Since his publication of The Gospel Story Bible in 2011, Marty Machowski has written more than 20 books for kids and families. His latest is a special “upside-down” devotional for Easter, which I was privileged to read and recommend before it was published. I wrote:
“In Darkest Night, Brightest Day best-selling children’s author Marty Machowski once again provides families with a devotional they can trust and enjoy together! With stunning illustrations and helpful discussion questions, this Easter devotional is a new and fresh retelling of the old, old Story. Through the cross and empty tomb, history was changed and lives are transformed. The difference is night and day.”
In addition to writing, Machowski is a family life pastor at Covenant Fellowship Church in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, where he has served on the pastoral staff for over 30 years. He and his wife, Lois, have six children and several grandchildren. I recently asked Marty some questions about how families can use his new book to see the beauty of what Jesus has done for us.
Champ Thornton: How would you explain Darkest Night, Brightest Day? What kind of book is it?
Marty Machowski: Beautifully illustrated by Phil Shorr, it is a family Bible study on the week of Jesus’ life leading up to his death and the appearances of our Lord after his resurrection leading up to his ascension. This Holy Week/ Easter week harmonizes the gospel accounts leading up to and following the first Easter morning to retell the complete story in a conversational way young children can grasp.
CT: How can families use this book?
MM: The individual devotions in Darkest Night, Brightest Day are short and easy to read through in a few minutes. Families can easily complete a devotion in 10 minutes. I’ve found the best time for family devotions is after dinner, before dessert. Other families read just before bed or gather before their day begins in the morning.
CT: What age group is your book aimed for?
MM: It’s is targeted at families with preschool/grade school children. Still, those who make reading this Easter devotional a tradition with their family can use it all through the teen years as the meat of the book is retelling the story of the gospel in a way that children and adults can enjoy.
CT: What gave you the idea to write an upside-down/backward book?
MM: When the Apostle Paul shared the gospel story with the Jews in Thessalonica, saying, “that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead” (Acts 17:3), some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas. But others became upset and formed a mob and accused Paul and his followers with these words, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also” (Acts 17:6).The gospel message happily turns the life of anyone who believes it upside down. Sin is flipped for righteousness, judgment for mercy, and condemnation for forgiveness. The Resurrection turns death on its head so that it is no more. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25–26).
The upside-down book is a way to capture the life-transforming effect of the gospel. I suggest families start a tradition of reading the first half recounting the passion week and then posting the book prominently in their home with the Darkest Night cover showing. Then Saturday night, after the children go to bed, flip the book upside down and around to show the Brightest Day side of the book on a white cloth and cover it with Easter morning treats for an Easter morning surprise.
CT: What’s the message of your book?
MM: The message of Darkest Night, Brightest Day is the age-old story of the gospel. John announced Jesus as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Jesus plainly taught that “the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.” (Mark 8:31) At his death, the Roman Centurion declared, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39) at his death. And the angels told the women at the tomb. “he has risen, as he said.” (Matt. 28:6). Darkest Night, Brightest Day puts the story together so children can make sense of the gospel.
CT: What kind of issues that parents/families have to deal with, do you hope your book addresses?
MM: Christian parents worry about the spiritual condition of their children’s souls and desperately want them to follow Christ. The reality, though, is that only God can change a heart. But he has given us a tool in the gospel that allows us to participate in the miraculous work of salvation. The gospel is the seed we plant in the heart of our children, and our prayers are the water over that seed. Paul said the gospel is, “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). Charles Spurgeon said the gospel is “meat for men, but it is also milk for babes.” I’ve written Darkest Night, Brightest Day to provide parents with a tool that will help them share the life-transforming gospel with their children.
CT: When should families get and read this book? Or can families use it year-round?
MM: The book is designed to begin on Palm Sunday with the triumphal entry of our Lord into Jerusalem. You could read the story at any time with your children. It is hard to imagine a bad time for sharing the story of the cross and resurrection with your kids.
Peter shared the Easter Story 40 days after it took place at Pentecost (Acts 2:23-24), and it wasn’t Easter when Paul told the Corinthians, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,” (1 Cor. 15:3–4) So, while Darkest Night, Brightest Day is meant to be read during the Easter season, it is a story worthy of reading any day of the year.
CT: Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
MM: The Lord has blessed me with six beautiful children and now five grandchildren. With only two of my children still at home, the days of pulling the kids together to do family devotions are complete. But a page has turned to a new chapter in my life. I now get to read gospel-rich books to my grandkids.
My wife’s grandfather charged us to “always make room in our home for Jesus, just like Mary and Martha did when he came to town.” Grandpa Carl was 104 years old when he spoke to us, a newly engaged couple. He didn’t make it to our wedding; he passed a few months after our visit. But Grandpa’s words ring in my heart to this day, and I’ve dedicated my life to following his exhortation by writing gospel-rich tools that families can use to help them “make room for Jesus” in their homes.
CT: How has God used the message of this book to minister to your own heart, to change you?
MM: One of the joys of writing about the gospel and looking for creative ways to retell it to children is that I get to steep in the gospel every day. Most of my mornings begin with prayer, study, and then writing for kids about the old, old story. There is nothing like reflecting on the gospel to start your day right.
CT: Do you have any other books in process right now?
MM: I have a fun book for families to be released by New Growth Press in the fall titled, Angels on Your Side: When You are Feeling Scared. This book tells the story of a little boy visiting his grandfather when a nighttime thunderstorm rolls in. Grandpa explains that God is ever watching over us and has angels ready to come to our aid.
Then his grandpa tells the young lad three stories about God’s angel army. First, the angels were revealed by Elisha to his servant when an enemy army surrounded them; second, the night God’s angel army showed up to the shepherds to announce the birth of Christ. Finally, the third part is the story of the day when God did not send his angel army to rescue Jesus. That is where I explain, Jesus did not call down the angel army so that we could be welcomed into the protection of the Father and welcomed as sons and daughters of the King under the forgiving protection of his family. The other fun part of that book is the angel illustrations will be in 3-D, so they pop off the page and come alive when you view them with the included 3-D glasses.