Sunday night Nanci and I returned from the Christian Book Expo in Dallas where I did a number of book signings, and was involved in three upfront presentations/panels. One was with Alex and Brett Harris, authors of Do Hard Things who have the great site www.therebelution.com. Great guys. Really enjoyed our time together.
Then in the afternoon Liz Curtis Higgs and I did a presentation about drawing people to Scripture through fiction. Lizzy is one of the funniest people on the planet, so I asked her to go first, making my job easy. Liz, who is not only a great speaker but a fine writer of both nonfiction and fiction (a rare combination), is also very deep and insightful.
The other main event was a Christianity Today sponsored panel on Heaven and Hell, with four of us as panelists: Sam Storms, Don Piper (author of 90 Minutes in Heaven), and the man sitting on my right, Dr. J. I. Packer. There are a lot of people I respect, but not many I’m in awe of. Dr. Packer is one of them. (You can watch the entire panel discussion.)
When Knowing God came out in 1973, I was a young Christian. God used it in my life profoundly. It is still one of my top five books of all time. If you haven’t read it, order it now and get ready for a treat. Read anything and everything by J. I. Packer. But start with Knowing God.
So thirty-six years after reading Knowing God as a teenager, it was surreal a few days ago to be chatting and drinking Starbucks and hanging out with Dr. Packer before the panel started. Then during the panel discussion he reached in his briefcase and pulled out my big Heaven book, and read from it! And not because he disagreed, which was initially the only reason I could think of for him referring to it. True, he did tell me a few years ago he’d read Money, Possessions and Eternity and appreciated it, but apparently I didn’t believe him.
Okay, J. I. Packer reading from my Heaven book was REALLY too much. Then when he made a nice comment about my book, apparently my jaw dropped, because people started laughing. At one point later in the panel discussion Dr. Packer answered a question, then leaned over and looked at me sincerely, whispering, “Do you think that was right?”
What I thought was, “You are J. I. Packer. I am an idiot.” What I said, nodding my head too emphatically, was “Yes.”
Those who read my post The Christian Book Expo, and "Stunned by J.I. Packer" might be interested in checking out the entire video of the panel discussion "A Guided Tour of Heaven and Hell." It's a ninety minute panel, but Dr. Packer's part that stunned me was toward the end of his opening statement. If you break in at about twenty minutes into the session and watch it for a couple of minutes you'll see it, and my reaction.