Telling the Story: The Jesus Storybook Bible

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I’ve been hearing about this children’s Bible called The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones for a year or so now, first from Ben Shive, then from a smattering of others whose opinions I respect on such matters.  One night last week Jamie and I were putting our sweet Skye to bed (she’s 6 now), and we were talking to her about Christmas.  I’d been gearing up to leave for tour and with the first Sunday of Advent fast approaching we wanted to find out what she thought.  Jamie asked her who was born on Christmas morning, and Skye answered, “Um…Noah?”

storybook-bible.jpgThis was upsetting.  So much so that I had to leave the room.  How, I wondered, had this little girl grown up in our house without knowing the answer to that most central of questions?  Well, there are a lot of reasons.  If we’d asked her the same thing ten minutes earlier when she was a little more awake, she probably would’ve answered correctly without hesitation.  Also, she’s child number three in our house–you know how the first kid’s baby book us chock-full of information?  You save every scrap of paper and write down every precious memory.  By the time the third kid comes along it’s all you can do to remember your first name, let alone what was playing on the radio when she picked her nose the first time.  Skye’s baby book is sadly blank.

I’m afraid the same thing may have happened with our Bible storytelling.  Understand, I read the Bible to my kids.  We even act out the different stories when we’re finished.  But I’ve always noticed that Skye is busy giggling at her older brothers, or she’s the first of the brood to fall asleep when we’re reading.  It made me wonder if maybe I hadn’t spent enough one-on-one time, curled up in her bed in those tender minutes before she drifts away, impressing the words of the Lord on the clay of her soul.  Or maybe (and it humbles me to say this) I’m not telling the story in a way that captures her imagination.  Girls are into pink unicorns.  I am not.

I decided that night that something had to be done.  I would take measures to ensure my daughter’s biblical understanding.  I would pick up The Jesus Storybook Bible as soon as I could lay my hands on it.  Just a few nights ago we played a Christmas concert in Michigan City, IN, and Ben told me that he saw the very book in the church’s bookstore.  I traded a copy of On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness with the pastor for it, and I can’t help thinking that I got the infinitely better deal.  I curled up in my bunk on the bus that night and read:

“No, the Bible isn’t a list of rules, or a book of heroes.  The Bible is most of all a Story.  It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure.  It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne–everything–to rescue the one he loves.  It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life!

You see, the best thing about this Story is–it’s true.

There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one Big Story.  The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.

It takes the whole Bible to tell this Story.  And at the center of the Story, there is a baby.  Every Story in the Bible whispers his name.  He is like the missing piece in a puzzle–the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together, and suddenly you can see a beautiful picture.”

I got home just tonight for a day of rest, and after we had read from Luke and lit the Advent candle, I sat by my daughter on the couch where she could see the pictures, and I read those words.  Right when I got to the part about the Prince leaving his palace and his throne–leaving everything–I had that all-too-familiar lump rising in my throat, the lump that rises whenever the goodness of the Gospel warms my bones.  I saw my daughter’s eyes.  I saw that she heard me.  And I pray that her little girl heart was soft enough to let the light of that Story shine in.

As a singer-songwriter and recording artist, Andrew has released more than ten records over the past fifteen years. His music has earned him a reputation for writing songs that connect with his listeners in ways equally powerful, poetic, and intimate. He has also followed his gifts into the realm of publishing. His books include the four volumes of the award-winning Wingfeather Saga.


34 Comments

  1. Jayson

    A touching endorsement. Both this and the “Big Picture Storybook Bible” (similar idea just bigger pictures and fewer words) have served our family well.

  2. Andrew

    Thanks for sharing this, Andrew. It is a constant desire of mine, not only for the Gospel to live through every part of our lives and experience with our children, but also for the beautiful stories of God’s pursuit of us to flood into their hearts in ways that captivate them. Of course that happens in individual ways or languages for each child, each person. What a wonderful resource this looks like. Thanks for the encouragement and the recommendation.

  3. kevin

    I have a six year old and two five year olds, all girls. They are into princesses. They have it on their brains. There is much pink, much cat-fighting and much cuddling in my house. I’ve been thinking about this kind of stuff for about 6.5 years now. How can I present to them an irresistible Christ? A Christ that is cooler than princesses and Barbie, cooler than cartoons and hot chocolate?

    I’m still in process on this one, but one of the main things we try to emphasize in our house is: Barbie is not real, monsters are not real, Santa is not real, Narnia is not real… Jesus is REAL, I mean REAL. REEEEEAAAAAL. Every story gets this same ending. God forbid that my children be disillusioned about Christ’ existence because I told them there’s this guy who goes around spreading presents on Christmas eve… and then they find out the truth. If you do, that’s cool. I just want to avoid any possible screw-up on the subject of Christ and His Gospel.

    The Jesus Storybook Bible is one tool that I am so thankful for. I knew it was great when the story of The Tower of Babel made tear up. And can anything be bad from someone with the last name of Lloyd-Jones anyway? She really does a good job bringing it all back to the REAL story. We as as the church miss it sometimes. David and Goliath is about figuring out who your Goliath is, Noah is about animals and Jonah is just plain cool. But we miss the REALITY for the shadow. It’s all about Christ, everything page, every word, every story, and Lloyd-Jones did a bang-up job on her book, if you ask me. It’s evident when I choke up on every story.

    On a secondary note, I comment here in the hopes that the proprietor may read this somewhere, somehow, and be encouraged.

    This past Saturday I drove 3.5 hours to Conn. to hear the Behold the Lamb of God concert for the second time. Last year it was the best Christmas concert I have ever heard, no contest. Professional, humble and Gospel-soaked.

    But this year, I sat there on the third row, bookended by some folks I brought that I thought might need it: a struggling alcoholic, a heroic addict and a guy who hasn’t seen his kids in a month because he can’t find his wife.

    Mr. Petersen, you and your buddies were used that night. I knew it was true when the first song was “Hosanna”. I wondered if you wrote it for them, really. Song after song hammered out God’s love, faithfulness and mercy, and then sometimes a little humor. (That’s good to hear too). I have had, and anticipate many discussions with my friends sparked because of that night.

    So we read about Him, we write about Him, we sing about Him, because there is nothing else we can do. Lloyd-Jones book isn’t the only thing that should revolve around my Jesus. My singing, my writing, my livin’, lovin’ and cuddlin’ are all about Him, the true Story. I try, try, try, from every angle to get others to see His beauty like I’ve been gripped by it, but I don’t fret too much about it. That’s because I know that my trying is all part of His plan, and that’s how He has chosen to affect others, through the medium of me. The seeds will grow where He waters them, and it will be awfully cool when I get to watch them bloom.

    So thank you, Mr. Petersen, thank you Mrs. Lloyd-Jones, and thank you Jesus Christ for them, but most of all, for yourself, the TRUE story and the “first star of the evening” :). Mr. Shive, you choked me up on that one, too.

  4. Sally Lloyd-Jones

    Hi Andrew

    I came across your blog via a google alert thing and thought I’d stop by and say Hi.

    I’m delighted to have found the Rabbit Room. What a fantastic site and resource.

    Thanks for your review of the book–I’m so glad you and Skye are enjoying the book. It’s God’s Wonderful Story–and my honor to have had a small part in retelling it for children.

    On the pink unicorn obsession… Part of why I wrote the book was seeing my small nieces playing princesses and being so into pink. And my initial reaction was how sweet; my next reaction was oh dear; and then my truer reaction was… wait.

    At first it made me sad–knowing their wonder and hope and joy at the thought of a prince and being a princess would just be dashed as they grew and encountered real life. But then I came across Chesterton on Fairytales. And began to think–what if these small girls are in touch with something deeply true about the nature of things. And more real than real life.

    We were always meant to fly. We will be awoken with a kiss. There is a prince.

    Some great quotes…

    “Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” G K Chesterton

    “The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.

    Exactly what the fairy tale does is this: it accustoms him for a series of clear pictures to the idea that these limitless terrors had a limit, that these shapeless enemies have enemies, that these strong enemies of man have enemies in the knights of God, that there is something in the universe more mystical than darkness, and stronger than strong fear.” G.K. Chesterton

    “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” Albert Einstein

    Anyway, Andrew, it’s great to meet you. And thanks again.

    Sally
    sallylloyd-jones.com

    PS you and Skye may be interested to know about some cool resources on my site connected with the book (including some of the stories on audio, downloadable stories, interviews and reviews, et.c) as well as other children’s books (including one in particularly that Skye in particular might love since it’s pink, involves princesses and is an exciting adventure in three episodes disguised as a pink handbag)

    PPS was already a fan of yours on fb. Promise!

  5. PaulH

    I feel so guilty for not make it more of a point to explain the basics to my kids. There is this attitude I have had that as long as we go to church and my wife and I talk about bible stories here and there, the kids should be up to speed.
    I know this is not so and more dangerously it is a misconception to have.

    I have had the honor of leading all my kids to Jesus, and with that the explaination and conformation but have I helped embed the Gospel in them? i feel an urgency to make sure and be more safe than sorry. Thanks Andrew for the recommendation and for sounding the alarm for me.

  6. Dan White

    Great post; heartwarming and woven together nicely.
    That story echos mine in amazing detail (except for the touring around the country part). My two boys can tell the stories of the Bible better than their Sunday school teachers and with more detail, b/c I’ve been reading to them nearly every night since our oldest son was about 18 months old (He’s almost 7 now). If I sound boastful, it’s b/c this is one of my most treasured accomplishments. We’ve worn out 2 children bibles–they’re literally falling apart) and are now reading through the NIrV (which has good and bad attributes).
    Our daughters on the other hand (2-1/2 & 13 mo. old) have not had the same privilege. It’s not that I’m sexist, it’s just that it’s hard enough for Tammy and I to get all 4 of them to bed and settled down, much less fit another bible story into the mix. When I do make time to read to our oldest daughter, it’s with less enthusiasm and dramatic effect than the stories my boys have heard. Part of the problem is that Children’s Bible’s get rather boring to me after the 3rd or 4th read. I press on b/c its not about my enjoyment its about shaping their hearts, but it feels like work. I’m looking forward to picking up The Jesus Storybook Bible.
    Your post also reminded me that while my boy’s enjoy adventure, slayings, bold prophets, and surprising twists, my little girl will treasure something different in the story of God’s redemption. It’s my job to bring those elements of the story to light.
    Thanks Andrew.

    dan white

    P.S. Myself, Tammy (formerly Hoffmeier), her sisters, and their spouses plan to see Behold the Lamb in Largo this Fri. See you there.

  7. Chris R

    “By the time the third kid comes along it’s all you can do to remember your first name, let alone what was playing on the radio when she picked her nose the first time. Skye’s baby book is sadly blank”….. I am the 7th kid. Tell Skye if she ever has emotional issues related to this, she can talk to me about it 🙂

  8. Ken

    Just another vote for the Jesus Storybook Bible! Thanks Sally – what a fantastic way to illustrate the Great Story throughout all of the stories in the Bible. We love it! And out 100% All-Boy 3 year old loves it too. Not just for girls who love princesses and unicorns.

  9. Lulalu

    Wow. I know what to get my niece and nephew for Christmas now. And, maybe I need my own copy. That intro was beautiful. Perhaps I need that quote framed by my desk… you know, for those times when I get bogged down with stuff and forget what’s true.

    Can’t wait to see all you folks next week in Birmingham. It’s always great to slow down from all the holiday hustle and bustle to hear The TRUE Tall Tale of the Coming of Christ told.

  10. Jonathan Rogers

    @jonathanrogers

    Sally Lloyd-Jones on the Rabbit Room…How about that!? We;ve been very excited about the Jesus Storybook Bible and are getting a stack to give as Christmas gifts. Teacher gifts, actually. Let me add my endorsement to AP’s.

  11. Sally Lloyd-Jones

    Ken: so great a point you make. Absolutely. In fact it’s often the boys who are the most passionate about the book… well, it’s Jesus they are passionate about and that is SO cool

    (it’s fabulous to have connected with you all–what a great community this is)

  12. Leigh McLeroy

    I recently gave this book as a birthday gift to one of my favorite three year olds (yes, a girl). But I confess I read almost the whole thing myself before I wrapped it. I found it when it was paired with my own book on Amazon on one of those “People who bought x also bought y” kind of things. I don’t write children’s books, so I was intrigued and checked it out. I’m sure I’ll be giving more of them, to the boys and girls I’m lucky enough to love.

  13. Caroline

    Ah, I saw the cover of the Jesus Storybook Bible and knew I needed to comment!

    It was my Reformed University Fellowship pastor who recommended it to me when I asked him about children’s books to read along with my younger sister. He told me that when he prepared a sermon, he would look at the Jesus Storybook Bible for insight (along with his regular Bible, of course!). I picked it up — and the illustrations were lovely, of course.

    My sister is above the target age — she can definitely handle an adult Bible, as she is in middle school — but we both really enjoyed reading through the stories together. It was both convicting and beautiful to re-visit the stories I’d heard many times written like a fairy tale. I look forward to hopefully read this version with my children one day.

    Sally, thank you for your work on this book, and for your comments here — it’s always wonderful when authors weigh in on reviews.

  14. Joy C

    Yo Andrew, Thanks for making us aware of this book. I just bought it – I think I can adapt it to use with the women at the prison! Yay. And right now I’m using BTLOG with them! Thanks again.

  15. Michelle

    Andrew,
    Thanks for your perspective on this resource. As with others who’ve written, I have a stack of these Bibles, along with a stack of RL2 and Bugs and Slugs that are ready to be wrapped and shipped to basically everyone in my family and some friends. I made sure I had a copy for myself, and its been a part of my daily devotions (as recommended by a good friend of mine) in preparing my mind to meditate on a portion of scripture. Such a good way to focus my mind and captivate my heart. Sally, thank you!! and Jago! I love the illustrations, they are wonderful. And Andrew, for me, your music goes along so beautifully with these Bibles and I’m so excited to hear the reactions from friends and family when they receive these and get a chance to digest the truths of The Story brought out so faithfully in different ways in your music and Sally’s telling of the stories that make up the one and only true Story. Thank you!!

  16. Peter B

    Andrew, thanks yet again for the reminder. I’ve definitely been aware that my third (the first boy) has had less one-on-one interaction and instruction from me, but you’ve brought it once again to the forefront. Fortunately, he’s not two yet so we can make up for some lost time.

    Like some here, we started years ago with the Big Picture Story Bible, which is a fantastic introduction for kids… especially younger (2-4) kids, as our girls were. The Jesus Storybook Bible was sort of the next step up from that a few years later, and a year or so before the Children’s ESV. It maintains the focus of the BPSB but gives more detail in more stories.

    I particularly liked reading the Rachel and Leah chapter with my daughters.

  17. John Gullett

    I’m new to this site, but I was thrilled to see this post. Our copy is already well worn from many readings to our children (3-yr-old girl, 4-yr-old boy), but I’ve also used The Jesus Storybook Bible in lots of other contexts. I’ve read from it to adults countless times in counseling or discipleship settings (especially the story of the Fall) and in at least one sermon. Recently a friend borrowed our copy (hers had not yet arrived in the mail) so that she could read from it to her teenage friends at Young Life.

    In fact, many of Sally Lloyd-Jones’ phrases have become part of our every day conversations. My wife and I will frequently encourage one another with the simple gospel promise “it will not always be so.” And I love what seems to be Lloyd-Jones’ translation of the Hebrew word “hesed” as God’s “never stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always and forever love.”

    Blessings,
    John

  18. John Gullett

    Sally,
    Thanks for your great post on fairy tales. I love the Chesterton quotes. I also thought of Tolkien’s “On Fairy Stories,” which makes the same point (though at much greater length :).

    With appreciation,
    John

  19. PJW

    I became a first time grandmother two and a half years ago and was on the prowl for a good Bible story book. I, too, found The Jesus Storybook Bible on Amazon and knew upon reading the sub-title that “every story whispers his name” was going to have a better angle than most. The acknowledgment to Dr. Timothy Keller for his influence didn’t hurt either. The Lloyd-Jones approach reminds me of a quote by Frederick Buechner in a book edited by Leland Ryken called *The Christian Imagination: The Practice of Faith in Literature and Writing*. In the chapter called “The Gospel as Fairy Tale” Buechner says: ” That is the Gospel, this meeting of darkness and light and the final victory of light. That is the fairy tale of the Gospel with, of course, the one crucial difference from all other fairy tales, which is that the claim made for it is that it is true, that it not only happened once upon a time but has kept on happening ever since and is happening still…and the ones who are to live happily ever after are…all who labor and are heavy laden, the poor naked wretches wheresoever they be.”

  20. Michelle Darsey

    To Andrew: Just so you know that your daughter is not alone; my sister works at a Christian school as a teacher and she says that a significant amount of her classroom children when asked the question who’s the baby in the manger respond with Moses.
    I was reading 2 Samuel chapter 22 the other day, David is declaring the greatness of God and the character of God, then in verse 36 he says “you stoop down to make me great.” In the context of the writing David is speaking in terms of battle, but within the context of all we know of God which David did not know at the time… Emmanuel… the incarnation… our Christ, the tears began to well. Somehow in my Christian experience I never thought much about the sacrifice of God leaving all he had ever known; uninhibited power, untarnished beauty, total love, and the list could go on and on, to come here. I mean I had spoken about how Jesus left glory to come and die on the cross for my sins. However, what I focused on was his death for my sins (which I understand that along with the resurrection is the basis of Christianity), but I think to miss the fact that it was a great sacrifice for him to come, to leave all that was worthy of who He was is to miss a greater understanding of His love for us. There was something about the word stoop that made me get it. Even now the adequate words are not there to descibe the feelings this tiny verse in 2 Samuel evokes within me.
    On a personal note thanks for (you and the whole gang) taking the time away from your family to tour with The Behold The Lamb of God tour. I recently had the priveledge to hear you in Lexington, KY. Thank you for your personal sacrifices to tell the story of Jesus.
    Last thing I wanted to say, if I mis-spelled anything, please look over it. I am a horrible speller, but I hear Einstein was as well:)

  21. kelli

    Andrew…thank you so much for your recommendation of this storybook Bible! After hopping around from here to Sally’s blog, to amazon, back to Sally’s blog to listen to her read 6 of the stories, I finally ended up on Amazon and ordered one for each of my daughters (7 & 5).

    I very seldom even open storybook Bibles any more. I’ve been so disappointed at how most of them are done. But Sally’s is absolutely beautiful!

    Thank you, again!
    Journeying down this road of parenting with you…kelli

  22. Luke

    I thank Sara and Toby Groves for the introduction to The Jesus Storybook Bible. “It’s True” on Sara’s Christmas CD includes young Toby reading two excerpts from “The Light of the Whole World Story.” Toby’s sweet, angelic, enthusiastic, and confident voice enriched the already rich words and found a place in my heart. A quick review of the liner notes led me to the Storybook Bible … a quick Google path took me to reviews and Sally’s blog, which all confirmed the value of this work and I raced to Amazon to order our new favorite Christmas gift.

    Any chance that Sara would sing “It’s True” in the round at the BTLOG concert at the Ryman (of course, with Toby reading from the Storybook Bible)?

    By the way, I highly recommend Sara’s Christmas CD (as I do ALL of her CDs).

    Blessings to all.

  23. Tony Heringer

    Barilman,
    Moses could have been born on Christmas day. The Bible doesn’t say. We know Jesus wasn’t born on Christmas day, we just celebrate His birth on December 25th. Since you are a clever dad, perhaps she was thinking this was a trick question? 🙂

    We are well past this age, but I picked this up Sunday for some friends who have a toddler at the recommendation of the proprietor of our church bookstore. Her recommendation was enough, but the ringing endorsements here put it on my list for similar occasions.

    Sally, great interview on your website:
    http://sallylloyd-jones.com/JSBB.html Tim Keller gave it thumbs up too, this book is getting all the props. You go girl!

    To comment on the post that was stressing giving “reality” to the kids. I get where you are coming from on Santa Claus. However, I think stories (Santa included), even Bible stories, are what baptize the imaginations of the little ones. Stories give them what Spurgeon called “hooks to hang truth on.”

    If you look at this book, I’m not sure the little ones are going to have the spiritual maturity to discern between this and “Goodnight Moon” or “Veggietales.” We are not showing them literal pictures of Jesus here. It is animated, so that’s not the real Jesus, just an approximation that a child can grasp. The Postmodern world is full of stories and the Bible can fall into that category if that’s all it ever is to the children.

    They get “real” from mom, dad and others in everyday life. If we live life in light of the Gospel, it will shine forth into the hearts and minds of the little ones. We’ve got God’s Word on that. Don’t worry about screwing up your kids, you will make mistakes and so will they. None of us are perfect – including the kids. But the Bible guarantees us that “love covers a multitude of sins” which is likely the greatest verse in the Bible as it relates to parenting or any other human relationship I can think of.

  24. kevin

    Tony- I always appreciate your comments in the RR, for you must surely be wise and aged, and at least have kids older than mine.

    My concern is not with their knowledge of the Santa Claus story, or with stories in general. The key issue for me is whether or not I tell my kids, “Santa is REAL, and Jesus is REAL.”. I just can’t do it.

    We read stories, make up stories, and I feed my kids bull all the time. It’s big fun, and I get “poopadooped”, our word for “you’re full o’ crap, dad”, all the time. But at the end of it all, I labor to be crystal clear whether I am telling them to believe in a thing as truth or not. Truth is a precious thing in a culture that believes it’s a fairy tale. The truth/tale distinction must be made consciously.

    When I read AP’s book to my kids, they need to know, at least at some point, that it’s not the same as the Jonah account. When we read The Dark Sea, they hear, “this is a story”, and when they hear the Exodus account, they hear “this is real, it really happened”. I think that’s important, because I must be the anchor for the their understanding of truth, especially with our PM worldview.

    It IS a comforting thing, though, to know that kids are resilient, and that parenting is a chronic condition, and that God is working His will according to His pleasure. Who knows, I may wish I did something different ten years from now. Maybe I’ll adopt.

  25. Connie Solomon

    I bought this book for my granddaughter after reading your review but she left it when she went back home & instead of sending it to her I have been reading it to her on Skype each week and she & I are loving it. It has become my other devotional book. I have used it for kids Upward devotions, at a Women’s retreat & at a youth detention facility & I have seen the ohh I get it looks from all ages when I’ve read from this book. I don’t fret over the interpetation when I present the Gospel I just share it while I’m worshipping Him with my life. It’s hard not to be humble when your reading the gospel from a children’s book in fact its easy to forget the years of studying and accolades of fellow believers. It’s a Christmas gift of humility from God that won’t collect dust. Thank-you.

  26. sevenmiles

    We’re reading to this our kids every night and loving it. I am so thankful for this site sharing it with me. I don’t think my kids saw me, but I had tears in my eyes at the end of the opening story as my own heart came a little bit more alive with joy of this “true tall tale.”

  27. Thistlefur

    I love this site. I love these books and music that we discuss here. And I can’t wait to meet each and every one of you. Good thing we have eternity in heaven because I think I’ll just explode with all of the people/things/ideas I want to discuss/listen to…with our Big Brother at the lead… 🙂

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