Teaching Kids the Glorious Deeds of God
About the Guest
Do you find family devotions challenging? Marty Machowski, a father of six, has been there and has a come up with a solution: The Ology. "The Ology" is a book of systematic theology written especially for 6-year-olds through preteens. Beautifully illustrated, it delivers the truths of Scripture in pint-sized lessons parents and children will love and understand.
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.
Marty Machowski’s book of systematic theology delivers the truths of Scripture in pint-sized lessons parents and children will love and understand.
Teaching Kids the Glorious Deeds of God
Bob: Are you waiting until your children are older before you start to introduce them to some of the big ideas of Christianity? Marty Machowski says that’s a mistake.
Marty: Kids really do know more than we think. My philosophy here is: “As parents, let’s teach them these great truths in simple ways so that, as soon as they are able to know the truth, the truth is there for them to know.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, December 9th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Your kids can learn a lot more than you may think they can learn about who Jesus is—about God / about salvation. We’ll help you figure out how to share that with them today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, I think some of our listeners may hear what we’re going to talk about today and think: “I don’t know if I want to listen. I’ve tried this before, and it’s never worked well for me. I just don’t want to feel guilty again.”
Dennis: And I say to you: “Fail forward. Try again. Keep getting back up. Don’t cave in to discouragement because everything didn’t work perfectly. Family devotions or teaching your kids from the Bible about God and who He is are not easy. If it were easy, you’d have a whole lot more parents doing what churches do. Frankly, I think that this is an assignment that parents must be engaged with for their children.
We have a pastor with us from Covenant Fellowship Church in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, outside Philadelphia.
Marty Machowski joins us again on FamilyLife Today. Marty, do you agree with me on that?—parents need to fulfill their assignment of teaching their kids about God?
Marty: Absolutely! We talked about Psalm 78. One of the things that Asaph says there is, “We will not hide the glorious deeds of the Lord, the things that our fathers have told us, from this generation.” That needs to be our rallying cry, as parents: “We’re not going to hide this from our kids. We’re going to tell them what God did in our lives and what we see Him do in the Scriptures.”
Bob: And, if you haven’t read Psalm 78 in a while, it’s good to read those first eight verses that are the charge to be diligent to teach your children who God is and your history with God; because the rest of the Psalm describes how Israel forgot to do that, over and over again, and the consequences that the nation reaped when the fathers and the grandfathers and the mothers and the grandmothers neglected the responsibility that you’re talking about, Dennis.
I think it’s good for us to just remember there are consequences if we fail in this assignment.
Dennis: There really are, and this is not optional. This is absolutely essential for every mom and dad / every grandma and grandpa—to be able to pass on the truth about God to their kids and grandkids.
I want you to start where the book starts. You’ve written a book called The Ology, and it is a book about who God is and the truth about God from the Scriptures. It’s primarily written for elementary-aged children. You start with a story of a secret trap door that a couple of kids found. Tell them what happened when they went down the steps.
Marty: Carla and Timothy find this trap door in this old church cathedral. They go down the steps.
There, at the bottom of the steps, is a table and a book. The book has a note; and it says, “Open and read.” So they grab the note—they open the note. The note introduces them to this ancient book, The Ology, that was originally written by the early pastors, and passed on by the church fathers, then through to the great theologians who taught people about God. They now hold what is probably the last copy of it in their hands; because rather than teach The Ology to children, parents gave into the things of the world. The idea of The Ology was forgotten. They’re wondering, “Should we open this book?!” Sure enough, they do; and the book transforms into the book that, actually, the child reading the story now has in their hands, The Ology.
Of course, The Ology is a play on the word, “theology.” The reason why I wrote that story is that’s what we see in our culture—we see these big stone cathedrals that were once filled with life, and what has happened? The truth about God wasn’t passed to the next generation; and when that generation died, there were no people in the pew to keep the church alive.
I wanted to make sure—in a cell phone, iPad®, gaming culture—that we didn’t get caught up in that same thing—that we took the time to pass on this most precious gift, theology, which is simply the study of God / that we would teach our children about God—the glorious deeds of God—that they, like you said, Dennis, would teach them to their children, and then the children yet unborn would learn these truths.
Bob: If somebody took a systematic theology textbook, and they opened up to the table of contents, they would find there, laid out, an understanding of what the Bible teaches on a variety of subjects. They would find subjects like justification, or sanctification, or anthropology. They’d find a bunch of words that they’d look at and go, “I’m not even sure what those mean.”
You’ve taken the same subjects and given simpler titles. Like, rather than the attributes of God, you just talk about who God is—understanding the ology of God. Or, rather than talking about harmatology, you talk about what sin is. But you’re following the same kind of subject line that a grown-up systematic theology would follow.
Marty: That’s exactly right. So sanctification—you know, “How does God change us?”—well, it is just the theology of change / “How are we changed?” We’re teaching those concepts because they are critically important concepts:
Justified—how is it that, before the judge, I can be found “Not guilty”? What I do is—I say: “Well, imagine that you are in a wagon—you’re playing with your wagon / you’re riding down a hill, you lose control, and you run into your neighbor’s flower garden and you break her fence. Suddenly, now, you’re in debt! Let’s just say that, “If you can’t pay it, what do you do?”
Now, a fence is not that big of a thing; but the idea that you would have to go before the judge and account for you breaking the fence. But what if your dad came in with a brand-new section of fence to pay that debt that you now owe? Then the judge can forgive you the debt, in that courtroom, that you owed, because somebody else paid it. Somebody else provided so you can be made just in the eyes of the law.
That’s what Jesus Christ did when He paid the penalty for our sin on the cross. That’s how God can say, “You, who are guilty, are now not guilty and forgiven; because the cost / the penalty for your sin has been paid.”
Bob: Planting these kinds of seeds about big ideas in the hearts of young children, we have no idea how this kind of planting will eventually bear a harvest; but kids can learn more than we think they can learn when they’re young. Their ability to retain what they learn early is amazing.
Marty: It’s true. In fact, whenever we were first parents, I’m looking at my wife and she is trying to teach my son and my daughter—twins—how to ask for more by putting their hands together in what looks like a prayer kind of posture, where you put your fingertips together and you tap those two hands together. I am like, “What are you trying to teach them?” “Well, before they learn language,”—she’s explaining to me—“they can understand these concepts.
“They can actually learn sign language before they can learn words.”
I said, “Aw; there is no way!” Within two days, my son and my daughter—they were probably age two—are asking for “more” and “Thank you,” by rubbing their tummy—all these signs from sign language. Now, I see parents doing that left and right. I realize: “Okay. No! Kids really do know more than we think.” My philosophy here, as parents, is, “Let’s teach them these great truths in simple ways so that, as soon as they’re able to know the truth, the truth is there for them to know.”
Dennis: And as you do that day, after day, after day, the Scripture does stick—
Marty: It does.
Dennis: —in the soul.
Dennis: And there can be growth, as you’ve talked about, as a result of that. What a parent needs to realize is that you’re probably going to do some planting for a number of sessions before you ever see any of the growth occur in your child’s life.
That’s what discourages some parents from continuing on—they’re not seeing the results in the attitude or actions or with the child that they had hoped they would see. They lose heart in well-doing, and they’ll lay a book like this aside.
Marty: Well, one of the things that I learned, as a dad, is that parenting isn’t just about training my children. That’s certainly what God has in mind, but it’s not all He has in mind. What He’s also doing is training me, the dad—I’m learning patience / I’m learning long-suffering.
There was something that God did in my life when I saw one of my children struggle in a deep way. I really became discouraged; because I thought: “Okay; here I am, taking my kids to church. Here I am—I’m trying to be a good gate-keeper over all the media that comes into their lives. What is causing this struggle? I don’t know what I did wrong?!”
The sense that I got, as I prayed to the Lord, is: “I don’t want you parenting, standing up, depending on all of those things. I want you parenting, kneeling down, depending on Me.” I often believe that one of the reasons why we see delay from what we try to accomplish and actually seeing those results is because God’s after our hearts, too, as moms and dads.
Dennis: I want you to open the book, and I want you to take our audience to a section that you’d like to teach. I’d actually like you to take the four or five minutes that it takes to go through one of the sessions, and then talk about how you might do it. You already mentioned, earlier, that you might do this at the dinner table / you might do this at bedtime.
By the way, my caution to parents is: “If you’re really looking to get into a lot of good discussion, do it at bedtime; because they love to stay up and they love to ask questions. They’re going to stay up, asking questions if you want to continue the conversation.” Pick a time that works for you, as a parent, and for the child, and read this aloud.
Marty: Alright; so I’m going to talk about—this is the ology of the church: “What’s the church? What’s it about?” This is number 52: “The church is built with living stones.” I say:
When you hear the word, “church,” what comes to mind?—a big stone cathedral with stained glass windows?—a small white building with a pointed steeple?
The Bible does compare the church to a building, but its walls are made of living stones. The stones are the people who have believed and placed their faith in Christ. Jesus Himself is the cornerstone, the first stone a builder lays in place. All of the other stones in the building are lined up with the cornerstone to make sure they are set straight and true. In the same way, all believers are joined to Christ, our cornerstone, and follow His Word to keep us straight and true.
All together, we form the living church of God. The true church is not the building; it’s the believers inside.
So when someone says they are going to church, don’t think, “building” / think, “people.”
Then, what I would do is show the picture to the kids and say:
What do you see in the picture?
Of course, here is a pyramid of children—three on the bottom, and then two on those, and then one on top. I would say:
That’s the building of the church—it’s not the stone walls, but it’s the people inside. Now, what is most special about our church? What do you like the most?
And if you ask kids what they like the most about church, invariably, they’re going to talk about their friends: “I like seeing my friends.” Then you can say:
Well, you didn’t mention the stones. You didn’t mention the wooden trim. You didn’t mention the carpet. Why?—because the most important thing in the church is the people who gather there. And what’s most important about what they do? Why are they there? Are they just there for themselves, to have a fun time? Or is there something bigger that we go to church for?”
And, of course, the answer there is, “Jesus”; because we don’t want them to stop at their friends. We’re gathered there to sing, and praise, and study and learn about our Lord Jesus Christ.
Bob: In addition to a picture and to what you just read, each page also has a Scripture passage—so in this case, Ephesians 2, talking about “being fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets”; and it continues from there. The idea is—you’re pointing kids, not only to what the Bible teaches, but you’re showing them that this is what the Scriptures have to say about this.
Marty: Well, the Scriptures are critically important; because why else do we believe what we believe?
Marty: —except the Scriptures teach us. You’re going to find that there are hidden verses as well around the picture. So around that picture of the kids in the pyramid, there’s Ephesians 2:22; 1 Peter 2:5-6; and 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.
All of those Scripture references actually form the teaching that is on the page. For an older child, they can go to the back of the book—where it says, “Think Theology” and “Do Theology”—and they can answer the questions. But they can only answer the questions if they look up those Scripture references—which is also, by the way, why I put the Word of God as the last section in this book.
Normally, in a theology book, we start with the Word of God; but here, I wanted to end with it. Why?—so that I’m sending the kids back to the Bible at the end. At the end of the story, Timothy and Carla, as they’ve completed the book, say: “You know what? There’s more here. Look at these little references. What should we do? We should go back and re-read this book and look up all those references,” because in doing so, the kids learn what I wrote from the Scripture itself.
Dennis: You know, there are listeners, right now, who, I think, we may be assuming understand what a systematic theology is all about and why we select certain things to be in the systematic study of the truth about God and certain aspects of life. Would you, just real quickly—and I wouldn’t want you to take a lot of time on this, but just quickly—go through the contents of your book / the major areas and explain why you have a section here about “The Promise and the Law.” But start with the first one, and then get to that one.
Marty: The book begins with “Theology of God.” We need to know Who God is—that He is holy. Else, if we don’t know that—when we get to who man is—we’ll think we can just chum up to God like He’s just another guy. “Theology of People” tells us that God created us. Then it goes to “Theology of Sin,” which helps us to know: “Well, we fell into sin. We were perfectly created, but now we’re fallen.”
“Theology of the Promise and the Law” is that part of the Bible that gives the promise of God’s redemption. A lot of years passed from the time people fell until the time Jesus came; and, in those years, there is the promise of the coming Lamb of God, who would take away the sins of the world. Then, of course, it brings you to “Theology of Christ,” who is that Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world! He is fully man, and He is fully God. If He weren’t, He couldn’t take away our sin. Then, “Theology of the Holy Spirit”—who Jesus said, “Better that I go, and I will send you another.” So, right from Jesus, we go to the Holy Spirit.
Dennis: And I would just say there, a lot of people who are in the church today don’t understand who the Holy Spirit is. They’re going to find, as they study this with their children, that they’re going to be perhaps instructed for the first time on “Who is this third member of the Trinity?”
Marty: Well, I’ve actually had parents—they pull me aside / in a hushed tone, they say, [whispering] “Marty, I just want to let you know, as I’m reading this book, I’m learning stuff that I never knew myself!”
Dennis: Of course!
Dennis: I think that’s why God’s got us teaching it to our kids.
Marty: Well, in studying for it, I learned things in going through Grudem’s Systematic Theology that I had forgotten or didn’t know!
Dennis: Yes. This next one is “Theology of Adoption into God’s Family.” That’s about salvation; isn’t it?
Marty: It is; and, specifically in salvation, that we are grafted into a family. That is why we call God “Father”; and that is why we call one another “brothers” and “sisters” in the church.
From there, “Theology of Change”; because when we’re brought into that family, we’re not perfect; but God works, by His Holy Spirit, to see change in our lives. “Theology of Church”—we don’t do that alone. We’re called to be with other believers—our brothers and sisters.
Dennis: If Barbara were here, she’d be proclaiming this next chapter—it’s about the second advent of Christ or the second return of Christ.
Marty: Yes; “Theology of the End Times”—that’s a really good one, because it’s so misunderstood.
If you ask kids, “What’s heaven going to be like?” they give you this: “Well, I think we’re going to be floating on clouds. We’re going to be playing harps.” If I ask parents, “What’s heaven going to be like, really?” there’s actually a lot of people who don’t know that Jesus is going to come back down to earth, recreate the earth, and we’re going to be living here on earth—not in some cloud-atmospheric kind of place—but it’s going to be the new creation. The Bible talks about that.
Then, finally, we’ve got “Theology of God’s Word”—that I said I put last.
Dennis: And I just want to say, “Thanks for putting this together.” I know what I’m getting ready to do with this. I’m getting ready to have you sign this to the Escue boys; because tomorrow morning I’ll be up at the Escue house, not many miles from here, with seven of my grandsons. I’m going to crack this book open a couple of times with those boys, and we’re going to talk about some of the ologies.
I appreciate, Marty, you putting this together.
Bob, I’ve got a feeling I know where one of yours is going to end up. [Laughter]
Bob: Well, you know, grandparents can play a role in the lives of their grandchildren. Whether it’s sending a copy of a book like this to your kids and saying, “I thought our grandkids might enjoy hearing these stories,” or whether it’s reading them to the grandkids when they come visit—either way, you’ll want to get a copy of Marty’s book, The Ology: Ancient Truths Ever New.
You can order it from us at FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to order. Again, the toll-free number is 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” Or you can order the book from us, online—either on your laptop, or your mobile device, or your tablet—whatever you’d prefer. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com.
Now, 27 years ago today—that was the day that Robert and Amy Smith, who now live in Salem, Oregon, became husband and wife. I wish I could tell you Amy’s email address, because it’s really cute; but I’m not going to give out her email address, here on the radio. “Happy anniversary!” to the Smiths as they celebrate 27 years together.
Anniversaries matter. We’ve been celebrating our 40th anniversary all this year as we’ve been reflecting on how God has used this ministry in the lives of hundreds of thousands, even millions, of couples all around the world. You know what? You’ve been a part of that—those of you who help support this ministry as Legacy Partners / those of you who provide funding for us—you are part of the work that God is doing in the lives of so many couples and so many families all around the world. We appreciate your partnership with us in this endeavor.
Between now and the end of the year, we’ve got some significant goals in place when it comes to fundraising, because how we do during the month of December really determines how vibrant this ministry can be in the year ahead. We’ve had some friends, who recognize that, who’ve decided to provide a little incentive during the month of December, encouraging listeners to donate by offering to triple those donations.
Michelle Hill is here. Michelle has been keeping tabs on our matching-gift fund all-month long for us as our Match Monitor. Michelle, what’s the latest?
Michelle: Well we encouraged and excited about what is going on. Bob, as you mentioned, every donation that we receive this month is being effectively tripled…so if a listener gives a fifty dollar donation, that will free up one hundred dollars of matching gift money…and as of today we’ve received three hundred and ninety nine thousand, twenty five dollars from one thousand two hundred and twenty two listeners!
So we’re excited about that…but there’s still a long way to go to get to our matching goal of one and quarter million dollars.
Bob: So we hope listeners will go online, or call, or mail a donation to us. Again, your donation is going to be effectively tripled when you make a donation over the next couple of weeks. You can donate today. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com—donate online—or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and donate by phone. You can also mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.
And we hope you have a great weekend this weekend. We know of several hundred couples who are in for a great weekend. They’re going to be going to the Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways in Charleston, South Carolina, and in Phoenix, Arizona. I hope you guys have a great time as you get away for the next two-and-a-half days.
Everybody else, I hope you’re able to worship together with your family in your local church this weekend, and then join us back on Monday when we’re going to talk with John Stanley about a life lesson that he learned years ago. The life lesson is on the importance of learning generosity. He has a generosity game plan he wants to talk about. We’ll talk with him about it on Monday. I hope you can be here for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll see you back Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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