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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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Boost Your Savings While Getting Healthy

Would you like to add to your savings? Probably so, but finding extra dollars to put into savings is a challenge for everyone. Would you like to start a new fitness program? Perhaps not. But what if you could boost your savings by getting healthier? That might just be the catalyst you need to make some lifestyle changes. Here are four ways to get started.

  • Eat real food. Sure, processed foods are cheap, but they aren't satisfying because they are void of many of the nutrients found in whole foods. So rather than spending $12 on frozen dinners to feed the family, you could buy chicken breasts, fresh broccoli, and whole grain rice—all for under $10. And you would have leftovers to boot. Annual Savings: $700+

    TIP: When grocery shopping, stick to the perimeter of the store: produce, breads, meats, and dairy. The aisles are where the tempting, highly-processed foods are lurking.

  • Investigate work and insurance wellness programs. Office wellness programs are a growing trend. These plans incentivize employees with prizes, discounts on goods, reduced insurance premiums, and of course, bragging rights. Insurance carriers love them because healthier policyholders mean fewer claims. And employers love them because healthier employees mean fewer sick days and better productivity. Annual Savings: $300+

    TIP: Contact your human resources department to see if any wellness initiatives are available to you.

  • Avoid habit foods. How many foods do you eat out of habit rather than necessity? And of those foods, how many could you switch to a healthier version, without the name brand? I'm talking to all the daily $4 Starbucks latte drinkers out there. Or maybe you're a $1.99 "soda and muffin on the way into work" kind of person. If you traded in that high-calorie coffee or muffin for some office coffee and a banana, you'd put money in your pocket and still keep the pep in your step. Annual Savings: $400-$1,000

    TIP: Coffee, in and of itself, is low calorie and not necessarily bad to drink in moderation. It's the creamers, sweeteners, and fancy flavors that often make it unhealthy. So if you can't switch to black, try something different altogether like green tea. Green tea costs pennies per serving and has significant vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant benefits.

  • Quit the gym. The average monthly gym membership costs about $42, and the typical member visits his or her gym less than twice a week. (See www.ihrsa.org website for these and more related statistics) Thinking of it in daily terms, it's not unreasonable to suggest that roughly $30 of the typical $42 membership fee is being wasted. Furthermore, gyms are notoriously bad at actually producing results. Members who get positive outcomes often pay for extra services such as classes, trainers, or various health assessments. Instead, skip the gym and head to the park or community center for some exercise. Ride your bike to work. Or consider "active" hobbies such as gardening, which can burn 250 calories an hour or more. Annual Savings: $500+

    TIP: My favorite place to exercise is at home. With a plethora of DVD workout programs on the market today, you can get amazing results without ever leaving your house, which is also a huge time-saver. Of course this requires an upfront investment. But unlike your use-it-or-lose-it gym membership, a DVD program is yours forever (and the cost-per-use gets cheaper every time you hit play).

Putting these suggestions into practice will be hard at first, but the payoff will be worth it. Getting healthier as you get wealthier—that's what I call having a sound mind and body.

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SMI Christmas Gift Offer: FREE Sound Mind Investing Handbook

As you may recall, our current policy is that if you give the gift of Sound Mind Investing to a friend or family member, we will match your gift by giving your minister or stewardship pastor a full year of SMI for FREE! Give a 12-month print subscription to someone and we’ll give your pastor a FREE 12-month print subscription (a $79 value). Of if you give a gift web membership, we’ll give your pastor a 12-month web membership… for FREE ($59 value). This year, we've sweetened the deal even more. For every gift you give, we're also going to include a FREE copy of The Sound Mind Investing Handbook to both recipients ($37 value). BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE. wink Not only will your gift recipient and minister benefit, we’ll also extend your active web membership or print subscription by 2 free months for every gift you give… NO LIMIT! Let's do some math: $79 + $79 + $18.49 + $18.49 + $6.50 + $6.50 = $208. When you give a print subscription, you’re getting a $208 value for just $79. And with gift web memberships, it’s even better. Giving a web membership costs you just $4.95 per month (half off the normal $9.95 rate they would pay) — that’s like getting a $289 value for less than 60 bucks! This is an incredible offer that we hope you’ll take full advantage of this Christmas. Last year, in order to make it easier for you to track all your gifts and free referral months, we added a “Gift Subscriptions” dashboard to the bottom of the "My Accounts" page. There you’ll see the name of each gift recipient, the term of their gift (6 months, 12 months, or Sound Mind Investing Giftpermanent), start date, days remaining for their membership, and the number of free months you received for referring them. And at the very bottom of the dashboard, you’ll see the total FREE months you’ve received for all the referrals you’ve given. We hope this helps you keep track of all the wonderful gift giving you’ve been doing. As always, thanks for helping spread the word about SMI and we hope you enjoy the extra free months of SMI you receive as a result of it!
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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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Do You Have a Christmas Budget?

With Christmas fast approaching, have you planned ahead for how you'll pay for gifts, decorating and holiday events? Maybe Christmas spending is already a part of your budget under the "Gift" category. Or maybe you budget separately for Christmas. Is your Christmas budget only for presents or do you also include the tree (assuming you buy one), decorations, party, etc? How do you keep the Christmas budget in check?

Christmas budget questions

  • How do you approach giving Christmas presents to your children?
  • Do you set a limit on the number of presents, the cost, or both?
  • Do the kids know about these limits?
  • Do you draw names?
  • What traditions do you have that you feel really have a positive impact?
  • What did your parents do that you really appreciated?
  • What have you done in the past that you've discontinued because you found it unhelpful?
I know not everyone gives presents at Christmas as we all have our various convictions on what's appropriate, necessary, and so on. So this discussion is not really about whether or not you should give presents. Instead, it's aimed at those who do give presents. I'd like to know how you set up a Christmas budget so that the holiday doesn't break the bank. I'll go first.

Our Christmas budget process

We have a "Gift" category in our budget, but also a separate category solely for Christmas. We set aside X dollars each month, which automatically pulls from our checking account and places it in a "sub-account" at ING Direct. This amount is intended to cover all of our presents, tree, decor, etc. Christmas budgetNow for our children, we allot X dollars for each, although our one-year-old won't get the full amount because he has plenty of hand-me-down toys to play with as it is (yes, I know full well the perils of being the youngest as I have two older brothers). Each child gets three presents because Jesus got three for His birthday (not debating theology here). We give them a small, medium, and large present (these don't include a few stocking-stuffers). Sometimes the large present is a joint present. For example, last year we gave them a small indoor/outdoor trampoline (on the side I do fitness marketing/coaching/blogging. I recently wrote about keeping kids active and referenced said trampoline). The trampoline cost too much to be a large present for just one of them and they're all going to play on it anyway (including the youngest... so there!). The key for us is to set up a budget and stay disciplined. Makes the joy of giving all the more joyful! Now it's your turn! How do you plan your Christmas spending?
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How NOT to handle sudden wealth

Sudden wealth claims another victim. How NOT to handle sudden wealth As the Associated Press reported under this headline, "QB Vince Young out of the game and out of money,"
Six years after entering the NFL as the third player taken in the draft, Vince Young finds himself without a team and with just a fraction of the money he received from a contract that guaranteed him $26 million.
Now to be fair to Young, there are some lawsuits flying around the situation. And furthermore, Young was, well, young when he came into all that money... 26 to be exact. So we can allow for some foolishness. But blowing through $20 million-plus in a handful of years, no matter how old you are, is quite a feat. Given what we know of the story, here are some tips we can follow on how to handle new-found money.

Sudden Wealth Tip #1: Take your time

We advise our readers to not make any quick decisions when they come into an inheritance, insurance settlement, or increase in pay. Your emotions can cloud your judgement. Sit on it for a bit. Pray on it. Give it time. What's the hurry? Acting impulsively rarely proves profitable.

Sudden Wealth Tip #2: Practice self-control

I know, I know. It's no fun, right? But being broke is even less fun. Once you get used to buying whatever you want, it can be hard to stop. The great news is, as Christians, we have complete access to the Holy Spirit, who helps us cultivate that fruit of the Spirit, self-control. And there's more good news. God promises to help us, and He cannot break His promises. So pray for strength and wisdom to act with self-control and patiently expect Him to deliver.

Sudden Wealth Tip #3: Have a plan AND follow it

As the saying goes, "Failing to plan is planning to fail." In this case, planning means setting up a budget. If you don't mind your money, your money will develop a mind of its own. Of course, this also means following the budget. Setting up a budget is only the first half of the equation. You then need to spend according to said budget. It's like those workout DVDs sitting on the shelf collecting dust. Without actually doing the workout and following the nutrition plan, the DVDs are useless.

Sudden Wealth Tip #4: Have trusted advisers

Proverbs 15:22 says, "Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed." Young appeared to have a couple of counselors, one of them even his uncle. So he probably felt safe. But there's not much evidence of advisers beyond that. So, choose a well-qualified financial adviser - one who has a lot of experience working with people in your situation. Just because you would trust someone to watch your children doesn't mean you should trust them to watch your bank account. You might even consider a team of advisers. After all, $26 million could certainly merit more than one. Then be absolutely sure they are all trustworthy. The less time you have known the adviser, the more cautious you should be around them. Maybe trust them with a little and see how they do. By the way, did you know there's another SMI? Sudden Money Institute. Yep, they counsel on just this very topic.

Sudden Wealth Conclusion

For the record, I'm not trying to beat up on Young as he's just one of many celebrities who've gone broke (either suddenly or not). I'm also not suggesting these are the only tips to follow when handling sudden wealth. Just as there are multiple ways to plan for your heirs (and ways NOT to plan for your heirs), there are certainly more ways to handle new-found money, such as incorporating regular accountability, having yearly budget reviews, setting up giving goals, creating metrics to help insure that your treasure doesn't become your heart, and so on. But I am suggesting that should you ever come into sudden wealth, you'd be well-served by starting with these tips. A sudden influx of cash can be a curse or a blessing. Being prayerful, prudent, and patient will help insure it's the latter.
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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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