My Nano Patch – Bougainvillea  

After a scorching summer with dry-spells, everyone breathed a sigh of
relief as the mercury finally dipped to signal the arrival of autumn.  

My much neglected garden tried to make a late effort to put on some
color, but most of the perennials have gone to seeds and stopped
blooming.  The Mexican Bush Sage, Angel’s Trumpets, and the
Mandevillea vine are the only ones answering the curtain call with one
last flush of blooms before retiring.  

To our surprise, the Bougainvillea way back by the fence started to
perk up with a mass display of heart-pounding flame red.  It has not
rewarded us with such generosity in years.  After all, I have not been
diligent in caring for it all summer due to the scorching heat.  Why
should it reward me with such cheerful blooms now?  

In fact, in prior years, the more I watered it the less it bloomed.  

Then I remembered reading some time ago that Bougainvilleas thrived
on neglect.  While the heat and the draught would do most plants in,
they actually trigger the Bouggy into vigorous flower production.  

Is this not the most poignant reminder of the resurrection life that
comes out of the cross?  Pampering and sheltering do nothing but
delaying and negating its blooms.  

Christians’ propensity to circumvent the cross and take the easy way
whether in serving God or in personal spiritual pursuit will also result
in lack of spiritual blossoms.  

It is all around us, and inside of us, I might add.  Christian ministers
seek to broaden their appeals to the masses, tailor their messages to
gain the most converts; churches seek to entice new members with
amenities, programs and activities that please the soul….  Even House
Churches claim certain unique features that set them apart from others
when “seeking saints” come knocking.  Make no mistake about it,
anytime we set our aim at the work of our hands, we cease to focus on
the Lord.  

For years, I’ve received e-mails from seeking ones requesting to know
how we gathered, how we conducted church, how we differed from
Institutional Churches, or how much we returned to the practices of
the Early Church.  Some of the more profoundly bizarre requests
inquired whether we used only certain version of the Bible; others
demanded our position on women wearing dresses instead of pant-
suits….   Hardly anyone has asked me how or whether we pursued
Christ, how much reality of Christ was in our midst, whether Christ was
central to our gathering, or what unique feature of Christ has been
gained by us….  

The number one issue most of the serious Christians who are looking
for fellowship outside of traditional church circles is not Christ, but
what kind of church it is.  Most Christians, especially those who have
been shown the errors of institutionalized churches, authenticate a
church by how closely it resembles the biblical Early Church.  How
much Christ has been constituted into the believers in a given
fellowship is of little or secondary concern.  

This, dear friends, has to be a grave concern.  

Lately, I’ve decided to answer such e-mails by focusing on Christ
instead of Church, and on Him instead of us.  If there is true work of
the cross, He (not the church) will be preeminent, for the work of the
cross diminishes the self and magnifies the Christ.  Real church
emerges where the cross is free to operate.  I admit, I am certainly
not making things easy for ourselves as far as attracting seeking ones
to our gathering goes.  If I were a Pastor of a church, I’d be fired in a
heart-beat.  Goes to show how unpopular it is to take the way of the
cross.  

There is a dear sister in the Lord who has been e-mailing us about her
difficult family situations for years.  And, for years our messages to
her have been the cross – Christ and Him crucified.  She was looking
for ways to escape a very difficult, in fact, to her an impossible
situation.  It has to be the Lord who kept her by His grace to keep
hearing the same messages of the cross from us.  

Lately, she has turned a significant corner.  The messages finally sank
in.  She is learning to embrace the cross.  O, the fragrance that flowed
freely from her!  I wish everyone heard her testimonies.  O, what
blossom!  O, what fragrance!  

Her situations remain largely unchanged.  But she has changed.  

The messages of the cross need no vindication, neither do they need
defending.  The blossom is the vindication.  The fragrance is the
proof.  When the fragrance of Christ comes out in our testimony, the
cross has done its work.  On the other hand, if there is no fragrance,
the best crafted sermon and the most cleaver tongue are but utter
contempt.  

An overcoming Christian is not one who can muster supernatural power
to change his/her circumstances – it is one who is changed by the
dealing of the cross which produces Christ within who alone has power
to overcome circumstances.  

Little did I know, the harsh summer did prepare my Bouggy for a heart-
thumping late show when all other plants have retired behind
curtains.  

Oliver Peng  
Nov. 20, 2005  
My Nano Patch