The Grand Reduction

 "Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way through the wilderness these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart....He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna...to teach you that man does not live by bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God." Deuteronomy 8:2-3

 

I've begun a fascinating book by Alicia Britt Chole titled, 40 Days Of Decrease. It was written for the season of Lent, but truly, it is a book for all seasons. In it Chole offers a very unique view of what it is to "fast." She makes the point that generally we think of fasting as being a denial of ourselves, usually of something dietary or material for a period of time. But she takes it further and deeper by asking a question such as, "What might be the fruit of fasting stinginess? What would happen if our churches fasted spectatorship? What might occur if our families fasted accumulation? What might erupt if a new generation fasted escapism? Such fasts could trigger a spiritual revolution." They would surely produce a true hunger for what these things have kept us from; His Presence and Life.

It's not that the more familiar fasts have no value, but I'm reminded of a brother who once fasted food for a week. As soon as it ended, he went to a McDonald's and ordered two of everything. We seem to so easily slide right back into all of our old behaviors and attitude patterns. What has really changed inwardly, and most importantly, how much nearer to His heart and life have we gotten? What is it we really sought to accomplish in it? Did we wish to impress Him, get something from Him, or did we ache for more of Him? 

Chole approaches fasting as a means of our discovering something the Father already knows; we are helpless without Him. I'm not saying we're not self-reliant, we can be that and to a very high degree. What she's pointing out is that in our being humbled in the discovery of our real helplessness we discover the pathway to His lifting us up. As someone said, in the Kingdom of God, the way up is down. Our flesh rejects that notion, but the Father says that it's the only way into the fullness of His heart.

Chole relates how a period of prolonged sickness reduced her to being bedridden and literally, helpless. She writes, "Helplessness exposed the contents of my heart. God began to feed me...Prior (to this) God was not absent. The challenge was that self was so very present." That's my and your challenge as well. We so often feel He is absent from our lives, but are blind to the fact that it is our very reliance upon and fixation with ourselves that makes it seem so. Our flesh will always strive to be "so very present." It's only in the place of helplessness and surrender to Him, that we may find a way up.....after we have gone down.

One line Chole wrote brought to mind a lyric from a popular worship song. She said, "Ultimately we are grateful for the Grand Reduction, when Jesus came from heaven to earth and from earth to the cross." Upon reading it, the lyrics from the song "Lord We Lift Your Name On High," came to mind, and the verse, "You came from heaven to earth to show the way, From the earth to the cross my debt to pay, From the cross to the grave, from the grave to the sky, Lord I lift Your name on high." How often I, we have sung that, yet remained blind to "the way" He shows us. It is His way. In His humbling of Himself, He was and is exalted above all. The way up is down. At the end of self, we find the beginnings of Him. At the bottom of the miry clay, we encounter the One who lifts us out of it. In the place of helplessness, we discover who is our Almighty help. He walked the way of the Grand Reduction and bids us come follow. It is the only way to walk in the high places with Him. It's the way of death. Death to the tyranny of ourselves that we might find the way of Life and freedom in Him. On that way, right before us, is His cross.  Do we dare to take that way? Or, do we look for a means to go around it?

Blessings,
Pastor O

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