FREE Prize Inside!


Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. Ephesians 1: 3-6 (NIV)

I was reading these verses the other night and was absolutely struck by the grandeur and the magnitude of these words.

We are blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ. We are chosen before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight! He predestined us for adoption in accordance with His pleasure and will –to the praise of His glorious grace!

And, as I continued to read in this very first chapter of Paul’s letter to the believers in Ephesus, the glory and the majesty of what he says continues to build.  Grace is lavished upon us, he makes known to us the mystery of his will, and all of this will bring unity to all things in heaven and earth! All of this is sealed and our adoption as children is guaranteed by the presence of the God’s own Holy Spirit in us –the very same Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead! And all is to the praise of His glory!

The astounding idea that God had a plan for me before He ever spoke the universe into being and the magnificence of His omniscience, omnipotence, and absolute sovereignty continued to soak into my soul for days afterward.

These are amazing thoughts indeed.

And it made me think back to when I had strayed from Him.

At one time, I was involved in all kinds of things that I thought were “fun” but in retrospect now seem as utterly ridiculous, embarrassing, and worthless as… Well, as a plastic sheriff’s badge.

Allow me to explain.

When I was a kid, it was not uncommon for boxes of breakfast cereal to be adorned with the words “FREE Prize Inside!” Children (me included) would mercilessly beg their parents to purchase Cap’n Sugar’s Super-Frosted Magic Atomic Cowboy Marshmallow Planets or any of dozens of cereals that were in on the free prize bandwagon.  (Now that I think about it, doesn’t the slogan, “They’re magically delicious™ ” have a suspiciously occult undertone? Nevermind. I digress.)

Even though the commercials during my Saturday morning cartoons always said these high-fructose breakfast treats were “part of a balanced breakfast,” neither I nor any other kid in America were tugging on their mom’s skirt because of the “nine essential nutrients in every bowlful.”  We wanted the plastic sheriff’s badge inside!

And we wanted it now.

Begging to open the package and acquire the prize inside started the instant the grocery bags were out of the car and on the kitchen table. Alas, mom refused to let me plunge my dirty little mitts into the box immediately and absolutely vetoed having breakfast cereal for supper. It took what seemed like weeks of eating the same cereal every morning (sometimes two bowls) before finally, FINALLY I found the prize at the bottom of the box. (Yes, Virginia, all the way at the very, very bottom of the box.)

Once in my eager little paw now coursing with those nine essential nutrients and enough sugar to lift a Saturn V rocket off the launch pad, I was finally in possession of what every kid on the block wanted and yessiree Bob, I was cool!

With that plastic Sheriff’s badge in hand, I dug in my toy box until I found my plastic cowboy hat and my plastic cowboy boots and my plastic six-shooters. Then, I had mom pin that plastic badge right over my heart on my plastic cowboy vest.  Once mom left the playroom, I waved my plastic six-shooters around and said (In the deepest voice an eight year-old could muster.) “That’s right Bart, this town aint big enough for da both of us.”


Take that, Black Bart!

As imaginary Black Bart lay still and lifeless in the dust of that imaginary one-horse town, I calmly blew the imaginary gun smoke from the end of the plastic barrel.

Without saying a word, my eyes and the cool expression on my face said, “That’s right, folks, I’ve saved the day once again. Go back to your homes and your families. Your wives and your daughters are safe once again. Black Bart will trouble you no more.”

(This would be a really great time for Kinship Christian Radio to be playing the theme song from “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” in the background, but I doubt that will happen.)

The only problem was, before Black Bart could be placed in a pine box and lowered into the ground, the pin broke off the back of that plastic star and the only alternative anyone could come up with was Scotch-taping it to my plastic cowboy vest.

But super-cool dead-eye gunfighters do not Scotch tape their badges to their vests.

And that’s the problem.

The badge was a lie.

There’s nothing wrong with an eight year-old kid developing his imagination, but at some point, we all have to grow up and face reality.

All that stuff I thought was cool and fun when I strayed away from the Lord was a lie. All those things I thought I wanted to do because they felt good were actually shallow and embarrassing and worthless in comparison to the reality of the all-surpassing greatness of God and who I am in Christ.

All those things were a plastic sheriff’s badge buried at the bottom of a box of sugary lies.

God did not create me to kill bad guys with a plastic six-shooter. He designed me before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight, to be blessed with every spiritual blessing, to be adopted into his own family with his own Holy Spirit living in me as a guarantee, to have his grace lavished upon me, to know the mystery of his will that will bring all things in heaven and earth into unity through Jesus Christ!

He did all these things to the praise of His glory –not mine!

And, even though he knows my natural tendency is to long to pin that plastic sheriff’s badge back on my chest, he has opened doors for me to demonstrate and share the depth, the height, the length, the width of His love in His Son, Jesus Christ!  He has helped me to see that plastic sheriff’s badge for what it really is in comparison to the amazing, astounding, glorious, awesome of reality of who he really is!

And the truth of the reality is so much greater than the lie!


 Today’s Praise

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. Ephesians 1:18-21 (NIV)




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