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Old 12-01-2016, 10:59 AM   #1
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Advent and Discernment

Hello friends!

As I'm sure many of you know that this past Sunday marked the start of Advent for many Western Christians. Advent (from Latin adventus "coming") is season of spiritual preparation before Christmas in which Christians reflect on both the long-held messianic hopes of the children of Israel, their fulfillment in Christ Jesus, and our current hope for his second coming. As we look both backwards and forwards along the whole length of salvation history, we also reflect upon this present moment and discern those things in us which God calls us to transform or cultivate. For many Christians, then, this is a season of increased prayer, fasting, study, etc.

As I approach this season, I am aware of it as very intimately linked to my ongoing study of the Baha'i Faith. After all, this is the season of hope, the time of expectation, a vigil for the Lord. Yet Bahá’u’lláh announces that the goal of all this preparation and the fulfillment of all this hope to be himself:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bahá’u’lláh
Bethlehem is astir with the Breeze of God. We hear her voice saying: ‘O most generous Lord! Where is Thy great glory established? The sweet savours of Thy presence have quickened me, after I had melted in my separation from Thee. Praised be Thou in that Thou hast raised the veils, and come with power in evident glory.’ We called unto her from behind the Tabernacle of Majesty and Grandeur: ‘O Bethlehem! This Light hath risen in the orient, and travelled towards the occident, until it reached thee in the evening of its life. Tell Me then: Do the sons recognize the Father, and acknowledge Him, or do they deny Him, even as the people aforetime denied Him (Jesus)?’ Whereupon she cried out saying: ‘Thou art, in truth, the All-Knowing, the Best-Informed.’ Verily, We behold all created things moved to bear witness unto Us. Some know Us and bear witness, while the majority bear witness, yet know Us not.
As I result, I'm experiencing the season in double. Each passage of Scripture, every hymn, and all the traditions seems to speak with two voices. The first is that of Christian orthodoxy. The second is the perspective of the Baha'i Faith. Of course, they often speak in agreement. As far as concerns the promises and prophecies of ancient Israel, each faith approaches them in the same light, professing a spiritual interpretation that leads to Jesus of Nazareth. In looking ahead they diverge, and at these times I hear the Baha'i Faith ask, "Do my words make these prophecies less true? Do the fulfillment I proclaim make these promises any less precious? Think: Were the words of the prophets cheapened by their unexpected fulfillment in Christ, or do you find them far richer because of Him? Be consistent with your methods. As it was with the first coming so it is with the second."

At times, I can't help but agree with this sentiment; the Baha'i interpretation will strike me as equally valuable, equally true, and occasionally far more coherent. Yet at other times, my study leaves me feeling utterly lost. The spiritualized understanding of the Gospel presented by the Baha'i Faith can leave me lamenting like Mary Magdalene: "They have taken my Lord away and I don't know where they have put him." Or I find myself swamped with anxiety as I remember Saint Paul's warnings to remain faithful to the traditions that I've received. Occasionally, I grow suspicious that I am being slowly convinced to exchange divine reality for clever symbols. (I do not intend to insult the Baha'i Faith here or suggest that it is an insidious spiritual force; I am merely sharing a feeling with which I am struggling.)

So my question for all of you is--in this season of discernment--what are the keys to discerning the guidance of God? After all, I could say that my suspicions and worries are warnings from the Holy Spirit just as easily as I could say that there psychological effects brought about by an anxietal need for absolute certainty and a deep-seated fear of divine condemnation. I feel very unmoored in all of this, and I appreciate very much the wisdom that is shared on this forum.

-Augustine
 
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Old 12-01-2016, 05:03 PM   #2
Lives in hope
 
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Joined: Dec 2015
From: N Ireland
Posts: 378
Quote:
Originally Posted by Augustine View Post
Hello friends!

As I'm sure many of you know that this past Sunday marked the start of Advent for many Western Christians. Advent (from Latin adventus "coming") is season of spiritual preparation before Christmas in which Christians reflect on both the long-held messianic hopes of the children of Israel, their fulfillment in Christ Jesus, and our current hope for his second coming. As we look both backwards and forwards along the whole length of salvation history, we also reflect upon this present moment and discern those things in us which God calls us to transform or cultivate. For many Christians, then, this is a season of increased prayer, fasting, study, etc.

As I approach this season, I am aware of it as very intimately linked to my ongoing study of the Baha'i Faith. After all, this is the season of hope, the time of expectation, a vigil for the Lord. Yet Bahá’u’lláh announces that the goal of all this preparation and the fulfillment of all this hope to be himself:



As I result, I'm experiencing the season in double. Each passage of Scripture, every hymn, and all the traditions seems to speak with two voices. The first is that of Christian orthodoxy. The second is the perspective of the Baha'i Faith. Of course, they often speak in agreement. As far as concerns the promises and prophecies of ancient Israel, each faith approaches them in the same light, professing a spiritual interpretation that leads to Jesus of Nazareth. In looking ahead they diverge, and at these times I hear the Baha'i Faith ask, "Do my words make these prophecies less true? Do the fulfillment I proclaim make these promises any less precious? Think: Were the words of the prophets cheapened by their unexpected fulfillment in Christ, or do you find them far richer because of Him? Be consistent with your methods. As it was with the first coming so it is with the second."

At times, I can't help but agree with this sentiment; the Baha'i interpretation will strike me as equally valuable, equally true, and occasionally far more coherent. Yet at other times, my study leaves me feeling utterly lost. The spiritualized understanding of the Gospel presented by the Baha'i Faith can leave me lamenting like Mary Magdalene: "They have taken my Lord away and I don't know where they have put him." Or I find myself swamped with anxiety as I remember Saint Paul's warnings to remain faithful to the traditions that I've received. Occasionally, I grow suspicious that I am being slowly convinced to exchange divine reality for clever symbols. (I do not intend to insult the Baha'i Faith here or suggest that it is an insidious spiritual force; I am merely sharing a feeling with which I am struggling.)

So my question for all of you is--in this season of discernment--what are the keys to discerning the guidance of God? After all, I could say that my suspicions and worries are warnings from the Holy Spirit just as easily as I could say that there psychological effects brought about by an anxietal need for absolute certainty and a deep-seated fear of divine condemnation. I feel very unmoored in all of this, and I appreciate very much the wisdom that is shared on this forum.

-Augustine
Look to your namesake my brother
 
Old 12-02-2016, 09:16 AM   #3
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Joined: May 2013
From: forest falls california
Posts: 1,773
Verses as Proofs, and Medicine for the soul

...
So my question for all of you is--in this season of discernment--what are the keys to discerning the guidance of God? After all, I could say that my suspicions and worries are warnings from the Holy Spirit just as easily as I could say that there psychological effects brought about by an anxietal need for absolute certainty and a deep-seated fear of divine condemnation. I feel very unmoored in all of this, and I appreciate very much the wisdom that is shared on this forum.

-Augustine[/QUOTE]


Look to the "verses as proofs". That which is contained within the Holy Writings of the Bab and Baha'u'llah work as a healing medicine to the soul.
When we get wrapped up in our heads and anxieties, looking for answers, the "answers" that we are craving are found in the Writings themselves. This is a mystical experience, a spirit/mind connection.

If we find ourselves asking "Why?" This is a word question, with a word answer. The Words of God for this day, for today's questions and anxieties, are His prescription written by a Pen which He has fashioned Himself for this purpose. Baha'u'llah is indeed the Most Great Pen, and that which flows from the Pen of God's will is, for men of discernment, the remedy to the healing of the nations.
 
Old 12-02-2016, 03:37 PM   #4
Lives in hope
 
AidanK's Avatar
 
Joined: Dec 2015
From: N Ireland
Posts: 378
Pray brother Dale and then pray some more. You are a highly motivated person with a burning desire to teach the faith. Perhaps you have forgotten the huge amount of grace obtained by spending time with Our Lord God in quiet solitude?

Last edited by AidanK; 12-02-2016 at 03:39 PM.
 
Old 12-02-2016, 09:21 PM   #5
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Joined: Oct 2013
From: United States
Posts: 1,204
Quote:
what are the keys to discerning the guidance of God? After all, I could say that my suspicions and worries are warnings from the Holy Spirit just as easily as I could say that there psychological effects brought about by an anxietal need for absolute certainty and a deep-seated fear of divine condemnation.
"Fear not, for I am with thee: turn not aside, for I am thy God: I have strengthened thee, and have helped thee, and the right hand of my just one hath upheld thee. "

- Isaiah 41:10

"Fear is not in love: but perfect love casteth out fear, because fear hath pain. And he that feareth, is not perfected in love."

- John 4:18

"Love is a light that never dwelleth in a heart possessed by fear."

- Saying quoted by Baha'u'llah in The Seven Valleys


In my view, God does not care what religion we follow, or even if we are religious, so long as we have a heart filled with love and we serve our fellow human beings and treat with compassion this planet and all the creatures living on it.

For me, I am in love with the vision of Baha'u'llah in His writings, elaborated on by Abdu'l-Baha, systematized by Shoghi Effendi, and implemented by us in obedience to the Baha'i Covenant. But the vision I am enamored by is not exclusivist. I see the same vision in the New Testament and in the actions of Pope Francis. If someone lives that life of true service because they are Christian, that is perfection! If someone lives that life of kindness and compassion from a humanist belief system, then she ought to be recognized and praised. If the inspiration of the words of Baha'u'llah inspire someone to work for peace and justice with devotion and pure motives, then that is what the world so sorely needs.

"The man who lives the life according to the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh is already a Bahá’í. On the other hand, a man may call himself a Bahá’í for fifty years, and if he does not live the life he is not a Bahá’í."

- Words attributed to `Abdu'l-Baha, `Abdu'l-Baha in London
 
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