Friday, 22 July 2016

Book review: The Supernatural Ways of Royalty by Kris Vallotton

I have found the concepts of princedom and pauperhood quite difficult. I have found it hard to believe that I am truly a ‘prince’ – or ‘princess’ – in God’s kingdom and perhaps that in itself says that I have a pauper’s mentality. I do not believe I am rich, that I am loved or that I have access to the rights and privileges as befits a daughter of a king.

(Having said all that, by the time I got to the end of the book and took the ‘test’, I come out as midway between a pauper and princess, with perhaps a slight bias towards believing in my own royalty.)

Nevertheless, I tend to see myself as a menial kitchenmaid, perhaps, in a medieval castle, knowing that I belong to the Lord of the manor and am part of his fiefdom, but of only lowly status.  I feel it should be enough for me to be the lowest of the low in his ‘kingdom’, not expecting any more because I am so fortunate that I am not relegated to a life of poverty outside the city walls. Yet I do not have to live life as a pauper INSIDE the castle either.

When I started reading the book, with the first chapter detailing how Kris was not behaving as a prince, my first reaction was to say to myself, “well, I don’t say cutting things which tear people down.”  But, of course, there are many other aspects of behaviour which demonstrate that I too have a pauper’s mentality.

I found myself underlining and highlighting many passages as I went along. Moving away from ‘pauperdom’ has been a slow and imperceptible process, but, as I go back over the book, summarising the highlights will, I think, help me make sense of how it has impacted me.

Moses: he was not a slave. “A leader who is in slavery internally cannot free those who are inslavery externally.”  Moses knew he was not a slave – he was a prince of Egypt, he was significant and this enabled him to do what he did.

Kris talked about our circumstances of our birth and childhood causing us to internalize feelings of shame and insignificance.  He also said that paupers have a poverty mentality and live in fear, struggling with feeling that there is never going to be enough.

This is true of all of us. The process of bringing negative influences out into the open so that the hidden effects can be exposed, and the lies we tell ourselves dealt with, is lifelong. As John Maxwell says: “People change when they hurt enough they have to change; they learn enough they want to change, or they receive enough they are able to change.”

I was convicted by Kris’s statement that ‘Paupers...believe that when someone else receives something, it takes away some of the provision that could be theirs. They surmise that someone else’s blessing costs them.” The older brother syndrome in the parable of the prodigal son.   Yes, that has been me, too, but Kris affirms that ‘The revelation of our true identity will destroy the spirit of poverty in our lives. Until that happens we will keep thinking there are limits on what we get to have. As a result, we are jealous of anyone who receives something that we don’t have.’  Now, I don’t think that is universally true in my life but in some aspects – in areas where I have not felt ‘significant’ enough – that is certainly true.

In all of this, one phrase from the song No Longer Slaves by Jonathan David and Melissa Helser has stayed with me: “ 

It is hard to live in a state of constant change: I, for one, want to feel I have aspects of my life ‘sorted’ so I don’t have to keep revisiting issues!  It takes a great deal of emotional strength to change and, sometimes, we just don’t have the energy. Hanging on to the truths that ‘God never intended for us to live in poverty in any area of our lives’ and that we should not be worried about our lives is essential.

One area which has always challenged me is that of finances, and yet I have seen God take care of these even though I have been worried about future finances many times. And I have been worried about poor stewardship of what I have had, hating ‘waste’ of any kind.

Yet Kris asserts that ‘If we stop living by faith when we start receiving a regular income, then we reduce our provision down to our ability to perform instead of the Lord’s ability to provide.... Paupers often lose sight of their priorities when they get money, but princes don’t get their identity from what they have because they know their identity is not dependent on their performance or their possessions. Princes own things, but they never let things own them....Princes don’t work for money, but rather, they work for God.’

This all sounds wonderful – have a prince’s outlook/mentality/attitude – and life is sorted. But really, it is ‘Yes, but HOW?’ as J John would say. I skipped through the chapter (Chapter 4) on what imprisons us: I KNOW that jealousy, envy, fear, unforgiveness etc – all the Seven Deadly Sins and all their permutations – hinder me from stepping into freedom in Jesus. I just want to know how to break free. This is both ‘easy’ – believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ – and difficult.  In Chapter 4, Kris claims boldly ‘In reality, my sinful past no longer exists. The Lamb of God purchased it with a payment in blood... Living in forgiveness does not mean we are to forget our past. Rather, seeing my past through the blood of Jesus brings praise to my lips and frees me from the burden of a guilty heart.’  Kris talks about the scars of the past being rearranged by God to look like carving on a fine piece of crystal – what is despised becomes a testimony of God’s grace. I need the right perspective and I can get that by looking into Scripture and reminding myself of what God says about me.

This is significant.  The names or labels I accept for myself – whether I have given them to myself or let others define me – affect my perception of who I am.  “Names can be prophetic declarations that define a person’s identity. ....these lies are ultimately acted out in their behaviour.” (p62) The most important ‘name’ we live under is that of ‘sinner’.

Here a dichotomy comes in. Yes, we are ‘sinners saved by grace’ and it is the grace that must prevail. We are new creations in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17) and are to live as such. We do not have to struggle with sin because Jesus has paid the price for it and he is able to overcome sin in our lives. ‘There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus... (Romans 8:1, ff)  And yet...I have to ‘struggle’ with sin in that I cannot ignore sin in myself but must constantly confess it and declare its defeat because of my status. I liked Kris’ assertion in Chapter 6 (Training for Reigning, p75): “When we begin to act like royalty, issues that felt like mountains in our lives will become mere stepping stones to demonstrate our character.”    And, although in Chapter 17 (p220) Kris suggests that disaster does not ‘fuel revival’, I know that testing times also develop character.

Finally, in this first part of the book, Kris talks about acting out of friendship with God rather than just obedience. This, too, I find difficult: my view of God is too small, I find it hard to believe that I am a significant friend to him and I am back to ‘lowly minion’ status. Yet, when I look at the world and am paralysingly overwhelmed by its needs, I do know that it is only by developing intimacy with God that I can make sense of my own role. To “...walk by His side, conversing and discussing His plans for the world” will help me find out what little part I should play. (p94)

Some of what Kris said I didn’t understand enough to agree with: I wasn’t sure he was right. For example, when he said that ‘whenever someone values us more than we value ourselves, we tend to sabotage our relationship with that person’. That has not been true in my experience. I have a dear, godly friend (now very elderly) who has always affirmed and encouraged me and, I think, does indeed value me more than I value myself. In fact, I have considered her as one of my very closest friends and she knows all kinds of stuff about me!

I have read the whole book but not finished reflecting on it. However, I found it useful to summarise  each chapter in a ‘soundbite’ and these have helped me internalize what I have learned:

I gain confidence from knowing my significance
  1. Paupers have a poverty mentality – knowing my true identity destroys this.
  2. I need to leave the prisons of the past, especially unforgiveness, behind.
  3. Forgiveness rewrites my history – I no longer live in past bondage.
  4. I can live by my God-given name, not wrong labels.
  5. Ban insecurity! Act like royalty, encouraging others.
  6. Relationship with God comes first, then obedience.
  7. God created me for glory.
  8. True humility is strength restrained, not weakness.
  9. I need to give honour regardless of whether I feel it is deserved.
  10. Commit myself to other believers – be family.
  11. Bring justice with courage and power.
  12. Live bravely.

And so I think the biggest impact the book has had on me is in the positive attitude it offers. Refusing to be bound by past mistakes/failures/labels etc is healthy. Knowing that I am loved and significant: as in the book The Help: “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” I need to remember who I am and act with strength and courage out of love.

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