Heh, not that I’ve even come close to seeing the Kingdom as well as Willard does. I’ve been reading Willard for 15 years or so and got to hear him and Richard Foster speak at a Renovare event years ago—and one thing among many I’ve learned is that Willard’s been in the Kingdom much longer than I and knows its reaches far better. My hill top incident is pretty much a simple vista over some of the far corners and crevices of the Kingdom, but ones that are starting to feel like home.
As I listened to Willard, I couldn’t help jotting down a few phrases and concepts that really resonated with me, some because I’d almost forgotten them and some because they’ve become truths that are sinking their way into my heart--but all worth hearing once again:
The Kingdom has always been and will always be. I first ran across this simple truth in The Divine Conspiracy. I used to (and still slip up sometimes) talk about Jesus ushering in the Kingdom of God, but God’s Kingdom is actually eternal with Jesus giving us entrance into it once again. I need to be reminded that this is an eternally ancient, now and still-to-be place in which I live.
When Jesus talks about the Kingdom being at hand, he means it’s here now. I enjoyed Willard’s simple image in this podcast of how we can understand the calls of John the Baptist and Jesus, “Repent, for the Kingdom of the heavens is at hand.” It is as if, says Willard, we are walking through a building with someone who tells us at the threshold of the room we are seeking, “Turn around, the room is right here.” There is no space or distance to travel, no preparations to make. We simply change our direction and walk in.
The Kingdom is available to us where we are. This concept was probably as revolutionary to me when I first heard it years ago (and remains even now) as it was to the people listening to Jesus when he spilled out the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount. “Those of you who are at the end of your rope, aching with loss, yearning for right-ness and peace, hungry for God, persecuted—the Kingdom is for you,” says Jesus (paraphrasing the beginning verses of Matt 5). Wow.
“The Kingdom is God acting . . . God in action;” it is the “habitation of God.” This is beautiful to me because reaffirms that the Kingdom is active, moving onward and outward, full of purpose, creation, exploding love and life. And it reminds me that I stand and walk in the dynamic Presence.
Living in the Kingdom is “walking with God” which is the sensing, invoking, and counting on God’s presence in all we do. I like this description of walking with God. Too often, that concept is reduced to a phrase we have difficulty explaining, but Willard brings it tightly in to focus, revealing its purposeful detail that reminds me how I am living in this place called the Kingdom.
God in his “loving, creating will” makes “loving, creating wills” (us), creating a group of loving, creating wills in a loving community. I love the way Willard reminds us that God making us in his image not only connects us to himself but to others, too. That’s inherent in Kingdom life, this walking with God and others. They are simultaneous, and they are intricately intertwined.
These are only a few of the things Willard touches on, but they were wonderful landmarks for me. If you have the time in the busy holiday season, I highly recommend this short walk with Willard.