Book Review: “The Zimzum of Love” by Rob & Kristen Bell


The Zimzum of Love is Rob Bell’s newest book, and is co-authored with his wife Kristen.

When I found out that Bell was writing a book on marriage, I was extremely interested in how he would unpack the subject. Like it was with so many of Bell’s other books, like: Velvet Elvis, Sex God, Jesus Wants to Save Christians and What We Talk About When We Talk About God, I was really looking forward to his Biblical and historical exposition of the subject matter, but instead this book merely makes a few light nods towards the Bible.

I will say that the main idea for the book, the Hebrew word “tzimtzum”, is an interesting and helpful illustration on the relationship between two people. It refers to the space between two people, and that everything you put into that space will greatly impact your relationship (ie. words, attitudes, actions, inaction), but ultimately I just felt it wasn’t enough to carry the book. I think the main idea of the book could have been a great blog post or even a magazine article. Overall I found the book to be more of a basic self help marriage book. Learning about Rob and Kristen’s story was cool and even pretty funny at times, but I found the format of the back and forth between them to be a little clunky.

The best way I can explain my feelings about this book is, it’s like when you have a band you really like listening to, and you’ve got all their albums, but when you talk through the catalogue of albums there’s always that one record that you just can’t seem to get in to. This is that album for me.

If you’re looking for an outstanding book on marriage, I would highly recommend Tim & Kathy Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage (see review HERE) or another challenging read on Christian marriage is Francis & Lisa Chan’s You and Me Forever (see review HERE).

[Note: Although this review of Bell’s new book was not overly positive, please do not misunderstand this post to be one against Bell himself. I have bought all his books and really enjoy reading him.]


Book Review: “You and Me Forever” by Francis & Lisa Chan

you and me forever

Since reading Francis Chan’s first book Crazy Love, which had a profound impact on my faith, I’ve read everything he’s written since. You and Me Forever is Chan’s newest book, which is co-authored with his wife Lisa, and is on the subject of marriage.

At first glance, the title of the book and it’s main premise, “marriage is great, but it’s not forever”, seem to contradict each other, but as you read on you’ll discover that they go hand in hand.

Like Crazy Love was a “good uncomfortable” for your personal walk with Jesus, You and Me Forever is a “good uncomfortable” for your understanding of marriage.

If you prefer reading fluffy, feel good books on marriage, you will not find that here. I found this book to be very challenging to my understanding of a Biblical marriage and how to practically live it out.

One highlight for me was the chapter on parenting. As a soon to be first time parent, this chapter was both encouraging and challenging. This quote beautifully captures the heart of the chapter: “Make sure the mission of God is the priority in your life. Let your kids see, and give them opportunities to join you in serving God. As they experience the joy of serving, the hope is that they will still be serving Him faithfully long after you are gone” (p. 168-169).

Here are a few additional quotes from the book that stood out to me:

  • “…most marriage problems are not really marriage problems. They are God problems. They can be traced back to one or both people having a poor relationship with God or a faulty understanding of Him” (p. 20-21).
  • “Can you really call your marriage ‘good’ if your focus on your family keeps you from making disciples, caring for the poor, reaching out to the lost, and using your talents and resources for others?” (p. 116)
  • “Marriage-centered marriages have become accepted and applauded rather than Christ-centered ones” (p. 117).

You and Me Forever will greatly challenge and expand your view of marriage. It will force you to see marriage through the eyes of eternity and being lived out as disciples of Jesus whose primary mission is to make disciples.

I would definitely recommend this book if you are looking for a challenging read on the subject of marriage from the Christian perspective. In classic Chan style, the book is thick with scripture and it also has great reflection questions at the end of each chapter. I think this book is a powerful resource for those who are already engaged or married, but also an outstanding book for those who are single.

For additional information and resources on this book, check out:

* This book can be downloaded for FREE from the above website. 


Book Review: “The Wrong Jesus” by Greg Monette

the wrong jesus

After hearing good things about this book on Twitter, and finding out that the author is from the city I’ll soon be living in, I decided to check it out.

The Wrong Jesus (2014) is written by Greg Monette (PhD cand), and it explores the person of Jesus through history, archeology, and tradition.

The Wrong Jesus addresses eleven great questions, including:

  • Did Jesus Really Exist?
  • What Are Our Main Sources for Knowing About Jesus?
  • Has the Text of the New Testament Changed Over Time?
  • Did Jesus Think He Was God?
  • Did Jesus Come Back From the Dead?

One of the highlights of the book for me, is the honestly and transparency of the author. If there are certain historical or scriptural difficulties, Monette doesn’t gloss over them and doesn’t ask his readers to simply have an uninformed and uneducated faith. This level of honesty may be disarming for some readers, but I found it to be very refreshing and it displays the intellectual integrity of the author.

For those who love digging deeper into the content of a book, at the close of each chapter Monette gives a number of great reflection/discussion questions and a list of recommended books for further reading. Although lots of books add a set of reflection/discussion questions at the end of a chapter, Monette asks some great questions that go beyond simply summarizing or regurgitating the content, but leads the reader to wrestle with and apply the information just read.

I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to learn more about Jesus. This book is for the unbeliever, the skeptic, the new believer, and the long time faithful believer. Although The Wrong Jesus is a very scholarly work, Monette is an engaging author, and you will find this book to be very accessible.

For more information on the author, check out his website

For a great talk from Monette on ‘faith and doubt’, click HERE.

Book Review: “Essential Atlas of the Bible” by Carl G. Rasmussen


The Zondervan Essential Atlas of the Bible by Carl G. Rasmussen (2013) is a small (159 pages) yet very dense, visually impressive, and user friendly Bible atlas.

The book is divided between a ‘Geographical’ section, and a ‘Historical’ section and contains 200 multidimensional maps and full color images, uses modern mapping technologies, and is full of chronological charts, background information, and much more.

Essential Atlas is an excellent tool for both personal study of scripture and for preaching and teaching. For preachers who like to paint a picture of the geographical and historical contexts of the scripture they are unpacking, this would be a great resource. At the back of the atlas there is both a scripture and a subject index which adds to the ease of use and its value for teaching and preaching.

The photo’s used throughout the atlas are excellent and incredibly interesting. For those of us who have never travelled overseas, and may not get to, these pictures give us a glimpse into the places we’ve only read about in the Bible. The great number of maps are also very helpful in giving a visual of the battles, borders, and journeys we find in scripture.

I would definitely recommend the Zondervan Essential Atlas of the Bible as a useful reference tool for anyone who is serious about digging deeper into the world we imagine in our minds eye as we read or hear scripture read. This book will definitely enhance your study of scripture and understanding of its history and cultural context.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255. 

Book Review: “Pulling Back the Shades” by Dannah Gresh & Dr. Juli Slattery

pulling back the shades

Pulling Back the Shades is written by Dannah Gresh & Dr. Juli Slattery and is a somewhat indirect response to the popularity of the book series Fifty Shades of Grey, and the subsequent explosion of that genre of literature.

When originally contacted to review this book I was very hesitant to agree to read it, as I was sure this was just going to be an under researched, angry, ultraconservative Christian’s response to secular culture, but thankfully I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Dannah Gresh is the founder of Pure Freedom and bestselling author of And the Bride Wore White and What Are You Waiting For?

Dr. Juli Slattery is a clinical psychologist, cofounder of Authentic Intimacy and coauthor of Passion Pursuit.

Right from the start the authors are very open that Gresh has chosen not to read the Fifty Shades of Grey series out of personal conviction, but Dr. Slattery has. Both authors are very open about their own lives and struggles and also incorporate numerous stories of others.

The main focus of the book is the connection between a woman’s spirituality and her sexuality, and how erotica seeks to exploit women based on their natural longings. Although the book is targeted towards women, as a man I found it fascinating to learn how similar pornography aimed at men and erotic books aimed at women are. They are simply different vehicles designed to do the same thing, with the same devastating results. Both of these avenues of escape are a perversion of God’s intended purpose for our sexuality and desire for human and spiritual connection.

“The end result of living in fantasy is disillusionment, dissatisfaction, and ungratefulness in reality. If you desperately desire to have a fulfilling love life, to be alive and satisfied, erotica will not get you there” (p. 37).

“Erotica…is aimed at awakening your physical sexual desire without any connection to emotional, relational, or spiritual reality” (p. 46).

The authors speak very candidly and this is not an ultraconservative discussion on sex. Throughout the book they address numerous questions about sex for both single and married women, and some issues addressed include: pornography, bondage, dominance, sadism, and masochism. The shared stories of women who became consumed with fantasy and erotica are both sobering and heartbreaking.

I would highly recommend this book to women, especially if you are in the habit of reading erotica. It does a great job addressing a cultural issue through the eyes of scripture and really seeks to care for women both spiritually and sexually. The book offers hope for those who feel entrapped in fantasy and/or are experiencing unfulfilling sex lives, and even has an added discussion guide at the back for book study groups.

* I received this book through Icon Media Group for my honest review.

Book Review: “The Passion Principles” by Shannon Ethridge

The Passion Principles

The Passion Principles: Celebrating Sexual Freedom in Marriage is written by Shannon Ethridge, the author of the best selling Every Woman’s Battle series.

The Passion Principles is a very comprehensive discussion on sex in the context of marriage from a Christian worldview. The book is organized into 40 different questions covering various aspects of sex within a marriage: the spiritual, the mental, the emotional, and the physical. All questions are addressed to help give wisdom and guidance to both the husband and the wife. To bring some balance to the male/female perspective, Ethridge shares thoughts from her husband throughout the book.

I especially appreciated the author’s heart to see individuals and couples find wholeness and healing from past sexual hurts, trauma, and misinformation. She approaches painful subjects like abuse, extramarital affairs, and divorce with compassion, grace, and truth. To illustrate and educate the principles outlined in the book, she uses emails and stories from those she has counseled in the past and her own personal journey.

Ethridge is not shy on the subject of sex and those who would consider themselves to be more conservative, may find this book a little too open and honest. She is very transparent about her own past and struggles both before and after she got married, but in my opinion she isn’t unnecessarily explicit for the most part. Although scripture is used throughout the book, I wouldn’t call this a definitive theological treatment on the subject of sex.

Overall I would say that this is a great and practical resource for both those in premarital counseling and those who are already married, regardless of whether or not you are struggling with intimacy in your marriage.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Book Review: “Fields of Gold” by Andy Stanley

fields of gold

Fields of Gold by Andy Stanley is a small book, but it’s a great book on learning to view “our” financial resources as being God’s and an opportunity to invest in what He is doing in our world.

The book is based on an illustration of a farmer seeding fields of wheat. One of the main themes running through the book is that the reason we often don’t allow God to be in control of our finances is not because we are greedy, but rather because we are afraid. We’re afraid of not having enough if something ever happened. We’re afraid to allow God to be the supplier of our needs and so we depend on ourselves to be our own provider. Unfortunately this fear leads us to not experiencing the blessings of God personally, and we even miss out on being used by God to be a blessing to others.

Stanley does a great job using scripture throughout and reinforcing the truth that all we have, all belongs to Him. We are simply managers of what is His. Near the end of the book he unpacks various forms of giving, including: priority giving (giving to God comes first when we receive our paycheck), percentage giving (determining a percentage to give to God every paycheck), and progressive giving (growing that percentage over your lifetime).

Overall Fields of Gold is an outstanding introduction to the subject of tithes and offering (giving / generosity). This is a great resource for teaching on giving, and would be perfect for those who are new to following Jesus and doing life together with other Christians.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book:

  • “When you became a Christian, you signed up for a completely different economic system.” (p. 31)
  • “…doesn’t that make it irrational to trust God for your eternal destiny, yet decline His invitation to direct your finances?” (p. 34)
  • “…giving to God’s work is not giving something away. It’s an investment, not a loss. The farmer who sows doesn’t lose seed. He gains a crop.” (p. 51)
  • “When you begin to embrace your role as a steward, you will be able to give from your heart. You’ll see yourself in partnership with God to accomplish eternal purposes…” (p. 83).