THERE IS ALWAYS TIME, RIGHT?

We measure time all the time. Here, Bill is using a lawn sun dial which we came across at Blenheim Palace in England. The pointer (human) stands on the right spot for the month and day, and then you extend your arm straight up revealing the time. He was doing this shortly after 1:00 p.m. and the shadow on the ground is just clearing the 1 o’clock dial. That is one way to tell time! No electricity or battery backup needed – of course it must be sunny! [Apparently there was no need to tell time at night! J ]

 

Human sundial at Blenheim Palace (C)
Blenheim Palace lawn sundial — telling time without electricity or batteries!

 

For us, however, we feel that time is of critical importance, whether day or night. We react to events, plans and situations as they come our way, and we constantly run out of time to do all that we have on our calendars or that we want to accomplish. But unless it is our birthday, we rarely think about the amount of time we have already lived ‐‐ or, more to the point, the length of time we have left to live.

 

Just this morning we read in our local newspaper about a 39 year old businessman who died in a skiing accident in Colorado.  I have no idea if this gentleman was  believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.  While I don’t know if he was a Christian, I feel certain that he did not know that yesterday would be his last on this earth. He did not know that all the dreams and plans that he was working on would be stopped on a dime when he drew his last breath. He did not know that his life would be cut short, or that he would not celebrate his 40th birthday, or that there was no more time allotted to him, here.

 

Over and over in Scripture, writers tell us of the short life span we humans have, warning us that there is no guarantee of one more second, let alone one more day, week, year, decade! An example of this theme is seen in Psalm 39:4-5 where King David writes:

 

Show me, O LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath. [NIV]

 

This theme is repeated in the New Testament teachings of Jesus in a parable recorded at Luke 12:16-21:

“The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”‘ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” [NIV]

 

This theme is again repeated in James 1:11 where James speaks of the man who goes about his business unaware that his life soon will end:

 

For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.  [NIV]

 

James continues to say in chapter 4:13-14:

 

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” [NIV]

 

 

Big Ben (C)
Big Ben in London — the quintessential example of a powerful clock!

 

Scripture repeatedly warns us not to assume that we will be here tomorrow, in other words,  we are told that our life’s end may come when we least expect it.

 

Our Sovereign God has all this in His power. For this reason, we should focus on seeking the Kingdom of God rather than seeking worldly things. Matthew 6:28-34.

 

Paul said in 2 Corinthians 6:1-2:

 

“Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he [God] says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” [Quoting Isaiah 49:8] Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” [NIV]

 

I saw a series of television advertisements, most likely by a pharmaceutical company but I don’t recall which one, that say that you will not get an invitation or a bulletin warning that tomorrow you will have a fatal heart attack.   Whether or not you use their medicine, the point is one worth consideration because it has eternal consequences.

 

In our human arrogance we think that there is always time to seek salvation.  I’ll do it later.  There is always time, right?

 

While there are many questions for which I have no answer, I do know the answer to this one. No!

 

One of these days time will run out and there is absolutely no way that you or I know when that day will come. The Apostle Paul was right – act now, while there is still time. Today is the day of salvation!

 

Father, we pray for the family of the young man who died in the skiing accident yesterday.  We pray that he was a believer in Jesus Christ and that our Lord will be near and provide comfort to the grieving family. We also pray for those reading this post, that if they do not know the wondrous love of the Lord Jesus, that they would look to your Word and that your Spirit would touch their hearts so that saving grace would be made real to them this day. And, Father, we pray that you would remind each of us, daily, that our time is limited, and that we should make the most of each day you grant to us for the furtherance of your Kingdom, to your honor, glory and praise.

PALACES, DOMINION, AND ME?

I watch the BBC drama Downton Abbey when it is being aired, and I will record it if I am not able to see an episode when it first comes on television. We have DVDs of the earlier seasons and will watch those episodes on occasion “just because.”

 

One of the main characters, in my humble opinion, is the castle itself.  Rather than being called Downton Abbey, the castle’s real name is Highclere Castle. It is located in Hampshire, England and is the home of Lord and Lady Carnarvon. It is an imposing, but beautiful, castle which is decorated with exquisite furniture, massive portraits and paintings, ornate staircases … well, suffice it to say that it is what little girls dream of when thinking of the princess in the palace!

 

I recognize that Downton Abbey is a drama and that it is a fictional representation of how titled English landowners lived in earlier days. But for me as an American, who has never lived in that type society, it is a fascinating look at how the Dukes, Duchesses, Ladies and Lords lived while the servants were living and working behind the scenes.

 

When we were in England several years ago, we did not see Highclere Castle but we did have occasion to see a number of other castles and palaces.

 

I had always heard of the White Cliffs of Dover, so we went to Dover, England and discovered an incredible castle, thriving busy port, and beautiful chalk cliffs.

Dover cliffs
The white cliffs at Dover, England.

 

According to information obtained about Dover Castle,  William the Conqueror strengthened the defenses at Dover with an earthwork and timber stockade in 1066, and from that point on, Dover Castle was garrisoned uninterruptedly until 1958. The stone castle was built by King Henry II in the 1180s and it sits above the white cliffs where there is the shortest sea crossing distance between England and the continent.

Dover castle 2
Dover Castle sitting high above the cliffs and defending the narrowest waterway between England and the continent.

 

Dover Castle was an incredible example of a medieval castle. In short, the trip to Dover, England was great!

 

Of course, we also visited Buckingham Palace in London. The crowds made it difficult to get a picture of the palace in its entirety, but suffice it to say, it was huge, and beautiful.

Buckingham palace
Buckingham Palace, London, England.

This is Buckingham Palace from the gardens between the commercial area and the palace. The palace is protected by a huge gate as well as uniformed officers.

Buckingham palace guiard
Buckingham Palace guard.

 

We also had the privilege of going to see Blenheim Palace, the place where Winston Churchill was born. Today, it is the residence of the 12th Duke of Marlborough.

 

It, too, was immense and ornately furnished. We were not able to take pictures inside and the outside was undergoing some renovation, but the scope of the palace is clear.

 

This picture is of the gate that you go through before you get to the palace building itself.

Blenheim palace Gate
Blenheim Palace Gate.

 

After you go through the gate, you come into a courtyard with the palace surrounding you on three sides.   This is one of the sides of the palace.  On the right edge of the you can see the main section of the palace.  There was a great deal of renovation work going on so we were not able to get good pictures of the front of the palace itself.

Blenheim palace buildings
One part of Blenheim Palace. Incredible beauty on a gigantic scale.

 

The palace grounds were beautiful.  This is just a small portion of the grounds surrounding the palace.

Blenheim palace grounds
Just some of the palace grounds surrounding Blenheim Palace.

 

The size of the palace was mind-numbing for me. A picture of one of the statues that surrounded the walkway outside the palace with a man standing nearby is, for me, a real perspective setter.

Blenheim palace statuary
Statue at Blenheim Palace.

 

Obviously, I cannot imagine living in this type of opulent surroundings, complete with the incredibly large staff that would be required to run the place.

 

But, watching Downton Abbey brings into sharp relief one clear fact.

 

The lord was the absolute ruler of the house and realm associated with the palace. Indeed, the serving staff referred to the Lord of the house as “M’lord” and his wife was “M’lady”. No first names … no pet names … no familiarity expressed, even though they may have known many secrets about the family members. The immutable fact of sovereignty over-rode anything else.

 

Simple as that. The will of the master was controlling and it was carried out by those under his authority. In short, the lord of the house had dominion over all his realm. Even the people in the village attached to the castle would bow or give homage to the lord of the estate when he rode past. This was the person who had control of their destiny; this was the person whose will would prevail and to whom they were subject.

 

The Old Testament prophet named Daniel had a vision of the son of man who was given dominion over all things:

 

“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.

Daniel 7:13-14 ESV

 And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.

Daniel 7:27 ESV

 

Here, the word “dominion” was taken from the Aramaic, and the transliterated word used is sholtan. The meaning for this term is “sovereignty” or “realm”.

 

Imagine living in a realm where the One in charge has full dominion and authority. Imagine a Sovereign who is loving and Who puts the interests of those in His realm over His own. Imagine a realm where the Sovereign is not questioned and His edicts are not reversed.

 

Imagine living in a realm where the Sovereign loves us so much that He died in our place so that we become His redeemed people. Imagine being under the sovereign rule of the Child whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, Who was, is and always will be the One who bears the name: Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, … Jesus.

 

If you have not watched Downton Abbey, check it out. I think you will find the setting beautiful and the interaction between characters intriguing.

 

But, on a matter of eternal significance, if you have not met the Lord of all Creation Who will have a kingdom where all dominions will serve and obey Him, open your Bible and meet Jesus.

 

And, if you have met Jesus, and He is your Lord and Savior, then bend the knee, humble yourself, and thank Him for the salvation that has been given to you, for His grace and mercy and love, and seek to know Him more and more each day in this new year.

 

Father, help me to love you more, help me to serve you, and help me to learn more of your holiness, love, mercy and grace so that I can reflect that to those I come in contact with at home, work, school, church. Thank you for your Spirit and for your grace.