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Showing posts from 2009

No reason to fear a number

New Year's Eve is a time when calendars, dates and numbers come to mind. These can be major causes of spikes for people with OCD.

Among Christians with the disorder, the Mark of the Beast- 666- can cause all sorts of anxiety. It shouldn't. First, with the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, Satan and all that pertain to him are defeated and utterly harmless to us. If that's so of the Enemy and his legions, how much more so it is of mere symbols for them!

Many Christians waste time trying to decode this and other symbolic numbers in Revelation. In fact, the numbers are a kind of code; in Hebrew letters do double duty as numbers. Bearing this in mind,  it should be instructive that Neron Imperator ("Nero the Emperor") and Diocletian Imperator ("Diocletian the Emperor")- the names of the Roman emperors who sponsored respectively the first and the last of the persecutions, and the two fiercest- both decode to "666." Is there another enemy of Chri…

Dryness, inattentiveness... and trust

I suffered complete spiritual dryness, almost as if I were quite forsaken. As usual, Jesus slept in my little boat. I know that other souls rarely let him sleep peacefully, and he is so wearied by the advances he is always making that he hastens to take advantage of the rest I offer him. It’s likely that as far as I'm concerned, he will stay asleep until the great final retreat of eternity. But that doesn’t upset me. It fills me with great joy…. I should be distressed that I drop off to sleep during my prayers and during my thanksgiving after Holy Communion. But I don’t feel at all distressed. I know that children are just as dear to their parents whether they are sleep or awake and I know that doctors put their patients to sleep before they operate. So I just think that God “knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. "

-- St. Therese of Lisieux

Unto you

Luke 2:1-23 (ESV)


The Birth of Jesus Christ
1In those day a decree went out fromCaesar Augustus that all the world should beregistered. 2This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town ofNazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is calledBethlehem,because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

The Shepherds and the Angels
8And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 10And the angel said to them, "…

What Christmas means for those with scrupulosity

For, if it is true that the child was born of the virgin and is mine, then I have no angry God and I must know and feel that there inothing but laughter and joy in the heart of the Father and no sadnessin my heart. For, if what the angel says is true, then he is our Lord and Savior, what can sin do against us? "If God is for us, who is against us? --Martin Luther

Why worry?

Most Christians are familiar with the Apostle's Creed. It contains an affirmation which OCDers seem to have a great deal of difficulty with: "I believe in the...forgiveness of sins."

"Is this a sin?" "Is that a sin?" The anxiety with which some Christians ask that question about the minutia of their lives seems to call into question whether they really do believe that God forgives sins! The fact of the matter is that we can't go through a single day without sinning. In fact, we commit many of our sins without even realizing it!

Fortunately, we are justified (declared righteous) neither by maintaining a clean slate nor (as other OCDers seem to think) by the good work of confessing each individual sin and asking for forgiveness. We are justified by grace, for Christ's sake, through faith. A believer is judged perfect by God even when she commits a sin of weakness of which she is not aware, and even before she confesses it to God and asks for forg…

Feelings, nothing more than feelings....

Conscience is what we believe about right and wrong. It is not a feeling or emotion. People with OCD often react emotionally to a thought, and the biochemical flaw in their brains makes it "stick" in a way that makes them think that something perfectly innocent may in fact be a sin or be dangerous in some other way. The result is an obsession- an irrational response bearing no relationship to reality that we can't seem to shake.

In our society, we overvalue emotions. We even allow them to guide our decisions and attitudes. Since cognitive psychology tell us that emotions are biochemical responses to thoughts, that might not be as bad a thing for most people as it might be. But for people with OCD, the thoughts are often random and quite crazy. We might even be aware of its craziness if we only examine it. But instead, we listen to the emotion.

If you have OCD, never let your emotions tell you that something is wrong. Instead, identify and examine the thought that produces …

Believe God, not your feelings

When we refuse to believe, we disdain God as a deceiver, as though the things He declares to us were not true, that He can and wants to do them for us…. A believing heart, on the other hand, honors God with the highest possible honor due Him, for it regards Him as trustworthy, as incapable of lying, as One Who certainly fulfills what He promises.

Word and faith are correlatives; the one is never without the other. If a person has faith without the Word, he believes like the Turk or the Jew; they believe that God is benevolent and good, but they are without the promise, for God will not be gracious apart from Christ. Contrariwise, whoever has the Word but no faith, for him the Word avails nothing. Therefore, both belong together, Word and faith, like marriage partners, and they must not be separated.

We who have the Word at times do not believe and trust as firmly as those who do not have the Word. This is the devil’s doing, the result of original sin which causes us to be drawn away fro…

Luther's anfechtungen

This article by Pastor Richard Bucher describes Martin Luther's anfechtungen- his devastating episodes of feeling judged and rejected and utterly condemned by God. These are experiences with which many Christians with OCD are likely to be all too familiar.

While Pr. Bucher is right in saying that they were not simply manifestations of clinical depression, he is wrong in denying that they had a psychological component. These experiences were certainly encounters with the Living God and His Law. But they were encounters filtered through Luther's OCD, much the relationship of anyone with OCD with God is experienced through that filter. Certainly Luther's own theology would recognize that to feel condemned by the Law is not in itself a bad thing; it is a necessary step toward the forgiveness and healing brought by the Gospel. But that is where OCD poses a special kind of spiritual problem: while the sufferer can hear the accusing voice of the Law all too well, it can be remar…

An oft-misquoted letter from Martin Luther

...If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world.

We will commit sins while weare here, for this life is not a place where justice resides. We, however, says Peter (2. Peter 3:13) are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth where justice will reign. It suffices that through God's glory we have recognized the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day*. Do you think such an exalted Lamb paid merely a small price with a meager sacrifice for our sins?

Pray hard, for you are quite a sinner.


--From a letter to fellow scrupe sufferer Phillip Melanththon, 152…

From St. Julian of Norwich

From Nik:
God brought to my mind that I (would) sin, and and that because of the joy I had in looking on him, I was reluctant to look on this Showing. But the Lord was patient with me and gave me grace to listen. And this Showing I took as as shown to me personally, but by all the healing comfort that follwed, as you shall see, I was taught to see that it was meant for all my fellow Christians and not just for me. Though are Lord showed me I (would) sin, by this he meant all, and not just me.

This filled me with quiet fear but our Lord answered: "I will keep you safe." These words were said with more love, and certainty, and spiritual consolation than I am allowed or able to tell.

--St.Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love

Write it down, and pray it out

Good post by Pastor Peperkorn over at I Trust When Dark My Road on getting the things between our ears that are growing into monsters out in the open- and on paper, where you can assess it objectively.

David wasn't afraid to complain to God in the Psalms. And if you're angry with Him- tell Him so.

Healthy relationships thrive on honesty. Our relationship with God is no exception.

Spurgeon on the cross and the believer

From Charles Haddon Spurgeon, from Shannon:

Our heavenly Father sends us frequent troubles to try our faith. If our faith be worth anything, it will stand the test. Gilt is afraid of fire, but gold is not: the paste gem dreads to be touched by the diamond, but the true jewel fears no test. It is a poor faith which can only trust God when friends are true, the body full of health, and the business profitable; but that is true faith which holds by the Lord's faithfulness when friends are gone, when the body is sick, when spirits are depressed, and the light of our Father's countenance is hidden. A faith which can say, in the direst trouble, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him," is heaven-born faith. The Lord afflicts His servants to glorify Himself, for He is greatly glorified in the graces of His people, which are His own handiwork. When "tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope," the Lord is honoured by these growi…

George Whitfield on intrusive thoughts and the Christian

Via Grantley Morris, courtesy of Ralph:

There are Christians who feel like God has rejected them and mistakenly suppose that their Lord will spurn them for all of eternity and yet, despite it all, these amazing men and women of God continue to do their best to serve the Lord. Most Christians can only gasp in awe that anyone feeling this way would continue with God. I am convinced that such people will be exalted forever as heaven's heroes. Here is an excerpt from George Whitefield: And think not that God is angry with you for these distracting, though ever so blasphemous thoughts. No, He knows it is not you, but Satan working in you; and therefore, though God will certainly punish him; yet reward and pity you. And though it is difficult to make persons in your circumstances to believe so; yet I do not doubt that you are more acceptable to God when performing your holy duties in the midst of such involuntary distractions, than when you are wrapped up by devotion, as it were, into th…

C.F.W. Walther on the Unpardonable Sin

From The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel:

Thesis XXIV.

In the twentieth place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when the unforgiven sin against the Holy Ghost is described in a manner as if it could not be forgiven because of its magnitude.

This current description of the unpardonable sin is a horrid confounding of Law and Gospel.

Only the Law condemns sin; the Gospel absolves the sinner from all sins without an exception. The prophet writes; “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white a snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Is 1, 18. The Apostle Paul writes, Rom 5, 20: “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” Accordingly, Luther sings out in a glorious strain: —

Though great our sins and sore our woes,
  His grace much more boundeth;
His helping love no limit knows,
  Our utmost need it soundeth.

Now, then, what does Holy Scripture say regarding the sin against the Holy Ghost? Concerning this sin we have three parallel pa…

Honest to God

Years ago, Anglican Bishop John A.T. Robinson wrote a critique of traditional Christianity called Honest to God. I never read it. I don't plan to; it's theology is a little "out there." But the phrase which provided Robinson with his title has played a major role in my own struggle with scrupulosity. Maybe it can help you, too.

Did you ever stop and think how much conventional Christian piety encourages hypocrisy? Do you feel jealousy toward someone else, or hostility? All too often, we're encouraged to deny it and make believe that our hearts are free of such things. Or perhaps we struggle with lust, or pride, or greed, or some other sin. Too many Christians treat these "besetting sins" much the way the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail reacts to having his arms and legs cut off in combat: "No, they're not! Have at you!"

Except, of course, that it doesn't work. Deny that you are jealous, or angry, or proud, or greedy, or l…