By / Apr 6

I came across a Facebook “memory” a few days ago, reminding me of a sad and haunting Easter three years ago where, for the first time in our lives, we couldn’t leave our homes because a deadly virus was on the prowl. I recall the uncertainty and sadness of that moment. Yet, there was a sober confidence that Easter was just what we needed. 

I’m writing this with a similar sense of grief and sadness, lamenting so much brokenness. The recent Nashville mass shooting, so near to our family after having spent a decade in Music City, has left us aching for our friends and a community shattered by violence. 

It is finished

Holy Week exposes us to the full range of emotions, from the injustice and mob action that led to Jesus’ unjust death, to the grisly beating and inhumane crucifixion. Now a symbol of hope, the cross was originally an ignominious instrument of torture and death. And sitting at the foot of the cross was Mary, the mother who whispered her quiet acceptance back in Bethlehem, taking on the task of birthing and mothering the Son of God. Now she was at Calvary, gazing up at the disfigured face of her son, who, in his final words, cries, “It is finished.” 

What is finished? The long battle, predicted in Eden, where the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent would violently clash. Sin, marbling its way into every aspect of human existence, ushered in death—of relationships, of intimacy with God, and much too often, death itself. We live in a violent world. What we feel right now, after Nashville, after war and disease and famine and natural disaster, is what they felt on Good Friday. 

It didn’t seem good in that moment. The disciples mostly ran, fearing for their lives, wondering if the movement they’d given their lives to support was a mirage. We would have run too. 

Yet we know that Good Friday was good because it really was finished. Jesus took on the Father’s wrath for sin, bearing the sins of the world—my sin, your sin. Satan, so falsely jubilant at Jesus’ last breath, was defeated. The Savior would walk out of his borrowed tomb three days later. 

Jesus’ resurrection is not just validation of his Messianic claims. It is. But it’s more than that. The empty tomb is a signal that this world, enmeshed in blood and death, is not all there is. Jesus’ resurrection rescues human hearts from the sin that leads us to turn in on each other, and his resurrection rescues human bodies from the ravages of the curse. Because he lives, we will also live. Because he lives, we can, as the hymn reminds us, face tomorrow with hope. 

Awaiting resurrection

This is why Holy Week is both grim and full of lament and also bright and full of joy. The horror of Calvary gave way to the hope of the empty grave, and the horror of our sinful world will, one day, give way to our own resurrection and the renewal of the world. 

So we grieve—deep, loud, anguished lament—at the death around us. But we grieve not as those who don’t have hope. Easter reminds us that Sunday is coming. A grave is empty. Jesus is alive. And we can be reconciled to the One who made us in his image. 

The truth of Easter empowers us in our in-between, as we await our final resurrection. It’s why we go out into the world and tell people—alienated from God, created for glory—that this is not all there is and that Jesus can make them new. There is another, better world coming. And it is why we go out into the world and come alongside the most vulnerable among us. We show the world a glimpse of God’s Kingdom. 

The resurrection is everything. Without it, Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 15, we have no hope. But, because Jesus is alive, at the right hand of the Father, we have a hope that cannot be shaken. In the midst of violence, in pandemics, in death, and in life, our Hope has a name and a glorified body that we will one day embrace for an eternity filled with joy .

By / Mar 31

Lent is a season of the Christian year that occurs during the 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday (excluding Sundays). The word “Lent” comes from the Old English word lencten, which means “springtime,” and it is a time when Christians focus on spiritual renewal and growth. Lent is seen as a time of fasting, prayer, and penance, which allows Christians to reflect on our own mortality and the sacrifice that Jesus made for us on the cross.

The 40-day period of Lent is also symbolic of the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness before beginning his public ministry. During this time, Jesus fasted and prayed, and was tempted by Satan (Matt. 4:1-11). For centuries, Christians have used this time to reflect on their own temptations and struggles and to draw closer to God through prayer and fasting.

How is Lent associated with Ash Wednesday?

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, which falls 40 days—counting only Monday through Saturday—before Easter Sunday. The obervance is a day of repentance and mourning for sin. Many Christians attend a special church service on this day, during which they receive ashes on their foreheads in the shape of a cross. This is meant to be a symbol of their mortality and a reminder of how Jesus died on the cross to reconcile us to God (1 Pet. 3:18). 

How is Lent associated with Holy Week?

The final week of Lent is known as Holy Week, a time of intense reflection and prayer. Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday, which commemorates Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem (John 12:12-19, et al.), and it ends with Easter Sunday, which celebrates Jesus’ resurrection from the dead (John 20:1-18, et al.).

Many churches hold special services during Holy Week, including Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services. Maundy Thursday is a commemoration of the Last Supper, during which Jesus shared a last meal with his disciples and told them to do this in remembrance of him. Good Friday is a solemn day of mourning and reflection, as Christians remember Jesus’ crucifixion and death. 

Easter Sunday marks the end of Lent and the beginning of the Easter season. Easter is a day of joy and celebration, as Christians celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

Why do observers of Lent give things up?

One of the most common practices during Lent is fasting. Historically, one of the most common forms of fasting during this period was to give up meat on Fridays. This is a tradition that dates back to the early days of the Church, when meat was considered a luxury item and abstaining was therefore seen as a way to show sacrifice and penance.

Today, many Protestant Christians also choose to give up other indulgences during Lent as a way to focus on their spiritual lives.

What other practices are associated with Lent?

In addition to fasting, Lent is a time for focused prayer and reflection. Many churches that observe Lent hold special services and Bible studies during this time, and believers are encouraged to spend more time in prayer and meditation on Scripture. Some also choose to participate in acts of service or charity during Lent as a way to give back to their communities and to show God’s love to others.

Do Southern Baptists observe Lent?

As with most issues that are not directly commanded by the Bible, the observance of Lent is seen by most Southern Baptists as a matter of personal conviction and conscience. Lent is not a tradition that is as prominent within the SBC as it is for other Protestant traditions, such as Anglicanism. However, Lent is still a meaningful time for many Southern Baptists who choose to participate in this season of reflection and repentance. 

For Southern Baptists, the focus of Lent is not on giving up something for the sake of giving it up. Instead, the focus is on spiritual growth and drawing closer to God. Many Baptists choose to participate in Lent by giving up something that distracts them from their relationship with God, such as social media or junk food. This act of self-denial serves as a reminder to turn our attention back to God and to focus on our growth in him.

As Southern Baptists, we are called to live out our faith every day, not just during the Lenten season. However, Lent may provide us an opportunity to renew our commitment to God and to focus on the things that truly matter. By using this season to draw near to God and to serve others, we are able to live out the gospel message before a watching world (Col. 4:5-6).

By / Apr 15

In this episode, Brent and Lindsay discuss President Biden saying Putin is committing genocide in Ukraine, the Brooklyn subway shooting, and a Christian who escaped from a reeducation camp in Xinjiang. They also talk about several resources to prepare our hearts for Good Friday and Easter. 

ERLC Content


  1. Biden says Putin is committing genocide in Ukraine
  2. Frank James, suspect in Brooklyn subway shooting, discussed violence in YouTube clips
  3. Christian Detainee Who Escaped Xinjiang Camp | SBC resolution


Connect with us on Twitter


  • Dobbs Resource Page Prayer Guide | Right now, the Supreme Court is considering a major Mississippi abortion case called Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The ERLC and other pro-life organizations filed an amicus brief in this case urging the Supreme Court to overturn the disatrous Roe v. Wade decision. Members of our team also joined pro-life advocates on the steps of the Supreme Court when oral arguments were heard last December. As we approach the Supreme Court’s final decision in June of this year, it’s important for Christians to pray for this landmark case and begin preparing our churches to serve vulnerable women and children in a potential post-Roe world. Download our free prayer guide at
  • Dobbs Resource Page | Many Christians are aware that an important case about abortion is being decided at the Supreme Court this June. But for many, this case is confusing and wrapped in a lot of legal jargon. The ERLC wants to help with that, so we’ve created a resource page that will help you and your church understand what this case means, what could happen if Roe v. Wade is overturned, and how your church can prepare to serve vulnerable women and children in the aftermath. To learn more about the Dobbs case and how you can pray, visit
By / Apr 13

How we face death, whether in fear or in hope, is a reflection of how we have lived. Back in February, I was asked by an elderly church member to visit her neighbor who was dying. The neighbor was in her 70s, and hospice began visiting to help her in her final days. This was the end. I was told the woman was a believer in Jesus, but had not been to church in some time and didn’t have a pastor. Of course, I was happy to go visit her.

As I drove up to her little mobile home to see her, I was reminded of Ecclesiastes 7:2, “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, since that is the end of all mankind, and the living should take it to heart.”

Will we face death’s reality? 

Visiting with this woman was a very powerful experience for me. Her mobile home was small and crowded with items collected over a lifetime. I was welcomed in by a care nurse who was there to tend to her needs. He pointed me down the short hallway, and I could hear the television blaring with sounds from an old game show rerun. As I walked into the room, she was sitting up in bed halfway. Medical supplies, blankets, and other items took up the space around her. She heard I was coming from the neighbor who called me, so when I introduced myself, she was prepared.

In these situations, you don’t always know what to expect. Sometimes, people don’t want to see a pastor that they’ve never met before. They’re angry about dying. They know what the visit means. And their fear can turn into dismissal or lead them to lash out. The reaction can range from mild politeness to indifference to rudeness to anger. So, the short walk down the hall found me bracing myself for the possibilities of the exchange. 

When it comes to dying in the American context — one that seeks to hold on to this life with every drop of strength we have — we often reflect the first lines of the Dylan Thomas poem, 

“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

We rightly see death as the final act of this physical life. As we fear it, we may try to put it out of our minds, loudly declaring all talk of it as unnecessarily morbid. Or, we fight it with everything we can muster, viewing the surrender to death’s inevitability as some kind of defeat. We are taught to uphold youth as the ideal, to do all we can to push away the effects of aging, and to see those who are close to dying as those who have little to contribute to our lives of production and self-fulfillment. The dying are to be cared for as an act of compassion from the living, but that final act of life giving way to death is often shunned by those of us who don’t want to face what is coming. This fear is described in Hebrews 2:14-15 as being manufactured by the devil, who holds the power of death and keeps all people in slavery to the fear of death. 

Met by God’s grace

So, I didn’t quite know what I would face as I walked down the dark hall to meet this woman who lay dying. Would she welcome my words and prayers? Would she be raging against the death closing in? I prayed that God would help me prepare her for her death and the journey to eternal life. 

In my visits with her over the next 10 days or so, I encountered a remarkable manifestation of God’s grace. After my first visit, I went out to my car and tweeted out some thoughts of reflection. I don’t normally do this after a time of ministry, but tears filled my eyes as I met with her, and I sensed the profound presence of God already there, helping prepare her for her final journey. I wanted to remember the holy:

I just sat with a dying woman. She was going down a list making calls to old friends to say goodbye. We talked about life, hurts, and her faith in Jesus and forgiveness. She said God is a fisherman and He caught her, and even though she tried to swim away, He reels her back in.

She was very peaceful. As we talked, she would cry at times. She isn’t a church member. A lady in our church knew her and asked if I could visit with her. We held hands and prayed. I read Scripture to her. As we talked about God’s love for her, tears fell from her eyes. Grace.

The doctors only give her a few days. They sent her home to die. She says she gets scared sometimes, but then she prays and the peace returns. As she is calling her friends all across the country to tell them that she’s dying, they cry, but she says, “Let’s share some memories together.”

Before I left, I hugged her. She thanked me for stopping by, but really, I was the one who was grateful. Her body is failing but her mind and spirit are clear. It was an honor to sit with her and hear her talk about her life. I told her I would see her soon on the other side.

It’s the most real thing there is, to sit with someone dying. Just to be with them, with their mind firing and laughter and tears and words and stories and to know that in just a short time the flicker of life will be gone. But, we hope in the God who raises the dead.

I went back to visit her a couple more times. She was so grateful. We talked and prayed, and she told me stories. She said she didn’t want to die, but, as I mentioned in my tweet, that Jesus was a fisherman and though she tried to wiggle off his hook, he caught her and was now reeling her in. She decided to pass that on to the pastor who would do her funeral that was already planned by her extended family back home in the Midwest. She never married and had no children, but she spoke of her nieces and nephews and the times they had together years ago. She continued to work down the list of people to call to say her goodbyes and remember the good times they’d had together. I sat there with her while she had one call and heard her congested laughter through the fluid building up in her lungs.

I told her that these days were a great gift to her and that she was dying well. She cried a lot, but would immediately say that her hope was in Jesus. We talked about how Jesus raises the dead and how she would live again. She believed that. With each visit, she was being prepared for burial and her spirit was growing in hope for the resurrection to come.

I visited her the last time the night before she died. Her physical light was dying, but an inner light was emerging. The list of friends to call was put away. All the calls had been made. She had trouble talking now as the fluid filled her lungs and she couldn’t cough it out. But, she thanked me with tears welling up in her eyes. She thanked me for being there with her, for talking with her and praying with her. She said again that Jesus caught her and was bringing her home. 

This woman who had not been to church in many years was experiencing God’s presence and hope in a profound way as she lay dying, even as Jesus overcame her fear. The full text of Hebrews 2:14-15 is, “Now since the children have flesh and blood, He [Jesus] too shared in their humanity, so that by His death He might destroy him who holds the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” I saw that happening before my eyes.

As they lay dying 

“As I Lay Dying” is a Southern gothic novel by William Faulkner that I haven’t read, but like most Southerners (especially if you are from Mississippi, as I am) do with Faulkner, I have pretended to know about it. The title comes from a line in Homer’s “Odyssey,” Book XI. Odysseus travels to the Underworld and meets Agamémnon, who tells how he was killed by the hands of his adulterous wife who would not close his eyes as he lay dying: “As I lay dying, the woman with the dog’s eyes would not close my eyes as I descended into Hades.”

Now, Agamemnon is angry about the betrayal of his wife. He’s descended into hell, but he also expresses anger over her not even closing his eyes in death. Not only did she kill him, but she didn’t even give him the courtesy of helping him die the right way. Faulkner’s use of this line for the title of the book — that I haven’t read — has served as a bit of a warning to me that when death comes (and it’s coming for us all), running from it doesn’t help. And not helping someone die well with mercy, grace, and care by ministering to them in Jesus’ name doesn’t really empower them to rage against the dying light as though they themselves had power over death. This approach of denial can often just distance them from the hope they really need.

But, as we now encounter Holy Week culminating in Good Friday and Easter Sunday, we are reminded with force that Jesus, through dying, defeated the power of death and the grave. He rose from the empty tomb and gives new life to all who believe. We need neither run from death in fear nor fight it in our own strength. Instead, we can persevere in hope as long as God gives us breath and then prepare for the new life to come. That isn’t a morbid surrender to death in defeat, but rather, it is true hope in the one who values and sanctifies our lives. He is with us all the way to death, and then carries us beyond into eternity and the resurrection of the dead. 

I now realize that as I was helping my friend prepare to meet with Jesus upon death, she was helping me meet with him now. He was there with her as she lay dying, and by being with her in her suffering and figuratively helping her to close her eyes in death, my eyes were more fully opened to the power of the resurrection of Jesus for this life — and for the life to come.

By / Apr 12

If I want red and green M&Ms, I can often find them in late September, three months before the day we commemorate Christ’s incarnation. However, if I want a sugar rush from a Cadbury Cream Egg or some Peeps, the window of availability is much more limited for the Easter season. If candy is any measurement, our culture seems more eager to emphasize Christ’s incarnation to a greater degree than his substitutionary sacrifice. Yet, as Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 15:3–4, Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection are of first importance for the Christian faith. Since it is so central to our faith, it deserves more than a weekend of celebration. 

If we just tell the stories of Jesus’ death on Friday and resurrection on Sunday, we have to leave out a lot of information. To understand the significance of Easter and Christ’s resurrection, people, including children, need to have a bigger picture of him than a baby in a manger and a dying man on a cross. We need to better understand all of Scripture, which is usually more than a weekly Sunday School class can provide. It would be helpful to use the week before –– or the year before –– to prepare our families for understanding the wonder of the resurrection.

Making a plan

The time leading up to Easter is a perfect opportunity to talk with your kids about Jesus preaching, traveling, having friends, doing wonderful works, and being human in every way but also perfectly God. Consider doing a special focus in your family devotions on Easter. This could be the start of an ongoing pattern of family discipleship. The chance of success in creating a habit will improve if you have at least the beginnings of a plan.

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. The goal of family devotions isn’t to be the most creative or exciting. You really shouldn’t discover anything that someone else hasn’t already taught. But along the way, you will discover that your whole family will be more aware of Christ. He will be closer to the front of your mind for longer periods of time throughout your days, and you will be more connected to each other as you ponder his life, ministry, and nature. This is a blessing whether you begin the week or the year before Easter.

Here are a few suggestions for beginning:

Go ahead and start, even if you haven’t found the perfect schedule or resource. Consistently doing something imperfect is better than waiting for the perfect thing to drop in your lap. 

Pick a time of day or part of your family’s routine to link with the devotional activity: before or after a meal, before bed, or as soon as you walk in the door in the evening. 

Keep it short and simple, especially if your children are very young or this is your first attempt at family devotions. 

Use multiple senses. Seeing and hearing are obvious, but it’s good for the children to vocalize, too, by reading, reciting, or repeating. Touch and motion can be engaged by coloring, song motions, sitting, and standing. 

Give the older children more of a role. They can read the Scripture passage or an accompanying devotion. They can cue up a song or hymn. Ask them to close in prayer. 

Keep it centered on the Bible. Devotional books can be a great resource but cannot replace the reading of passages, books, and the whole of Scripture. Let your kids see you handle a physical Bible as you read to them, and encourage them to follow along or to look up passages in their own copies of God’s Word.

Don’t quit if you miss a day or two. Just pick up on the next opportunity and carry on.

Helpful resources

We live in an era with an amazing abundance of resources. Whether for this year or next, here are a few ideas assorted by timeframe:

More than a month to go: One of my favorites is the Jesus Storybook Bible, which you can get through in this timeframe by reading 1-2 chapters per day. As another example is a 40-day devotional for families that works through the names of Jesus and their meaning. There are many other good resources available in different formats and price ranges.

Two weeks until Easter: Try reading one parable and one miracle from Matthew every day until Palm Sunday. 

Beginning on Palm Sunday: Read from Scripture or a biblically accurate storybook about Jesus’ triumphal entry. Each day, read a little more, leading up to the crucifixion on Friday, burial on Saturday, and resurrection on Easter.


Family discipleship is best accomplished on an ongoing basis, embedded within the normal patterns of life. If your church emphasizes the Easter story through sermons or children’s curriculum, make connections and encourage your children to as well. If you are able to get started on family devotions this Easter, carry the habit forward.

We are called to teach our children diligently as we walk along (Deut 6:7) Let them see the joy of seeing Jesus fill your heart. As J. I. Packer writes in Knowing God, “we turn each truth that we learn about God into matter for meditation before God, leading to prayer and praise to God.” May this Easter season be the beginning of a pattern of family discipleship that has a generational impact for the Kingdom of God. This is a good habit to adopt whether it is the week before, the year before, or just after Easter. 

By / Apr 11

Every Christian parent wants their kids to live in the hope and joy found only in Christ. But every day, our kids talk to kids who disagree with what we’ve taught them. At school, in the neighborhood, and even at church, your child will hear, “Has God really said that?” “God isn’t really going to do that!” “That’s just make-believe.” How can we prepare our children to know what is true and what is a lie?

The Bible warns us of God’s enemy, Satan. From the beginning of time, Satan has lied to keep us from trusting God. Satan easily deceives us. Without God’s powerful Word, our kids trust in cultural trends. Each new philosophy and temptation tries to carry them away. What can we as parents do? We can teach them to look to Jesus, who triumphed over Satan at the cross. When Pilate asked, “What is truth?” Jesus answered, “The reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me” (John 18:37). 

And although it’s true that God, in Christ, delivers believers from the penalty our sin deserves, we still struggle constantly with sin on this Earth. This can be a hard reality for our children to grasp. How can we help our family understand the struggles we face and, at the same time, the hope we have in Jesus? God’s truth responds to our biggest questions and our inner struggles. Here are three truths to hold on to as you prepare your family to celebrate the foundation of our hope — Christ’s death and resurrection. 

1. Satan’s lies battle against God’s truth

The serpent whispers, “True happiness comes through what you have and do.” “Who needs to be Jesus’ friend? Live for yourself and be happy.” “Why tell the truth when no one else is?” “Don’t you have a right to be angry?” Let the truth of God’s Word drown out Satan’s lies. In the Holy Spirit’s power, we can help our kids identify the lies.

We can expect Satan’s lies to battle with God’s truth in our minds and hearts. When we least expect it, doubt and fear will suddenly fill our kids’ hearts. Prepare for those moments. Give your family the hope we all need — Jesus truly saves! In Christ, God loves and forgives us. And God assures us that he is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4). As we trust in Jesus, the Holy Spirit makes the truth more powerful than the next new lie (2 Timothy 3:15-18).  

2. God has a bigger purpose in our suffering

Our world expects parents to teach their kids to look on the bright side. But what happens when the bright side is hard to find? God doesn’t ask us to pretend that things are good when they are bad. Instead, God calls us to cry out to him. The psalmist says, “Pour out your hearts before him; God is a refuge for us” (Psalm 62:8). Prayers of lament and repentance let your kids hear you talk to God about your fears, impulses, and discouragements. They may begin to see the connection between our struggles and our need to depend on God.    

We may think our kids need to hear “feel-good” prayers, but we don’t have to pretend all is well. God, in his Word and by his Spirit, is with us in life’s struggle. He invites us and our kids to ask hard questions. “Why do Christians still struggle with sin?” “Why does God allow bad things to happen?” “Why do people get sick and die?” Hard questions can lead our kids to the solid hope in Christ they need. 

As Easter approaches, follow Jesus on his hard road to the cross. You can read excerpts from A Jesus Easter with your family. It tackles 25 of Satan’s lies with God’s eternal truth. It may lead your kids to ask more tough questions: “Jesus had done nothing wrong, so why did bad people accuse him?” “Why did they call Jesus names and beat him?” “Why did Jesus have to suffer and die?” As your family reads the Scriptures together, teach your kids to watch for God — his person and promises. Open God’s Word, and show your family what it means to look for God’s bigger purpose. Our loving heavenly Father is at work, making us more like his Son, Jesus. 

3. Hardship teaches us to hope in God

Our children hope for many things that may or may not happen. But there’s no maybe about hope in God. Resurrection hope in God means we can be certain his Word is true. Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin and open the way for us to be God’s children. He rose to life, defeating Satan, sin, and death forever. Now God’s children know that they, too, will be raised to new life after they die (1 Corinthians 15:20-23). Our kids can know that Jesus empowers his children to live the life he died to give them. Our bodies will die, yet we will be resurrected in a glorified body. Death and sin can never touch us again (Philippians 3:21). 

Easter is a special time to look to the cross of Christ and his resurrection — to refresh our hope in God if we have already trusted in Jesus, and to point our children to salvation if they have not yet trusted in him. Jesus frees us from the power of sin (Romans 6:17-18). The more this amazing truth takes hold of us, the more we experience a taste of victory. The truth our kids believe can overpower whatever lies Satan throws at them. And when they sin, they will find grace and comfort in repentance and forgiveness. Jesus has gone ahead of us to prepare a place for us (John 14:2-3). One day he will come for us. We will live with him in his kingdom without sin (1 John 3:1-3). He will wipe away every tear. We will only have pefect joy, forever (Revelation 21:3-4; 22:5).

When doubts and sins threaten our children’s hearts, hope in Jesus keeps them safe. God’s Word tells the truth about sin and suffering so that our families can find freedom, hope, and joy in Christ. You don’t have to live in fear of the wrong opinions and lies that your children will encounter. Let God’s Word guide your family, make them wise, and strengthen. Make this Easter a time for your family to discover true hope through faith in Jesus Christ. 

By / Mar 23

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.

By / Apr 2

When I picked up Dan Darling’s book, The Characters of Easter, I expected a mere recounting of the various villains, heroes, cowards, and crooks that surrounded Jesus during the week leading up to the crucifixion. We read routinely about these characters in the Gospel accounts every year around Easter, but as Darling wants readers to experience through the book, the Passion and Resurrection of Christ “has never been more relevant than it is this ‘plague year’” (10). Why? Because Jesus has put Death to death through his death and resurrection. 

Darling’s book seeks to peek into the lives of the young and unlikely disciples, corrupt rulers, brave women, and criminals who witnessed firsthand the events of the cosmic drama unfolding in front of them. By looking at the setting in which Jesus lived and died, Darling reminds us of God’s great love displayed in his long and certain plan of salvation and rescue. 

Looking at Jesus through another’s eyes

Peter, John, Judas, Barabbas, Pilate, Thomas; The Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees; the women at the tomb, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, and the Roman Executioners all have a chapter devoted to them. Darling wants the reader to put themselves in the sandals of each one of these characters or groups of characters to look afresh at the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus and see our lives in theirs. How? By looking at each character, Darling stresses how they all had to encounter Jesus and how each of their responses can teach us something about following him. Each one had to decide how they would respond to the mercy and grace of Jesus toward them. 

Peter, though he denied Christ and stumbled in his faithfulness in his worst moments, was received by Christ and sent on mission for him. Peter shows that when burdened by our own sin, we should look to Christ who bore that sin on the cross and rose again to give us new life. John, a scornful “son of Thunder” toward those he opposed, was eventually called the “disciple of love.” Maybe we need our heart so transformed by the love of Christ that we bear a new description. Thomas, who doubted but was zealous at times for Christ, should move those who struggle with doubt to look again at Jesus’ nail-scarred hands and proclaim, “My Lord and my God.” 

The women who witnessed the resurrection not only witnessed the horror and agony of the crucifixion but were the first witnesses of the beauty and glory of Jesus’ resurrection. Like those women, we can experience the joy of the resurrection, knowing that reconciliation with God is now accomplished, and God is making all things new. And like these women, Christians are called to go tell the world about this wonderful news.

Darling points out how even the negative examples from Judas and Pilate and the Roman executioners can be beneficial for people to contemplate. Judas knew the language of the faith and had been close to Jesus, but became disillusioned because Jesus would not conform to Judas’ plans for him. Darling reminds the reader, “We are all like Judas in that we have also betrayed Jesus, time and time again. We’ve sold him for lesser idols. But we don’t have to suffer Judas’s fate. If we confess our sins, He’s faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9)” (82). 

Pilate shows that truth is available in the person of Jesus Christ, the one who keeps pursuing those who try to avoid him. Joseph and Nicodemus, those covert disciples, display there is no neutrality when it comes to Jesus. One who encounters Jesus and wants to follow him is called to risk it all and proclaim allegiance to him as the risen King. Barabbas gloriously illustrates that Jesus dies in the place of guilty sinners, though Jesus was without sin. He is our substitute, the Lamb who was slain. 


Darling’s book compacts the density of the last week of Jesus’ days before and after his resurrection into a short, powerful book. The book is devotional in nature, ending each chapter with study questions and suggestions for songs and hymns to accompany reflection on the chapter.  Both pastor-theologians and lay church members alike will be edified by dwelling on what Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection means for them personally and also for the entire cosmos. 

Jesus inaugurated a victorious kingdom that will never end and will consummate that kingdom one day. Though we do not live in the first century, Darling pushes the reader to ask what he or she will do with the King of this kingdom. The gospel drips from the pages. Darling reminds us that King Jesus will graciously receive all those who come to him in repentance and faith. This is the most important reality to ponder this Easter, and Darling’s book helps us do that. 

By / Apr 1

Editor’s Note: The day that Christ died on the cross was the darkest of days for the disciples. They had put all of their hope in this Jesus, and now it seemed to be for nothing. What they didn’t know was that the cross paved the way for their freedom, their joy, and their future. May these meditations about the truth of the resurrection cause your heart to soar in wonder at what Christ has purchased for us. 

1. The resurrection is the core of the Christian message and should never be neglected or assumed.

Sometimes today, when we hear the gospel preached, the focus is on the cross. The resurrection is often ignored, assumed, or mentioned only in passing. In contrast, the preaching recorded in the book of Acts emphasized the resurrection of Jesus, and barely mentioned his death. The apostles were preoccupied with the resurrection and emphasized it much more than the cross.

Sadly, the church only seems to get excited about the resurrection once a year at Easter time. In reality, every Sunday should be Resurrection Sunday. The reason why the early church began to meet on the first day of the week was to celebrate Jesus’s defeat of death. Imagine what church would be like if we consciously gathered every week to celebrate the resurrection?

2. Belief in Jesus’s physical resurrection is the defining doctrine of Christianity.

It is surely a remarkable thing that every Christian denomination—from the Orthodox to the Catholic, from the Pentecostal to the Reformed Baptist—all believe one simple truth: the tomb was empty. There is very little else we all agree on! Only some liberals deny the physical resurrection of Jesus. Surely they thereby forfeit the right to call themselves Christians at all.

In my book, Raised With Christ, I offered the following definition of a Christian: a Christian is someone who believes in the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ, and lives in light of the implications of that event.

This is based on Paul’s clear promise: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9, emphasis added).

3. The resurrection demonstrated to the whole universe the deity of Jesus and God’s love for him.

Jesus was, “declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4).

It is the resurrection of Jesus that reveals his true nature to all who will see: “God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance . . . and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:30-31).

4. Without the resurrection, there would have been no church at all.

After Jesus’s arrest and death, the disciples were lost, helpless, and afraid. Peter denied Jesus, whilst the rest ran away. It is hard to conceive of anything other than the resurrection of Jesus that would have led to this rag-tail bunch of people sharing the message of Jesus in such a way that it grew into the largest religious movement ever known to man.

Without their unwavering confidence in Jesus’s resurrection, would the disciples have risked everything, and in many cases been killed for their faith? People do die all the time for falsehoods that they themselves genuinely believe to be true. It is, however, impossible to believe that all of the disciples would die for something they knew to be a deliberate deception.

The church did not create the resurrection stories; instead, the resurrection stories created the church.

5. Our neglect of Jesus’s resurrection may be one of the reasons our gospel preaching is so powerless.

Spurgeon examined the preaching of his day and felt the reason for its lack of power was its lack of emphasis on the resurrection. Spurgeon determined to emphasize the message of the resurrection, and saw thousands of conversions as a result. If we choose to neglect the preaching of the resurrection, should we be surprised if we don’t see similar results?

When Paul spoke about the gospel, he always meant the announcement of the glorious victory of the risen King. It is this gospel that is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16).

6. The resurrection purchased our justification.

When you ask most Christians about justification, they move straight to the cross of Jesus paying the price for our sins. But if justification simply means an absence of guilt, then we have a blank slate and have to spend the rest of our lives worrying about if we will mess it up again. Paul tells us in the contrary: “He was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Rom. 4:25).

What this means is that when Jesus rose again he was declared to be righteous—not just lacking any sin, but embodying holiness. The credit of Jesus’s perfection outweighed the debt of our sins. And now, the Christian is counted as righteous. Not “just as if I had never sinned” so much as “just as if I had already lived a holy life.”

Without this wonderful truth, we will not fully grasp the joy of salvation. Jesus was our obedience substitute during his life, our punishment substitute in his death, and our rebirth substitute in his resurrection.

7. The resurrection gives us the joy of knowing that Christ is with us today!

He has promised that he will be with us to the end of time. This changes everything. A dead hero in the grave is no help to us. But a risen Savior in heaven gives us great confidence!

Because the tomb is empty and Jesus is on the throne, we can know for sure that we will be victorious irrespective of what is happening in today’s world. Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18).

8. The resurrection gives us hope that goes beyond the grave.

We live in a broken world. Every Christian will at some point in their lives know the pain of grieving for a loved one. When Paul told us not to ‘”grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Thess. 4:13), he did not mean that we would not experience sadness.

But because Jesus conquered the grave, we have confidence that one day we too will rise, and so meet both Jesus and our believing loved ones again. This changes everything when we come face to face with death.

9. The resurrection unites every Christian with the life-giving force that raised Jesus from the dead.

It is through the resurrection that, “the last Adam became a life-giving spirit” (1 Cor. 15:45). Paul tells us, “the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you” (Rom. 8:11).

This amazing power is available to transform, equip, and empower us: “What is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead” (Eph. 1:19-20).

10. Because of the resurrection, we can know that Jesus is personally coming back to judge and rule the world.

It is a source of great joy for the Christian that Jesus will return. But it should also cause great concern for those who are living estranged from him. Because of the resurrection, we can be sure that this same Jesus will return again:

The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead. (Acts 17:30-31)

This article originally appeared at