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Book Review: David A. Peterson’s Receiving and Giving

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Reverend David Peterson’s new book Receiving and Giving is a beautiful testament to God’s true purpose in our lives and the purpose He holds for us. Peterson begins by telling us that: “In the Bible are 475 references to ‘blessing.’ Interestingly, there are only 309 references to ‘pray’ and a 109 more to ‘prayer.’ I take this difference to add gravity to God’s commitment to the act of blessing as His central occupation.”

Receiving and Giving by David A. PetersonPeterson continues by revealing how blessings from God surround us everywhere we look. One practice he recommends to prove this fact is that we ask God to show His love by picking a certain item and seeing how frequently it appears in our lives, whether it’s pedestrians in crosswalks, birds, or even unicorns. Peterson also relies heavily on scripture to confirm his message, discussing tales of how Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were blessed and showing the blessings offered in Jesus’ parables and the Sermon on the Mount.

But beyond biblical interpretation, the real meat of this book is the Bless Challenge that Peterson makes to his readers, namely to take every opportunity to provide blessings to others. Peterson states:

Those who accept The Bless Challenge are never bored and never adrift. No matter where they are, no matter who’s in front of them, and no matter what challenge they face, they always find an opportunity to receive and give God’s blessings in practical and compelling ways.

The world you live in right now needs someone like you to bless it. You are designed by God to receive and to pass along His blessings. The Bless Challenge is designed to sharpen the way you think and live in the world. God’s desire is to make the world a better place through you. The transformation of the world begins with your own transformation. The more broadly you receive and apply these principles across the whole range of your life, the more naturally you will transmit them into your corner of the world.

Throughout Receiving and Giving, Peterson discusses various types of blessings and how God blesses us, and then he offers ways to apply those blessings in our lives and the lives of others. Peterson does not expect us to work miracles in big ways because he knows miracles occur in small ways. Simply spending the time to eat a meal with someone is a way to bless him. To hold off from showing anger when someone makes a mistake is a way to bless—Peterson illustrates this blessing by recounting his own experience wrecking the family car and how his father kept his temper and trusted him with another vehicle.

I was most moved by the passages about the blessings that result from forgiveness which are deeply thoughtful and reveal the only power that can change the past:

Forgiveness causes blessings to glow in the dark. They say you can only live in the present and that you can’t change the past or the future, but that’s not true. Forgiveness changes both. Forgiveness frees us from what was and introduces us to what can be. Jesus taught that our most urgent responsibility toward others is to forgive. Practical experience also teaches that forgiving is some of the most difficult work that we ever do. That’s what makes forgiveness a blessing. It’s beyond the expected.

One amazing story Peterson tells of forgiveness is about a boy whose mother was killed in the World Trade Center during the 9/11 attacks and how that boy found it in his heart to forgive Osama Bin Laden.

Peterson also reveals the power of love that lies in blessings and that God is a loving, nurturing God always there to bless us when we let Him, no matter our faults:

You lie—and God blesses anyway. You cheat—and God blesses anyway. You give into temptation—and God blesses anyway. You are arrogant, vindictive, cold-hearted, and selfish—and God blesses anyway. You are habitually and intentionally disobedient—and God blesses anyway.

Peterson writes in an inspired fashion that flows beautifully from his pen and infiltrates the reader’s heart until the task of blessing feels like the most natural behavior in the world, and once we get into the habit of blessing, as I discovered after reading this book, blessing others is easy. We just have to be willing to find space in our busy lives to take a minute to bless others. Reading this book will convince you that it can be done and that it will be more than worthwhile.

For more information about David A. Peterson and Receiving and Giving, click here.

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