I was never one to blush at autographs. I don’t go stir crazy when I see any of my heroes. I guess I know that they are just men. Granted, they are great, godly men. But men nonetheless.
However, one evening a package arrived at my doorstep. I was expecting it. Sort of. After ripping through the cardboard and plastic, I held in my hand a rather tough book to find just a few weeks prior. I opened it to be surprised by a handwritten message to me. I don’t know this for a fact, but I think I blushed.
A few weeks before this moment, I received an email from the Master’s College announcing a new commentary on James unlike any others before it. Subtitled, A New Perspective, it really grabbed my interest. I was in the middle of writing a number of articles on the same book of the Bible and I found myself a tad bit afraid of what I was putting together primarily because I was not discovering the same things that many preachers and commentators of my past found.
For example, I was taught that James wrote a series of unattached, wisdom lessons with little difference from the proverbs. I also heard that his letter was empty of theology and rich with practicality. When I began studying it, I found the epistle to be quite unified. Though not like Paul’s typical style of writing, it is anything but choppy and loose. It is full of theology. The most upsetting thing was that it is the book of Jacob, not James, as read in the Greek.
Sure, it is probably self-seeking. But I found great comfort knowing that I could grab a book from an honorable professor who took these things into consideration. The extended title of the book told me so: A Linguistic Commentary Applying Discourse Analysis. And it came with ample recommendations.
The book was still not on the shelves in the bookstore, not even the virtual ones. So I asked my assistant to sniff out the source until we could get a copy. Nearly a month later, a phone conversation happened. My assistant on one end and the author on the other. They talked briefly and somehow my name was dropped as the creator of The Preacher’s Library. The author acknowledged that he was aware of the software and decided to mail me a free copy of the book.
All of this was in my mind as I opened the book for the first time. It was quite an experience. I know that it may sound cheesy to you. (It does to me.) But it was really a memorable experience. Maybe I’m shallow or a big book nerd. I don’t know. I know this, if the book was not so academic, I would continue to blush each time I turn a page reading. Thank God it makes me think so deeply. My wife might get jealous!
But enough about me.
The book is called, The Book of James: A New Perspective. It is written by Dr. William Varner, a Professor at the Master’s College and Director of the college’s IBEX study program in Israel. Varner applies what he calls “discourse analysis” which, in layman’s terms, means the context of the entire book. You can think of it as one added step to what is commonly called The Historical-Grammatical Method of interpreting Scripture.
My plan here was not to review the book, but to let you in on a little personal experience. I’m still reading it and plan to do a number of writings that you might consider as reviews. But those will be written in the weeks to come.
So what is the point here? I’m not really sure. But maybe this attests to the idea that personal gifts can make a special impact on those who look up to us. Varner is a professor at one of the most dignified Christian colleges I know. This makes him a hero to me. Even more so now that I have the book. If nothing else, personal gifts might make them blush.