How many people know what a bucket list is? If you don’t know, it is a list of things you want to do before you die, or kick the bucket. The concept is best explained in the 2007 movie with Jack Nicolson and Morgan Freeman. (Show clip) How many of you have a bucket list? How’s it going.
I don’t really have a formal bucket list, but there are things that I would like to do. And while we were on vacation I got to scratch one of them off the list. I got to fly in a bi-plane, what I’d really like to do is fly a bi-plane but that probably isn’t going to happen.
When I was in college I started taking flying lessons, there had been a speaker at one of our chapel services who represented MAF, Mission Aviation Fellowship, which is an organization that provides air services for missionaries in areas like Papua New Guinea. I was 20 thought it sounded cool and started to learn how to fly, but soon it became apparent to me anyway that my calling was to pastor a local church and I knew that flying would be a hobby that I wouldn’t be able to afford, so I gave it up. But I loved to fly.
And as many of you know I am a convertible buff, so if you combine my love of flying and my love of convertibles a bi-plane seems to be a logical leap
Here is a picture of me and the plane I flew in, which is a Waco YMF from the 1940s. Here is my favourite shot of what the seat belts look like and my biplane selfie.
The only downside is it reminded me how much I love to fly and now I want a biplane. Angela and my banker say no.
When we were taxiing down the runway for take-off I remembered a statement that jumped out of my ground school manual when I was learning to fly. I had written it down and kept it on my desk, it became a mantra of mine for years. But somewhere along the line the note disappeared but on that sunny day with the roar of the engine in my ears and the wind in my face it suddenly came back to me.
Here it is write it down because it is a deep and profound spiritual truth. You ready? “Your attitude will determine your altitude.” Did you catch it?
“Your attitude will determine your altitude.” Coached in layman’s terms that simply means the direction your nose is pointing will determine how high you fly. Right?
Let me illustrate with my handy dandy model airplane. 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, and it’s doesn’t matter how much you increase your speed ultimately it is your attitude that determines your altitude.
That concept and statement is just as true for life as it is for flying. How high you fly personally, emotionally, spiritually, academically, vocationally will be determined in the most part by your attitudes. And once we realize that, once we realize that we are in control and that circumstances aren’t then that gives us the power to determine our destiny.
Now there may be people here today who disagree with me. That’s ok, I’ve been disagreed with before, will probably be disagreed with again. But that doesn’t change the fact that in life, less is dependent on what happens to you and more is dependent on how you react to what happens to you. I have seen people go through similar traumatic situations, one person going through the ordeal, the other person growing through the ordeal. One person becomes bitter one person becomes better. If it’s not the circumstances that dictate the outcome what is it? It is the person’s attitude. How they determine that are going to handle that situation.
You ever read this book? It’s called Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. A few years ago it was made into a movie. Have you ever had a terrible, horrible, no good very bad day? Sure you have, we all have them.
Listen up, you can’t control the circumstances that come your way, but you can control how you respond to them.
Leo Buscaglia writes “There are two big forces at work, external and internal. We have very little control over external forces such as tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, disasters, illness and pain. What really matters is the internal force. How do I respond to those disasters? Over that I have complete control.”
So the question is, what type of attitude do you have? How are you going to face life and what it has in store for you?
Some Have a Downward Attitude You ever meet someone who is always down. It seems that they are perpetually seasick on the journey of life. It doesn’t matter what happens they know things are going to get worse.
There’s a story in the Old Testament, you probably remember it. The Israelites have escaped from Egypt and have come to the very edge of the Promised Land. In preparation for the people of God to enter in to the land that had been promised to them Moses sent 12 spies into Canaan to do what spies do best, spy. And when they came back they had a glowing report of how fertile the land was and then they dropped the bombshell in Numbers 13:28 But the people living there are powerful, and their towns are large and fortified. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak!
And they weren’t content in being quietly negative if we keep reading in Numbers 13:32 So they spread this bad report about the land among the Israelites: “The land we travelled through and explored will devour anyone who goes to live there. All the people we saw were huge.
In Mike Duffy’s first speech in the senate he referred to "Nattering nabobs of negativism." Burt it wasn’t all that original, I heard it when John Crosbie was running for the Tory Leadership way back when, and he actually stole it from American Vice President Spiro Agnew, and it wasn’t even original with him because it was part of a speech written for him by William Safire. But regardless that’s what these ten spies were, “Nattering nabobs of negativism.”
John Symonds a good friend of mine and pastor of Yarmouth Wesleyan once commented on a person he knew, he said “They are so negative that if the Angel Gabriel came down they’d put on dark glasses and shoot him for a crow.” These people remind me of Janeane Garofalo “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.”
So you can have a downward attitude, or not!
Some Have an Upward Attitude Now in the story we told you about in the book of Numbers we mentioned that there were 12 spies who went into the Promised Land and that 10 of them came back with a negative report, so what about the other 2? This is what they reported:
Numbers 14:7-8 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.
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.”
The two spies who brought back the positive report were named Joshua and Caleb, Joshua went on to write a book of the bible and this is what God said about Caleb Numbers 14:24 But my servant Caleb has a different attitude than the others have. He has remained loyal to me, so I will bring him into the land he explored. His descendants will possess their full share of that land.
I’d be very surprised if anyone here could name any of the ten from the negative group.
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 pitching him to the ground and then it was all over. Christopher Reeves went from being a Superman to being a quadriplegic who even needed a machine to breathe for him. I would think that Christopher Reeves 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.”
You get to choose how you are going to look at life, will it be with a negative attitude, always able to find a problem in every solution, always able to spot the dark cloud that comes with every silver lining or will it be with a positive attitude? Will you be a part of the problem or a part of the solution? Will you light the candle to chase away the darkness or will you be the one who blows out the candle to prove how dark the room is? Only you will decide that.
Some Have a Backward Attitude
Some people just can’t seem to leave the past. They are always focusing on what used to be. They seem unwilling to leave yesterday, or probably closer to the truth to leave their memories of yesterday. Which of course should come with a warning label that says “Any resemblance these memories may have to the actual events is purely coincidental.”
Let go back to the story of Israel’s exodus from Egypt. 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.”
They had been slaves, forced to make bricks out of mud and straw, whose very lives were held in the whim of Pharorah. The conditions are recorded in Exodus 1:11-16 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. But the more the Egyptians oppressed them, the more the Israelites multiplied and spread, and the more alarmed the Egyptians became. 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, Shiphrah and Puah: “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.”
Wow, you gotta hate that, but that isn’t what the Israelites remembered. Listen to their fond memories of their days in Egypt. Numbers 11:4-5 Then the foreign rabble who were traveling with the Israelites began to crave the good things of Egypt. And the people of Israel also began to complain. “Oh, for some meat!” they exclaimed. “We remember the fish we used to eat for free in Egypt. And we had all the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic we wanted.
Like them, most of our yesterdays are coloured by nostalgia. George W. Ball was US Secretary of State under John F. Kennedy and he made this statement “Nostalgia is a seductive liar.”
We can become so caught up in the past that not only can’t we see tomorrow we can’t see today. You can’t live in the past, and you can’t change the past. One of the great things about starting Cornerstone from scratch was that we couldn’t talk about how great things were back in 1953 or 1983. We had no past, but we do now. And we need to be careful that we don’t live back there, remembering the good old days.
This is the season in the Wesleyan Church of pastoral change. Under normal circumstances if a pastor is going to resign on the Atlantic District it happens in February or March, and no I’m not resigning. Some are pleased with that declaration while some might be disappointed. But it is what it is.
And sometime the new pastor finds that he has a tough time prying people out of the past, “Why when so and so was pastor here things were really happening, he was such a great preacher, and visited all the sick and shut ins from the church, and his kids were perfect and he never offended anyone.” And it goes on ad nauseam. And I’ve been on both ends of that, I’ve followed Pastors and have not been able to live up to their legacy, and if you listen to some folks in at least one of my previous churches you’d think I can walk on water, and I can’t.
And for all of those people I want to say, let’s not forget the past, but let’s not dwell there. It was Zig Ziglar who said “Yesterday ended last night. Today is a brand-new day”
And the same holds true for your personal lives. As wonderful as yesterday may have been, it is yesterday.
Yesterday may be a nice place to visit, but you shouldn’t be living there. I’ve said it before but you might want to write it down this time, “The past makes a great classroom but it shouldn’t be your living room.”
Paul wrote to the early church in Philippians 3:13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,
But looking backward isn’t the only option, Some Have a Forward Attitude
What are your dreams? You do have dreams don’t you? John Barrymore said “A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams.” How do you picture your tomorrows? Regardless of our past the future stretches out before us like a giant sketchpad waiting for us to make our mark. What is the picture going to be? What are your dreams for your life, your family, and your church? Where do you want to be six months down the road, a year, five years ten years?
If you can’t see it now you won’t be able to have it. Before your dreams can come true, first you have to have dreams. We will never build anything on the ground until we build castles in the air.
When Joshua and Caleb saw the promised land they not only saw it for what it was, they saw it for what it could become.
For the first ten years that Cornerstone existed we dreamed of having a building of our own and here we are. But that was only a part of the dream the dream wasn’t just to build a church, it was to build a Church.
That is a community of people who come together to worship Jesus, to support and love one another and to reach out to our communities to introduce more people to Jesus.
From day one the purpose of this church was very clear, to reach the pre-churched, the de-churched and the un-churched, we were put here to help depopulate Hell. That is our dream that at the end of the day there are more people who know Jesus and are going to heaven because this church was here.
But that one can’t only be Denn’s dream it’s going to have to become the dream of all of us. And that’s only going to happen as we seek God’s face and what he wants us to do to reach people, to determine what we need to do to honour God and fulfil his will.
So let’s go back to the beginning, “Your Attitude determines your Altitude” But how do you determine your attitude. Well when you are flying you can’t always judge it by the horizon because sometimes that can be deceptive in bad weather or uneven terrain, and so there’s a thing called an Artificial Horizon on the aircraft’s instrument panel. And even when you can’t see the true horizon you can know what the attitude of your aircraft is.
Sometimes in life it’s hard to determine what your attitude is because of outside circumstances. Our lives aren’t always lived under clear skies. And as believers we don’t have a something to keep our eyes on instead we have a someone.
You might recall that we often refer to Hebrews 11 as the faith hall of fame, and the heroes of the Old and New Testament are celebrated there, and after we are told their stories we are reminded in Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, 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.
Kind of big expectations and so the author of the book of Hebrew tells us in the next verse, Hebrews 12:2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Circumstances and people may disappoint us, and they may try to rob us of our faith but Jesus is constant. Keep your eyes centred on him. How? By reading his word, by spending time in prayer, by worshipping with his people.
And hopefully the end result for the Christ Follower is found in Philippians 2:5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. That’s why we are called to be “Christ Followers”.
So how’s your attitude, and how’s your altitude, how high are you willing to go with God? Only you will be able to determine how high you will allow him to take you.