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In the past few years, there's been a fresh emphasis on achieving new goals and accomplishing great things. Self-help books and shoe advertisements alike urge us all to strive for excellence. "Reach for the stars," they say. "Seize the day," "Just do it!"

Although I'm in favor of such aspirations, there's one thing about them that has grieved my spirit: They are seldom seen in the home.

Think about it for a moment. Business people all over this nation work with all their might to advance their career. They study and plan and spend late nights at the office so they can land a new account or qualify for a promotion. Athletes - even the weekend kind - labor and sweat and put in hours at the gym so they can achieve new levels of fitness or win the local marathon.

But how many people do you know who put that kind of effort into their family? How many people have determined to give their family the very best of themselves? How many people are most successful when they're at home? Not many.

But I believe that we can begin to change that. We can set an example for others by making our families a priority in our lives. We can aspire to be great husbands, wives, parents and children. We can reach for the stars. . . at home!

I am confident that if we'll ask and expect God to help us, He will flood our families with His glory and they will become a shining light for the entire world to see. Before that can happen, however, we must put some thought and prayer into what takes place in our homes. We must decide what values we want to teach our children and grandchildren, and then deliberately do so.

Actually, whether we realize it or not, we are always teaching values to our children. We communicate to them by our actions, by what we say, and how we live.

One of the first steps we can take toward excellence in our homes is to be absolutely intentional about the values we establish there. We can't afford to just let them fall into place accidentally. We must make conscious, purposeful decisions about them.

If you haven't thought much about family values in the past, it's time you did. In fact, before this week is over, I suggest you sit down with your family and talk about what values are already being communicated in your home. Then agree together on the values you truly want to convey. Write them down. Make a list and put it on the refrigerator or on your bathroom mirror so you'll be constantly reminded of those values, and put them into action every day.

Although your list should be uniquely your own, to help you get started, I want to suggest three values that I believe should be top contenders for it.

Value #1: Your Number One Priority
I believe the number one value in every Christian family should be the value of knowing and loving Jesus in a real, personal way. Notice I didn't say that you should train your family to be religious and to go to church on Sundays.

I didn't say you should teach them to say an occasional prayer and lay a Bible on the nightstand. I said you should teach them to know and love Jesus in a heartfelt and personal way!

"Well, Sister Lynne," you might say, "you're a pastor's're a pray-er...that's why you think that should be the most important value in the home." No, that's not why I think so. I think loving God is the number one priority of life because Jesus said it is.

He said, to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (intellect) is the great (most important, principal) and first commandment" (Matt. 22:37-38)

How do you instill that value in your children? How do you teach your family members to love God first and foremost? Deuteronomy 6 gives us the answers to those questions:
Hear, 0 Israel - the Lord our God is one Lord, the only Lord. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your mind and heart and with all your entire being and with all your might.

And these Words which I am commanding you this day shall be first in our own minds and hearts, you shall whet and sharpen them so as to make them penetrate, and teach and impress them diligently upon the minds and hearts of your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down and when you rise up.

And you shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets (forehead bands) between your eyes. And you shall write them upon the doorposts of your house and on your gates."
(Deut. 6:4-9 AMP)
If we obey that passage of scripture, we'll fellowship with God all the time. We won't love Him for a few days and then backslide for a week or two. We won't just go through some religious motions every Sunday. We'll walk and talk with Jesus all the time. We'll live before Him every day of our lives.

Of course, it is important to read the Bible to our children. It is important to tell them about Jesus. But in the end, it's how we live in front of our children that will carry the most weight. If our children don't see us pray at home, they will grow up with the idea that being a Christian is just saying you pray and never doing it.

If they don't see us reading our Bibles, our children will think that despite what the pastor says, reading your Bible isn't really important. So, let your children see you pray. Let them see you reading your Bible and listening to tapes. Let them see that Jesus has the supreme position in your life.

Even if you have a "good" relationship with the Lord, don't just park there and remain satisfied. Keep on growing and developing. If you're hungry for more of God, your children will get hungry too.

And years later, when others have strayed away from the faith and gotten cold, they'll be seeking the Lord in prayer and in the Word...just like Mom and Dad did. They'll do what they saw you do and value their relationship with Jesus more than anything else in life.

Value #2: Relationships
Another value I believe you'll want to include at the top of your list is the value of building, nurturing, and rebuilding relationships.

In fact, you'll probably want to make it your number one value because that's what Jesus did. He said that loving God was the principal commandment and "the second is like it and is this: you shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Mark 12:31)

Our whole life is a series of relationships. Relationships with family members, friends, coworkers, employers, neighbors. All of them together determine the quality of our lives. Yet, amazingly enough, many people hardly give them a second thought. Even Christians seem to expect relationships to run smoothly without requiring much time and effort.

But the fact is, good relationships take constant nurturing and thoughtful input. And when they break down - which they sometimes do - we must be willing to go to the trouble to fix them. I'm warning you, if you don't teach your children that lesson at home, they won't learn it, because our society doesn't value relationships that much.

The popular notion these days is that relationships are like disposable diapers. If they get messy you just throw them away. As the Church, it's our job to rid our families of that kind of thinking.

It's our responsibility to teach our children that when something goes wrong in a relationship the answer is not to turn on your heel and walk out. The answer is not accusation, isolation, pouting or slander. The answer is reconciliation.

Second Corinthians 5:18 says that God "through Jesus Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave to us the Ministry of reconciliation."

Think about that. As believers we are to be ministers of reconciliation! But how are we going to bring reconciliation to the world or even to our own children if we are not willing to be reconciled in our own relationships?

If those in our own family see us harboring unforgiveness and resentment, if they see us withdrawing from those who have offended us rather than loving and making things right with them, how are they ever going to learn? Clearly, they won't.

So the very first step in teaching the value of relationships is to consistently nurture and rebuild the relationships in your own life so that our children can see how it's done. The second step is to help them do the same in their own relationships.

I'll admit that isn't always easy. I remember years ago when our daughter, Lucy, was about three years old, she had a little friend named Perry who picked on her all the time. Mac and I wanted to teach Lucy about conflict resolution, and we wanted her to learn about reconciliation in relationships.

Time and again, we would invite Perry into the house so we could talk with him and Lucy. We would explain to them that fighting just wasn't the answer to their problems. We'd pray with them and encourage them to get along with one another.

One day when I was in the kitchen, my son John, who was about six years old at the time, came running in, breathless with excitement. "Perry's dead!" he said. "What?" I exclaimed. "Perry is what?" "He's dead, Mom."

As it turned out, Perry wasn't dead. He had simply been knocked out for a moment by a wrench Lucy had thrown at him. It seems he had pushed her to her limit and she'd forgotten our instructions about conflict resolution.

Thankfully, Perry was just fine. Those kinds of things are funny when they happen among three year-olds, but not when they happen among adults. So put the value of relationships high on your list of family priorities. Some day your children (and their spouses) will thank you for it.

Value #3: Character
The third value I'd strongly suggest you include on your list of family values is that of character development. One translation of the Bible especially communicates just how important character development really is. It says, "He who neglects the job of developing character, hates his child." (Prov. 13:24)

If we truly love our children, we will teach them things like honesty, integrity, honor, loyalty and self-discipline. We won't depend on the schools to do it. We won't depend on the Boy Scouts or the Girl Scouts to do it. We will do it ourselves in our own homes. We will do it by living lives of character that our children can see and imitate. And we will do it by teaching them that things like lying and cheating will not be tolerated in our homes.

Sometimes we need to let them experience some of the tough lessons of life. We need to instill in them the values that will enable them to fulfill the potential God has given them. We need to intentionally communicate the importance of things like their personal relationship with Jesus, their relationships with others, and their character.

I challenge you not to let another week go by without taking some time to think about the values you are teaching in your home. Use those I have mentioned here as a starting point, then add to them and make a list of your own.

Make a commitment to strive for excellence, not just at the office or in the gym but inside your very own home. Determine to give your family your very best. Seize the opportunity God has given you to influence those who are closest to you. For when all is said and done, your family will be one of the greatest measures of your success.

Copyright © Mac Hammond Ministries
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Author Biography

Lynne Hammond
Web site: Lynne Hammond Ministries
A teacher and an author, Lynne publishes a newsletter called Prayer Notes, has written numerous books, and currently serves as the national prayer director for Daughters for Zion. Her passion for inspiring and leading others into the life of Spirit-led prayer continues to take her around the world to minister to believers whose heart cry, like hers, is “Lord, teach me to pray!”

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