Butterflies in the Desert.

A few years ago, a good friend of mine introduced me to this amazing short film called "The Butterfly Circus"

A guy named Mr Mendez was traveling through the desert with a bunch of friends. They see a carnival, so they stop to check it out. This carnival has what's called a "freak show", a sideshow, where they stare and laugh at a few people who are different. 

Finally, they come to the final curtain and the announcer, the carnival ringmaster, cries out: "And now, a perversion of nature. Cursed from birth. A man, if you can call him that, whom God Himself has turned His back upon. I give you.... the limbless man!"

He pulls back the curtain and there stands a young man without limbs. His name is Will; he was born with no arms and no legs. The small crowd looks shocked, groans and even laughs at him. As they disappear, two young boys remain and pull tomatoes out of their pockets. One of these kids throws one at this defenseless limbless man, as the horrible ringmaster mockingly laughs. The second boy is about to do the same, but Mendez steps in and takes the tomato out of this kid's hand and tosses it aside.

He then walks up to Will, get's real close, looks him straight in the eyes and says, "you. are. magnificent!"

Will was surprised! He was confused. No one had ever been nice to him before. Was this guy for real? Was he mocking him too? So, in anger, and by retaliating the only way he can, Will spits in his face.

As Mr Mendez walks away, he apologizes for getting so close and calls him his friend.

The man behind the next curtain laughs and mocks Will and tells him who this mysterious Mendez is. He's the Showman, the Ringmaster, of the Butterfly Circus; a traveling circus that brings color and wonder to poor people in the desert! Upon hearing these words from his obnoxious neighbor, Will somehow escapes from the carnival and starts traveling with this bunch of entertainers. 

Will believes that by joining the Butterfly Circus, he'll just be placed in another sideshow or "freak-show". He is convinced that's all he's good for. Mendez let's him know his circus is different, and they didn't have a sideshow. He let's him know, he's a very different Ringmaster and none of his people will be ridiculed or exploited.

A little later, Will was observing everyone in the circus having fun and bringing life to poor people living in a little shanty town. Will was standing off in the distance, feeling sorry for himself; Mr Mendez sees Will and dramatically repeats the words the old ringmaster used to say about him: "a perversion of nature. Cursed from birth. A man, if you can call him that, whom God Himself has turned His back upon". Will is horrified by Mendez's outburst and asks him why he'd be so mean and say that, to which he responds; "because you believe it!" 

Mr Mendez doesn't stop there, he wants to make a point by saying; “If you could only see the beauty that comes from ashes.” 

He goes on to show Will how each person in his circus had once wallowed in ashes too, but their beauty had come out of it. There was an old man who was once a homeless beggar, another man who was an alcoholic and a drunken bar fighter and a woman who was once a prostitute, but now they were all stars of the show in their own unique ways! All 3 of them had lived very tough sad tragic lives, with many struggles, but Mendez had rescued them and now they were using their past weaknesses for the good of the circus. Now, they were all smiling and dancing, by bringing beauty, color and life into the lifeless desert! 

As a response, Will says, "but they're different from me!" "They're not me!" "My obstacles are harder!" "My Life is harder." "My temptations are worse"

Mr Mendez responds with some amazing words: "yes, you do have an advantage! The greater the struggle, the more glorious the triumph" 

This group had been carrying Will from the minute he joined the Butterfly Circus. Feeding him, carrying him and helping him. Then one day, they were all chilling around this pond, having fun. Will falls over on the rocks and Mr Mendez refuses help him up. He tells him he can do it, and walks away. He struggles and manages, with great effort, to get up. He's so excited, but no one notices! As he presses on, he falls into the pond and no one is there to save him. He starts sinking, but in that moment, in his desperation and in his struggle, Will discovered he wasn't helpless, he could float, he could swim.

At that moment, Will found his "beauty that comes from ashes". At that moment, the words, "the greater the struggle, the more glorious the triumph" came to life! He became the greatest act, the main act, of the Butterfly Circus; they would hoist him up 50 feet into the air and he would free-fall into a tiny pool. The crowd would go wild and people everywhere were inspired by Will and his act of bravery.

Isn't this what Jesus is doing with us? He hasn't forgotten about us, he sees us struggling, he sees us being rejected, he sees us being tempted, and he sees us being knocked down. Jesus sees it, but he gives us a new chance and a new life. He does this time and time again. He knows life isn't easy. He knows life is hard. He knows some people in this life have it a lot harder than other people. Jesus knows this and He gives us hope.

Jesus turned everything around and upside down. The Kingdom of God, the gospel, contradicts the message of the world. This world is all about promoting and glamorizing the rich, strong and powerful; this world is also about degrading those who are poor, homeless, weak and prisoners. This world loves to kick people in the guts who are already down. That's what the world did to Will. Jesus came into our world and didn't forget about those suffering and struggling. He came into our world and told those who are weak, sinners, prostitutes and prisoners, "you are loved and are vitally important to me and my Kingdom!" 

Jesus said time and time again; "the first shall be last, and the last, first!" Every word Jesus said and every action Jesus did turned things around and upside down! He said, "blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven" Jesus wanted the poor, sick and sinners to know they haven't been forgotten, they are loved and that he is with them. He wanted them to know, His Kingdom is for them!

The Apostle Paul knew this very well, that's why he wrote: And He (Jesus) has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. (2 Corinthians 12:9 NASB)

Everything isn't easy. In fact, there are times when nothing seems easy. We live in a messed up world, and everything and everyone seems to be against us. But Jesus gives us hope beyond all hope; He takes us in our struggles and weaknesses and transforms us into someone or something new. "Power is perfected in weakness", Jesus uses and transforms our weaknesses into triumph. It's what he does! It's hard to believe, because this world glorifies pride and strength, but Jesus doesn't look at the world that way, he uses our humility, sicknesses, poverty and weaknesses to transform us and to transform this world. 

I've seen this happen time and time again, and I marvel at seeing the Kingdom of God working in our midst. I constantly see "power perfected in weakness" happen at the shelter, with people experiencing homelessness. I see lives being transformed because they hit rock bottom, and God has used their homelessness, addictions, imprisonment and poverty to touch the lives of others. The truth is; it is often the people who've "been though it" that God uses to touch those suffering.

I also see "power perfected in weakness" in my 10 year old daughter, who has a limb difference herself. Her "special arm" has touched countless souls because she doesn't see her arm as a curse, but as a blessing from God. When kids surround her in a playground, wanting to touch her arm and bombard her with questions, her beautiful response is "God made this way and I can do anything you can do!" 

Nick Vujicic, the actor who plays Will, uses his differences to bless millions of people around the globe. He lives out the message of the film; he doesn't view his weaknesses as a curse, but as something God can use for the good of His Kingdom. He's a Christian, who's an incredibly positive person, motivational speaker and author, who travels all over the world bringing a message of hope. He is truly an inspiration to many!

Paul knew this too and believed what he wrote. He suffered a lot. He was tempted. He had a thorn in his flesh that the Lord would not take away. God knew Paul needed this thorn to live the life God wanted him to live! He faced many hardships, temptations and many people rallied against him and told him he wasn't worthy, but he didn't fall into despair.

No, instead, he cried out triumphantly in Romans 8: Just as it is written, "FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED." But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. (Romans 8:36-37 NASB)

The reality is, we live in a messed up world. People are going to make us mad. People are going to keep offering us drugs and invite us to drink our lives away. People are going to keep on saying hurtful stuff and they are going to keep on tempting us. People are going to keep on exploiting our weaknesses. That's a fact, that's the truth, we can't escape that. 

So, if we're serious, what do we need to do? We need to cling onto the hope that Jesus gives us; the hope that is found throughout the Bible. What the world exploits, Jesus uses for good! Hope tells us that we can overcome, and more than that, we can become "more than conquerors through Him that loves us." 

Will, the limbless man, wallowed in despair and self pity. He thought he was worthless, he thought couldn't overcome or conquer anything, he thought he was only someone to be mocked and ridiculed in a freak show. He needed to be transformed, he had to believe and walk in the truth that Mr Mendez told him, "the greater the struggle, the more glorious the triumph and he had to discover the beauty that needed to come out of the ashes". 

When Will took these words to heart and lived it, what he become? He triumphed and became "more than a conqueror!" 

As you go out tonight, as you struggle through this messed up world, as you're tempted and mocked and as people try to knock you down, remember this, live in the truth that you are worthy, God uses your weaknesses for good and he wants to make each one of you "more than conquerors!"

A brief summary of why I wrote this: There's a ministry on the West-side of Chicago called Mission:USA; every Tuesday night they have a Church service called The BRIDGE. Their services are open to everybody, but especially those who find it hard to gel in their local congregations! Or to put into cruder terms; a lot of these men and women are ex-offenders, homeless and low-income folk who have felt ostracized and rejected by many churches, so their mission is to be a bridge between prison, the streets and the Church. The Bridge helps these wonderful men and women find churches that will welcome them with open arms.....
And isn't this exactly what the Gospel and the "Kingdom of God" is all about?

Every Tuesday night, The Bridge has a host team from a Church, who greet the guests and provide a meal. The guests anonymously submit questions about their "walk of faith", and staff from The Bridge pick out a relevant question. Meanwhile, they have invited 3 pastors from 3 different churches to come and give a 10 minute sermon each about this specific question or topic. In my humble opinion, this is a great concept and ministry, who's staff is very loving, compassionate and supportive to the "least of these".

This was a sermon preached on 4/14/15, in response to this question;“Living A Godly Life in a Messed Up World”

"I’m serious about being a Christian, but sometimes it seems like the whole world is working together to take me off my square. At every turn there’s someone making me mad, someone offering me drugs, someone telling me I’ll never make it, or someone backsliding and trying to take me with them. How am I supposed to react to all this? If God wanted me to live such a straight life, why did He put me in the middle of such a messed up world?"
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