The Barter System

In our modern, free enterprise economy, the price of a product is determined by a number of factors. There are costs associated with research and development, labor, cost of raw materials to manufacture the product, marketing and sales, and that’s just to name a few. Once a product has been developed and manufactured, the price has been set, and it’s finally offered for sale, the consumer exchanges money for whatever it is that’s being sold. In simple terms, we exchange money for goods.

But there is another form of trade that has become popular among certain groups of people in recent years known as the barter system. The barter system is different in one aspect. The goods being offered for trade are generally not brand new. With some exceptions, trading (or bartering) usually involves used goods. And when two parties engage in a bartering transaction, the monetary value of the goods being exchanged may or may not be taken into account. In the barter system, it’s more of – “You have something I want. And I have something you want. Let’s trade” And sometimes, the trade involves bartering goods for certain types of services, like trading a flat screen TV for car repair.

Like I said, you don’t always consider the monetary value of an item in a barter transaction. I recently engaged in a barter transaction in which the item I gave up was worth more monetarily than what I received in return. But the other guy had something I wanted and I had something he wanted. So we made the deal.

Of course, all of this is within reason. No one’s going to give up a yacht for a riding mower. With that said, however, think about the value of what God gave up to secure our eternal souls. Billy Graham once said, “The blood of Jesus was God’s own life.” In keeping with the spirit and tone of this message, it was the ultimate one-sided barter transaction. God brought His own Son to the cross at Calvary. All we bring to the table is the debt of sin. What can we possibly give God in exchange for what He gave for us? But God made the exchange. Our sin debt cancelled – exchanged for the life of Jesus at the cross.

In 1 Corinthians 6 verses 19 and 20, God’s word tells us, You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. And I love how this is stated in the New Living Translation – God bought you with a high price.

We bring nothing to the table but our sin, yet God wants us. We bring nothing to the table but our brokenness. We have nothing that God could ever want or need, yet God was willing to pay the price. All He asks is that we believe in His son Jesus and put our trust in Him, that we make Him Lord of our lives. He asks us to have faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Faith, as Peter wrote, is more precious than gold because gold will one day perish. But what we get in return for placing our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ is eternal. It seems like such a one sided transaction, but God, because of His immeasurable love, was willing to do it anyway!

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Grace, and Why We Need It

Ephesians 2:4-9
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

Those few verses from Ephesians chapter 2 sum up the message of the gospel in a nutshell. Every individual who is alive and all who came before, as well as those who are yet to be born, are condemned because of sin. That passage reminds us of our sinful nature. It’s a reminder of our need for a Savior and that there is only one Savior, Jesus Christ. And that passage makes it very clear that our salvation is a gift from God. Remember, this was written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit by the Apostle Paul, who, in his letter to Timothy, described himself as the “worst of sinners”. He better than anyone understood the meaning of grace and he knew full well that grace is a gift that only God can give because that truth was played out in his life so dramatically on the Damascus Road.

The act of giving a gift is a two step process. First, a gift must be offered. Second, it must be accepted. God’s offer is the gift of grace, the forgiveness of sins for anyone who professes faith in Christ. The gift of grace then, is accepted by our profession of faith.

Before I go any further I want to clarify something. There are always those who ask “What about babies and little children who die before they’re old enough to grasp the meaning of the gospel?” Let me assure you, infants and little children who die before they are old enough to understand the gospel message are in Heaven and are in the presence of Jesus Christ. I have no doubt about that. Go back and read that line in Ephesians again: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Infants and small children who die at a young age.are saved by grace. If that were not true, then grace would not be grace. Mercy would not be mercy.

For many years, in fact, for much of my life, I lived under the notion that being a good person was good enough to get me into Heaven. I talked about my belief in God, not very often I might add, but what little I did say about God was little more than lip service and since I didn’t start reading and studying God’s word until I was almost 50 years old, I didn’t have whole lot to say about God anyway because I really didn’t know that much about Him. I bought into the lie that good enough was…good enough. Plus, I did what many people do: I compared myself to some really bad people. I figured since I had never committed any heinous crimes, never abused my wife and kids, never did any hardcore drugs, and so on and so on, well….that was….good enough.

Here’s the problem with that sort of thinking and I praise God for opening my eyes to the truth: God doesn’t compare us to other people. He does not compare us to the murderer on death row. He does not compare us to that person who has no conscience when it comes to stealing. He does not compare us to the adulterer who habitually cheats on his or her spouse. God uses a much higher standard. We are not compared to other flawed human beings. We are compared to the standards of God as lived in the life of Jesus Christ, and when we are compared to such a holy and righteous standard, we all fall short.

As Christians, we know Romans 3:23 by heart, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Paul expressed that same truth in Ephesians 2. We are all dead in our transgressions…..all have sinned. And that should be a warning for anyone who believes, like I once did, that all you have to do is be better than “bad people”. It may be true that when you’re being chased by a bear, you only have to outrun the slowest camper! But no one escapes from the punishment for their sin. No one can outrun the fate that awaits them if they die without Christ.

So yes, the words of Romans 3:23 are a warning, to be sure. But notice that in both Romans chapter 3 and in the passage from Ephesians 2, Paul followed his “warning” with a message of hope. We all know Romans 3:23, but the message of hope is in verses that follow – “…and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement through the shedding of his blood – to be received by faith.

That is the message of hope. We need a Savior. We have a Savior in Jesus Christ. There is nothing we can do to earn God’s grace. And the good news is, there is nothing we need to do because grace is the gift of God. Like I said, that’s the message of the gospel in a nutshell.

The Pain of Separation

Update, March 2019: This was written shortly after we moved to Florida in June 2018. Some things came up that were unexpected and beyond our control, and we had to move back to Fort Worth in November. 

For the past several months, I’ve taken a bit of sabbatical from writing these weekly devotionals. My wife and I had a lot going on.  The whole process of selling our home in Keller, Texas (which took way longer than we thought it would) and buying a home here in Florida was very time consuming and distracting….to say the least. And there were some other things going on that I don’t need to mention here. But now that we’re getting settled in, I can start writing with some consistency again. At least, I hope so anyway.

As part of the process of getting settled in, my wife and granddaughter and I joined First Baptist Church of Palm Coast [Florida] Sunday the 22nd of July by transfer of letter. We’re still in the process of looking at Bible classes, but we have a found a church home.

As for the title of this devotional – The Pain of Separation – I recently transferred to a new position within Southwest Airlines, moving from Dallas to Orlando. Although I believe God had his hand on this transfer, since the door was opened at just the right time, it still came with its own set of challenges. You see, our home in Palm Coast is exactly 100 miles from my job at Orlando’s airport. Because of the distance involved, I had to find a room to rent in Orlando during the week when I have to work. It has not been fun. In fact, being away from my family four days a week is downright painful. It’s not something I’m accustomed to and it’s more difficult when you’re older.

However, the separation from my family during the week has given me some insight into what it must be like for military personal who are deployed overseas for long periods of time. At least I get to go home at the end of the week. It’s also given me a glimpse of another type of separation, one that no one should want to experience, and that would be the separation that a person will experience for all eternity should he or she die without accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. If being away from family for a few days a week is this difficult, then I shudder to think about what it would mean to be separated from God for all eternity.

Jesus made it very clear in the parables that are recorded in Matthew chapter 13 – The Parable of the Weeds, The Parable of the Net – that a time is coming when wicked and sinful people will be taken away.

“Matthew 13:40-43 – As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out His angels and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. they will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”

Those who have rejected Jesus Christ will be separated from those who have accepted His grace. Jesus made that very clear. And they will be separated from God forever. Worse yet, they will know it did not have to be that way. When an unbeliever dies, they will know that at that moment that everything written about Jesus Christ in the Bible is absolutely true. They will know because the Bible says they will know. I believe Paul makes this very clear in 1 Corinthians 13 verse 12 where he wrote, “Now, I know in part; then I shall know fully…” The believer will know the joy of being in the presence of Christ forever. The unbeliever will know nothing but the pain of separation from God for all eternity, a pain that will be made all the worse by knowing that their fate could have been avoided. And that is a pain that no one should want to experience. We don’t want our loved ones or our neighbors to experience the eternal pain of being separated from God for all eternity. That is why we must never, never stop sharing the love of Christ. There is too much at stake. The pain of eternal separation from God is too great for us not to share His offer of grace.