Mining God’s Word
About the Guest
The Bible is a treasure trove of truth. But it has to be opened to be enjoyed. Pastor Marty Machowski talks with Dennis Rainey about the benefits of family devotions. Desiring to lead his wife and children in family devotions, Marty begin to lead his family through the Old Testament book by book, which eventually became a family devotional called, "Long Story Short."
Marty MachowskiMarty Machowski is a Family Life Pastor at Covenant Fellowship Church in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, where he has served on the pastoral staff for over twenty years. He is the author of the Gospel Story for Kids series, which includes The Gospel Story Bible, Long Story Short, Old Story New, and the Gospel Story Curriculum, as well as the Advent devotional and curriculum Prepare Him Room. He and his wife Lois and their six children reside in West Chester, Pennsylvania.
The Bible is a treasure trove of truth. But it has to be opened to be enjoyed.
Mining God’s Word
Bob: Have you ever tried to do family devotions at your house, only to have your kids fidget and squirm, or lose interest, or get up from the table and say, “I have to go to the bathroom”? Pretty soon you’re thinking, “This isn’t doing any good at all.” Marty Machowski says, “Hang in there. Stay with it.”
Marty: I like to think of it like water pouring over granite in a stream. It doesn’t seem like much in any given moment; but over time, it wears the rough spots smooth. That’s what I think God’s Word does; and then the Holy Spirit’s power—quickening that Word to their hearts at some point in time—there’s that transformation of bringing the dead to life and watching our children become Christians—and knowing that it didn’t have anything to do with us, but with the powerful message that we presented to them.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, October 27th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’re going to talk today about a great new way that you can impress the truth of God’s Word on the hearts of your children. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. Well, this came about—I don’t know—maybe 30 years too late. You know?
Dennis: I was thinking that same thing, Bob. (Laughter) I was thinking, “You know what? I didn’t have anything.” I think this book that our guest on today’s broadcast has written—this may win the poundage award.
Bob: It is 400 pages long, and I could have used this. Where were you? Where were you back when I had my kids, huh?
Dennis: Well, let me introduce him. Marty Machowski joins us on FamilyLife Today. Marty, welcome to the broadcast.
Marty: Thank you, Dennis. It’s wonderful to be here today.
Dennis: Marty is a pastor at Covenant Fellowship Church in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania. What part of the state is that in?
Marty: Just outside of Philadelphia, a western suburb.
Dennis: So you’re passing out good tips on where to get a Philly cheesesteak if any of our listeners—do you want to tell them where to go?
Marty: I would go to Geno’s.
Dennis: Bob goes there, too.
Bob: I go to Geno’s and Pat’s—usually in the same trip, okay?
Marty: That’s a good trip.
Bob: That is a good trip.
Marty: Get one; go across the street and get another.
Bob: That’s right. (Laughter)
Dennis: Marty likes those Philly cheesesteaks. He also likes children. He and his wife Lois have six of them, and he has written a—I don’t want to call this a book. It’s a devotional for families—ten-minute devotionals for families called Long Story Short.
I want you to tell us—do you remember your first effort, Marty, at a devotional with your family because Bob and I have painful memories of us trying to lead our families in these things. We had so much idealism of what it was going to look like. Do you remember how you first tried it? What happened?
Marty: Well, I do; and it was a really sorry thing. I thought that a devotion had to be magnificent—it had to declare some fantastic biblical truth. I remember sitting down with my children—I think that the oldest twins, Emma and Nathan, were probably about five when I thought, “You know, they’re about ready for devotions. Martha is three, and we can do this.” I prepared an outline.
Bob: You didn’t get out your Grudem’s Systematic Theology and start to work on that, did you?
Marty: I didn’t; but as a pastor, you have to have an outline.
Dennis: Yes. That was your first mistake, having an outline.
Marty: It was terrible. I couldn’t even get their attention. “Kids, it’s time for devotions,” and they’re off in—I ended up getting angry; and I thought, “I don’t think it’s supposed to end this way.” (Laughter)
Dennis: So the devotional was, “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” Was that the devotional for the day?
Marty: That was the practical application the Holy Spirit gave me. (Laughter) I don’t remember what the devotion was; but I remember thinking, “I don’t know what to do.” As a pastor, I thought, “I know the Bible, but I don’t know how to do this with my family.”
Bob: And there are millions of dads listening saying, “I don’t know what to do either; and not only do I not know what to do, but the things I’ve tried—I do know what not to do because the things I have tried have not worked. So I’ve given up and figured, ‘I just hope it works out.’”
You’re coming along saying, “Don’t give up. There’s a way to make this work.”
Marty: Absolutely. It is not complicated. That’s the first problem. You think that this has to be profound—it has to be amazing. What I realized is, “No, it’s actually better to just be consistent.” The simple truth of the Gospel, spoken to your children day by day, in short ten-minute segments, will transform their lives, not because you’re amazing but because the message and the God behind it is amazing.
Dennis: I want you to take us into your devotional, Long Story Short, and explain how you put this together because you didn’t just design it for a day. You actually designed it for parents to unpack over a period of a week.
Marty: That’s right. I figured there are seven days in a week. You’re going to go to church on Sunday—that leaves six. Right from the start, I thought, “I’m not going to do six devotions per week because, as a dad, I’m going to mess up and miss one.” So I thought, “Let’s do five.” Right from the start, you get a free day. You don’t have to do devotions every day; I give you five for the week.
They are only ten minutes long. You read a Scripture. I give you a paragraph that you can share with your family, simply reading what I wrote. Then, I give you discussion questions that you can go back and ask your kids. And in the end, there’s a prayer. I even tell you what to pray.
The amazing thing about this devotion is not what I wrote; but I am mining the treasure of God’s Word so that what you’re giving your children is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, even through these Old Testament stories every single week.
Bob: So a Scripture, a little commentary on it, some questions, and then a prayer; and that’s the ten minutes?
Marty: That’s the ten minutes, and every week we give you a bonus activity you can do to draw your children’s interest. For instance, when you’re going to do the week about Noah and the flood, I say, “Bring an umbrella and open it up at your devotions,” and watch the kids think you’re crazy as you tell them, “It’s going to rain.” When you’ve played that out for a little bit, you say, “You think I’m crazy. What do you think the people in Noah’s day would have thought when he began to build a boat where there was no water—period?”
Bob: Mm hmm. How did you get from your first attempt that you said was a disaster to the point where you had something that you could replicate day in and day out that was working or connecting with the kids?
Marty: The process that you talk about is the process that generated this book. I didn’t set out to write a book. I didn’t think, “Oh, you know what? Dads need a devotional book that will help them teach their kids.” What I thought is, “I need something for my family.”
We were working through a program we had written, a children’s ministry Sunday school program. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to follow up on that program at home?” So I started out by taking some of the lessons we were using on Sunday—it followed through the Bible from Genesis through Revelation. Long Story Short is the Old Testament half of that.
I started saying, “Alright. Let’s try this with my kids. Wow, if I just read a Scripture and I follow along in the Bible chronology, I’ll eventually hit the whole Bible, hitting the major stories.” Then I just started asking them a couple of simple questions, and it didn’t seem profound; but what began to affect them was when I was consistent.
Here was the amazing thing: After only about five or six times, I got derailed and my kids said, “Dad, are we going to have family devotions this morning?” I thought, “After only about five or six days, they’re reminding me.” That’s what I’ve found as I’ve talked to dads and moms who are using this. They say, “Sure enough. After about five or six days of using the devotional, if we skip a day, the kids are reminding us.”
Bob: And you are doing it in the morning or were doing it in the morning when the kids were little?
Marty: Well, I’m a morning person. There are two different ways to do it. Morning is a great time; but I’ve talked to several people who just are not morning people, who are not getting their whole family up early. For them, I tell them to set the devotional next to where you sit at dinnertime; and when you’re done with dinner, pull out the devotional and read it then. Again, it’s only ten minutes; and you’re gathered for dinner anyway, particularly if you have young children.
Dennis: As you read this, you have to reduce your expectations. Kids are going to get distracted. They’re going to be playing in their food or getting ready for school. There’s going to be some activity taking place, but you’re asking them to listen as you read the Bible aloud to your family.
I’ll never forget Barbara reading one of Corrie ten Boom’s stories about the home she grew up in. Of course, she went to a Nazi concentration camp during World War II, and in that concentration camp she was calling to mind the Scriptures that her parents had taught her in their family devotions. She was also calling to mind how she, as a little girl, would just sit and listen to her Father read the Bible, read it out loud. It wasn’t nearly as sophisticated as what you’ve got here—what you’ve prepared for parents to be able to lead their children in—but it shows you the power of Scripture.
That’s really the objective of what we’re talking about here—is to get your children into the Bible, and to get the Bible into them.
Marty: You are absolutely correct. I don’t really have much to offer. I make plenty of mistakes with my kids. I’m an average dad. I get angry; I get frustrated when they’re fidgeting at the table. Almost every case—with six kids, you’ve got someone who’s not paying attention.
Dennis: No doubt.
Marty: I just had to realize, “Now let me just drive on for the four that are paying attention today.” It is a different four every day; so you get them all by the end of the month. “I’m just going to read from God’s Word.”
I want to leave the legacy with my kids that they heard God’s Word in our household. If all I do is that, then I think I’ve had that effect on their lives that they’ll remember that; and one day they’re going to be moms and dads themselves. I want them to carry on that valuable tradition with their kids.
Bob: You have kids now who just headed off to college. Were you doing family devotions all the way through their high school years, even when they were going in different directions, and one had a job, and this and that? Were you still trying to make this a daily discipline?
Marty: We still do family devotions today. The Long Story Short devotions—they got the draft run, the rewritten run, the first-draft-of-the-book run. So we’re actually currently not using Long Story Short. We’ve got two 18-year-olds, a 16-year-old, a 14-year-old; but we do devotions every day. I’ve kept up the discipline of simply reading a portion of God’s Word, commenting, simple thoughts:
“Isn’t that amazing that after he met Jesus, Zaccheus would give away half of all that he owns? What an amazing thought.” And then I just look for an opportunity to pray. So my son is going on a business trip, “Let’s all pray for Nathan. He’s going on a trip. Let’s make sure that we lift him up during the week; but today, we’re going to go around the room and have everybody pray for Nathan. Why don’t you ask God to bless and keep him safe?” And then around the room we go; and again, ten minutes and we’re off.
I like to think of it like water pouring over granite in a stream. It doesn’t seem like much in any given moment; but over time, it wears the rough spots smooth. That’s what I think God’s Word does; and then the Holy Spirit’s power—quickening that Word to their hearts at some point in time—there’s that transformation of bringing the dead to life and watching our children become Christians—and knowing that it didn’t have anything to do with us, but with the powerful message that we presented to them.
Dennis: You have 78 weeks in here. You not only give us a bonus day off during the week, but you take us all the way through a year, almost a year-and-a-half. One of the things that you left out that you do in these devotions is you have a little—I don’t know what you want to call it at the beginning. It’s kind of curious or it creates a different slant on what they’re about to learn. What do you call this little section that you read aloud before you actually get into the devotional?
Marty: A little bit of an introduction. For instance, in the Genesis devotion, in the very beginning, I talk about, “Imagine that you go to a pet store. You just won a goldfish, and you’re going to create an environment for your goldfish. You could go down the aisle and pick the plants you want, pick out the rocks that you want, and create a world. That’s, in fact, what God did for us—His amazing creativity—creating the world around us—the sky, the birds, the animals.”
I want to give a creative introduction as often as I can so that the kids can begin to connect with what can be more abstract stories in the Bible. One of the things that we try to do is to connect every Old Testament story to God’s greater plan of redemption—Adam being the first Adam, and Jesus being the second Adam—to obey in a way that Adam could never as he sinned.
Bob: So rather than just a child hearing about Daniel in the Lion’s Den and going, “That’s a remarkable story of God’s deliverance and God’s protection for Daniel,” you’re trying to point them to the cross. You’re trying to point them to Jesus—and see that, really, the Old Testament is a book of types—it’s a book of story pictures that are all designed to point us in the direction of Jesus; right?
Marty: That’s exactly right. So the whole theme of salvation—the whole theme that Daniel would have been saved—“What does that salvation point to? Is God a God who is going to save us when we’re in difficult situations—so that if robbers are coming, we can trust that He’s going to save us?”
Well, God will do that, but that’s not the point of the story. The point of the story is that God is a saving God for Daniel, and He is a saving God for us through Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross. He only has one salvation; Daniel trusted in the plan of God, which ultimately pointed to Jesus Christ.
Bob: Marty, why the Old Testament? You have, as Dennis said, 70 plus weeks where you’re walking through chronologically from the Garden of Eden to Malachi—you are walking through. Why the OId Testament rather than the New Testament?
Marty: Well, there’s the New Testament half as well; that will be called Old Story New, and that will be coming out after this one.
Bob: Ah, the sequel is coming; huh?
Marty: The sequel, absolutely. The Bible continues.
Dennis: Have your kids all been through that one, too?
Marty: They have. (Laughter) Now you know why we’re doing something a little bit different.
Bob: Again, I think of most people—let’s start with the story of Jesus and then we’ll fit things around there. You started in the Garden of Eden. Why did you do that?
Marty: Well, the story of Jesus begins in the Garden of Eden. Most people don’t realize that; but after Adam and Eve sinned, what did God do? He didn’t summarily judge them—bring the whole thing to a close and say, “That’s it. I’m done with humankind. It’s over; the experiment’s done. You failed.”
He killed animals and provided skins to clothe them and gave a tremendous promise to Eve—that her offspring would bring deliverance. Satan would strike against His heel; but, ultimately, Jesus would conquer Satan. So both in the animal sacrifice and in that promise, in the midst of the curse, we see the foreshadowing of Jesus coming, the Savior to come.
Dennis: Marty, you’ve been through—it’s safe to say, hundreds of these with your kids; right?
Marty: That’s true, yes.
Dennis: Just in pilot-testing these things, you’ve been through a lot of them. If you could just freeze-frame one of these devotions that you were taking your kids through, do you have any idea which one it would be and why?
Marty: David and Goliath. It’s easy. It is right from the start—it is a familiar story. But as I was taking my kids through the story of David and Goliath, I realized an amazing truth about that story. The charge that Goliath gave the Israelites was, “Choose from among you one man to come and fight me—a representative—and if he wins, then all of Israel wins. But if I, Goliath, win, then the Philistines win and you become our slaves.”
I realized in that moment, just as I was talking to my kids—the Holy Spirit just opened that truth up to me—that just as Jesus is our representative head, so was David the representative head. I was able to write that into the material and realize, “You know what? All of these years I’ve been telling my kids, ‘They want to be like David.’” You know the song, Be like David?
Then I realized, “No, they’re not David in the story. They’re the Israelites standing on the sidelines, not doing what God called them to do—immobilized in fear because of the situation, not doing battle—and they needed a deliverer. They needed someone; so who was going to come? Strong and mighty? Amazing? No. Meek and humble shepherd boy.
I just remember how God touched that devotion in our house, and it wasn’t about the amazing job that I did; but in that moment—and I think this will happen in every house—God, if you’re faithful, is going to meet you. It’s those wonderful, sweet days, where the Spirit of God comes; and He brings that truth to your family. That’s the way it happened for us.
Dennis: Yes, and that’s what you want. You want your kids to capture the idea of who God is and who they are, and who they are not, and how they’re not the center of the universe.
Marty: They think they are.
Dennis: Oh, of course they do. That’s how we’re born. But I think it is part of why in Psalm 78 there is the charge for us to teach our children, and the next generation, and even the children yet to be born to know the testimonies of God—His work in people’s lives—to know the truth of God’s Word and the truth about God. It says in that passage of Scripture, “So that they will set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments.”
Dennis: The reason we teach our kids, ultimately, is so they can know God through Jesus Christ; but, then secondly, for the rest of their lifetimes, learn to walk with Him. As they face their own crisis of belief, their own moment where they can cower, as you said, with the Israelites in fear—instead, be called out to say, “No, God called me to be a man, called me to be a woman of faith, because that’s what Dad taught us.”
Marty: Absolutely. Asaph in that Psalm rallies the people as he is writing, or perhaps at one point, speaking. “We will not hide them, the glorious truths of the Lord, from our children; but tell these glorious deeds to the coming generation.” I feel like that’s what dads need. They just need a little bit of encouragement.
If you’re like me, and you’re a dad out there, you have tried and you have failed. You have picked up a book, or maybe even picked up your Bible, and you just weren’t consistent, or you did great for a while, and then it dropped off. Let me just pass on the rallying cry: “We cannot hide these things from our children! Pick it up. Pick up that Bible. Do it again. Get a copy of Long Story Short and give it another try.”
Dennis: Yes. One of the things that Bob and I delight in here on FamilyLife Today is finding a great tool like this because we know that, for the most part, moms and dads do want to do this thing; but they just need a tool put in their hands that makes them effective, and keeps the attention of their children, and gives them a chance to be successful.
Bob: Well, I’m guessing you can get all the way through Long Story Short in the 78 weeks that you have in here, and you can start over again because your kids will hear different things the next time they hear it. They won’t remember everything about the story from the first time they heard it, and it wouldn’t hurt to go through it a second time.
Of course, we’ve got the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. It’s called Long Story Short. You can get more information about how to get a copy of the book when you go to our website at FamilyLifeToday.com. In fact, on the website, in addition to Marty’s book, we’ve got other resources designed for families to help train up children to understand the Scriptures.
We’ve got the Seeds Family Worship CDs, we’ve got some children’s story books that help kids understand the Bible, we’ve got information about the new devotional book that Barbara has written for families, called Growing Together in Truth, stories to be read aloud to the whole family, to help us understand the reality of absolute truth in our lives.
You can find all the information about all of these resources when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com, or call us if you need more information at 1-800-FLTODAY. Again, Marty’s book is called Long Story Short, 78 weeks’ worth of family devotions that take you through the entire Old Testament, starting in Genesis. You can get more information at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
I mentioned Barbara’s new book, Growing Together in Truth, which is a devotional to be read aloud to families, to help reinforce the idea that in a relativistic culture there is such a thing as absolute truth; and we ought to understand that and know what it is. Barbara’s devotional is brand-new. It’s a part of the Growing Together series, and this week we’re making the book available to those of you who can support the ministry with a donation.
All you have to do is go online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the “Donate” button that you see in the upper right-hand corner of the screen; and as you fill out your online donation form, type the word, “TRUTH,” into the key code box on the online donation form. Or call 1-800-FLTODAY; make a donation over the phone, and just ask for a copy of Barbara’s book, Growing Together in Truth.
We want to say, “Thanks,” to those of you who do help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today. We appreciate your financial partnership with us—couldn’t do it without you—and we’re grateful when you call in from time to time to make a donation to help support the ministry. Thanks so much.
And we want to encourage you to be back with us tomorrow. In fact, if you’ve ever tried to do family devotions and you’ve quit; and you’ve just said, “We just can’t do it at our house;” and you think you have a good excuse, tune in tomorrow. We’re going to toss all the good excuses we have at Marty Machowski and see how he handles those tomorrow. Hope you can be here for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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