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Matthew Pryor

Matthew Pryor

Matthew Pryor is a writer, personal trainer, and founder of the Christian fitness site BodyTithe.com. BodyTithe.com specializes in faith-powered fitness, helping Christians get fit with one objective in mind: live more so you can give more... more to your family, your friends, and your heavenly Father.

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Following Perfect Guidance from a Perfect Counselor

[Matthew was a member of the SMI team for 10 years before departing to pursue his passion for fitness. His first book, The Body Tithe Devotional, is designed to encourage Christians through a 90-day fitness or health journey. I asked him if he would return to SMI occasionally, adapting one of the devotions from his book to the lifelong financial journey SMI members are on. - AP]

Of the many names given to the Holy Spirit, “counselor” probably has the least pizazz, on the surface anyway.

Maybe the term harkens images of being back in school, meeting with a well-intentioned academic counselor— some poor soul tasked with helping you make life-changing decisions based on 10-minute meetings and the scan of a report card.

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“Here I Am.”

[Matthew was a member of the SMI team for 10 years before departing to pursue his passion for fitness. His first book, The Body Tithe Devotional, is designed to encourage Christians through a 90-day fitness or health journey. I asked him if he would return to SMI occasionally, adapting one of the devotions from his book to the lifelong financial journey SMI members are on. - AP]

At not quite three, my son Silas is old enough to play games around the house. However, he’s not old enough to fully understand the premise.

Playing tag, for instance, can result in him running toward me rather than away. Soccer frequently involves more hands than feet. Just try playing the generational favorite, hide-and-seek. One of the children counts to ten. A tucked-away Silas hears the “Ready or not, here I come.” Instantly, a distant “Here I am” can be heard coming from Mommy and Daddy’s closet. Good try, buddy, but you’re it . . . again.

Silas would have fit right in with many of our favorite men from the Old Testament. “Here I am” was a frequent response from many of the greats. In fact, it was the perfect response, though it seems a little unusual on the surface.

For instance, the testing of Abraham in Genesis begins with God saying Abraham’s name and Abraham replying, “Here I am.” Later on in the same chapter, before the knife drops, we read:

“But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, ‘Abraham! Abraham!’ ‘Here I am,’ he replied.”— Genesis 22: 11 (NIV)

Two different times, in Genesis 31 and in Genesis 46, God calls to Jacob in a dream. Both times, Jacob answers, “Here I am.”

When God called out to Moses from within the famous burning bush, Moses said, “Here I am.”

Samuel used this phrase four times. The first three times God called, Samuel mistakenly responded to Eli instead, with, “Here I am.” Finally, the morning after God had shared the vision with Samuel, he got it right. Eli called for him. Samuel came to him, saying yet again “Here I am.” The fourth time is a charm.

There’s a lot we can learn from these men and their default answers. Now, at first glance, “Here I am” might seem like a strange thing to say. This wasn’t Silas playing hide-and-seek. It wasn’t as if God didn’t know where they were. “Here I am” was really a way of acknowledging their availability, not their geographical location. “Here I am” could be read, “I’m here, fully available for you.”

Secondly, in order for them to respond, they needed to be listening in the first place. Like Silas in the closet, ears open, eager to engage, these men were open to hearing from God. Not at a specific time, but at all times. Due to Eli’s prompting, when God called for Samuel for the fourth time, Samuel responded, “Your servant is listening.”

Lastly, whenever we see God’s people obediently behaving in similar ways, we can take that as a cue. We can learn from them and apply it in our own lives.

What if we applied the “Here I am” mindset to our finances? Maybe you are already doing that . . . you’re reading Sound Mind Investing, after all. Even still, you may not be ready yet to make the sacrifices needed to go "all in" on stewardship: budgeting and getting out of debt, or cutting back on lifestyle spending so you can build your emergency savings, or learning the investing basics so you can build wealth for your family and the Kingdom.

Other areas of your life might be easier to turn over to God— your job, family, or free time perhaps— but finances, not so much. In that area, you’re semi-available.

The Holy Spirit is at work trying to cultivate a complete surrender of every part of you. If you’re pulling a Moses, trying to avoid it at all costs, it’s time to relent. It’s time to reply, “Here I am.”

Remember, every time the Lord spoke to His people and they responded with “Here I am,” one of three things happened: they were blessed, they were used by God, and/ or they were blessed by being used by God.

What if being attentive and available in every area of our lives could result in being used by God? “Here I am” is suddenly not such a strange response at all. In fact, it’s the perfect response. Because you know what?

Ready or not, here He comes.

Daily Spiritual Exercise: God honors availability, including our availability with our finances. So meditate on an attribute of God that will help you remain available— maybe His consistency, steadfastness, provision, or comfort. Whichever attribute helps you stay open to His leading, meditate on it and pray it over your life.

The Body Tithe Devotional can be purchased at Amazon.

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The More Things Change, the More God Stays the Same

[Matthew was a member of the SMI team for 10 years before departing to pursue his passion for fitness. His first book, The Body Tithe Devotional, is designed to encourage Christians through a 90-day fitness or health journey. I asked him if he would return to SMI occasionally, adapting one of the devotions from his book to the lifelong financial journey SMI members are on. - AP]

The world’s pace of change is both exciting and infuriating. It’s accelerating so fast that the consequences often bring optimism and dejection in equal parts. For every advancement in medicine that gives us hope, we uncover a new kind of infection that makes us panic. Technology is getting faster, smarter, and smaller, while also making last year’s “next big thing” nearly obsolete. Geopolitically, a new democratic republic may be created in one part of the world while a former republic is overtaken in another.

This pace-of-change phenomenon happens with our finances too. We learn new basics about budgeting, saving, and investing and then realize we’ve been doing it wrong all this time. The dizzying array of financial advice and new products and services bombard us from every angle, all the time. To make matters worse, change is showing no signs of slowing down.

However, our Father changes all that for us, by remaining unchanged Himself. Imagine . . . we have access to the One who spun the world into place, shifts the tides, and switches the seasons. Yet He Himself remains immovable, resolute, and steadfast. We see this unchanging nature of His character displayed throughout Scripture.

  • Men change their minds on a whim, but what God says He’ll do, He does (Numbers 23: 19). His intentions are unchanging.
     
  • Our words are in the air for but a moment, but His Word is eternal (Psalm 119: 89); it endures forever (Isaiah 40: 8). His Word is unchanging.
     
  • Our energy and ability are finite, but He is everlasting, does not grow tired, and does not grow weary (Isaiah 40: 28). His strength is unchanging.
     
  • Leaders rise and rulers fall, but He has ruled forever (Psalm 55: 19). His reign is unchanging.
     
  • Our lives are but a breath, but He has always been (Psalm 102: 27). His years are unchanging.
     
  • Our loyalties waver and our fortitude fails, but His faithfulness continues throughout all generations (Psalm 119: 90). His faithfulness is unchanging.
     
  • What man does, doesn’t last. Whatever God does is complete, lacking nothing, lasting forever (Ecclesiastes 3: 14). His works are unchanging.
     
  • The purposes for which man lives fluctuate with the times, but not the Lord’s (Malachi 3: 6). His purposes are unchanging.
     
  • Man gives reluctantly, incompletely, and with improper motives, but God gives willingly, lovingly, and perfectly (James 1: 17). His generosity is unchanging.
     
  • Whereas we have unkept promises, it’s impossible for God to lie (Hebrews 6: 17– 18). His promises are unchanging.
     
  • Where theologies rise, religions fall, and movements fail, God’s Son is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow (Hebrews 13: 8). His Son is unchanging.
     
  • While we will betray, fall short, and lose faith, God’s Son remains ever faithful (2 Timothy 2: 13). His Son’s faithfulness is unchanging.

There is great comfort to be found in His consistent trustworthiness. While God is unchanging in who He is, He can change you. In fact, because He is unchanging, He is also the only logical and deserving foundation to power change in you.

God can help us with the financial improvements we’re seeking, assuming we’re seeking Him to first change our hearts. To be molding them. To be shaping them. To be making them more like His.

If the pace of life during your stewardship journey is stressing you, take heart. If the thought of change scares you or the speed at which the world is spinning unsettles you . . . pause. Exhale. Take in a little air, then breathe out again, deeper this time. Relax your shoulders. Untense your neck. Clear your mind. Stop for a second, or a minute.

Now ask yourself, “Who is in control?”

If God is in control and if He is unchanging, we can trust him to do what only he can do perfectly— empower us.

Then remind yourself, the more things change, the more God stays the same.

Daily Spiritual Exercise: Memorize a favorite verse or passage reflecting God’s unchanging nature. I’m fond of Numbers 23: 19 and the bluntness used to quickly put God’s character in perspective. Then be sure to start believing in your heart what you’re putting in your head . . . God has not, does not, and will not change.

The Body Tithe Devotional can be purchased at Amazon.

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Running the Race: The Pace

[Matthew was a member of the SMI team for 10 years before departing to pursue his passion for fitness. His first book, The Body Tithe Devotional, is designed to encourage Christians through a 90-day fitness or health journey. I asked him if he would return to SMI occasionally, adapting one of the devotions from his book to the lifelong financial journey SMI members are on. - AP]

For those new to running races, the rookie mistake is to start too fast. And who can blame them? After 18 long weeks worth of training, it’s finally race time. When the gun goes off, a gush of anticipation overwhelms them. All the pent-up nerves. The pre-race jitters. The flashbacks of smacking the snooze button before that 5: 30 a.m. tempo run. The communal adrenaline spike from the thousands of other runners feeding off one another. It all results in an impulse to come out of the gate all-systems-go. The newbie thinks, “Why not capitalize on this burst of energy? I feel amazing.”

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Teaching Children About Money

A frequent refrain from SMI readers over the years has been: "I wish I'd learned all this when I was younger." It's never too late to begin applying God's timeless principles to your finances, but the best time to learn about Christian stewardship is during childhood.

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Is It Time To Take Your Banking Online? — Part 3

In the Parable of the Talents (Matt. 25:14-30), the servant who buried his master's money was scolded for not earning a return: "You could have at least put my money in the bank, so that I could have earned interest on it!"

Depositing money in an interest-bearing bank account is a time-honored way of earning a return. But with all of the financial options available these days, is putting money in a local bank still a good choice?

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Is It Time To Take Your Banking Online? — Part 2

Last month, we examined how advancements in technology have fueled the rapid growth of online banking. We looked at pros and cons of using a traditional bank's online services. This month we're going to consider banks that operate exclusively online, and discuss safety concerns of banking online.

It's not uncommon to see banks operate entirely online these days. Online-only banks are able to achieve huge savings by avoiding the overhead expenses of operating physical, "brick and mortar" branches. They use these savings to offer better interest rates than traditional banks. These significantly higher rates are the "carrot" that attracts customers, in spite of some of the challenges we're going to discuss below.

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Is It Time To Take Your Banking Online? — Part 1

More than 65% of consumers currently use online banking, a huge increase from the roughly 5% using it when we first wrote about this topic in 1999. Needless to say, both the technology and the way customers use it have changed significantly over the past decade. Back in 1999, online banking was a new phenomenon with only a few major players. Today, most banks offer online services, so it's time to revisit the online banking landscape.

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