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A Time to Reap

with Kevin Cross | April 22, 2011

Kevin Cross was living in the fast lane. With a fast car and stolen money to burn, he had deceived his employer and his friends. But now he had come to justice. Sitting in jail, he had plenty of time to think. Hear how God worked through Kevin's circumstances to give him a new calling and a new life in Christ.

Kevin Cross was living in the fast lane. With a fast car and stolen money to burn, he had deceived his employer and his friends. But now he had come to justice. Sitting in jail, he had plenty of time to think. Hear how God worked through Kevin's circumstances to give him a new calling and a new life in Christ.

A Time to Reap

With Kevin Cross
|
April 22, 2011
| Download Transcript PDF

Bob:  On the day Kevin Cross was taken into custody and put in jail, he was not the only person to be locked in a jail cell that day.

Kevin:  There was a man that day, on February 10, 1988, who was just sentenced to a triple death sentence.  They laughed and chuckled and said, “Kevin, you’re going to go in and be his roommate.” 

And I thought, “Whoa!  Whoa!  Whoa!  I’m 120 pounds soaking wet.  You can’t do this!  I’m white collar, I’m the boy wonder, I’m the . . .”

You’re going in there with him.

So here I am in this cell, and here’s this kid who is this young man who has nothing to live for.  I just went in there thinking, “Oh my goodness.”

At that point, I did the jailhouse prayer.  The jailhouse prayer goes like this, “God?  Get me out of here!”

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, April 22nd.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine.  We will hear today how God answered Kevin Cross’s jailhouse prayer. 

And welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for joining us. 

The story we’re hearing this week sounds like something out of a TV episode or a movie or something, doesn’t it?

Dennis:  Well, our guest even said it was like a Grisham novel.

Bob:  That’s right.

Dennis:  Kevin Cross joins us again on FamilyLife Today.  Kevin, welcome back.

Kevin:  It’s good to be here.

Dennis:  Kevin is a former businessman.  I say that because he worked in an accounting firm for over 17 years.  He now works for a friend of ours, Crawford Lorritts, at Fellowship Bible Church in Roswell, Georgia, just outside of Atlanta.  He’s been married since 1993 and has two children. 

He has written a book called Embezzlement:  A True Crime Story.  You know, Kevin, you were nineteen years old working for the Broward County Sheriff’s office.  This was the guy who trained Al Pacino in how to be a gangster because he’d already been around so many of them.

You as a nineteen and twenty year old ripped off the Broward County Sheriff’s Department of $300,000, embezzling it, trading it, making money, and then living the high life.  You got the mob involved to where your life was threatened.  Your buddy’s sister’s life was in danger.  I don’t think I’ve ever said this to anyone on the broadcast, but I think you can handle it and I think you’ll agree with it – to have gone to work for the Broward County Sheriff’s Department and to have embezzled 300 grand, you were an idiot.

(Laughter)

Kevin:  Well, like I said, if you’re going to be dumb, you had better be brave.

(Laughter)

Dennis:  I mean, seriously, Kevin, not that embezzlement ever makes sense, but the sheriff’s department!?  When the FBI came to your door, knocked on it, and read you rights, did all of that come crashing in at that point?

Kevin:  It did, it did.  But, you know, I was still self-deceived, because here I am at the sheriff’s office and they’re ready to book me, and I’m thinking, “You know what?  I’ll get my law school buddies to get me out of it.

Bob:  Your law school buddies!

Kevin:  My law school buddies.  I’m still living a delusional life that I am still the center of.  I am still my god. 

That was ready to crash and burn, because as they walked me into this pod – if you can imagine it, the sheriff had just constructed this multi-million dollar crime complex on the New River in downtown Fort Lauderdale.  If you’ve ever seen it, it’s a beautiful, decadent area.  From the outside, the building looks beautiful.  From the inside, it’s very different.

So they walk you into this pod over-populated, with several hundred people in this pod, and there were several little rooms in the pod that were for solitary confinement.

Dennis:  So this was jail?

Kevin:  This was jail.

They booked me with a million dollar bond.  They didn’t know how much I had stolen, so they’d made the bond really high.  They thought, “We don’t want the guy to go to Brazil or to Mexico or to wherever he could flee to, so we’re going to throw him in here and we’re going to set the bond at a million dollars.

Dennis:  I have to ask you this question:  Had you seen the sheriff yet, at this point?

Kevin:  No.  I had no plans to.  I was scared silly.  I was cocky, but still had the reality that if he saw me, that would be the last encounter.  I betrayed him!  I completely betrayed a man who hired me to be entrusted with something very precious – his accounts. 

Bob:  You pulled this off for a year and a half.  Now you had been out of the county for a year and you’d been in law school.  How’d you get found out?

Kevin:  Well, because I told the mob my scheme and I gave them the money, I guess I’m thinking they ran out of that $50,000 plus a few extra thousand, they were probably thinking, “You know what?  CrimeStoppers.  We could pick up a quick five grand.”

So, an anonymous tip turned me in.  I don’t know who did it, but I am so grateful that God used them to turn me in. 

At the time though, I can tell you, I wasn’t thinking that way.  I was thinking, “I’ll beat this!  I’ll beat this!”

So they threw me in this jail cell in solitary confinement and I was thinking, “Yeah, that’s good, put me in solitary confinement because I don’t want to be with the rest of these criminals, these bad people.”

They said, “Oh, don’t worry!  We’re going to put you some place in solitary confinement.”

There was a man that day, on February 10, 1988, who was just sentenced to a triple death sentence.  This man had gone into a Wendy’s restaurant and massacred his co-workers, and that very day he had been sentenced to death.

They had him sentenced to solitary confinement because he had nothing to live for.

They laughed and chuckled and said, “Kevin, you’re going to go in and be his roommate.” 

And I thought, “Whoa!  Whoa!  Whoa!  I’m 120 pounds soaking wet.  You can’t do this!  I’m white collar, I’m the boy wonder, I’m the . . .”

They said, “You’re going in there with him.”

Dennis:  Seriously?

Kevin:  Seriously.  They chuckled and laughed and I thought, “Isn’t that just jailhouse justice?”  I can imagine that maybe word got through and the sheriff said, “Look, don’t treat him with any more respect than anyone else.  Matter of fact, this is probably the best place for him.”

So here I am in this cell, about six foot by six foot.  You can imagine this in your mind’s eye, can’t you?  And here’s this kid who is this young man who has nothing to live for.  I just went in there thinking, “Oh my goodness.”

At that point, I did the jailhouse prayer.  The jailhouse prayer goes like this, “God?  Get me out of here!  Get me out of this jam!  I’ll do whatever it takes.  I’m not like the rest of these people.  I’m sorry I got caught.”

Then I was quiet for the first time.  I heard everybody else praying the same prayer:  “Lord, get us out of here.  We’ve been framed.  We won’t do this again.”  I thought, “You know what?  I am no different from the rest of these folks.  I need to come clean.”

So, if you can imagine this little jail cell, unlike jails like in China where you’d have little pieces Scripture and you’d be hiding those in your hand, there were torn Bibles all over the place, thrown.  You can imagine that an angry inmate had just thrown a Bible and ripped it.  So I looked around the jail cell for little pieces of God’s Word because I was hungry, very hungry.

Where I had landed was the lowest any human being could land in America, I guess.

Dennis:  What did the murderer say to you when you came in?

Kevin:  Not a word.  Not a word.

I liken it to Daniel being in the lion’s den and I’m sure those lions were just ready to pounce.  That’s the way I felt and I thought, “Oh man.”  In the corner of my eye I’m trying to keep an eye on Him and out of the other corner of my eye look for a place I could be as far away from Him as possible.  All the while, I’m having this arm wrestling with God.  I knew He was drawing me to Himself and He wanted me to come clean.

I picked up a piece of Scripture from the corner of the cell.  It was Psalm 51.  It was when David had just killed a man because he wanted his wife.  David came clean with the Lord and he talks about his bones just aching and wasting away.  I thought, “Wow!  I’m having the same symptoms.  Lord, I need to come clean.”

It’s amazing.  There are people listening right now who haven’t done the awful crime that I have done, but they have felt their bones just aching away.  I think of a woman who just recently confessed to me that she ran up $40,000 in credit card debt, and she didn’t tell her husband.  She said, “I haven’t even been able to come to church.  I’m stuck.  I’m in a difficult situation.  I feel so much better confessing it.”

So I said, “God, I’m sorry.”

It was amazing; for the first time in my life I had felt a peace and a freedom.  Now, the ironic thing was I had never been in more trouble.  I had never been in a place where my life was threatened more than it was right then.  But I had a freedom, and I had a peace.  I had hope after that prayer.

Bob:  How long were you in jail?  When did you finally see one of your law school buddies or a lawyer or whoever came to see you?  

Kevin:  Well, that first day I thought, “I’m in here forever.”  I mean, a million dollar bond?!

Who knows, maybe I’m going to die between now and then.  Amazingly, like in Daniel’s case, God closed the mouths of the lions, and that man didn’t touch me.

Dennis:  Take us to that moment when the person most important to you walked through the jailhouse door – your dad.

Kevin:  Well, you know, my dad had gotten me the position with the sheriff because he worked there.  A few days later after the headline news and the newspapers came out with my mug shot, calling me this kid who betrayed the sheriff; this boy wonder and now look at him.  Well, the doors opened – they were Serpico style doors – and the sheriff’s office just went to a hush as they saw my dad.

He brought with him a handful of newspapers from several different locales.  He plopped them on a large desk and said, “This is all I know about what my son did.”  You could hear a pin drop.

He turned around and walked out.  He dressed up that day just like it was his last day of work because he knew he was going to have an appointment with the sheriff, and the sheriff would wag his finger at him and say, “You’re going to lose your job!”  He knew that was going to happen.  That, again, is that ripple effect.  If my words have any weight today, I want to say this whole American dream thing – I was pursuing it and I didn’t care who I hurt.  I had no idea, though, that it was going to have such a ripple effect. 

Do it God’s way.  When we do money God’s way, there’s a peace and a pleasure and a hope, but when we do it the world’s way, there is certain heartache.

Dennis:  So when your dad came into your cell, and saw you for the first time?

Kevin:  He saw me.  He cried.  I cried.  Like a great dad, not only did he forgive me, but he blamed himself.  Isn’t that just the way we are?

I thought, “No, no, no, Dad.  I pursued the way of the world, and this is exactly where God wants me.”  I had a peace in a jail cell.  I was there for eight days until they lowered my bail to something we could muster up.  Finally, on the eighth day, they came in and said, “Cross?  Raymond K.?  You’ve been released.” 

I took an hour and went cell to cell, telling the inmates, telling these people in this pod number whatever that I had freedom.  They said, “Yeah.  You’re walking out right now.”

But I said, “No, no, no, I got freedom eight days ago by giving my heart to the Lord, and you can have that freedom also.”

They came back and said, “Cross, are you ready to go, or do you want to stay?”  I said, “Just give me a little bit more time.”  I went cell to cell, room to room, telling these folks about my newfound freedom.

It was an amazing thing because God had shown me that His way is so much sweeter. 

Bob:  Now, this is all with torn-up Scriptures that you found in the cell, but you had been raised in a home where you’d heard the Word of God, you’d gone to Christian schools, so you were really reaching back into the reservoir of what had been poured into your life as you cried out to the Lord.  You had some foundation that you could reach back to, didn’t you?

Kevin:  All of those Scriptures made sense.  All those Scriptures came back, and I thought, “Wow!  Here’s the realness, the relevancy and the truth of God’s Word.”

What I saw even more, as I was reading Proverbs; I was seeing my life in that foolish son.  I was thinking, “Wow, I read that years ago and couldn’t identify.  Now I’m reading it and I see the truth.  I see the truth.  And I also see the truth in forgiveness.”

Bob:  Yes.

Kevin:  But you’re right, I drew a great deal upon that.

Bob:  So eight days after you were locked up, you made bail, but you still had a mountain to climb.

Kevin:  I returned as much as I could.  I sold all the assets, but I still owed $100,000 to the sheriff . . . and my credit card.

Bob:  So you’re working out restitution, trying to have them drop the charges if you pay it back, or what?

Kevin:  They said, “Look, if you pay it back, we’ll give you fifteen years’ probation.”

I thought, “Wow!  Probation?  I love that!”

They said, “Well you’re going to have to leave law school.”

“I don’t care.  I don’t want to go to jail!”

“Are you sure?  You’ll be a felon.”

“I don’t care!  I’ll take it.  I don’t want to go back.”  You see, I was fearful.  But God used that plea bargain; because, you see, if I paid back the money within five years, they would let me off.

Bob:  You started paying back, but you were a hundred thousand short?

Kevin:  A hundred thousand short, and with credit cards, too.  And here’s the thing with ill-gotten gain.  I ran up my credit cards during this time.  Can you imagine?  I not only was stealing money from the sheriff, I was actually stealing money from my creditors!

I was running up my credit cards without any way of paying it back.

Talk about “dumb.”  I got a whole big education.  As a matter of fact, when I was doing this, I bought a house with negative amortization.  I got a mortgage where I would owe more every month than I did when I first financed the house. 

You might say, “How do you do that?”  Well, that’s called creative financing.  I decided to do that because I wanted a low payment.  I violated every one of God’s principles about finance.  That’s what I realized – there was so much.

I realized, “You know what?  I’m going to pay back this money.”  So I got a job by day, making minimum payments on this $100,000.  Now, at night, I needed a job making some grocery money and gas money.

Bob:  Yes.

Dennis:  So, they let you out of jail to get a job to be able to make restitution.

Kevin:  Exactly.  They gave me a ninety day sentence and they said, “Look, we’ll let you out, but you’re on probation.  You’ve got to keep your nose clean; you’ve got to pay the money back.”

Dennis:  But, ninety days?  One hundred grand?

Kevin:  That’s it.

Dennis:  How are you going to do that?

Kevin:  Well, I had five years to pay it back.

Dennis:  Yes.

Kevin:  But it would be up to fifteen years, but I thought, “That’s fifteen years.  I’m only twenty years old, twenty one.  Fifteen years is like a lifetime.  I’m going to do everything I possibly can to pay this back sooner.” 

And so, at night, I needed to get a job.  I couldn’t get a job delivering pizzas because I didn’t have adequate insurance on my car.  Here’s a kid who was in law school; most likely to succeed, and I can’t get a job delivering pizzas.  Talk about a reality check.

But there was one job that I could get:  valet parking.  Valet parking, where there was a permanent “Help Wanted” sign at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Miami.  The problem is, if you ever see a sign that permanently says “Help Wanted,” there’s a problem with that.  It means somebody quits every night.  And I know why.

As the crow flies, you had to run a mile from the ramp to the parking lot.  Well, if you do a few miles like that, it’s a great workout, but you don’t want to go back and do it again tomorrow; especially for a dollar per car.  But I didn’t care.  I was hungry, hungry for food even!

So I was living in my car underneath this overpass in downtown Miami – talk about a kid who had fallen so hard.

Bob:  Your parents didn’t take you back in?  Didn’t give you a place to stay?

Kevin:  Well, here’s the thing.  I was ashamed.  I was like the prodigal.  I wasn’t going back until God moved in my heart to do just that.

As the prodigal, I wasn’t going back yet.

Dennis:  Had your dad lost his job?

Kevin:  No, he didn’t.  Miraculously, he never lost his job.  It was on the bubble there, and there were days he went in wondering, “Do I still have a job?”  But he never got the pink slip, probably because I decided to say, “Hey, I owe.  I did it.  I’m guilty.”

Maybe that diffused the whole anger against my dad.

Bob:  How long before you got the whole thing paid off?

Kevin:  Less than five years.  But, here’s the thing.  I’m valet parking at night, and I’m still thinking, “Wow!”  A brand new Jaguar drives up to the ramp, and you know that was my thing.  Money was my god.  I thought, “I’m the next runner – the next valet parker.”

The man gets out of the car, and he’s a local celebrity, Dwight Lauderdale.  He’s the anchorman of Channel 10 News in Miami.  I thought, “Wow!  OK, things are starting to change.  OK, God.”  And I got into his Jaguar, his Jag-u-ar (I didn’t know how to say it back then).  I went to turn that little kitty cat on, and it was already on. Have you ever turned on a car that’s on?  Oh, it grinds.

It sounded like a dead cat.  And when you do it to a Jaguar, it’s really a cat.  So, I put it into drive and sped away.  I was trying to look cool and then I got in the car.  If looks could kill, I wouldn’t be here today, and if he was any faster, he would have pulled me out of the car. 

I was driving away and thinking, “I’m a loser.  I’m a loser.  God, I gave my heart to you in a jail cell, and now I can’t even drive a car?  There’s no hope, God.  I have $100,000 in debt.  I’m living in my car underneath an exit ramp in downtown Miami.  There can’t be anything any worse than this.  Maybe it didn’t take.  Maybe it didn’t work.  Maybe it’s better the other way.”

I was despairing, and I turned on the radio.  Maybe like today, how some people might have stumbled upon this broadcast.  I turned on the radio, and I needed to hear the rock (not rock ‘n’ roll).  I kept changing the channel, changing the channel, until I heard this plain vanilla guy.  It was Larry Burkett.  He was talking about hope when you have no hope. 

I thought, “That’s me.”  He talked about how many of us don’t understand that what we’ve been given is a gift to us.  We’re just stewards; we’re just managers of His stuff.  The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it; the world and all who dwell in it.” Psalm 24

I never read that.  He said, “You know what?  Some have even been taking God’s stuff and embezzling it.”  I thought, “There’s sky cam in the Jaguar.”

(Laughter)

“Of course,” I thought, “he’s an anchorman.  I’m being followed.”  So I pulled the car over, and he said, “But you can give your heart to the Lord right now.”

I pulled the car over and I wept.  I wept.  I said, “God, I can’t do this anymore.”

He (Larry Burkett) mentioned Martin Luther.  He said, “There are three conversions, Martin Luther would say:  conversion of the heart, conversion of the mind, and conversion of the pocketbook.”

You see, the heart and the mind I gave to the Lord in that jail cell with that Wendy’s murderer.   But, you know, I’d never given Him this area of my life – the area of finances.  That area I gave to Him in that Jaguar, and I thought, “Oh, Lord, it’s Yours.  Lord, will You take it now?  Will you just repair my life?  I want to live for You.”

He talked about how there are so many verses in God’s Word that talk about money – 2,350 verses!  And He wants us to have peace in it.  I became a student of God’s Word when it came to this.

I know there are people right now who are maybe even pulling over the car and saying, “I need to give my heart to the Lord right now.  I’ve never considered this.  I’ve been a follower of Christ for 40, 50, 10 years, whatever it is, but I’m having such trouble in the area of finances.”

Larry would say this, from Proverbs 10:22:  “The blessing of the Lord brings wealth and He adds no sorrow (no trouble) to it.”  We have sorrow.  When we have sorrow in this area of finance we’ve got to do it His way.

Dennis:  I have to believe there are those who are listening who do need to respond to the same God who tracked you down – the hound of heaven.  They need to submit, yield, and give their lives to Him.

My encouragement to them is that regardless of your circumstances, regardless of what you’ve done, it’s not a matter of you cleaning up your act first.  It’s a matter of you coming to Christ in all of your disappointments and failures and dirt, and crying out for mercy, saying, “Lord Jesus, be merciful to me, a sinner.”

To that person, Jesus says, “I have come that you might have life and you might have it abundantly” - that you would live life to the fullest.  Christ didn’t come just to get us into heaven, He came to put life in our soul and give us the ability, Kevin, of what happened in your life – to begin to look at life as multi-dimensional.  It is much more than things and stuff and accomplishments.  It really is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

My encouragement is that if you’ve not made that commitment that Kevin talked about, “Don’t let the sun go down today, or rise up tomorrow morning, before you’ve made that commitment.  Yield to Christ and give your life to Him.  It will not mean that you sprout wings and become perfect, as Kevin has illustrated.  You’re going to have your moments of doubt, but you will become a new creature.”

Bob:  It doesn’t mean that all of your problems instantly go away.  In fact, you might still have to deal with a lot of consequences of decisions you’ve made.  But what it means is that you’re not going to have to deal with those on your own.  There is someone who will walk that path with you, who understands the suffering that may accompany some of those poor choices.

We would love to send you a book today that explains what it means to have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  If you’re listening and you think, “I don’t know what it means to be a Christian.”  Maybe you’ve been to church, or maybe you’ve listened to Christian radio, but it’s just never really clicked for you.  If right now you’re thinking, “This is important, and I need to know what this is all about,” call us or go online to request a copy of the book called Pursuing God.  It’s a helpful guide to explain what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

You can request it when you call 1-800-FLTODAY or when you go online at FamilyLifeToday.com.  There’s no cost.  We’ll be happy to send you a copy of this book upon your request.  Again, 1-800-FLTODAY is the number or go online at FamilyLifeToday.com and request a copy of the book Pursuing God

And don’t forget about Kevin’s book.  It’s called Embezzlement:  A True Crime Story, and we have that in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center as well.  Again, ask about it when you call at 1-800-FLTODAY or order a copy online at FamilyLifeToday.com. 

And with that, we’ve got to wrap things up today.  Thanks for being with us.  Hope you have a wonderful celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection this weekend with your church family, and I hope you can join us back on Monday when Dr. Russell Moore is going to be our guest.  We’re going to be talking about the subject of adoption and some of the spiritual realities that go along with the whole idea of adopting a child into your family.

Dr. Moore joins us on Monday.  Hope you can be here.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We will see you back Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas. 

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