No Friend Left Behind

In a summer so far filled with mostly mediocre movie offerings, the return of Woody, Buzz, and the rest of the gang is a cause for celebration to infinity and beyond - wouldn't you say? Depending on how old you are, the Toy Story saga has most likely been a part of your life for over a decade, which is why most folks have a genuine emotional attachment to some hunks of plastic playing a role on the big screen.

The day the toys all feared has finally arrived…Andy is off to college, and it looks like what Jesse sang about in Toy Story 2 (When She Loved Me) is finally coming true. But rather than Andy's collection being prated out on E-Bay, they end up in what seems like the ultimate toy retirement situation: permanent residency at Sunnyside Day Care.

But unfortunately what they thought was the path to happiness and freedom ends up being a prison of pain and mistreatment…and they are desperately looking for an escape.

I think one of the reasons so many people love the Toy Story series is Pixar's incredible ability to capture common real life themes in computer-generated worlds, and Toy Story 3 is no exception. On many levels, this film is about the world's way of setting us up with great expectations, only to then serve us up an enormous dish of disappointment that only increases our hunger to get out of the mess we formerly thought would be paradise.

Like, perhaps, some of your friends…or maybe even you?

Parties, 'hooking up', drugs, booze, and a hundred other bad choices and options invite you down their paths every day, and though they may look like open doors to happiness and freedom, you'll soon discover that you are as trapped as Woody and the gang in a dark and oppressive prison.

But…there is a way out.

I think the people in Jesus' day were feeling a bit trapped as well. Some needed out of the rules and regulations jail that the religious leaders had locked them in. Others sought joy in life through selfish, greedy, and lustful choices - as if self-satisfaction was the key to fulfillment in life. So when they heard about this incredible person named Jesus Christ who was saying and doing things beyond their wildest imaginations, they came with open ears and longing hearts.

Can you just see the tears welling in Jesus' eyes as He gazed upon the ones He created who gripped the bars of anguish that their choices and perspectives had created? Now hear the excitement in His voice as He announced the words that are truly the only way out:

The Spirit of the LORD is upon me,
for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free,
and that the time of the LORD's favor has come (Luke 4:18-19, NLT).

There is certainly no joy in being locked up in the pain, addiction, and broken relationships of the world's equivalent of Sunnyside Day Care, our very own 'Sinfulside Human Care,'…but through Jesus Christ and the gospel message, we hold the keys that can rescue anyone in any situation. That's the point Paul makes when he writes:

The Scriptures declare that we are all prisoners of sin, so we receive God's promise of freedom only by believing in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:22, NLT).

You can't sneak your way out, talk your way out, or even fight your way out. Freedom comes though believing that Jesus Christ died on the Cross for our sins, and by trusting in His death and resurrection from the dead, we are released from the walls the keep us from experiencing a real and fulfilling life.

You know, another piece of the Toy Story series that engages me is the bonds of friendship between the toys, especially when one or more of them are in danger. They will stop at nothing to help each other out.

My friends…your friends are in danger. They are lost, trapped, and looking for a way out. What they thought would bring them enjoyment and contentment has only delivered the exact opposite. Don't hide the message of pardon and release because you think they may reject it and/or you for proclaiming it boldly.

Remember, because of the gospel and the freedom it brings…no friend should be left behind!

Flashpoint: Ignite Into Action

Ask your friends to go see Toy Story 3 with you, then afterwards get together at your favorite hangout place and talk about the spiritual parallels with imprisonment and escape. Pray for an opportunity for God to use the conversation to open a door to share the gospel.

Accelerant: Feed the Fire

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples (John 8:31).

But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness (Romans 6:17-18).

What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights in preaching it. Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law (1 Corinthians 9:18-20).