sacrifice of atonement, once for all, that allows us to live in his presence. Jesus offered himself as both our High Priest and the sacrifice of atonement. Because of his sacrifice, we have life.

Do we understand the holiness of God? Do we understand the glorious sacrifice that was offered on our behalf? Do we see that this sacrifice had to be made if any sinners would be able to live in the presence of God? How do we approach our weekly corporate worship? Do we come into the presence of the Holy God? Do we offer him our very best? This doesn’t mean that we have to be maudlin and serious and grieving in worship. Quite the opposite. Remember, the people shouted for joy and fell facedown! But we can’t forget that God said, Among those who approach me I will show myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored. I would think that, at the very least, we would consider whose presence it is we are entering and how he wants to be honored!


Praise the Lord! Here I sit in my study in my house in lovely suburban Shafter at 12:25 am Sunday typing my little heart out! The doctor came into the hospital this afternoon right after church (he's 7th Day Adventist) and asked me all the appropriate questions to which I apparently offered all the appropriate answers regarding passing things and appetites and he asked me if I wanted to go home. YES! And thank the Lord for a great blessing!

After all the paperwork was completed and the last needle was removed from my hand I was finally wheeled out of San Joaquin Hospital at about 4:30pm Saturday evening. I was there for just over four days after surgery. I was really hungry for actual food. And God answered my prayer!

I think people have to go five years with no sign of cancer to be called a cancer survivor. I guess that is just something I can begin to aspire to. It seems so far away. I'll be 60 in five years! So for now I'll just keep doing what the doctors say and keep listening to what God wants me to do. I'm so excited about New Hope Church here in lovely agricultural Shafter that I hope the Lord gives me far more than five years to serve here! I'll be keeping you up to date on the goings on. (I was thinking about putting one of those countdown clocks in the blog margin, measuring the days I have left until I'm a cancer survivor, but I realize that becoming a cancer survivor is something I might be more concerned with than God might be!)

Let me just rejoice in the Lord tonight for his answered prayer. May he see fit to use me as long as I am useful. And may he make me a loving, sensitive husband because I tend to think that should be the first thing I need to do! Thanks for your love and prayers!

Friday, March 13, 2009


Thanks for your prayers.  I'm still in the hospital.  But there has been a lot of excitement.  For example, I started burping yesterday.  Then I started passing gas around 2:00 in the morning.  This morning the thrill kind of spread around the whole floor when news leaked that I had actually succeeded in moving my bowels!  But it's Friday morning and I know I won't be getting out of here today.

The surgeon stopped by to see me.  The pathology came through.  The cancer is an invasive cancer.  However, the really good news is that there is no sign that it spread outside of the polyp in which they found it.  The doc does not expect any treatment until my next check up.

I just had my first food by mouth since Sunday night.  Chicken broth.  Coffee.  Grape juice.  Yep.  Spread the good news!

Here's the sad part.  The basketball game yesterday between Syracuse and UConn just kept going on and on and on and I couldn't figure out why it wouldn't end!  They seemed to be showing the same five minutes over and over again!  When the drugs wore off about 2:00 this morning and I realized the game went into six overtimes I was really ticked off!

Thanks for your prayers.  If you call my cell phone, Mia or I will get it.  Love you all!

Monday, March 09, 2009


Today was the day of preparation. Last night I mixed up the disgusting concoction that I had to drink today in order to be nice and clean for my surgery tomorrow. Nothing to eat after midnight last night. I started drinking the Drano around 10:00 this morning and finally finished the whole gallon around 1:00. I was really proud of myself. The rest of the day I spent eating Jello and drinking apple and grape juice. It’s almost 9:00 at night now and I’m hungry!

My family has tried hard to not eat in front of me all day. But when dinner time came around and the pork roast came out of the oven I could smell it from anywhere in the house! So I gave up and went and got some Jello and sat down with them.

I have to be at the hospital at 5:30 Tuesday morning. The surgery is scheduled for 7:30. The plan is to take out 8-12 inches of colon and the adjacent lymph nodes. The doctors are completely confident that they detected the cancer at its earliest stage so there is no plan for any further treatment. I’ve been told to come back for another colonoscopy in a year.

I’m doing pretty well, I think. So many people are praying for me that I sense a great deal of spiritual support. It’s interesting that the Lord scheduled this surgery right when so many things are really popping at New Hope Church. I have a sneaking suspicion that He wants to show me very clearly that He is the one who is doing things here and that I am completely disposable! It’s a good lesson for me to learn!

I’ll be gone from the blogging world for a few days. I’ll be falling behind on my reading for a little while. But Lord willing I’ll be back in less than a week. I will appreciate your prayers for myself and for my dear wife over the next several days. I’ll let you know how it went as soon as I possibly can!

Give all glory to God. It’s all about Him!

Friday, March 06, 2009


Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” Mark 7:20, 21

Jesus was always surrounded by crowds. The people came to him for a number of reasons. Some came just to see if he would do some miracle. Others came to hear his teaching because he taught with the kind of power they were not used to hearing. Still others came because they were starving to hear the truth. Many came to be healed of some malady and many brought their loved ones to be healed. There were always crowds who needed Jesus’ ministry.
Jesus set aside his personal needs and comforts in order to do the work of the kingdom. He may have been physically exhausted but when there were people needing him he was available. He may have felt the need for time away with his Father but he stayed and ministered to the hurting. He may have been hungry but physical hunger could not keep him from serving those he came to save.

There doesn’t seem to be much of this mindset among Christians today. There is great emphasis placed on taking care of one’s own needs first so that ministry can be done. Ministers who pour themselves out without reservation are warned that they are going to burn out and become useless for Kingdom work. Ministers are not exempt from the “me first” attitude that is so prevalent.

Jesus’ family was concerned about him. They had obviously been receiving information about Jesus and his ministry. They were worried that he wasn’t taking good care of himself. So when they heard that he was being so crowded by the people that he couldn’t even sit down to a decent meal they decided that he must be out of his mind and went to take him into protective custody. He was acting like a fanatic and he would bring the family name to disgrace or bring the wrath of the religio-mafia down on the family.

When they arrived to take charge of Jesus, someone went into the house and told Jesus his mother and brothers had come and were waiting for him outside. Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” Mark 3:33-35

We’re familiar with the old saying, “Blood is thicker than water.” This passage shows us another truth, “Spiritual union is thicker than blood.” Can we look at what Jesus said once again? “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” Did you hear that? If you concern yourself with doing the will of God rather than concerning yourself with the things of this world then you are Jesus’ brother or sister! He claims you as his sibling! He takes you as his family! This is one of the most amazing statements in the whole Bible. If we commit ourselves to doing God’s will then Jesus commits himself to being our brother. What could be better than that?

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


I need to take a brief blog break from “reading through the Bible” blog because big things are happening with New Hope Church here in lovely downtown Shafter, CA. You can rejoice and celebrate with me!

Friday evening our friend, Mayte, brought Ramon Monroy over to our house. Ramon is a 54-year-old field worker who speaks no English. But Ramon has the gift of evangelism. He has evangelistic Bible studies going in several homes around Shafter and he has another at lunch in the fields. He has been looking for a church where he can bring people who are coming to Christ; a church that teaches the Bible; a church where simple field workers would be welcome. The church has to be open to Spanish and English because Ramon has four older kids at home who are English-speakers. He wants a place where they can be discipled as well as a place he can bring the people he is reaching who speak Spanish. We all sat for 2 ½ hours Friday evening talking, sharing, and praying. I spoke as much Spanish as I could and Mayte took care of the rest. At the end of the night Ramon said he thought we should work together. He would bring his wife to meet us and begin preparing his family to come to New Hope.
Yesterday morning I met with Joe Carranza and his associate pastor, Manuel. Joe has a small church meeting in a small room in a church here in Shafter. They need more space. They need a place where they can have meetings during the week. They want to associate with a another church in town but none of the pastors seem to be interested in working with him. Joe speaks pretty good English. With my Spanish and his English we get on pretty well. This time we met at a coffee place where Mayte works. At the end of our discussion Mayte told Joe and Manuel that they could trust us, that we really believe that Latinos and whites are the same in the Kingdom. Joe went away from our meeting excited about being able to work together at New Hope.

That’s all great news. But I’ve saved some awesome news for last. A school building came up for sale a couple of weeks ago. It was the high school continuing education building and it is right on the main street through town. It’s basically one big room (5,000 square feet) and it sits on two large commercial lots. When our realtor called to let us know it was going on the market he informed us that it was being sold by sealed bid. I hate sealed bids! They run against everything that is sacred in my cheap Scots soul. Our core group talked and prayed and prayed and prayed. Our bid had to be in to the school district at noon yesterday and the bids were going to be opened at a meeting last night at 7:00. At 8:30 one of the guys from New Hope who attended the meeting called and informed me that ours was the only bid and we got the building. This is great news because we will be paying less per month for this building and we’ll have it 24/7 versus four hours on Sunday mornings! We will be able to have stuff for kids and moms during the daytime and events for youth in the evenings. We’ll have a place for midweek things and a place for a Spanish service if God works that out! I’m just so grateful to the Lord for giving us this building! All of us at New Hope sense that He is opening some big ministry doors for us in our community and we are celebrating joyfully! It feels like Christmas all over again!

Sunday, March 01, 2009



The other day I drove up California Highway 43 from Shafter to Hanford. I had a meeting to attend at the 1st Christian Reformed Church in Hanford and a couple of guys from New Hope were riding with me. It was dark by the time we drove home. As we traveled south we approached the town of Corcoran and I pointed to two areas along the highway that were very brightly lit and asked about them. The guys told me they were two state prisons. To make a long story a little shorter, our 63 mile drive revealed seven state prisons all lit up like Disneyland!

This discovery led to an interesting conversation. California has over 2 million people incarcerated. The United States has more people in prisons than any other country in the world. And the system doesn’t seem to be working. The percentage of recidivism is frightening. The prisons are overcrowded. Crime within the prisons is rampant. The cost is a drain on our economy. (My buddies in the car had a lot to say about how much the guards are paid and the power of their union!) I was informed that in California it costs the taxpayers almost $60,000 per prisoner per year to keep them locked up. The guys bemoaned the fact that we couldn’t seem to come up with a better way of dealing with a large percentage of the criminals who were being held for non-violent crimes.

Tonight I read Leviticus 6:1-7. God instructed Moses about what was to be done with people who deceive, steal, lie about property, swear falsely, etc. When they are found guilty they must return what was stolen or extorted, or what was entrusted to them, or lost property that was found, or what they swore falsely about. They are to make restitution in full and add a fifth of the value to the restitution. Additionally, in order to be forgiven and allowed back into the community, they have to bring a sacrifice to the priests.

What an excellent plan! Instead of keeping such criminals in prison, why not make sure they have paying jobs so they can make restitution? When restitution is made then they can become full, valued citizens of the community again! It seems counterproductive to put a young man in prison for stealing something. More than likely he will become a hardened man or a gang member or a more skillful criminal. We have enough wise people who could come up with a good plan for making something like this work. It would dramatically thin out the prisons’ populations and radically cut down on the high percentage of recidivism.