In my experience as a father,public school principal, and leader of a global youth char-acter education organization, I’ve found that the two most effective ways to develop strong families of character are to pass on our best core values and meaningful traditions to the next generation. The experts tell us that we are changed most by two things in life—the books we read and the friends we keep. Our friends and our futures are inextricably linked. More than we realize, we are shaped and formed by the company we keep and the traditions we honor in our families.

Core Values Are Demonstrated by Our Traditions

When I was a young father, I attended a men’s conference where the speaker, Dr. Tony Evans, was teaching about Psalm 128, which described a godly family pattern. It said:

1. How joyful are those who fear the LORD— All who follow his ways.

2. You will enjoy the fruit of your labor. How joyful and prosperous you will be!

3. Your wife will be like a fruitful grapevine, flourishing within your home. Your children will be like vigorous young olive trees as they sit around your table.

 4. That is the LORD’s blessing for those who fear him. Psalm 128:1-4

As he was describing our children flourishing around our table like olive trees, it occurred to me that I didn’t even own a table! Any meals in my house were generally eaten in the living room in front of a television. I was immediately convicted and decided to buy my young and growing family a table to have meals together and to provide an atmosphere where I could pour into them as well as hear their struggles. We would finally be a family that ate together around a real table. From time to time, we would also hold family meet-ings at that table and discuss everything from family crises and problems to planning family vacations together.
The results were notable, with lots of great times spent together. I will never regret that decision to buy the table. A family tradition of shared meals was born that day.
Another notable tradition that we have placed in our home is family devotion.

Family Devotion

One evening while attending a church service, the guest speaker asked the audience a question: “How many of you have a regularly scheduled weekly time with your family where you study God’s Word, worship together, and pray for one another as a family.”
Out of a crowd of 500, only three or so raised their hands. I was not able to raise my hand. I knew the value of a family’s devotional time. I had even made attempts in the past to get us together and do this. Sure, we read the Bible at times, prayed at times, but I had never been intentional about scheduling a set night of the week for us as a family to grow together in the Lord.
I was convicted again
That night, I decided that I would “take the bull by the horns.” I discussed with my wife that, from this point forward, every Monday night should be our set family devotional night. She agreed.
The first Monday rolled around, and the opportunities to do something else appeared from every direction. But we said no to those things and yes to our family. We first had dinner together at our table. Then afterward, we moved into the living room. My son brought out the guitar and led us in two songs. The girls sang, and it sounded like angels in our house. After the worship time, we all took our Bibles, and I instructed my oldest daughter first, then my middle son, and then my youngest daughter to read a different chapter from the Bible. I didn’t put a lot of thought into a theme or where to read; just reading any part was good. Sometimes, perhaps by divine intervention, they seemed to follow a common thread.
When we finished the worship and Bible reading, it came time to pray. I began praying out loud for my wife, for her upcoming week and anything else that came to mind. I thanked God for giving me such a godly, wonderful wife. Next, I prayed for each of my children individually, asking God to bless and protect them in the upcoming week, along with praying for anything else that came to mind that they might need.
Then it was my wife’s turn to pray. She prayed for me, followed by anything else that came to mind. Afterward, each of my children prayed, starting from the oldest and working their way down for whatever was on their hearts. By the time we finished praying, we felt closer to God and closer as a family.
Top Doctor Magazine
Top Doctor Magazine

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