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December 25, 2023

Our Christmas Gift: The Wonderful Counselor; Plus Bonus Christmas Day Post!

Sharing this post is one of my favorite traditions. This Christmas blog post was first put up on HelpForYourChild.com back in 2012. It has been helping families recognize the role Faith plays in helping families and childhood difficulties. For this Christmas, I have expanded upon this classic article, starting with the section titled "Christmas Bonus Post: What Makes Christmas so Special?"

What I’m Expected to Do…

As a psychologist, I’m expected to talk about traditional and clinically-relevant approaches to help kids, and parents, work through difficulties. This of course would include helping people to think in more reasonable ways (cognitive therapy), behave in ways that are productive and healthy (behavioral approaches), be a good listener (Client-Centered techniques), stay in the moment (Gestalt), incorporate the family (systems approach), and use praise in systematic ways (Applied Behavioral Analysis).

Is There More?

Well, yes there is. Help for your child is sometimes more than just a clinical approach. I’m usually not expected to focus on spirituality but, sometimes, it’s like watching somebody drown and tossing a small life preserver when I have access to a large lifeboat. Don’t get me wrong, the life-preserver is effective but, well, wouldn’t you rather be in a boat?

Seems Only Fitting

During Christmas, it's good to remember that God gave His Son not only to rescue us from sin, but also to rescue us from ourselves. And in the process, heal us, soothe us, and relieve us during our times of stress, burden, and strife. Think about it, in Scripture, He’s referred to as our Advocate, the Almighty, All in All, Breath of Life, Comforter, Counselor, Cornerstone, Creator, God Who Sees Me, Goodness, Guide, Hiding Place, Hope, Intercessor, Keeper, Leader, Life, Light of the World, Living Water, Loving Kindness, Maker, Mediator, Our Peace, Physician, Portion, Potter, Teacher, Refuge, Rewarder, Rock, Servant, Shade, Shield, Song, Stone, Stronghold, Strength, Strong Tower, Truth, Wisdom, and Wonderful to cite just a few of His names. Hmmm, I wonder if maybe God is trying to tell us something about turning to Him for help?

Tap Into the Source of Faith

Those strategies I cited above (cognitive-behavioral…) are undoubtedly worthwhile and helpful. God gives people like me lots of ways to help and give relief (not to mention that most of those strategies have a basis in Scripture). However, there is something life-changing about tapping directly into the Source (another one of His names, by the way). As a practicing Christian, tapping into that life-changing Source entails following Romans 10:9. Give it a try, what have you got to lose?

Christmas Bonus Post: What Makes Christmas so Special?

What Makes Christmas so Special?

Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus, and the beginning of what has become known as “Christianity”.

To suggest that the ‘Christian’ movement has been impactful would be an understatement; however, detractors remain. There have always been questions about veracity, reliability, and authenticity.

This post will address those questions.

Basic Questions

Since the beginning of time, dating back to Aristotle, people have asked deep philosophical questions about the meaning of life. Clearly, these questions are worthwhile, however, before we can answer the loftier philosophical questions, there are foundational questions that first need answered. The answers to these basic questions lay the foundation for subsequent philosophical inquiry. In fact, one could argue that the loftier philosophical questions are moot until these basic questions are answered, such as:

Who created the universe? It can be legitimately argued that something cannot come from nothing.

Did “God” create the universe and therefore, in doing so, create our current existence and reality?

Do we exist subsequent to evolution (by chance), or at the intentional hand of God?

There is, in fact, overwhelming evidence for God and Intelligent Design. Among a litany of other questions including the origins of the Big Bang, secularists still need to answer who wrote all the complex and voluminous ‘code’ (DNA) that’s in every cell of every living organism directing the cell on precisely what to do.

If there is a God, and He created everything, then is it not logical that He is the authority of the nature of our reality and existence.

Does God speak to us, and in what ways?

If God Created the Universe, and is authoritative, how does He speak to us, and can we trust that it’s true and accurate?

Does God inform us – does He tell us what He wants us to know about our reality and existence?  If so, how does He inform us? In what ways? Are these ways authoritative, convincing, and based in clear evidence as opposed to relying on ‘blind faith’?

God speaks to us through His creation – this fact is rather self-evident, or at least it was until evolution muddied the waters.

It could be argued that the world, universe, earth, people, organisms, plants, formations… are beyond compare and breathtakingly complex. The entire eco-system is inter-connected and exquisitely balanced. Creation is beyond our understanding and, as it’s clearly indicated in the Bible, He intended that we would be in awe of Him with every glance at what He created.

Scripture that speaks to God’s glory being revealed in creation:

The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies declare the work of His hands, day after day they pour forth speech, night after night the display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard, their voice is heard through all the earth, their words to the end of the world.   Psalm 19:1

From the beginning of creation, God’s eternal power and divine nature, though invisible, has been understood and known by the things He has created. Therefore, they are without excuse (for not believing).    Romans 1:20

God also communicates with us through His written Word

God communicates with us through his creation. He also communicates with us through His Word

God provided us a clear and concise owner’s manual, and an understanding of our history and our future – through the Bible. Take time to read the Bible, and see for yourself.

Is the Bible credible?

All Christian denominations acknowledge the same 66 Books of the Bible. Remarkable, these 66 books were written over thousands of years, by over 40 writers of at least three different languages, spread over three different continents, yet the Bible is inextricably interwoven to tell ONE coherent, logical, inerrant description of God and His personality, His people, what He wants for and from us, and His plans for us. The Bible has many writers, but only one Author.   

It’s also important to appreciate how wonderfully and powerfully the Bible is written – its phrasing is beautiful and poetic, and the most complex spiritual and philosophical concepts are clearly explained by people who were not exactly trained in writing and literature.  For example,

John 1:1 – (John was a fisherman) - please take a moment and read this- it’s truly remarkable both in content and beauty:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, He was with God from the beginning. Through Him all things were made, without Him nothing has been made that has been made. In Him is life, and that life is the light of man. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. There came a man sent from God, whose name was John (the Baptist), he himself was not the light, he came only as a witness to the light. The true light, the light of every man, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. But to everyone who did receive Him, whomever believed in his name, He gave the right to be called children of God; children born not of natural descent, or human decision, or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made Him known.

Is the Bible authentic (has the Bible been altered)?

The Bible is derided by some as unsubstantiated fiction, however, there are over 24,000 early manuscripts of the Bible dating to within 100 years of Christ’s death. By comparison, the works of Homer, Ceasar, Plato, Tacitus, Thucydides, Herodotus and many other ancients are often accepted as truth in secular culture and are taught in school. However, there are only 7 copies of Plato’s work from 1,300 years after his death; Ceasar – 1000 years and only 10 copies; Aristotle 1,400 years after his death and only 49 copies; Homer – 500 years with 643 copies; Thucydides 1.300 years and 8 copies…  there is really no comparison. It is clear that the Bible is accurate, true, and authentic dating back to the original text. 

Between His creation, and His Word, God made is crystal clear that He is God, that He is real, and that we can know Him.

But He did not stop there.

Prophecy

No other theological book has such prophecy to back-up its authenticity.

There are about 2,500 prophecies in the Bible, and about 2000 have already been fulfilled to the letter. The remaining 500 are regarding our future, and we can rest-assured Jesus is coming back to fulfill those as well.

The odds of these prophesies having been fulfilled by chance without error is less than one in 10 to the 2000th power (1 with 2000 zero’s after it).

Look to Genesis, Exodus, Daniel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, books of Kings and Second Kings, actually, it’s hard to find a book in the Bible that does not have prophecy, and they all came to pass.  There are also prophecies fulfilled in the New Testament – Jesus fulfilled hundreds of Old Testament prophecies and He also made many others – too many to recount here in this post.

No other religion has such compelling evidence – how can all these prophecies be explained except that they came directly from a God who wants us to know, without a shadow of doubt, that He is real - wants us to know about Him and that He wants to engage with us if only we’ll open the door to Him.

Need more evidence?

God makes Himself ‘real’ in our lives through the Holy Spirit; by adopting us, being our Father and friend, and changing our lives.

The testimony of changed lives

It’s difficult for unbelievers to understand this concept of the Holy Spirt and His impact on our daily life – it’s like trying to explain the breathing of air to a fish, which is sad because this ‘breath of life’ is beyond compare and there is nothing as powerful, satisfying, rewarding, or convincing as the Holy Spirit directly impacting one’s life. There is no mistaking or denying the presence of the Holy Spirit that is without compare and life-changing.

For the message of the cross [the Gospel] is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God

1 Corinthians 1:18

God changes lives - there are countless Christians who testify that their relationship with Jesus changed their life, delivered them from sin and any number of addictions, changed and renewed their mind, and opened their eyes to a new spiritual reality.  Christians describe their experience and world as unequivocally ‘different’ after encountering Christ - not perfect, but getting better and different from the old self. Sometimes that ‘difference’ is extraordinarily, sometimes more subtle, but always there is a change.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17

Not only changed lives, but a changed world

Judeo-Christian teachings, values, and tenets shaped and guided Western culture and civilization as we know it today. We take-for-granted our God-given freedoms, rights, and civil-liberties that have changed the course of human history. The Declaration of Independence, our Constitution, and capitalism - all driven by Judeo-Christian concepts and teachings; and our very concept of morality – what is right and wrong, comes from the Bible - how else do we genuinely know what’s ‘right’ unless God tells us; otherwise, it’s only opinion. Also, our concepts of marriage, the family, respect for women, racial equality and equal treatment for all – come from the Bible. The abolishing of slavery was spear-headed through the work of Christians (the abolitionist movement was largely a Christian movement and churches often served as hiding spots that made-up the Underground Railroad). Our justice system and due process is based on the Bible, as-is our current hospital and university system (most hospitals were started by churches and many of our top universities began as seminaries). Our current foster and adoptive care system is based on the work of the church. In fact, the concept of a middle-class work-force is based in Christianity; prior, there was only the very rich, very poor, and slaves and that model, by the way, continues to exist in most of the non-Christian world. What about respect and care for children – yep, a Biblical standard. Moreover, the world’s greatest artists, musicians, writers, and architects all claim their work as inspired by God. Moreover, the greatest scientists were inspired by God and His creation. Not to mention that most charity work is Christian-based. Finally, of course, no one has sacrificed more, and changed more lives for the better than Jesus Christ.

That’s a wrap

Those are just a few things that make Christmas so special. He came humbly to this earth as a baby in a manger, but no one has so dramatically changed lives and changed the world. He left us with His Spirit and His church; and His Word has been shown to be true and authentic.  So, in the light of this glorious Christmas Spirit, I wish you the happiest and merriest Christmas season, and that you and yours would not only know about Him, but personally come to know the one whose birth we celebrate - all you have to do is ask.

“When you come looking for me, you will find me” 

                                                            Jeremiah 29:13

Merry Christmas.

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