Extravagant Devotion


Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.”
MARK 14:4–5

Before Jesus went to the cross, the religious leaders plotted his death, and Judas planned his betrayal. An unnamed woman broke an expensive glass bottle and poured a precious anointment on Jesus’ head, filling the room with fragrance to honour the Messiah.

Some of his disciples were outraged by the disruption and the waste: ‘A year’s wages poured out for nothing!’ They began berating this uninvited guest for pressing her way into the middle of their gathering. Her action was offensive to those with an eye for financial responsibility and a more inhibited idea of how to love Jesus. They missed an important moment.

Jesus stopped them from further shaming her extravagant devotion. He understood the meaning behind her action and told them to leave her alone. This was not wasteful but rather a beautiful thing. Her act of devotion was a final expression of tenderness before Judas betrayed him. This anointing must have been precious to Jesus, as he knew he was soon to experience lashes, beatings, a crown of thorns and nails driven into his hands and feet.

She gave all she had, serving Jesus when others did not. She recognized who Jesus was, and she was willing to take a great risk to demonstrate her love for him.

Standing in contrast to those who plotted and betrayed, and to disciples who did not understand, this woman will be remembered for her so-called “wasteful” act of devotion. Her legacy is the declaration of the importance of love, kindness and care for others, which worship Jesus.


1. Our hearts may struggle to identify with this woman and her brash devotion in the midst of sensible indifference and betrayal. Can we bring our mediocrity to Jesus and ask him for the courage to love as she did?
2. What am I willing to risk to worship Jesus? Reputation? Finances? Popularity?

Mardi Dolfo-Smith is the Discipleship Pastor of North Shore Alliance Church. She is married to Toni, and they have four “almost adult” children.

Image: Worlds most expensive perfume: Clive Christian Imperial Majesty ($215,000)

Jesus the Refugee

When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
MATTHEW 2:13–15

This may be a strange Scripture passage to write a devotion from, but it is a personal reminder for me of the plight of millions of people around our globe. In our North
American context, we often think of Jesus as the Shepherd, the Saviour King, the Messiah and the Healer; how often do we think of Jesus as the Homeless or the Refugee?

I was born a refugee, a child of parents who fled war-torn Vietnam and, through God’s grace, ended up in an internment camp on the island of Hong Kong where my family came to know Jesus.

Today, there are over 51 million people around the world who are forcibly displaced from their homes (iafr.org). I am thankful that our family of churches is beginning to respond to
the needs of refugees, but there is still a great need to be met. After landing in Canada, many refugees find themselves exhausted, distressed and in need of care and social aid. We have an incredible opportunity to respond as Christ-followers to the needs of refugees who come to Canada, as well as those who remain in refugee camps.

Next time you read Jesus’ birth story, consider Christ’s words “…whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matt. 25:40).

1. Who are the refugees around me?
2. How can my church community be involved in the plight of displaced people around the world?

Thich Truong, his wife Alyssa and their toddler, Elliott, serve at Emmanuel Alliance Church in Ottawa, ON. He is passionate about the Church’s role in justice and reconciliation.

For information on refugee sponsorship, visit: http://justiceandcompassion.com/refugee/

Image: An Iraqi woman from Mosul carries her son at the Garmava transit camp, which is located near a checkpoint on the road between Mosul and Duhok in Iraqi Kurdistan. The camp will have the capacity to host some 3,000 people
© UNHCR/S.Baldwin

Naturally Supernatural

And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.
ACTS 5:32 (NRSV)

The role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christ-follower invariably generates conflict in the Christian community. Few biblical subjects are more electrifying and controversial. The witness of the Scriptures, however, is unambiguous. Jesus Christ and his first generation of followers were indisputably energized by the Holy Spirit to proclaim the eternal Gospel
of salvation for humankind. Embroiled in the cosmic conflict between the forces of light and darkness, their lives were conduits of divine power manifested in spectacular and subtle ways. Miraculous signs and wonders in the form of healings and exorcisms were complemented by gentle yet impactful words of wisdom spoken in conversation. Receiving unusual guidance through dreams and visions was normal in a Spirit-filled church culture, which birthed and shaped dynamic faith in the lives of converts.

Expectation of communication between the divine and human pervaded first-century worship gatherings. They were animated by public prophetic utterances and prayers in tongues alongside instruction and common meals. Early Christians lived with extraordinary generosity and prayerful boldness. Their spirituality was naturally supernatural and supernaturally natural. They were elevated above dependence on their natural capabilities and intimately connected to the Holy Spirit from whom empowerment came. They listened confidently for the Divine voice to guide them, trusting for provision and protection in what they were called to do.

The consequences of their risk-taking lifestyle were often unpredictable. Remarkable evangelistic success and excruciating suffering, even martyrdom, went hand-in-hand in the lives of the early church members.

In our time, we will flourish when we listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the global Church; through genuine repentance, we will recover a personal and collective inspired, courageous and winsome Christ-centred life only possible in the Spirit.

1. Do I sense empowerment by the Holy Spirit in my life? Am I listening to his promptings?
2. What do I need to learn about the ministry of the Holy Spirit with which I am not currently familiar?

Charles Nienkirchen is a Professor of Christian History and Spirituality at Ambrose University in Calgary, AB.

The image above is a real flower commonly known as the White Egret: a species of orchid found in China, Japan, Korea and Russia.

A Hug for My Sister

Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—this is God, whose dwelling is holy. God places the lonely in families…
PSALM 68:5-6 (NLT)

“When you hug me, I feel in you the family love of my mother, my aunt, my sister….” These words spoken by a new Canadian often come back to my mind. The middle-
aged woman was telling me about her arrival in Canada and how much she missed her family and the warmth of her close relationships. She explained that when other women, long-time Canadians, show her affection, she receives this care as coming from them but also as a welcome substitution for her mom’s, her aunt’s, her sister’s expressions of love.

David used lavish and extravagant language when he wrote Psalm 68. One word picture after another describes God’s power, his justice, his care, his protection. The psalm ends with our only possible response: “…Praise be to God” (v. 35).

The Spirit of this absolutely praiseworthy and powerful God lives in us. It is difficult to wrap our minds around the two opposite realities of this truth: our frail humanity is juxtaposed with our mind-blowing potential for being and displaying his love and power in our world!

When we go to church, we worship God, we learn more about him, and we enjoy his people, but we also have a great opportunity to embrace the lonely into our families. In the foyer after the meeting, we can say by hugging a new Canadian, “You are my sister in Christ; I love you.” When we walk down our street or go to the coffee shop, we can actively look for lonely people and know that God, through us, is embracing them with a smile and, step by step, is drawing them into his big family.


1. At my church, is there a new Canadian who needs to feel the love of a new family? What can we do to embrace them?
2. Every time I go out for coffee, can I make warm eye contact with the servers and notice their name and smile? Can my smile cue me to ask God’s Spirit to draw them into his family?

Myra Brown, a member of Southview Alliance Church, volunteers in Calgary’s immigrant sector. Myra, a former International Worker in Africa, served on the Global Ministries Leadership Team of the C&MA for nine years.

More Than Enough

But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
LUKE 10:33–35

The Good Samaritan understood that people are in a hurry on the road to Jericho. That is why he stopped when he saw a man in trouble. It’s imperative to stop when we see a
need. Interventions are rarely predictable. They are messy and often dangerous. The incident with the man on the road to Jericho was not a feel-good fix; it was a holistic intervention.

The travellers on the road had enough resources to help the victim but not the will. Looking back to when the Tabernacle was being built, the people of Israel had the will to provide what was needed. So much so that “… the people were restrained from bringing more, because what they already had was more than enough to do all the work (Exodus 36:6-7).” There is always provision enough to help people in need where there is a desire to see and to respond.

The Good Samaritan recognized that he did not have the capacity to care for the wounded man on his own. He enlisted the help of the innkeeper, who presumably understood the need of the wounded sojourner, and was willing to respond. The innkeeper and the Samaritan created a synergetic bond.

Everyone should look for an innkeeper to complete the triangle of help. Together, the innkeeper and Samaritan created a relationship for the sake of the man’s restoration. The innkeeper was empowered to be a full-fledged partner and became an ally in the cause. As a result, he had a sense of ownership in the decisions regarding the care of the victim.

The priest and the Levite missed the divine encounter; both saw the wounded man, yet decided not to help. The Samaritan and his partner forged an ongoing network that strengthened the cause of justice for the traveller who had ventured down the road to Samaria. With compassionate hearts working together, there was enough to meet the need.


1. How do I respond to people with needs? How do trust and faith in God’s provision impact my willingness to respond?
2. How does this concept of working together inform my perspective on helping those in need?

Richard Reichert, along with his wife, Hope, served as C&MA International Workers in three Latin American countries over a span of 34 years.

Abiding in Christ Through His Words

Blessed is the one…whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.
PSALM 1:1–3

Many regard Psalm 1 as the prologue of the whole collection of 150 psalms. The psalmist highlights the lifestyle, path and result of two different types of people: the righteous
and the wicked. As God’s people, of course, we choose to follow the path of the righteous, resulting in God’s blessings, protection and prosperity.

How can we be sure we are following the path of the righteous? One of the indicators as depicted in Psalm 1:1-3 is the love of God’s words. We not only familiarize ourselves with God’s teaching, but also take his words to heart and make them our life-guiding principles. This kind of life will be evident with vitality and fruit-bearing.

Coincidentally, in John 15, Jesus used the analogy of the vine and the branches to teach his disciples of a fruit-bearing life. He said, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (v.7). He also said, “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love” (v.10). A Christ-centred life is therefore a life that is living in a close and loving relationship with Christ, imitating his example of obeying God’s teaching, and a life that bears fruit, fruit that lasts.


1. How are the righteous differentiated from the wicked? Which path am I taking?
2. Am I really delighted in his words? Does my soul thirst for his words or do I just read them as a chore?

Aaron Tang served as Senior Pastor of Emmanuel Alliance Church of Ottawa for more than 15 years. He is now Executive Director of the Canadian Chinese Alliance Churches
Association (CCACA).

Self-Authenticity in Ministry

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you.
PSALM 51:7–13

The gift we present in ministry is the Good News. We are the tool in ministry. We journey with others, and they also become part of our story. The lens through which we understand and support those we journey with is tinted. Our culture and traditions, family and church, and our experiences of the past and present are wounded and scarred, yet redeemed and transformed by this Good News, the living hope of Christ.

It’s through recognizing and giving witness to our own forgiveness and healing through Christ that we can serve authentically. I invite you into a time of personal reflection and confession. Take this time to discern the voice of God. Allow God to see you as you prostrate yourself before his throne of mercy and grace. It is in being more transparent in confession and in acknowledging your brokenness that the richness of the Divine’s grace may flood your being with love and the knowledge that you are God’s beloved. It is from this Spirit- anointed posture that we most effectively “…proclaim good news to the poor… bind up the brokenhearted… [and] proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners” (Isaiah 61: 1–2).


1. In which areas of my life do I need God’s healing and grace? What do I need to bring into the Light and ask forgiveness and restoration for?
2. What experience of healing or restoration might God be asking me to share as I come alongside others in the midst of pain or brokenness?

Helen H. Chan is a chaplain serving on the Alliance Association of Chaplains (AAC) in the Western Canadian District and on the AAC National Leadership Team.