God On Film 2009 part 2
The Attitudes of "Up"
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
July 12, 2009

“Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings; ...
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark nor even eagle flew…
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.”
        - From High Flight by John Gillespie Magee, Jr

Those words were written in 1941 as part of a poem by a 19 year-old John Gillespie Magee Jr., the son of former missionaries to China. Magee wrote those words while he was serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force and sent them to his parents, just four months before he died in a midair collision.

And here we are, almost 70 years later, and that poem serves are the official poem for both the Royal Canadian Air Force and the UK’s Royal Air Force. Plus, first year cadets at the United States Air Force Academy are required to memorize it. Ronald Reagan quoted from it, John Denver put it to music, President Bartlett in the West Wing made reference to it, and earlier this year even Battlestar Galatica used a paraphrase of it.

And I think you see the spirit of this poem in the movie Up. “Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings; ... Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue…” Take a look at the trailer…


Shera and I went to see this movie earlier this week, and we really enjoyed it. In fact, it’s still playing in the theatre here at the other end of the Mall if any of you still want to see it. And what we’re going to do this morning is talk about some of the attitudes that you can see expressed in this movie. And the reason we’re going to talk about this is because our attitude is so important in our lives.

I have a friend who several years ago got his pilot’s license, and he once took me up with him for a flight. I remember getting into that plane and looking at all the dials and switches there on the panel. He explained some of them to me, and there among all the other gadgets was an attitude indicator. Wouldn’t it be interesting if we all had attitude indicators? Well, this attitude indicator on the plane was there to tell how your plane was positioned in relation to the horizon. When a plane is climbing it has a nose-high attitude because the nose of the plane is pointed above the horizon. When the airplane is diving it has a nose-down attitude. The attitude of the plane determines the performance of the plane.

John Maxwell wrote about this is his book, “The Winning Attitude”, and he claims:

“You attitude determines your altitude.”
~ John Maxwell

Simply put, the direction your nose is pointing will determine how high you fly. If the nose of your airplane is pointed level than you will fly level, if the nose of your airplane is pointed up than you will fly up, if the nose is pointed down than you will fly down. Your attitude determines your altitude.

You understand? No deep hidden messages here, it’s right out there in “plane” sight. Our attitude determines our altitude. I think that’s true personally, emotionally, spiritually, academically, vocationally… your attitude determines your altitude.

Now, just to catch you up to speed in case you haven’t been here, this is our second week in our message series called “God On Film”, and we’re looking specifically at some of the movies that are in theatres right now to see how they can help illuminate the pages of Scripture and help us learn more about God, about His ways, about our relationship with Him, about our relationships with others… whatever we can learn. Last week we looked at the values presented in Star Trek, next week we’re going to use the movie Public Enemies to springboard into a discussion about temptation, and in two weeks we’ll be talking about Harry Potter and how we as fans and as parents can navigate through the world of Harry Potter.

This week, we’re talking about the movie Up and the attitudes you can find expressed in the movie. We’re going to actually identify three pairs of attitudes… six in total… and in each pair there’s a negative attitude and there’s a positive attitude. The idea is that we need to minimize the negative attitudes and maximize the positives. And as we explore these attitudes, we’re going to see just how they line up with the pages of Scripture.

Okay? So the first negative attitude we’re going to talk about this morning is…

Altitude Determining Attitudes:

Attitude Pair #1:

Negative: The Backward Attitude

Some people just can’t seem to leave the past. They are always focusing on what used to be… the way things were… back in the good ol’ days.

And really, this is how the old man in Up spends most of the movie. His name is Carl, and as an old man and as a widower, he constantly looks backwards. He doesn’t want to move forward; he wants to return to the past. So he clings desperately to the photos and the trinkets and the memories of things past.

Now don’t get me wrong; it’s fine to look back and fondly remember your past. But the problem Carl had, and the problem so many of us can have, is that he was consumed by the past.

And this really stuck home for me, because I saw my own grandfather go through this. After my grandmother died, my grandfather just couldn’t move on. He was consumed by the past and lived in bondage to it for the next four years until his death. And while I understand it, it’s a tragic existence.

Years ago, I used to regularly meet with an old man… I thought about calling him an elderly man, but he really was an old man… and he would often tell me, “Never grow old, Greg.” But considering the alternative, I think I’ll be quite happy to grow old. I want to fondly remember the past, but I don’t want to be consumed by it.

“A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams.”
~ John Barrymore

Of course, a major problem in looking backward is that we rarely see things as they really were. You know how when you’re driving in a car and you look in the mirror, you see the warning “Objects are closer than they appear”? Well, when you’re looking in your rearview mirror in life and you’ve got this backward attitude, it should carry the warning, “The past was not as good as it appears.”

Let go to the story of Israel’s exodus from Egypt, when Moses led the Israelites out of slavery there. This if from the Old Testament book of Exodus. If you’re familiar with the story, do you remember what happened whenever the going got a little hard in the wilderness? The Israelites would begin grumbling, and the grumbling would always go in the same direction… “Oh why did we leave Egypt, things weren’t so bad in Egypt, oh we ought to go back to Egypt.”

Seriously? Had they forgotten what it was like in Egypt? They had been slaves there! You can read about their work conditions in Exodus 1. The Egyptians were afraid that the Israelite population was getting too big and they were going to take over the country…
Exodus 1:11,13-16 (NLT)
So the Egyptians made the Israelites their slaves. They appointed brutal slave drivers over them, hoping to wear them down with crushing labor. They forced them to build the cities of Pithom and Rameses as supply centers for the king.
So the Egyptians worked the people of Israel without mercy. They made their lives bitter, forcing them to mix mortar and make bricks and do all the work in the fields. They were ruthless in all their demands.
Then Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, gave this order to the Hebrew midwives… “When you help the Hebrew women as they give birth, watch as they deliver. If the baby is a boy, kill him; if it is a girl, let her live.”

This is the life the Israelites wanted to go back to? I don’t think that in their look backward they were seeing clearly.

Listen, your past may have been terrible. Or maybe it really was great. Either way, it’s still the past. And while it may be a nice place to visit, you shouldn’t be living there.

“Yesterday ended last night!”
~ Lee Iacoca

So, if the backward attitude is the negative attitude, what’s the positive counterpart?

Positive: The Forward Attitude

Which is the attitude Carl had in the movie at the beginning before his wife died. Right at the beginning, the movie shows Carl and his wife Ellie progressing through the different stages of life, and they always had this dream of traveling to South America. Now, other things kept getting in the way and they kept procrastinating, but at least they were looking forward. At least they were dreaming of the future.

How do you picture your tomorrows? Because regardless of what your past may have been, your future stretches out before you like a giant sketchpad waiting for you to make your mark. What is that picture going to be? What are your dreams for your life, for your family, for your church. Where do you want to be six months down the road, a year from now, five years, ten years?

Philippians 3:13-14 (NLT)
Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

So we’ve got to have a forward attitude when it comes to this life, and when it comes to eternity. Keep your eyes on Jesus and on the promise of Heaven for when this life is over. We sang about that earlier… looking forward to that day when Jesus comes to take His Church to be with Him forever.

You know, people need to have a forward attitude, and churches need to have a forward attitude, too. One of the great things about starting a new church is that you don’t carry a lot of baggage from the past. Everything’s new… everything’s looking forward. And here at Sunrise, we’re still a young church. But as our past continues to grow, we need to be careful not to become entrenched in it. Instead, we need to continue to look forward… look forward to what God has in store for us… look forward to what God can do through us to touch our community… look forward to what God can do within us to make us holy… look forward to how God can bless us and empower us and use us.

I believe God has positioned us where we are… not so we can look backward at days gone by, not so we can become comfortable with where we’re at right now, but so we can look forward and continue to move in that direction under His leadership.

Hebrews 12:1-2 (NLT)
…Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.

Attitude Pair #2:

Negative: The Downward Attitude

You ever meet someone who is always down? It seems that they are constantly seasick on the journey of life. It doesn’t matter what happens, they know things are always going to get worse. They have a downward attitude. Don’t you just love being around people like that?

Well, in the movie Up, there’s a young Wilderness Explorer, like a Boy Scout, named Russell who most of the time isn’t quite so negative. But in this clip I’m going to show you, he exemplifies what it means to have a downward attitude…

VIDEO – Russell and Carl pulling house, Russell complaining

Just a little negative. Actually, there’s a story in the Old Testament about some pretty negative people… who no matter how positive things really were, they could always point out the problems.

It’s after the Exodus from Egypt which we talked about earlier, and now the Israelites have come to the very edge of what they called the Promised Land… the Land that God had promised to give to them. So in preparation for the people of God to move into that land, Moses sent 12 spies to do what spies do best… spy. And when they came back they had a glowing report of how fertile the land was and what a wonderful place it would be to live… and then they dropped the bombshell. They said…

Numbers 13:28, 31-33 (NLT)
“But the people living there are powerful, and their towns are large and fortified. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak!” … “We can’t go up against them! They are stronger than we are!” So they spread this bad report about the land among the Israelites: “The land we traveled through and explored will devour anyone who goes to live there. All the people we saw were huge. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak. Next to them we felt like grasshoppers, and that’s what they thought, too!”

A couple decades ago, John Crosby ran for the leadership of what was then the Progressive Conservative Party. And during that time, he spoke of some doomsayers within the Party, and he referred to them as “Nattering Nabobs of Negativity.” Same way Spiro Agnew once referred to the press corps. And I think it’s a pretty good description of these spies who had this downward attitude… they were nattering nabobs of negativity. Kind of like the comedienne Janeane Garafalo…

“I guess I just prefer to see the dark side of things. The glass is always half-empty. And cracked. And I just cut my lip on it. And chipped a tooth.”
~ Janeane Garofalo

But the Bible warns us against such an attitude. Read this aloud with me…

Philippians 2:14-15 (NLT)
Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you.

Philippians 4:4 (NLT)
Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!

In other words, instead of a downward attitude, you should have…

Positive: The Upward Attitude

After all, “Up” is the name of the movie we’re talking about this morning. So you had to know this was coming. We need to have an Upward attitude.

Now, we just talked about how Moses sent spies into the Promised Land, and how spies came back with a really negative view. But the truth is, of the 12 spies that were sent, only 10 of them had that negative downward attitude. So what about the other 2? Well, this is what Caleb and Joshua reported…

Numbers 14:7-8 (NLT)
They said to all the people of Israel, “The land we traveled through and explored is a wonderful land! And if the Lord is pleased with us, he will bring us safely into that land and give it to us. It is a rich land flowing with milk and honey.”

They bragged up the land. They bragged up the potential. And they bolstered up their courage to move right into the land despite the downward attitudes of the other spies.

Interesting. Same land, same time frame, they saw the same things… and yet instead of a negative report they came back with a positive report. Why? Perhaps the truth comes in the words of Sugar Ray Robinson who said…

“I've always believed that you can think positive just as well as you can think negative.”
~ Sugar Ray Robinson

Or how about what Christopher Reeve said? He had it all, a successful career, a wonderful life, adoring fans, everything a man could want. And than in one minute it was all over. He was doing what he loved, jumping competitively when his horse stumbled, he tumbled, and the life he knew was over. Christopher Reeve went from being a Superman to being a quadriplegic who even needed a machine to breathe for him. I would think that Christopher Reeve probably has some pretty good reasons to be negative… to have a downward attitude. But listen to what he said:

“You play the hand you're dealt. I think the game's worthwhile.”
~ Christopher Reeve

You see, you get to choose how you are going to look at life. It doesn’t matter what the circumstances are, how are you going to look at life? Will it be with a downward, negative attitude, always able to find a problem in every solution, always able to spot the dark cloud inside the silver lining? Or will it be with a positive, upward attitude? Only you get to decide that.

Attitude Pair #3:

Negative: The Inward Attitude

Now here’s an attitude that’s very easy for us to develop. It’s easy for us to become inward focused. It’s easy for us to become selfish… not caring about other people; only caring about ourselves.

Again, in the movie, Carl was very much like that. He became completely consumed in what he wanted. In fact, his inward attitude nearly cost the lives of some of the friends he met along the way. I’m not going to ruin the movie for you, but Carl got to the point where he wanted what he wanted and it didn’t matter what happened to anyone else.

Now thankfully, he shook himself out of that attitude and was able to rescue his friends. But that inward attitude had the potential to be very costly. Sandra read this earlier…

Philippians 2:3-5 (NLT)
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

And what kind of attitude did Jesus have? It certainly wasn’t an inward attitude. It was an attitude that drove Him to sacrifice everything for the benefit of others.

So if you’re not to have an inward attitude, what kind of attitude are you supposed to have? Take a wild stab at it…

Positive: The Outward Attitude

This is the kind of attitude that genuinely cares for other people. It’s the kind of attitude that reaches out with love and compassion. It’s the kind of attitude that reflects the heart of God.

In the movie, we’re introduced to Russell as a boy who’s genuinely trying to take an interest in Carl and help him out…

VIDEO – Russell at the door

If only Russell could put down that book. Now, he may have been a little overeager, but I think Russell shows us what it means to have an outward focus. He’s there at the door, trying to find a way to help Carl out.

Do you remember last week when we were taking a look at Star Trek and we talked about our Prime Directive as Christ-followers? What it that? Our prime directive as Christ-followers is to take the message of Jesus, and the love and the life and the forgiveness and the grace and the mercy that He offers, and take it to our world. Even if it means sacrifice, even if it’s inconvenient, we’re given the directive to care for others so greatly that we want to serve them and we want them to meet Jesus, too.

What is it that drives you in life? Is it your own personal desire to acquire and to make yourself happy and to satisfy all your wants, or do you genuinely care for others? When was the last time you did something for someone else and there was nothing in it for you? Are you able to look beyond yourself? Do you see others the way that Jesus sees them? Does the love and compassion that you have received from God flow through you to those around you?

Romans 12:9-10 (NLT)
Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.

I think… if we’re going to be Christ-followers and we’re going to live the way He wants us to live… if we’re going to become more like Him, then this outward attitude is essential.

[This message was influenced by resources from Denn Guptill]



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