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Kevin East Christian Blog and Commentary

Kevin East

President, Boys & Girls Clubs of East Texas

Advice To Young Men

There are many things I wish someone would have told me when I turned 18. As I shared in a previous post, I was given the opportunity to write a young man a letter recently, passing any wisdom to this young man that I thought would be appropriate. I did, but I felt that my letter came up short. It did because it barely scratched the surface of what I wish someone would have told me.

For this reason, I have written another letter. Although it is addressed to one man, it would be what I would tell any young man entering college.

Austin,

I was honored to write you a letter this past week. However, thinking back over what I said, I think I came up terribly short. As usual, I could always blame the brevity of my note to the fact I am busy, that I have a large family, or that my responsibilities with work were getting the best of me. The problem is, if I said that, I'd be just like most other men in America; making excuses for coming up short.

The truth is, I was more concerned with sounding good than saying something good. Austin, I believe in you too much to simply tell you to choose maturity throughout life. In the next few years, you will go through such a shaping season of your life. I have watched good men make decisions during this time that would alter their life dramatically.

That being said, here are a few points I want to pass along:

Pornography kills marriages. Austin, this is serious. I've sat across many tables with college guys in tears because they were addicted to looking at naked women on computer screens. They knew they hated looking at it, but sin's web was tightly constricting them. Remember that this isn't just about keeping your eyes pure. It is also about not setting your wife up to fail. What these guys look at on computers is not real. It is a sick fantasy. The producers of porn take air-brushed, plastic women, and have them act like they have the sex drive of men.

Men arrive in marriage with unreal expectations, and the damage done takes years to unravel.

Men need friends. You need good, solid guys that can lock arms with you and walk life next to you. In college many guys start living life "around" other guys, but never with them. Austin, find some guys that want to honor God with their lives. Seek to know them, and allow them to know you. As you get older, this becomes even more difficult, so learn early how critical this really is.

God's grace is deep. Some of my most profound realizations about the goodness of God came while I was in college. Growing up, I didn't have the slightest desire to read books. Given the decision, I would have picked doing something outside fun and active as opposed to reading. Yet, after I became a Christian, this changed.

Take advantage of your college years to dive deep in God's Word. Study it. Reflect on it. Memorize it. Ask someone to teach it to you. Austin, you are a good man, raised in a great family. Yet, you have so much to learn about the depths of the riches of God's love. Don't miss this opportunity.

Don't focus so much on your grades that you miss an education. Austin, I know you have a 4.0 right now. That is great. I had that as well until my first conduct grades in 1st grade. It was all downhill from there. As you go through college, studying hard and trying to excel is important, but don't put in on a throne it didn't belong.

Take advantage of opportunities to "cut your teeth" leading. Go on mission trips where you can learn that God doesn't just speak English. Look at other cultures to understand what real poverty looks like. When you finish college, all these experiences will have shaped you.

Above all else. This is a chapter title from the book Spiritual Leadership. In this chapter, he talks about the need for leadership that is Spirit-led. Austin, this world needs men who are under the authority of the Lord Jesus. Be purposeful in stopping to place your heart under His. Great leadership doesn't come from "technique-ing" people. It comes from wisdom and discernment that is God-given. So go to Him, and ask.  He'll give it.

As I told you in my first letter, I believe in you, Austin. I look forward to watching God's shaping hand on your life. Come sit on my porch anytime if you'd like to discuss this further.

Walk in great grace, and speak with great power (Acts 4:33),

Kevin

Now I think I can sleep better knowing I got that off my chest. Is there anything you would add in giving advice to young men?

For more blog posts like this on leading, following, parenting, fostering, and family, visit Kevin's blog at www.followingtolead.com.

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).

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