The Gospel According to Disney

Over the past month or so, we have been immersed in a series called “The Gospel According to Disney,” where each week we have talked about the Christian themes within different Disney movies- Alice in Wonderland, The Lion King, Toy Story, and Finding Nemo, and this week, we will be talking about The Gospel According to Mary Poppins. I want to talk a little bit about The Gospel According to Walt Disney, Himself. Walt grew up in a Christian home- he was named after a preacher with whom his dad occasionally shared the pulpit. Walt grew up appreciating all faiths and respecting them as much as his own. When his daughter was 10 years old, she began attending Catholic school. He wrote his sister a letter about this, stating that

“Little Diane is going to a Catholic school now, which she seems to enjoy very much. She is quite taken with the rituals and is studying catechism. She hasn’t quite made up her mind yet whether she wants to be a Catholic or Protestant. I think she is intelligent enough to know what she wants to do, and I feel that whatever her decision may be is her privilege. I have explained to her that Catholics are people just like us and basically there is no difference. In giving her this broad view I believe it will tend to create a spirit of tolerance within her.”

A spirit of tolerance. Something that we all need to gain today. We may not truly understand a person or their beliefs, but we can certainly make an effort to love them and accept them as they are. That’s what Jesus calls us to do after all.

Walt Disney, along with many other Americans like J. Edgar Hoover, Billy Graham, and Eleanor Roosevelt,  was contacted by author Roland Gammon and was asked this question:
“What is your faith and what part has it played in your life achievement.”
Here’s his response-

Deeds Rather Than Words

By Walt Disney

In these days of world tensions, when the faith of men is being tested as never before, I am personally thankful that my parents taught me at a very early age to have a strong personal belief and reliance in the power of prayer for Divine inspiration. My people were members of the Congregational Church in our home town of Marceline, Missouri. It was there where I was first taught the efficacy of religion … how it helps us immeasurably to meet the trial and stress of life and keeps us attuned to the Divine inspiration. Later in DeMolay, I learned to believe in the basic principle of the right of man to exercise his faith and thoughts as he chooses. In DeMolay, we believe in a supreme being, in the fellowship of man, and the sanctity of the home. DeMolay stands for all that is good for the family and for our country.

Every person has his own ideas of the act of praying for God’s guidance, tolerance, and mercy to fulfill his duties and responsibilities. My own concept of prayer is not as a plea for special favors nor as a quick palliation for wrongs knowingly committed. A prayer, it seems to me, implies a promise as well as a request; at the highest level, prayer not only is a supplication for strength and guidance, but also becomes an affirmation of life and thus a reverent praise of God.

Deeds rather than words express my concept of the part religion should play in everyday life. I have watched constantly that in our movie work the highest moral and spiritual standards are upheld, whether it deals with fable or with stories of living action. This religious concern for the form and content of our films goes back 40 years to the rugged financial period in Kansas City when I was struggling to establish a film company and produce animated fairy tales. Many times during those difficult years, even as we turned out Alice in Cartoonland and later in Hollywood the first Mickey Mouse, we were under pressure to sell out or debase the subject matter or go “commercial” in one way or another. But we stuck it out—my brother Roy and other loyal associates—until the success of Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphonies finally put us in the black. Similarly, when war came to the United States in 1941, we turned from profitable popular movie-making to military production for Uncle Sam. Ninety-four per cent of the Disney facilities in Hollywood became engaged in special government work, while the remainder was devoted to the creation of morale building comedy, short subjects.

Both my study of Scripture and my career in entertaining children have taught me to cherish them. But I don’t believe in playing down to children, either in life or in motion pictures. I didn’t treat my own youngsters like fragile flowers, and I think no parent should.

Children are people, and they should have to reach to learn about things, to understand things, just as adults have to reach if they want to grow in mental stature. Life is composed of lights and shadows, and we would be untruthful, insincere, and saccharine if we tried to pretend there were no shadows. Most things are good, and they are the strongest things; but there are evil things too, and you are not doing a child a favor by trying to shield him from reality. The important thing is to teach a child that good can always triumph over evil, and that is what our pictures attempt to do.

The American child is a highly intelligent human being—characteristically sensitive, humorous, open-minded, eager to learn, and has a strong sense of excitement, energy, and healthy curiosity about the world in which he lives. Lucky indeed is the grown-up who manages to carry these same characteristics into adult life. It usually makes for a happy and successful individual. In our full-length cartoon features, as well as in our live action productions, we have tried to convey in story and song those virtues that make both children and adults attractive. I have long felt that the way to keep children out of trouble is to keep them interested in things. Lecturing to children is no answer to delinquency. Preaching won’t keep youngsters out of trouble, but keeping their minds occupied will.

Thus, whatever success I have had in bringing clean, informative entertainment to people of all ages, I attribute in great part to my Congregational upbringing and my lifelong habit of prayer. To me, today, at age sixty-one, all prayer, by the humble or highly placed, has one thing in common: supplication for strength and inspiration to carry on the best human impulses which should bind us together for a better world. Without such inspiration, we would rapidly deteriorate and finally perish. But in our troubled time, the right of men to think and worship as their conscience dictates is being sorely pressed. We can retain these privileges only by being constantly on guard and fighting off any encroachment on these precepts. To retreat from any of the principles handed down by our forefathers, who shed their blood for the ideals we still embrace, would be a complete victory for those who would destroy liberty and justice for the individual.

Even though they struggled, Walt knew that he wanted to stay true to his faith and his beliefs in how life should be lived- with a strong moral compass that prevented him from compromising character and selling out just to get out of the red. Walt viewed prayer as a promise to God, and a way of reverently praising him- not just a way to ask things of God. Finally- as most all of the movies in the Disney franchise suggest- Good will triumph over evil, everyone deserves to be loved and accepted for who they are and we would all be a little bit better of if we could carry our child-like characteristics into adulthood- remaining “characteristically sensitive, humorous, open-minded, eager to learn, and [having] a strong sense of excitement, energy, and healthy curiosity about the world in which [we live].”

Though he created movies about princesses, handsome princes, dragons, mice, and witches for a living- Walt Disney lived his life to be an example of his faith. He remained true to his beliefs, he loved people regardless of their background, and he put smiles on the faces of everyone his work reached. Walt Disney was a living example of Jesus, and I truly believe that that is why his films continue to this day to hold a glimpse of Jesus within them.

 

Orlando Day 1

 We had so much fun on day one of our trip to Orlando! We spent the day riding rides, laughing, eating, and talking about how much Jesus loves us! It was a great day!!!!

   

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

     

  

Bread

This weeks thought is from our lesson from our Viva series this week, which seemed to be something that stuck out quite beautifully in our lesson, and I wanted to extend it to the rest of you who were not with us last night. We looked at John 6:26-40. It says:

26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you,  you are seeking me, not because you saw  signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
We discussed what it meant for Jesus to call Himself the “bread of life.” Bread was an essential part of the diet back in Jesus’ day, and some saw it as a necessity to health and well living. He mentions that the forefathers ate the manna in the wilderness. This takes us back to Gods deliverance of His people, including His provision for them in the wilderness. Jesus literally says that He is the bread sent to nourish us, to sustain us, to give us life. Eternal life.
One point that came up last night was that since Jesus is the nourishment that leads to eternal life, sin must be starvation. And since Jesus gave Himself up for us, Jesus as the bread of life literally defeats the starvation of sin.
So I encourage all of you this week to go forward and share the nourishment that is the word of the bread of life, Jesus Christ.

 

Grace

This morning, I watched a video interview with Jamie Foxx and a man that he rescued from a burning vehicle. A couple things really stuck out to me- one, Jamie did not see it as heroic.  He just “had to do something.” The other thing that really stuck out to me is what the man who’s life he saved said:
“I just kept watching it going ‘My God, my God.’ He didn’t have to do a thing.”
Isn’t that the case with Jesus, also? He didn’t have to do a thing for us– He doesn’t owe us anything. We’re the sinners. We’re the broken ones. Jesus didn’t have to give us anything, and yet He chose to give us His life in exchange for our own. That’s grace.
Judah Smith says:
 “Jesus sees our sin more clearly than anyone, yet He loves us more than anyone.”
That is why He did what He did. And doesn’t Jesus call us to love one another as He loves us? Therefore, aren’t we called to see each other’s sin and love each other not only in spite of that sin but because of that sin? Love each other as He did because we know that BECAUSE of our sin, we need that love more than anything else.
The human mind is such a dangerous thing. We let it talk us out of what Jesus calls us to. You all will learn that Judah Smith is one of my favorite Christian minds, and I will quote him often. He also said that “sometimes our brains are our own worst enemy, because grace isn’t logical.” Loving people because of and in spite of their sin is grace. That’s what Jesus did. Yet, when we are asked to do so ourselves, we talk ourselves out of it because doing that isn’t logical- showing that kind of grace just doesn’t make sense.
To love like Jesus is to put the logical aside and do the impossible– show grace in spite of what the world, and our brain, tells us we should do. Forgive, be slow to anger, cease judgement of others, and make an effort to be a reflection of Jesus.

Furnace

This week, I’ve had Daniel 3 on my mind. Most of us know the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace. King Nebuchadnezzar set up a golden image, and demanded that everyone in the land bow and worship the image whenever they heard music. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refuse, and so Nebuchadnezzar has them thrown into the fiery furnace. In the end, they are delivered from the flames of the furnace, and the king commands that everyone worship the Lord of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
What we may overlook sometimes is another message from this scripture. We often see a story of Christians being delivered from a terrible situation because they remained faithful to God. What we sometimes overlook is what the men state in Daniel 3:16-18–
“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image you have set up.‘”
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew that their God could deliver them from the fiery furnace. Their faith shines through even brighter, however, when they say that even if God decided not to deliver them from the furnace, they would still not serve the king’s gods or worship his golden image.
What faith in the Lord, that His plan was greater than theirs, even if it meant their death at the hand of Nebuchadnezzar in the fiery furnace. They remained true to God’s commandments, and they were rewarded.
I encourage you all to seek God’s will, even if it means going against your own desires, because He is our great provider, and He loves us. God will give us the desires of our hearts if they are in line with His will, but if He does not, He is still good, and He has something so much better in store! I hope all of you have a great week!

Truth

Today is my first day back in the office after being away for the holidays. The last couple days of my ‘vacation,’ I was at the Passion conference in downtown Atlanta. In 3 arenas spread across two states (Philips Arena- downtown ATL, Infinite Energy Arena- Gwinnett, Toyota Center- Houston, TX) 40,000 college students and their leaders came together to dive head first into the truth and power of the gospel. Louie Giglio, John Piper, Ravi Zacharias, Levi Lusko, and Christine Caine delivered messages of the power of the words “He Has Risen,” of hope, of the beauty of the cross, of the reality and necessity of experiencing suffering, and the power of spreading the gospel of Jesus. I learned something in those days that I will carry with me throughout the rest of my ministry, and that is that
            “THE MOST POWERFUL WEAPON IN THE WORLD IS TRUTH.” 


The brilliant Dr. Ravi Zacharias spoke these words into the hearts and minds of everyone at the Passion conference on Saturday afternoon. This got me thinking.
Jesus says “I am the way, the truth, and the light. No one comes to the Father except through me.” {John 14:6} Jesus calls Himself the truth. Dr. Zacharias told us his journey to Christ began with a lot of questions, but he challenged himself, and God,  one night lying in a hospital bed, “If you are who you claim to be, take me out of this hospital bed and I will leave no stone unturned in my pursuit of the truth. Young people, truth is the most valuable thing in the world… So valuable that it is oftentimes protected by a bodyguard of lies… And so my one challenge to you today is:  Does the truth matter to you?  It doesn’t seem to matter in the political arena, it doesn’t seem to matter in the cultural arena, it doesn’t seem to matter in so many other pursuits.”
We are plagued in these days by lies. Lies in society. Lies to cover up wrong-doings. Lies to mask flaws. Lies that “truth” should be measured in terms of logical consistency, empirical adequacy, and experiential relevance. The saddest part of this is that we feed into these lies. We THRIVE on these lies. What Dr. Zacharias encouraged us with, and what I want to encourage all of you with is this: there is nothing truer or more real than the love and grace of Jesus. No, you cannot see it with your eyes. Sometimes you don’t even feel it. The catch is that the fact that you are reading these words right now means that you are alive, and you are alive because of that love and that grace.
So let’s become the answer instead of adding to the questions. Let’s live lives of truth that shine the light of the love and grace of Jesus- the way, the truth, and the light. That starts by spreading the message of our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ.
2016 is a new year full of new opportunities. Let’s make this the year that Jesus changes the standard of what truth is, and let’s make this the year that more people come to know WHO the truth is.

Welcome to The Vine!

jodecostudents.com was designed to be the hub for all things student ministry at Jodeco Road UMC.

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