So let me talk about my son.
When my son Joshua was about fourteen years old, we were talking about God one night. This wasn’t uncommon, although (it pains me to admit) it seems to me now that we talked more about bands and movies than we talked about God.
Joshua had been baptized a few years earlier. That night, he told me that he knew that God was there, and that God loved him, and that he knew that Jesus had died for his sins. But now, as a teenager, dealing with teenaged temptation and guilt and shame, etc., he worried that if he died he would go to hell.
That night, I was thinking about Rich Mullins’s lyrics, as I often do. And I was thinking about Genesis 15, which is never far from my mind; that text is one of the touchstones of my theology.
That night, I told Josh about how great God’s love was for him. Telling him how, even though I loved him with all the love that I had, and would give my life for him, God loved him even more. That God’s love was so great that he had determined, before Josh was even born, that he would respond to Josh’s trust in him by saving him.
That God, even though he knew everything we would ever do, all the rotten stuff and sings we would ever commit, promised: “I belong to you, and YOU belong to me. And I’m not going to let you go.”
It was late in the evening, and our street on the hill above Grayson KY was dark. So I took Joshua outside and showed him the stars, and told him the story of Genesis 15.
How Abraham didn’t have any children when God called him, and how God had promised Abraham that he would have a son.
How Abraham followed God for decades without God giving him a son, until Abraham finally said, “I’m glad you’re with me, but isn’t it about time you got started on this ‘Son’ project?”
How 3,000 years ago, God had promised Abraham that he would be the father, not just of a nation, but of all the people of faith.
How God promised Abraham that this covenant didn’t depend on Abraham’s goodness, it depended on God’s.
How Jesus and everyone who follows him are part of the promise God made Abraham on that night in the desert, 3,000 years ago.
How, while Abraham was looking at those same stars that we were looking at, God had said, “Those are your children. That’s how many there will be.”
And how one of those stars was for him. Joshua’s star.
And my son got it. I remember it like it was last night. In a way that was new and more real than what he had understood before, he understood God’s love that night. He understood his place in the Father’s heart. He got it.
Yes, I asked my son’s permission before I posted this.
He has since informed me that he thinks the evening I showed him the stars and the evening we talked about whether he would go to hell when he died were two different evenings. But he still remembers the conversation about Abraham and the stars, and says that it was as powerful as I have written.