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Kevin East Christian Blog and Commentary

Kevin East

President, Boys & Girls Clubs of East Texas

Many new marriages begin with it. Everyone has their reasons behind how they got it – and how it made sense at the time to go into it – but don’t necessarily know what to do to get rid of it. I’m talking about debt, and how there is a positive aspect of bringing it into a new marriage.

To be clear… I really don’t like debt – at all.

Debt isn’t sinful. It isn’t evil. But it is enslaving. It redefines a relationship between two people. Once someone borrows money, they are indebted to the person from which they borrowed. It also can become so cumbersome that it begins to dictate the decisions of the enslaved.

I’ve been there, done that, and I don’t want to go back.

Over the years my wife and I have met with many couples who are drowning in debt. I’m talking about the kind of debt that results in people using words like “shame” or “afraid” when they refer to it. They’ve sat in my office, or in our living room, and wept because they didn’t know what to do next.

The advice we give is nothing extraordinary. In fact, here it is in a nutshell:

1. Read the book, Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey, and do what he says.

2. Create a budget. I offer this one that I made up years ago. My wife and I still use this same excel spreadsheet, modified a little since we first created it.

3. Begin.

4. Celebrate your progress.

5. Don’t stop until you’re done.

So if I think debt is something that should be killed quickly, then how could it possibly be a “gift” for young couples?

I’m glad you asked.

Each individual brings their debt, or lack thereof, into a marriage. I’ve talked to many individuals who are trying to keep a good attitude with the fact their spouse has brought a deeper hole, financially speaking, into their new marriage. They feel the impact this new debt brings into their relationship and want to get out of it quickly.

So when I point out to young couples their debt is something to be thankful for, they look at me like I have two heads.

Years ago I gave some advice to my assistant and her new husband on how to get out of debt, and they did. Tens of thousands of dollars in debt gone in just a couple of years. And then they started buying their new vehicles with cash. They wrote me a letter years later. Here’s a short excerpt:

"The most important impact you had on me was actually the advice and encouragement you gave to my wife and I about getting out of debt. She and I teaming together during that first year of marriage gave us such a strong start. Instead of money being a divisive topic, it was one that brought us together. And since then, your constant cheering for us has allowed us to counsel others and hopefully impact them the way you impacted us."

There are a few reasons why I think debt is a gift for young couples:

1. It provides couples with a problem to solve. If the couple sees debt as something they want to get rid of, well they’re going to have to work together to do it. It bonds the new husband and wife together as a strong team. This builds intimacy. Each month as the couple works together and experiences small victories, this bond gets even tighter.

2. It brings finances to the forefront of the conversation. There are many couples that live independent lives when it comes to finances. They keep separate bank accounts, rely on their own paycheck to pay for what’s “theirs,” and keep many secrets as to the reality of their spending habits. When a couple is trying to pay off debt together, then they must talk about it – together. The topic is no longer taboo. It is front and center, and eventually becomes something they aren’t intimidated to discuss.

3. It helps set good disciplines for the future. We’ve all heard it before – “Live below your means.” Couples who are trying to pay off debt learn how to do precisely this. They must live off less than they make so they can scrape money together to pay off their debt. In order to live off less, they have to be keenly aware of how much they make, and decide together on how it will be spent. This process is called budgeting. What a great discipline to learn as a young couple.

4. It provides an opportunity to chalk up a big, early win in marriage. I’ve held parties for people who paid off their debt. The energy in the room is intoxicating. There is a massive sense of accomplishment for those couples who finish the task and kill the debt together.

Are you and your spouse in debt? If so, I’d encourage you today to stop and thank God for this great opportunity to address with your spouse. I truly believe that the process of paying it off will make your marriage stronger.

Fifteen years ago I had one of the most surreal moments of my life.  It happened because a friend of mine had died of a brain aneurysm the week before.  We played basketball together on a Friday.  He was gone early the next week.  His name was Kevin.

There were hundreds of stunned people sitting in the crowd at his funeral, anxiously waiting to see what would be shared.  Then a memorial photo slideshow played, with an old Pine Cove CD playing in the background.  I had sung lead vocal on that CD.

Kevin had worked at Pine Cove, just like I had.  God had shaped his life and his ministry through various people over the years at camp.  Needless to say, at this funeral were scores of pictures of college staff that had worked alongside him that summer.

So there I sat, listening to my voice sing worship songs over people, watching a photo slideshow of a Pine Cove staff person, reading and hearing about a guy named Kevin that people so dearly loved.

Surreal.

Some of our biggest lessons learned come from stopping, thinking and reflecting.  Stopping. Thinking.  Reflecting.  A pastor friend of mine said he loved speaking at weddings and funerals because peoples’ heart were tender.  I believe it.

(If you can’t see the video above, click here to watch it.)

Kristi’s Story:

The slide show above is about a girl named Kristi.  It is her memorial video they made to show at her funeral.  I don’t know her, but her life has inspired me.  She and her husband, Justin, had two adopted boys.  They were very active in Young Life, sharing the love of Jesus with high school students.

After a battle with some medical illnesses, she passed away just a couple of weeks ago on August 12, 2012.

Her slideshow hit very close to home for some reason.  I don’t know if it’s because of the joy in her smile that reminded me of my wife’s, or because of the ages of her boys.  There is something about being reminded that life on earth ends at some point that gets my attention.

Please pray for Justin and their two boys.  The transition they have been going through is extremely difficult.

Elizabeth’s Story:

I heard recently of another tragedy.  It was of a young mother involved in a car accident.  She, her sons, and her unborn baby all died in the wreck one morning just a few weeks ago.  Her husband wasn’t with them at the time of the accident.

Since the day I heard about this, I have prayed for the surviving husband and their families many times.  I can’t imagine the pain, the feelings of loss, or just the dramatic shift in his life.

The mom, Elizabeth, was a Godly woman.  She loved her husband and her kids in a way that expressed the love of her Father.

Please pray for her husband, Samuel.  I am beyond words when I think about where his heart has been over the past month.

Final Thoughts:

When I saw this memorial video my mind raced.  What does the future hold for my family?  How many days do I have left on this earth with them?  Will I have any regrets when they are gone?

We can get so caught up in the day to day that we forget we are spiritual people.  Instead, we live lives distracted, focusing on the things that won’t last.

Are you fulfilling God’s calling on your life?  Are you being the mother or father you earnestly want to be?  How are you loving your kids?  How are you loving your spouse?  How are you expressing the love of your Father to this lost and hurting world?

I’d encourage you to watch the memorial video above and let your heart reflect.

"Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow” (Psalms 144:4).

Followers of Jesus consider the Gospel to be the foundation for their faith.  It marks a turning point in their life.  Each of them can think back to a time when the Gospel all of a sudden “made sense” and they made a decision to put their faith in Christ.  But if you ask many of those same Christ Followers what the Gospel is, you will get back a wide variety of answers.

Over the years I’ve sat with over a thousand college students on many different college campuses all across the country.  It was in the context of a job interview for a summer camp position.  As part of the interview, I would eventually ask them this question:

"What does it mean to become a Christian?”

Some of them could nail it.  Their answers were clear, concise, and biblically sound.  The other 90% weren’t so fortunate.  Although they meant well, there answers were all over the board, and were often mixed with different worldly – or simply American – ideals.

How would you do in the same situation?  What would your answer be?  In other words, if a friend was to ask you what the Gospel is, what section of Scripture would you use to help explain your answer?

For those of you with young kids, it gets even tougher.  My 5 and 6 year olds ask me spiritual questions fairly regularly.  I want that.  However, I find that it is even harder to answer questions like this for a mind that only thinks in the concrete right now.

There are three sections of Scripture I like to refer to that illustrate the Gospel quite clearly.  One is in the form of a story.  One clearly lays out the brutal facts.  And the last is someone explaining the Gospel in a letter.

Here they are:

1. Joshua 1

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”

2. Ephesians 2:1-10

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

3. 1 Corinthians 15:1-11

“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.”

What Scripture would you use, in your effort to explain the Gospel?

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