Think you can't lead a family devotional? Think again. Pastor Marty Machowski introduces you to his devotional, “Long Story Short,” a gospel-centered resource that helps busy parents teach the Old Testament to children.
Think you can't lead a family devotional? Think again. Pastor Marty Machowski introduces you to his devotional, “Long Story Short,” a gospel-centered resource that helps busy parents teach the Old Testament to children.
Bob: There are a lot of people who never get the family together for any kind of family devotions because let’s face it, life is busy. Marty Machowski says, “Come on, that’s an excuse.”
Marty: If I came into your house with two quarts of ice cream in bowls, you would see how fast all of the important things that the kids are doing everywhere and anyway— they would all disappear and everybody would be there to have their ice cream. The reality is we tell ourselves we don’t have time, but we have all kinds of time.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday October 28th. Our host is the President of Family Life®, Dennis Rainey, and I am Bob Lepine. If you just haven’t been able to make family devotions work at your house; but you want to do it, stay with us.
And welcome FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I am ready for what we are going to talk about today.
Dennis: You are?
Bob: I have come with as many objections as I can think of from parents about, “Why trying to do family devotions in our family just isn't going to work.” And I am going to throw every one of them I have got—
Dennis: Our program is only 24 minutes and 55 seconds, Bob. (Laughter)
Bob: You think the list could go a little longer than that; huh?
Dennis: I think it could; but let’s ask our guest, Marty Machowski, if he thinks that list is going to be long or short.
Marty: No, it’s going to be a long list.
Dennis: Yes, that’s what I was thinking. Marty has written a devotional—there are ten-minute devotions to draw your family to God—it is called Long Story Short. Marty is uniquely gifted to do this because he has forced his kids to do this with him and to pilot—well, he actually wrote it, and tested it, and then took them back through it—and I am sure those kids are having withdrawal at this point from his own devotional.
But he is a family pastor at Covenant Fellowship Church in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania. He and his wife Lois have six children, three of whom have graduated, moved on, and are at college. So you have taken your children through a lot of devotions over the years.
Bob: And you have also, in your role as a pastor, as you have advocated this with parents and gone up and said, “So how are things going with family devotions in your house?” and you have seen the dads kind of go, “Well.” So are you ready for my objections?
Marty: I am going to do my best because I probably had most of them myself, in my house.
Bob: The first one that comes is, “You know, we have tried it for about a week; and we were just getting nowhere. The kids were fussy. They weren’t paying any attention; and it was just—it was so futile that I said, ‘We will just wait another year until they are a little older, and then we will try again.’”
Marty: I had that exact same experience myself. The problem that I found was—I didn’t know what to do. Much of the material that I was trying to use with my children was for adults. That’s what’s written out there—vast majority of it is material for adults. Long Story Short came out of my odyssey of trying to figure out what I could use. So I would recommend that they give it a try and go another round.
Dennis: And the kids may squirm; and you still just keep going, even if they squirm?
Marty: Absolutely. Now there are some training opportunities where you want to correct your children, but you can’t be correcting your children day in and day out for them just being kids. You have to recognize that that’s going to happen. If you set yourself up before you go into devotions with a little pep talk, “Okay, now, when I sit down, that’s when all the commotion is going to start. When I open my mouth and start to talk, that’s when everybody is going to look away; and they are going to pretend like they are not paying attention, even if they are.”
If you give yourself that pep talk when you go into devotions, and some of those things happen, you are going to be ready for it. Keep on speaking the transforming words that are found in the Bible to your kids, and it is going to have an effect. God’s Word will not return void over time.
Bob: Well, we should probably keep in mind, too, that there is an opposing force who would like nothing better than this not to happen at your house. And so the Enemy is going to be throwing all kinds of things at you, like this one—
Dennis: No, no, I get the next one! This is not just you to present all the—
Bob: You have your list of objections?
Dennis: I have got some of them, too. Here’s one that I think the Enemy tries to convince a parent, a father, a mother—that, “They can’t do it. They are not trained,” and that, “You know what? It’s the Sunday school teacher’s responsibility. It’s the youth pastor who should teach my kids about God.”
Marty: Well, the youth pastor, the Sunday school teacher, is going to teach them about God; but the amount of time they are going to be spending with your kids is just what—an hour a week, at most?—but you have them the other six days of the week, and the world is speaking into their lives all week long.
You really are qualified. You are not qualified because you have had some special theological training. You are qualified because God says you are qualified. God gives the responsibility to parents to train their children up in the way of the Lord. Now, if God said that, and He gave you the most powerful tool in the world, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, you don’t need anything more. What we need to remember is that tool will transform the lives of our kids—we can go another round.
You talked about the Enemy. There is one inside of us—our own sinful flesh that wants to defeat us—that’s the one that really got me. The Bible says, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” That is really true about family devotions and your motivation.
When I would go sit down to do family devotions—in my mind—I could come up with 100 reasons why this was not a good time for family devotions. “Well, the kids were up too late last night.” “I was up too late last night,” or, “We got to get through dinner quick if you are doing it around dinner time.” You’ll just give yourself a thousand excuses.
You need to remember those excuses aren’t coming from the Spirit of God. They are coming from your flesh; and you need to keep in step with the Spirit who is saying, “Share these most amazing truths with your children, and I will make sure that the Word of God you shared doesn’t return void.”
Dennis: What I hear you saying is, “Parents are charged with this responsibility, and they need to press into it—regardless—they just need to do it.
Bob: But here was our situation. You know, we got the book; and we did it for a couple of weeks; and then, we went on vacation.
Dennis: Is this another excuse?
Bob: This is another excuse. “We went on vacation. We were gone for a week—two weeks on vacation—we got back and school started, and you know how it is when school started.”
Dennis: Out of your routine.
Bob: So we wound up going three weeks. We just got out of the habit, and it kind of died away.
Marty: Praise God for the three weeks! Give it another three. Don’t be distracted simply because you went on vacation. Put the book somewhere where you are going to see it—with your Bible—so that every time at dinner, for instance, it’s sitting right next to where you are sitting—right next to your plate. It stares you in the face.
If you just get five or six days under your belt, your kids are going to remind you. They will say, “Hey, Dad, what about family devotions?” And you are thinking, “Well, let’s get dessert done; and let’s get off because we got a thousand things to do.” What’s ten minutes more of time in your day? Nothing, really.
Bob: But didn’t you have teenagers through the years, who were—when you would get out the book and go, “It’s time for family devotions,” they would go, “I got a test tomorrow,” or, “I got this,” or where they would start rolling their eyes, or going, “Dad, do we have to do this again? Can we do”—
Dennis: That was my next one, Bob. (Laughter) “The kids aren't interested.” You are getting pushed back. They are giving you the excuses, and they are playing the card, like you said, about homework.
Bob: They are not saying, (Excitedly)“Dad, aren't we going to do family devotions?” They are going, (Bemoaning) “Oh Dad, come on!”
Marty: (Exaggerated voice) They are saying, “Why do we have to do family devotions again?”
Dennis: There you go. You have heard that. Your kids said that?
Marty: Quote, unquote. Absolutely.
Marty: Of course they are going to say that. You shouldn't be surprised that they are going to say that. As they go through their journey in life, they are caught up with the same worldly things that we are caught up with. They want to go to the next thing. They don’t—
How many times do we miss our own personal devotions? Think about it. They are no different than us. They have got the same sinful motivations that we do. What we want to do, as parents, is to help them understand the importance. “Well, kids, I know that you have got a lot going on in your day. I am just going to ask you for ten more minutes. I promise, ten more minutes. We are going to read a passage from God’s Word, share a few thoughts. We are going to pray, and then we are going to let you go.”
If you just help them to understand, “It's only ten minutes,” that’s really reasonable. I have found that even teens, when you present them with, “I am only going to keep you for ten minutes. We are going to get through quickly.” They have got ten minutes they can give you.
Dennis: Alright, what about the parent who says, “I grew up in a non-Christian home. Religion wasn’t anything that we were taught growing up, not even any kind of reading of the Bible. I have never seen it done. I don’t know what it looks like. I don’t know how to do it.”
Marty: Well, I was a pastor; and I was saying some of the same things. (Laughter) I mean, really, “How do you do family devotions? What comes first? What comes next?” In Long Story Short, I wanted to take all the complications out for that person. I want the parent to know that, “If they just read through the Bible, then read through the devotion, they are going to be giving a great spiritual meal to their kids.” I even give them questions to ask and follow up with the words to a prayer that they can pray.
Bob: I got one. I want to hear how you deal with this one. “If I ask those questions, my kids are going to start asking me questions like my son said to me one time, ‘So God loves everyone, right?” “Right.” “Does He love Satan?” “Ahhhh”— So what do you do?
Marty: Well, it's okay to tell your kids, “That’s a great question. I am going to have to find out.” You can go to your pastor; you can go to someone who is more mature than you. You hope that your kids are going to start putting one and one together and start formulating their own questions. You know what that tells you? That tells you they are getting there. So, if your kids are asking you spiritual questions, you are a leg up.
Dennis: But you are still not sure how to answer them, and then you do have to go and get some help. I mean, you have got to be committed to the fact that the spiritual training of your children is the most important thing you can be doing in their life; right?
Marty: It's the most important thing, next to your own example. I think that the one thing that my kids benefited from early on is seeing me doing my personal devotions.
Now, I am an early riser. I would get up long before they would get up; but I would go to their room, and I would systematically go through my six kids and wake them up. I would say, “Come on. You are going to come join Daddy for prayer.”
For about ten minutes or less, maybe five when they were younger, I would just sit down with them; and we would pray. Then, after that short period of time, I would send them off to their beds and they would just go right back to sleep; but what they had learned through those years, even before I started using the devotional that became Long Story Short, was that Daddy prays—and the same for my wife, “Mom prays.” So, I agree with you; but your own example is actually a little bit more important.
Dennis: Well, and in fact, if your own example is not synching up with what they are hearing about the Scriptures, and if they are not seeing you confess and repent as you need to do that, then that hypocrisy could harden their heart; couldn’t it?
Bob: Well, it could. I think that kids are drawn to seek hypocrisy just very easily and, yet, we are all hypocrites.
Marty: And I would say I, too—I think there are some parents who may shy away from taking their children to the Scriptures because they know their children are watching them live in some of this hypocrisy, and they may have to deal with some of their stuff. They may—just like you did—you had to confess to your kids, “You know, I have gone through a season here of anger, and it's not right.” Yet, here is the thing—those lessons of a parent humbling himself or herself on behalf of God—and what God’s doing in his or her life—may be one of the most powerful devotions they could ever share with their children.
Marty: Absolutely. In the midst of you going through the Bible with your children, when God begins to touch your heart—convict you of a sin; point something amazing out—don’t be limited to what you are reading in the devotional book. Tell them what you are feeling. Tell them what you are experiencing and your kids will begin to see that God is working in Mom and Dad. That makes God real to them; and there is no greater treasure that you can give them, along with the message, than being effected by that same message yourself.
Dennis: Okay. What about the mom or the dad who would say, “You know, we don’t have ten minutes together as a family. I have got a teenager who has a part-time job in the evening. I have got other kids who are involved in other stuff. We don’t do breakfast; we don’t do dinner most nights together. We are kind of running here and there, and to get everybody together ten minutes—we just don’t have ten minutes.”
Marty: If I came into your house with two quarts of ice cream and whipped cream in bowls, you would have ten minutes. (Laughter) You would see how fast all of the important things that the kids are doing, everywhere and anyway—they would all disappear and everybody would be there to have their ice cream.
The reality is—we tell ourselves, “We don’t have time,” but we have all kinds of time. Even in a family—and I have teens—four different teens who are going in different directions for different jobs—there are still times when we are all together. Now, with six kids, I can’t always have six at the table, or six in the morning, to do family devotions; and that’s okay. One has an odd schedule—can’t make it—I don’t have to stop for the rest of the family. I can keep on going; but the reality is, most of the time, at some point in the day, everybody is at home. You just need to take that opportunity.
Dennis: Okay. Here is another parent who goes, “I got them at home, and I got them around the table. I started opening the Bible, I started attempting devos; and man, I am boring them to death. I mean, they are flipping peas into the air, they are kicking each other, sliding down underneath the table. I mean, I am just boring them to death with the Bible.”
Marty: “Imagine a grizzly bear breaks into your house, rips open your refrigerator and pulls out a bowl of leftover spaghetti, and tracks it all across your house. By the time you get home, the damage is done. There is spaghetti everywhere. In today’s devotion, we are going to learn about how sin ruins our whole life. It's just like that grizzly bear, raiding the refrigerator and getting spaghetti everywhere.”
Those are the kinds of stories and little illustrations we have put into Long Story Short that capture the attention of the young people and get them to look straight in your eyes because they want to hear, “What’s coming next?”
Dennis: You actually have one of these stories or object lessons at the beginning of each of the 78 weeks. I have got one here that talks about hiding five nickels and a quarter, another one where you have every kid—I thought this was interesting because this could start some fights here. A pile of candy in front of each child, except in front of one—it’s double. That kid’s pile of candy is twice as much as the others.
Bob: He gets a double portion.
Dennis: And that’s talking about Elijah and Elisha.
Marty: Yes, he wanted a double portion of Elijah’s spirit.
Dennis: Another one—you actually pass out grass—that you are careful in the book to instruct parents to wash carefully so if there is any fertilizer or chemicals on it—I really appreciate you being green here, Marty. That’s very good, but you actually pass out the grass to the kids and let them eat it. That, of course, illustrates—
Bob: Is that King Darius? Is that what that is all—Was it Nebuchadnezzar?
Dennis: Nebuchadnezzar, that’s right. How Nebuchadnezzar went down and ate the same grass that the cattle were eating.
Bob: Okay, so I can see where you have really made an attempt to make these engaging, and fun, and active; but I am also imagining the parent who is saying, “We have got four kids at home. They range from two to ten. How do I do family devotions where the ten-year-old is not bored and two-year-old is following along?”
Marty: That’s a great question. We had that situation in our house; and what I realized was, “I can't cater my devotions to the two-year-old because I am going to bore everybody else stiff; and at same time, I can't neglect the two-year-old. So what do I do?”
I get the older kids involved. I ask them, “Look, when I ask Mary a question, she is not going to know the answer. So here is what I want you to do. You sit down next to Mary, and you whisper the answer in her ear. She is going to be so excited that she knows the answer to the Bible story.” That’s what happens, and the older kids feel like they are a part—they are helping their younger siblings out. The younger siblings get the answers right, and the repetition of rehearsing that right answer is really what’s cemented into their minds.
Bob: Have I missed any of the really big ones that you have gotten over the years—anything you can think of that they have thrown at you—that I haven't touched on here or that Dennis has missed?
Marty: “What if a kid just plain refuses to come?”
Bob: Well, that’s a good one.
Marty: That was the one that happened to me.
Bob: One of your children said, “I am not doing devotions”?
Dennis: Now, wait one second.
Dennis: You are a pastor, pastor of family life at Covenant Fellowship Church!
Marty: And my kids are saying, “No, Dad, I am not doing it today.”
Bob: How old where they—two, three?
Marty: Oh, no. They are in teen years—they are 13, “I have done enough of this. I am done for now. I don’t want to do this anymore.”
Dennis: I am taking a vacation from devos.
Marty: Taking vacation from devos. What would you do?
Well, it provides an opportunity to not battle in the moment. “Alright, that’s fine. We are going to continue on upstairs without you. Maybe we can talk about, you know, what you are struggling with,” and then going back to that child and talking through and having the opportunity to encourage them with how important spending time in God’s Word is—even doing family devotions—where, in some cases, we might be talking to the younger kids.
“One day you are going to be a dad. One day you are going to want to be teaching your children. Family devotions is not simply about learning the Bible, but it’s also watching Dad to learn how to teach the Bible—how to do this. I would just encourage you to think that you might be able to pick up a few things so that when you are a dad, you are going to be able to do just what I did, not because it was my devotional, but because we opened the Bible together as a family.”
Dennis: The family was God’s first discipleship unit. He starts the Bible with it—a husband and a wife were meant to multiply a godly legacy. It's our assignment. God gives us children. He blesses us with them. We are not merely to just have children that take up a place on the planet; but we are to, hopefully, imprint them with the truth from God’s Word, introduce them to Jesus Christ, and give them the opportunity to respond to Him. This is one of the greatest privileges parents have, which is to introduce their children to God, and to Jesus Christ, and His saving grace. I just encourage parents, “You know what? Step past all of Bob’s obstacles that he had here”—
Bob: Hey, wait! You had a few of them yourself—
Dennis: I had a few, but you won. You had more than I did!
But to, “Step past it, face their fears, and just do it! And you know what? It is better to hit three days out of seven than zero out of seven, week, after week, after week, after—try it—even if you fail and only hit it a couple of times a week. You know what? That’s better than not doing it at all.”
I just appreciate your emphasis here, Marty. I appreciate you making it a whole lot easier on us as parents, and I think a lot of families are going to benefit from Long Story Short. And what—you got another one coming?
Marty: We do—Old Story New—and we, also, for toddlers, have a children’s Bible—the Gospel Story Children’s Bible. So, if your kids aren’t anywhere near the reading stage, you can use that with them. It’s got a lot of pictures.
Bob: And, you know, if there are parents who look at all of those material and go, “I would like to give it a try first,” on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com, we have got a link that will take you to the first few lessons from Long Story Short. You can download those and try those out with your family and see how they go. If it goes well and the family likes it, then come back online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Go ahead and order a copy of Marty’s book called Long Story Short—family devotions from the Old Testament—take you all the way through the story of the Old Testament. It gives you and your children a good overview of what God was doing with his people during the Old Testament years.
And when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com, in addition to Marty’s book, we also have additional resources for families—things like the Seeds Family Worship CDs, where you and your children can learn the Scriptures together through some great songs; story books for kids; other resources that are available; and Barbara Rainey’s new devotional, Growing Together in Truth. All of it is online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or call toll-free at 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” We can get you more information about the resources that are available and how you can get them.
And I mentioned Barbara’s new devotional book. She has written a series of devotionals for families, The Growing Together series. She started with a book on gratitude, then a book on courage. This new one called Growing Together In Truth is designed to reinforce the idea that there is absolute truth, and that we need to stand firm, and that real faith is believing what God has said is true, and living your life in accordance with what you believe.
We are making that new devotional, Growing Together in Truth, available this week to those of you who can make a donation to help support FamilyLifeToday. We are listener-supported—so those donations are how we cover the cost of producing and syndicating this daily radio program. If you can make a donation this week online at FamilyLifeToday.com, just type the word, “TRUTH,” in the key code box on the online donation form and we will send you a copy of Barbara’s new devotional; or call 1-800-FLTODAY. Make your donation over the phone; and again, we will send out a copy of the Growing Together in Truth devotional from Barbara Rainey. It's our way of saying, “Thank you,” for your support of the ministry of FamilyLifeToday. We appreciate hearing from you.
Now, we hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend. I hope you can join us back on Monday when we are going to talk about the phenomenon of older children who are wandering from the faith as they leave home after they graduate from high school—head to college or wherever they are heading. “What’s going on?” We are going to try to tear that apart a little bit with a couple of guests on Monday, and I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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