Helping families embrace the truth of Easter

An interview with Marty Machowski about “Darkest Night, Brightest Day”

March 23, 2022

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.

Champ Thornton

Champ Thornton (Ph.D.) is an acquisitions editor at Crossway. He and his wife, Robben, live in Newark, Delaware, have been married since 1996, and enjoy being parents to three energetic teenage children. He’s the author of numbers of books for kids and families, including The Radical Book for Kids, The Serpent Slayer and … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24