Two days ago the vans and buses of Capernaum Week at Lost Canyon pulled away and I wrapped up speaking to hundreds of my new friends. While the week was full of so many blessings and lessons learned (about Capernaum ministry and myself), I want to talk about the Jesus Storybook Bible.
The Jesus Storybook Bible (JSB) is a collection of 44 stories from the Old and New Testaments which highlight that “every story whispers His name”. It is important to note that the JSB does not attempt to be a formal translation of the Bible (I will comment on that more in a later post). Instead, the JSB captures the overarching heart and message of the gospel of Jesus through 44 biblical stories.
The JSB has won many awards, not just for its commercial success, but for its quality content. Tim Keller wrote: “I would urge not just families with young children to get this book, but every Christian–from pew warmers, to ministry leaders, seminarians and even theologians!” (For more see here, here, and here.) While I am not Tim Keller, I am a pew warmer, ministry leader, seminary graduate, and a theology professor/theologian, so I can attest that I agree with Keller!
Note: For my club talks I used the Jesus Storybook Bible without the pictures so it was easier for me to read. You can find that here.
I would like to highlight 3 reasons why I loved using the Jesus Storybook Bible in my Capernaum Club Talks.
1. The JSB Has Clear, Concrete, Language
Santa Clarita Capernaum veteran John Pantellas gave me the incredible privilege to sit in his cabin time. One of the things I was struck by was the clear and concrete language my friends in the cabin time used. They did not tend to say: “I feel like I might be a part of what Jesus kinda did when he was on the cross.” They did say: “Jesus died for me. I am loved by Jesus.” Many statements in the cabin time conversations used the grammar of clear subjects (usually “I” or “Jesus”), verbs, and objects. The sentences tended to be short and to the point. I should add that, as with all people, everyone is different, but I noticed this trend in all of my conversations with campers.
The JSB uses clear and concrete language. For example, in Chapter 27, the story of “a little girl and a frail lady” (Jairus’ daughter and the bleeding woman), the JSB states: “But Jesus always had time. He reached out his hands and gently lifted her head. He looked into her eyes and smiled. ‘You believed,’ he said, wiping a tear from her eye, ‘and now you are well.’” If you re-read the preceding quote, note the clear grammatical syntax (e.g. He/reached/his hands, He/looked/into her eyes, You/believed). The clear and concrete language provides clarity and an efficacy of words that provide meaning without dilution.
2. The JSB Adds in the Basic Background Comments I Normally Add Anyway
Over the course of twenty years, my club talk style has settled into:
Bible verse / explanation
Bible verse / explanation
Bible verse / explanation (repeat)
Since I love studying the original languages, original context, and the interpretation of the Gospels throughout the history of the church, I delight in adding the “explanation” in the language of teenagers.
What I have found is that the JSB essentially takes the same approach and usually adds the most relevant and important tidbits that I explain. For example, in Chapter 30, the story of “the captain of the storm”, the following explanation is given about the disciples: “Now Jesus’ friends had been fishermen all their lives, but in all their years fishing on this lake they had never once seen a storm like this one. No matter how hard they struggled with their ropes and sails, they couldn’t control their boat.” In this example, the JSB provides the basic background information about the disciples’ boat/nautical expertise, and this is important because it helps us understand the desperation and fear they experienced.
As I will expand in a later post, no one should use the JSB as a short-cut to careful, detailed study of the text. However, I often found that the JSB made many of the same points I typically make, but in clearer and more concise language.
3. The JSB Has Frequent Heart-piercing Sentences
“And when God saw them he was like a new dad. ‘You look like me,’ he said. ‘You’re the most beautiful thing I’ve ever made!’” (Chapter 2, “the beginning: a perfect home”)
I simply can’t improve on the wording of the basic message of Gen. 1:26-27 in terms of simplicity and clarity. I’ve already used the words above from the JSB in my ‘traditional’ Young Life club talks at Lost Canyon. I’m a theology professor. I’ve written and lectured on the likeness and image of God countless times, I love expounding on the meaning of eikon and the related theologies of theosis, etc., etc. Yet, a club talk is not the place or time to introduce terms, concepts, and language that no one in the crowd understands. What we need is a clear, powerful, and true message put in words that go right to the heart… and to be honest, I need all the help I can get. Here are three more quotes that I love and that set up incredible conversations about Jesus:
Jesus heals the sick woman (Chapter 27): “’We don’t have time!’ Jesus’ friends said. But Jesus always had time.”
Jesus Calms the Storm (Chapter 30): “Did you forget who I Am? Did you believe your fears, instead of me?”
Cross (Chapter 39): “It wasn’t the nails that kept Jesus there. It was love.”
Clarity, context, and heart-piercing wording: Every club talk benefits from these things. The JSB might not be a perfect fit for every context, or every speaker, but the JSB worked really well for my Capernaum club talks all week long at Lost Canyon, and I’m leaning how to work in the most useful bits into my club talks for the other weeks here too. In a future post I’ll give more technical information about the JSB, but in the meantime, I’d recommend taking a good look at it for your next club talk.