New adj. 1. never existing before; year noun 1. a period of 365 days.

It is a new year, therefore, it is a period of 365 days that never existed before. It places before each of us a clean slate filled with opportunities, challenges and decisions. Some will be life changing. Others will be mundane. All will become part of the fabric of our lives that makes us who we are.

I pray for all of us that 2007 will be a year filled with growth in Christ and experiences that make us better, not bitter. Most of the time, growth flows from intentional decisions to become a stronger and better person. I would encourage us all to consider some strategic steps that will enhance our year and, in the end, make us more like Christ. I believe these commitments will prepare us for the spontaneous experiences that life throws our way.

1. Choose to read the Bible through this year. Many Bibles are designed to give you a reading from the Old and New Testaments, Psalms and Proverbs for each day. I encourage you to choose a new translation. If you have not tried the Holman Christian Standard Version, I have found it to be a good read and true to the original languages. The flow of Scripture over your life will increase your ability to make wise decisions in and out of life’s storms.

2. Begin a prayer list. Prayer needs to take us beyond our wants to praying for those things that have Kingdom impact. Determine to step beyond the mundane and rote prayers of the past to dynamic, spiritual warfare for family, friends, missionaries and servants of the Lord.

3. Commit to pray for and share your faith with those individuals God places on your heart. I believe this kind of commitment begins with a faithful request before the Lord to show you who is in your circle of influence that needs Jesus. This is a new area for most of us. We go years and, sometimes, a lifetime without bearing verbal witness to Christ. But this is a new year. Go for it.

4. Step into the arena of biblical stewardship. Take a deep breath, and when you get your paycheck, make the first check you write a tithe, or 10 percent gift to your church. While many see this as scary, it really is only a faith step.

5. Determine to become financially free. So many people are bound by debt. There are vast numbers of people who cannot tithe because they are so deeply in debt. Get involved in a financial freedom study such as Financial Peace. Set a budget. Learn how to eliminate debt. Conduct a plasectomy (surgical removal of credit cards from your hand by way of scissors). It is painful, but healing will begin immediately.

6. Write an estate plan. The Baptist Foundation of Oklahoma will help you do so. This is an important action for people of every age. For young parents, it is essential so that you-rather than the courts-decide who will raise your children in the event your death. It is an opportunity to leave some of your assets to ministry. Consider an estate gift to your church, or a Baptist ministry such as Falls Creek or one of our agencies or the Cooperative Program. When you give to the Cooperative Program through your estate, every ministry is blessed.

Make 2007 a great new year. Take steps now to intentionally impact the whole year.