The official blog of author Jean Marie Bauhaus

Tag: 2020

On Hearing from God and the Dangers of Spiritual Formation and Contemplative Prayer

So far I’ve talked about how God led me out of practicing yoga and the Enneagram (and how I got led into those things in the first place).

I saved this post for last because it’s the hardest to write. This was the last domino to fall in my awakening from spiritual deception, but it was also the thing that led me down that path to begin with.

I’m talking about spiritual formation.

Several years ago, we went through a really hard season that included two miscarriages followed by the sudden passing of both my in-laws (and their cat) in rapid succession, my PCOS and thrombophilia diagnoses, losing one of our kitties to cancer, and major financial hardship. I was tired and depressed and desperate for encouragement. I found it in the form of some popular online women’s ministries and daily devotionals.

One of the devotional writers really stood out to me. She wrote a post on my favorite devotional blog that spoke directly to my soul. I sought out her blog and subsequently read some of her books, which at the time I loved. They really ministered to me and helped me through my depression and grief. They helped me believe that God still loved me and wanted what’s best for me.

However.

As part of a promotional campaign for an upcoming book, she posted videos to her website in which she encouraged a spiritual practice of sitting quietly for five minutes and just opening yourself up to God and inviting him to speak to you. She taught me to get quiet and listen. I didn’t know it at the time, but what she was teaching me was the spiritual formation practice of contemplative prayer. Eventually, this led to the practice of keeping a journal and writing down what I thought I heard the “Holy Spirit” speaking to me.

So what’s the matter with that?

The problem is that this form of contemplative prayer is a form of meditation that’s rooted in New Age and Eastern mysticism. It was introduced into the Church and popularized by Richard Rohr (remember him from my Enneagram post?) and his followers–several of whom are often quoted by this author I was so enamored with. And it also opened the door for me to try other things like mindfulness meditation, believing that it was harmless. Of course, this was also the slippery slope (and the same influencer) that led me to yoga and the Enneagram.

All of these things are New Age, and also completely unbiblical.

Here’s the thing: God prescribes how to pray and meditate in his word. The Hebrew word that gets translated “meditate” in our English Bibles actually means to utter or to muse. Biblical meditation is not emptying or quieting your mind, but instead filling it with God’s word. This can look like thinking about the meaning and interpretation of a passage of scripture and how it applies to our lives. It can also look like memorizing scripture and repeating it back to ourselves. It doesn’t look like getting quiet and opening ourselves up to receive some personal spiritual revelation.

The Bible also gives us countless examples of how to pray–we have three examples from the Lord Jesus himself. Biblical prayer involves a combination of praise, thanksgiving, and asking for what we need. It involves pouring out our hearts and telling God what’s on our minds and what’s making us anxious. It involves repeating scripture back to him and reminding him of his promises. Sometimes it involves repentance. When we’re really struggling, prayer can sometimes look like crying or groaning deep in our spirit. But Biblical prayer, again, never involves us being silent, quieting our minds and waiting for God to speak to us.

The danger here is that when we go outside of God’s prescribed ways to contact and hear from him, we open ourselves up to who knows what. Biblical prayer and meditation are protected from interference from outside forces. But non-Biblical methods are not — which is why so many of those methods are expressly forbidden in scripture. If you quiet your mind and open up yourself to receive a message, you may well get one — but it may very well not be from God.

Case in point: remember how I said I got into the practice of writing down the things I thought I heard from the Holy Spirit? I’ve got pages in my old journals of messages I heard telling me how much I was loved and affirming that I was on the right track and I was exactly where God wanted me. Well that sounds good, doesn’t it? The problem is, I wasn’t on the right track — I was engaged in the New Age practices that God would eventually convict me about and get me to stop doing. Whatever I was hearing — whether it was just my own subconscious thoughts or a deceiving spirit whispering comforting lies — it wasn’t the Holy Spirit. Whatever it was seemed bent on keeping me complacent and deceived.

Now, I’m not saying that God never speaks to us. Despite leaving the charismatic movement, I’m not completely persuaded by cessationist arguments, and one reason is because there have been times in my life — that I can count on one hand — when I have with absolute, 100 percent certainty heard God speak. And those times were nothing like the wordy, self-affirming messages I was getting when I practiced contemplative prayer.

One of those times, the first time it happened, as a matter of fact, I was in my early 20s. I was living at home and my dad and I weren’t getting along (I’ll spare you the details). Driving home from work one night, dreading having to go home and face him and praying for help with the situation, I heard a voice — not an external voice, but different from my own head voice — say three times, “I am the Father to the fatherless.”

When I got home, I looked that up and found Psalm 68:5: “A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation.” I felt extremely comforted. My dad had never been much of a father, and I took that to mean that God saw my situation and was letting me know that he was working in it.

A week later, my dad was killed in a car accident. I suddenly found myself literally fatherless.

I’ve had a few similar encounters since then, and there are a few characteristics that they’ve all had in common:

  1. I wasn’t trying to initiate hearing from God. I was either praying or thinking about an issue and He interrupted me.
  2. It was direct and to the point. God doesn’t waste words.
  3. It affirmed an aspect or a promise of GOD — it didn’t affirm ME.
  4. It got my eyes off of myself and my circumstances and onto God and his word.

What I’ve learned from these instances is that God doesn’t need us to get quiet and invite him to speak to us. If he’s got something to say to us, he’ll stop us short and say it, and there won’t be any doubt that it’s him speaking.

The people pushing this practice of getting quiet and listening will tell you that you can be sure it’s from God if it doesn’t contradict scripture. The problem with that is, Satan knows scripture. He quoted it to Jesus in the wilderness. The Bible tells us that he can appear as an angel of light. He’s a pro at using scripture to deceive.

But what about listening for God’s “still, small voice?” Let’s take a minute and examine this passage from 1 Kings 19 where that concept is supposedly found.

9And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
10So he said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.”
11Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire [e]a still small voice.
13So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

First of all, God is the one who initiates contact with Elijah. Elijah was being hunted by Jezebel after his victory over the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel, and he was depressed to the point of being suicidal. He wasn’t seeking God in prayer. God spoke to him and told him to get up and get out of the cave, and then he proceeded to announce himself with a strong wind and an earthquake and a fire before using a “still, small voice” to let Elijah know it was safe to come outside, where God then spoke to him in a normal voice.

In other words, God made a BIG RUCKUS to announce his presence before speaking in hushed tones to call Elijah out of the cave, leaving no room for doubt that Elijah was hearing the voice of God. And, again, Elijah didn’t seek out that voice or do anything to invite it or initiate contact. It was all God’s doing, on God’s schedule, to accomplish God’s purpose.

Nowhere in scripture are we ever instructed to get quiet and listen for that “still, small voice.”

This whole practice of contemplative prayer is part of the growing Spiritual Formation movement in the modern church. What could possibly be wrong with spiritual formation? Here’s how GotQuestions.org describes it:

“This idea of spiritual formation is based on the premise that if we do certain practices, we can be more like Jesus. Proponents of spiritual formation erroneously teach that anyone can practice these mystical rituals and find God within themselves.
Too often, adherents of the current spiritual formation movement believe the spiritual disciplines transform the seeker by his or her entering an altered realm of consciousness. The spiritual formation movement is characterized by such things as contemplative prayer, contemplative spirituality, and Christian mysticism.”


Spiritual formation is one of those sneaky ways that the New Age is worming its way into the Church in the guise of something that sounds on the surface like something Christians ought to be in favor of. But it’s actually a mystical replacement for actual discipleship.

What’s the difference between spiritual formation and discipleship? The short answer is that discipleship is about becoming more like Jesus, whereas spiritual formation is about becoming Christ.

Discipleship is the process of taking up our cross and following after Jesus. It’s growing in faith and sanctification and knowledge of the truth, being transformed from the inside out by the Holy Spirit and the word and having our character refined to be more like Jesus.

Spiritual formation is a works-based process of practicing external “spiritual disciplines” in an attempt to discipline our minds and become part of the universal Christ consciousness.

It wasn’t until I got convicted about the Enneagram and was made aware of its origins that I also became aware of the New Age aspect of spiritual formation and finally got convicted about my contemplative prayer practice. Again, I ceased immediately and repented. I also unfollowed the author who started me down this path in the first place, along with her entire circle of friends and associates, and stopped having anything to do with them.

Even so, I hesitate to call her out by name or to label her a false teacher. Partly because she’s not off-base about everything — she seems to sincerely love Jesus, and her books really did minister to me. But at the same time, there are things that really bother me about her, like her habit of calling Jesus her friend instead of her Lord, her tendency to quote Richard Rohr acolytes like Henri Nouwen and Dallas Willard, her evangelizing of the Enneagram, and her (and the rest of her crowd’s) affiliations with blatantly false teachers like Jen Hatmaker and Sarah Bessey. I’ve probably provided enough clues that if you know her, then you know who I’m talking about. Still, I don’t feel convicted to reveal her name. Let these clues serve as red flags that should tell you to proceed with caution regarding any Bible teacher or Christian author or influencer.

All of this is why it’s so, SO important to pray for and exercise discernment. The New Age and occult (same thing) are finding several ways to infiltrate the Church and they’re all sneaky and deceptive and difficult to recognize if you’re not paying close attention. We have to be Bereans and test everything against scripture, and we have to safeguard our hearts and minds by being extremely careful about the influences we allow into our lives.

I’m so incredibly grateful to the Lord for waking me up to these things and showing me the truth. And that was only the beginning of my journey. In another post soon I’ll share about the work He’s been doing in me over the past year. This post is long enough already, but I can tell you that taking all that time and energy I was spending on those false Christian New Age practices and putting it into diligent Bible study has been one of the most transformational experiences of my life.

Get in the word, y’all. Our time here is getting short.

Image by truthseeker08 from Pixabay

Why I No Longer Have Anything to Do With the Enneagram

The Enneagram — which is ostensibly a personality framework that categorizes humans into nine “types” — has been rising in popularity for a while now, especially in Christian circles, and it exploded in the last two or three years to the point that it’s everywhere now. If you haven’t at least heard of it (and I’m sorry to say that some of you reading this might have heard about it from me), then you’re probably leading an even more low-tech and secluded lifestyle than I am.

I first heard of it several years ago when a certain Christian writer I used to follow and her circle of online friends (the same circle of people, by the way, who led me to sign up to that Yoga with Adrienne challenge) began gushing over how great it is and how much it changed their lives and improved their relationships. I checked into it back then, mainly because I was a Myers-Briggs fan and have always been a sucker for a good personality test, and honestly, at the time I didn’t get it. The website I looked at struck me as incredibly new agey, and the types all seemed so vague that I could see myself in all of them. It really seemed odd to me that these Christian women were so in love with it and actively promoting it, but I shrugged it off and moved on.

But then 2018 happened, a year that started with the rug getting pulled out from under me in a big way. Certain events and revelations shook the foundations on which I’d built my life and my identity. I mean, I knew that ultimately my identity was found in Christ, but I guess that was still head-knowledge more than heart-knowledge. And in everything I researched and studied trying to understand my family, the more I realized I didn’t really even know myself.

In other words, I was vulnerable, and vulnerable people tend to be suggestible. And there’s also the thing — I’m sure there’s probably a word for it, but I can’t think of one — where repeated exposure to something wears down your resistance. The Enneagram explosion was beginning in a big way, and it seemed like everyone, everywhere, including people I respected and trusted, was talking about their type.

I was still skeptical about it, mainly because every time I’d looked into it I had such a hard time pinning down my own type. And then I read a book on personality tests by Anne Bogel, a.k.a The Modern Mrs. Darcy. I found I had a lot in common with her, and she turned out to have the same Myers-Briggs type as me. In the chapter on the Enneagram, she described her own tendencies and how they fit this certain type, and for the first time something clicked.

From there I immediately checked out The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile, the book that undoubtedly served as the gateway to this thing for many unsuspecting Christians. It paints a much different picture of the Enneagram than that new-agey website that first introduced me to it. According to Cron and Stabile, the Enneagram was actually invented by the early Catholic church and used in training priests. There’s a whole thing about the types corresponding to the Seven Deadly Sins (plus two more that got added later), and it’s all about identifying your core sin and learning how to overcome it — in Enneagram parlance, progressing from unhealthy to healthy.

By the time I finished the book, I had unquestionably identified myself as a type Nine, and I felt like I understood myself in a way I never had before. So much about my behavior and tendencies made sense. What’s more, I’d also pegged my husband’s type and felt I understood him on a whole new level.

I’m not gonna lie. I got a lot of benefits from this new knowledge. I recognized that I still carried a lot of pent-up rage from my chaotic and dysfunctional childhood, and that I needed to find healthy ways to get that out of my system. I recognized my tendency to “merge” with others — to not always know where I end and they begin, which can make me easily influenced and can also make it hard to know what I actually think or want without getting away and spending time by myself to figure it out. I recognized that my tendency to go along to get along was often laziness, and sometimes passive-aggression, and that not speaking my mind or standing up for myself was only adding to my pent-up rage. I recognized my “core sin” of Sloth and how I’d sleep-walked through so much of my life, avoiding conflict like the plague and always taking the path of least resistance.

And that new level of self-awareness really did help me confront and grow out of these unhealthy tendencies.

I also felt like I understood my husband better, and as a result was able to love him better. That’s actually how this system gets sold in churches, as a tool to become more compassionate and to better understand and love your neighbor.

That all sounds wonderful, right? So then, what’s the problem?

For me, initially, the problem soon became that the Enneagram (and not the Bible) became the lens through which I viewed everything and everyone. Instead of simply seeing other people as fellow humans made in God’s image, I began trying to type everyone I knew. Every time my husband did something that irritated me, I’d shake my head quietly to myself and mutter, “[type] is gonna [type]” — effectively reducing him from a fearfully and wonderfully made man who was given to be my leader and protector to a number on a chart, and telling myself in the process that I was being more understanding and loving by doing so.

Worse, I became overly-focused on myself and my personal growth and development. I also became more confrontational, which sometimes was indeed healthier, but sometimes it was just giving free reign to my flesh under the guise of “personal growth.” On this supposed journey to being a healthier person, I spent more time reading about the Enneagram, scrolling Enneagram accounts on Instagram, listening to Enneagram podcasts, etc. than I spent reading my Bible. I evangelized about the Enneagram and its benefits more than I think I had ever actively evangelized about Jesus.

In short, it became itself an idol, as well as a pathway to making myself an idol.

I began to see this and feel convicted about it around the same time last year that God convicted me for my involvement in yoga. But it didn’t stop there. As I began to repent and step back and take a second look at the Enneagram and whether it truly belonged in my life as a Christian, God revealed some things to me about this supposed Christian personality framework. And once again, he used ex-New Age guru turned Christian Doreen Virtue to do so. Thanks to her, here’s what I learned:

  • That my original impressions about the Enneagram being New Age were correct. There’s nothing Christian or ancient about its origins. Everything in The Road Back to You about its Catholic background is false. The authors may or may not know this. I don’t believe they set out purposefully to deceive, but that they themselves are deceived.
  • G.I. Gurdjieff, a Greek-Armenian mystic and spiritual guru, first came up with the Enneagram diagram, the weird nine-poined star within a circle, in the late 1800s. He saw it as the eye through which all the secret laws of the universe could be seen. This was later expanded on by his students and disciples, although none of them came up with the nine types that characterize the modern Enneagram.
  • In the middle of the last century, these concepts surrounding this symbol were further developed and expanded by Oscar Ichazo, a Chilean shaman and occultist whose new additions to the Enneagram came through tripping out on psychedelic drugs and contacting a spirit identifying itself as Metatron.
  • It was one of his students, fellow occultist and psychiatrist Claudio Naranjo, who invented the nine types and popularized the Enneagram. Here is a video of him freely admitting that he fabricated the ancient origins of the Enneagram for marketing purposes, and also that he received the nine types through automatic writing (if you don’t know what that is, it’s where someone sits down with a pen and paper and then channels a demon to take over their body and write a message):
  • The Enneagram has been introduced into the Church by Richard Rohr. Richard Rohr is an excommunicated priest as well as a heretical false teacher who teaches, among other blatant heresies, universalism (i.e. that all roads lead to God and Heaven) and Christ consciousness (the teaching that Jesus was not God, but he was simply a man who had accessed this new age concept of “the mind of Christ” that is a universal force that we can all connect with if we become enlightened enough, and therefore we can all become Christ).
  • Both Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile are devotees and disciples of Richard Rohr (a long and growing list of prominent progressive and “exvangelical” church leaders that also includes people like Henri Nouwen, Dallas Willard, Jen Hatmaker, Sarah Bessey and, sadly and most recently, Kevin Max of DC Talk fame).

You can read more about the occult origins of the Enneagram here, as well as watch the full interview with Claudio Naranjo. And here is the Doreen Virtue video that got me to looking into this stuff in the first place.

Once I learned all of this, I repented for my involvement in the Enneagram and immediately ceased having anything to do with it. I quietly unsubbed from all Enneagram-related content and accounts. I shared the above video in my Instagram stories, but my following there is so small and the number of followers who actually look at my stories is a tiny, tiny subset, so that hardly counts as a public denunciation.

So I’m officially denouncing it here, and I am truly, deeply sorry to anyone who was led into this occult, New Age deception by my own enthusiasm about the Enneagram. I can only pray that God will forgive me for leading anyone astray, and I hope that you’ll turn back and forgive me, too.

Sadly, there are a lot of Christians out there who are so hooked on the Enneagram that despite being made aware of this information, they simply don’t care. I’ve heard and seen claims that God can redeem it for good, but that’s not how this works. God tells us to shun the occult and flee from evil. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that he’ll redeem it and use it to bless and minister to his people. Covering it in a Christian veneer is simply wrapping it in sheep’s clothing. It’s a trap. Ultimately it’s going to do far more harm than good.

But what about all the good, all the growth and healing and marital improvement that came from it?

For one thing, the good was far outweighed by the bad. If you read my yoga post, then you saw how much benefit I got out of doing yoga, right up until it opened a door for a poltergeist to invade my home and harass us. As a self-help tool, it can certainly help you identify areas you need to work on, but I promise you you’ll get far, far more inner healing and effective, lasting transformation from taking all that time you spend studying the Enneagram and instead spend it studying and meditating on God’s word.

Recently I saw someone refer to the Enneagram as “Horoscopes for Christians” and I think I agree with that assessment. I believe it’s a Trojan horse that’s getting Christians to focus on themselves and their relationships instead of on growing in sanctification and the knowledge of Jesus and his word. It’s also introducing a lot of vulnerable believers to the teachings of Richard Rohr and leading them down this whole road of “deconstructing” their faith and ultimately falling away from it.

The Enneagram is a trap. Please stay away from it.

Image by Personality Hacker on Flicker | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Happy New Year?

Well, here we are. It’s the first Monday of 2021, and time to get back to work. I hope this post finds you rested up and that you at least had a peaceful holiday season, even if it wasn’t quite what you hoped it would be.

Normally, I would use my first post of a new year to reflect on the previous year, but I think we’re all in agreement that the sooner we move on from 2020, the better. Still, it wasn’t all bad, at least in our little pocket of the rural South, where folks go about their lives and business in a manner that would let you forget there’s a pandemic if you didn’t turn on the TV, look at the internet, or drive to town and try to enter Walmart without a mask. You know it’s not a good year when you measure your success by how much you didn’t lose rather than how much you gained, but while we lost some work, we still had enough coming in to get us by, which is more than a lot of people can say, and while we were heartbroken to lose our beloved Chihuahua, Pete, we didn’t lose any human loved ones, which is also more than too many people can say. We’re among the fortunate, and though the year was hard, it’s important to acknowledge that.

Apart from our dog’s drawn-out illness and passing, and apart from watching the devolution of our society and liberty and battling the cognitive dissonance of witnessing plots of horror movies I grew up watching play out in real life, the most frustrating thing about last year was that not a single one of my professional plans or goals panned out. The year started out great — I had my best ever month in terms of writing and freelancing income in March, right before the lockdowns started to impact the freelancing world, but then it was all downhill from there. I didn’t finish a single big writing project and had to settle for publishing half a novel just so I could say I published something that year. My one comfort is that I’m not alone. You would think that being stuck at home for long periods would be a writer’s dream come true, but a lot of writers complained that they struggled to get anything written last year.

But like I said, it wasn’t all bad. In 2020 I learned a lot, and grew a lot, and I’ll be sharing more about that in coming weeks. For now, I’m entering into 2021 with cautious optimism, at least on the professional front, and I’m doing things a little different this year. After setting big goals last year and overloading myself with projects only to burn out early, this year I’m not making any big plans or setting any big goals, but taking a more measured and streamlined approach. Rather than focusing on completion, I’m focusing on consistency, on getting back into the habit of simply showing up. Rather than saying, “I’m going to finish this book, gosh durnit!” I’m just doing my best to write a little bit on it each day.

One thing I started last year that was going well was that I started streamlining my online presence and workspace, and that’s something I want to continue working on in the new year. I’ve already discontinued posting on Instagram thanks to their new, abhorrent TOS (I’m not rushing to delete my accounts, but taking a wait-and-see approach to see what happens with the antitrust lawsuit and whether Facebook ends up having to sell off Instagram and if that will improve things there) and, other than the occasional automated post and the most basically necessary professional usage, I no longer use Twitter. I’m still dithering about Facebook — I really hate having anything to do with that platform, but it’s too useful to give up entirely. I launched a separate blog for my new clean romance pen name, but then never updated it, so I’m going to merge that here and just have a section on this website for that brand, and I’ll be moving my Broke Author stuff here, too. I think. Maybe. Anyway, I still have my separate mailing lists for each pen name, but I’m thinking about doing one big monthly newsletter to keep all of my subscribers in the loop. I’m still figuring this out, but I think this website is going to get revamped (again) and focus more on me as a professional person with many interests and irons in the fire and less on HERE ARE MY URBAN FANTASY BOOKS PLEASE BUY THEM THANK YOU.

But after spending the last week evaluating what’s been getting in my way, a few things are clear. One is that I need to stay away from places and platforms that suck me into endlessly scrolling and not actually doing things, and also from places and platforms that make me feel like I or my life is not enough (coincidentally, those happen to be the same platforms). I need to cut out the things that aren’t going anywhere or bearing any good fruit. And I need to seriously limit my exposure to the news. Not completely, because I think that would be foolish, but enough that it’s not stealing my peace or keeping me distracted from living my life.

At any rate, with all of that in mind, what I’m really hoping for is to be able to build my own community around this blog and my aforementioned newsletter. To that end, for the rest of this month I’m challenging myself to blog every week day, in order to get back into a consistent blogging habit (I haven’t chosen a word for this year, but if I did, it would probably be “consistency”). Mostly that will be here, but a few of those posts might end up on my pet blog, which is the one thing I’m still going to keep separate.

I’ve got other hopes for this year, and they mostly have to do with things like chickens and gardening and travel and learning useful life skills and surviving the End of Days. I’m sure I’ll talk about some of that in the coming weeks and months, but for now, these are the things I’m working on in the professional arena, in case you were wondering.

How are you approaching this new year? Let’s hear about it in the comments.

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