Category Archives: Connect the Testaments

December 31: From Beginning to End

Lamentations 4:1–5:22; Romans 16:1–27; Proverbs 31:10–31

Endings are always difficult. But when they’re new beginnings, they’re revitalizing.

At the end of Paul’s letter to the Romans, we not only see Paul the apostle, but Paul the empathetic and concerned pastor. Paul knows that if dissension or temptation rules over the Roman church, they will fail in their ministry, so he warns them (Rom 16:17–19) and offers them a word of hope: “And in a short time the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you” (Rom 16:20). Here, Paul is echoing God’s words to Adam, Eve, and the serpent after the fall, when, instead of carrying out God’s request to bring order to creation (as He had done in the beginning), humanity turned from Him, defacing His image (Gen 1:1–2, 27–28; 3:14–20). But while Gen 3:15 merely depicts Satan biting the heel of humanity and being struck on the head in return (Gen 3:15), Paul depicts Satan as being crushed under the heel of the Church. Through Christ, people will be victorious over Satan. Christ did use, is using, and will continue to use people to restore order to the world.

Paul sees the end as a time when Satan will no longer have control and Christians will be victorious through Christ. Satan is fighting a losing battle. His ravaging of humanity is temporary; likewise, in the ot, the prophet Jeremiah saw the other nations’ ravaging of God’s people as temporary. Jeremiah remarks: “You, O Yahweh, will sit forever on your throne for generation to generation.… Restore us to you, O Yahweh, that we will be restored; renew our days as of old” (Lam 5:19, 21). Yet Jeremiah must qualify his statement—he adds: “Unless you [Yahweh] have utterly rejected us, unless you are angry with us beyond measure” (Lam 5:22).

Today, there is no qualification. Christ loves us beyond all measure. Satan has lost this battle. The ravaging of God’s people will come to an end when Jesus ultimately returns (Rev 22). The end is full of hope. The end is a new beginning.

How can hope restore and revitalize your life?

John D. Barry[1]


[1] Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

December 30: The Proverbs 31 Woman

Lamentations 3:1–66; Romans 15:22–33; Proverbs 31:1–19

A Proverbs 31 woman is hard to find, but it isn’t for lack of effort. She’s been the topic of more than a few Bible studies. She can be recognized by her many positive traits—strong, courageous, and trustworthy. She is hardworking, discerning, giving, dignified, business savvy, wise, and kind. If we’re looking for a vice or an Achilles heel, we’ll have to turn to another passage in the ot (we’re sure to find more failures than achievers within its pages).

As we look through the list of qualities, though, it’s hard to check them all off, even for Type-A personalities. But the key to understanding the list of characteristics isn’t found in what we can attain. It’s found in the last verse—the crux of the poem. The crown of the woman’s wisdom isn’t her charm or her beauty or even her ability to “get things done.” It is her fear of Yahweh. This relationship with God guides all of her actions.

If we’re trying to earn favor with God by being “the best version of myself” or “being the best me,” we’ll fail miserably. If we live to define ourselves by a task, or even a role, we’ll fall short every time. It’s God’s work in us—through Christ—that defines us.

As redeemed people, we can strive to be wise and discerning thanks to the work of the Spirit. We can strive to be stewards of the time He’s given us. We can strive to live unselfishly in all of our relationships. When we fail, or when we fall short, we can trust that it’s not on our own merit that we find favor with Him. His favor extends from His enduring faithfulness to us.

How do you rest in the “fear of the Lord”? How do all of your actions proceed from your relationship with Him?

Rebecca Van Noord[1]


[1] Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

December 29: The Grace of God Shines Through

Lamentations 1:1–2:22; Romans 15:8–21; Proverbs 30:1–33

I was once asked why the Bible is so brutal—why it depicts things like babies being killed and war. It’s true, the Bible has many moments of darkness and violence. But these depictions of the rawness of humanity—in all its ungratefulness and depravity—demonstrate how much people need God. And more than that, through these moments, the Bible shows how much people need a savior.

The book of Lamentations is brimming with sorrow and gnashing of teeth. Little hope can be found in this book. The prophet weeps and moans over his fallen nation, over watching Jerusalem crumble. In this poetic work, we see people who don’t follow the God who loves them dearly and so badly yearns to see them return to Him.

“How desolate the city sits that was full of people! She has become like a widow, once great among the nations! Like a woman of nobility in the provinces, she has become a forced laborer. She weeps bitterly in the night, her tears are on her cheeks; she has no comforter among all her lovers. All her friends have been unfaithful to her; they have become her enemies” (Lam 1:1–2). How can we process a passage like this? How can we handle this kind of depression?

The first time I read the book of Lamentations, I wept. I had grasped a bit of what the prophet felt, and weeping was the only natural response. But it wasn’t just that. I saw myself as Jerusalem. I was her. I had walked away from God’s desire for my life, and I deserved destruction.

Sometimes we must break before we can be rebuilt. Sometimes we must fall before we can rise to the greatness God has called us to. Are you Jerusalem? Call out to God like the prophet did. Tell God how you feel. Be honest with your mourning and your sadness. It may not make the fall easier, but it will surely make you more eager to accept the grace that God has offered. God wants you to experience His grace, including salvation in Christ. He wants you to live it.

Are you in need of a savior? What are you requesting of God today? What grace do you need to receive?

John D. Barry[1]


[1] Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

December 28: Unity

Jeremiah 52:1–34; Romans 14:13–15:7; Proverbs 29:1–27

Paul calls us to refrain from judging others (Rom 14:3). That’s easy enough to do when the people in our communities are the people we’d want to have over for dinner. What happens when those in our community don’t value (or disvalue) the things we value (or disvalue)?

“Now may the God of patient endurance and of encouragement grant you to be in agreement with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that with one mind you may glorify with one mouth the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore accept one another, just as Christ also has accepted you, to the glory of God” (Rom 15:5–7).

In this portion of his letter, Paul asks the Roman believers to stretch themselves. For the Roman believers, judgment might have centered on the issue of eating the meat of unclean animals or the observance of Jewish holidays. Paul asks them to withhold judgment of one another because only God has that right (Rom 14:10). He also asks them not to “be a cause for stumbling or a temptation” for people who genuinely struggle with things from which others feel free.

It’s easy to be in agreement when we’re in community with people of similar personalities, hobbies, and backgrounds. But when we need to be in agreement with someone who disagrees with the way we work out our faith, we feel inconvenienced. Here, Paul states that we not only need to be mindful; we need to be accepting. We can do so for one reason: “Christ also has accepted you” (Rom 15:7). We were reconciled to God while we were still His enemies (Rom 5:10). The great Peacemaker calls us to seek relationship with others because of His work. And His love puts our inconvenience in a whole new light.

How are you seeking unity in Christ with those who don’t reflect the things you do (or don’t) value?

Rebecca Van Noord[1]


[1] Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

December 27: Love Is Good News

Jeremiah 51:1–64; Romans 13:8–14:12; Proverbs 28:1–28

Love is good news for those seeking guidance. Love is the guide we need.

Many first-century Jewish Christians faced the question of what to do with the Law (the first five books of the Bible), by which they had lived previously. Now that they had Jesus, what would they do with their traditions? Paul’s answer is based on love: “Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another, for the one who loves someone else has fulfilled the law” (Rom 13:8). He goes on: “For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not commit murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,’ and if there is any other commandment, are summed up in this statement: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does not commit evil against a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Rom 13:9–10). These are beautiful words, and I’m not saying that because they let me off the hook for keeping the law; they also answer the problem that the ot prophets addressed.

The prophet Jeremiah, commenting on the sin of Babylon, notes: “All humankind turns out to be stupid, without knowledge. Every goldsmith is put to shame by the divine image. For his cast image is a lie, and there is no breath in them. They are worthless, a work of mockery. At the time of their punishment, they will perish. The portion of Jacob is not like these, for he is the creator of everything, and the tribe of his inheritance. Yahweh of hosts is his name” (Jer 51:17–19).

Jeremiah’s words teach us that we are lost without Yahweh as our guide. Without Him, we will, like Babylon, seek things as dumb as golden images. Yahweh, in His great love for us, guides us to Himself. In Him, we see love; in Jesus, we see His loving image made visible. In Yahweh, we see the way we should go; in Jesus, we see the way back to Yahweh.

Are you seeking love or golden images? What law do you need to be free from? Are you fully living the good news?

John D. Barry[1]


[1] Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

December 26: Community

Jeremiah 50:1–46; Romans 12:9–13:7; Proverbs 27:1–27

She might be the one we tend to avoid—the member of a small group who always states the obvious or brings up topics unrelated to the discussion at hand. I’m always a bit impatient for her to finish speaking so that others can offer more insightful comments, but generally her comments are followed by only awkward pauses. Or, he’s the person we’re attempting to avoid after church and small group because he always repeats the story about his grandkids that we’ve heard more than just a few times. I hope someone else will be there for him. If I’m feeling extra congenial, I might chat with him—always good to earn some kindness points.

I might approach community this way, but reading Romans 12:9–16 convicts me. The list of instructions on building up the community quickly reveals the selfish bent of my motives. Paul, who has just finished explaining that each member has specific spiritual gifts, shows what living in loving community is supposed to look like: “Love must be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; be attached to what is good, being devoted to one another in brotherly love, esteeming one another more highly in honor, not lagging in diligence, being enthusiastic in spirit, serving the Lord, rejoicing in hope, enduring in affliction, being devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, pursuing hospitality. Bless those who persecute, bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. Think the same thing toward one another; do not think arrogantly, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own sight” (Rom 12:9–16).

I’m not meant to approach my small group study as a support group to help me work out my problems. Faith communities are familial settings where the gifts I have are meant to be developed and worked out for the good of others. It’s where I’m called to serve people around me—even, and especially, people who are lonely or a little different than me. I can only do that with a heart that is devoted to others, highly esteems them, and looks out for their needs. It’s when I humbly serve that I learn things I didn’t know in passing—the death of her husband and her difficulty in finding the right words to convey her ideas and experiences. It’s there where I learn that his kids barely call, and he’s reciting the same information from the yearly Christmas card. It’s where I help when I can, and pray when I can’t. And along the way, through my service, I may learn a thing or two from people who have gifts I have yet to discover.

Are you involved in a community? If you are, are you actually involved? How can you use your gifts to build up the people around you?

Rebecca Van Noord[1]


[1] Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

December 25: Laziness and Lions

Jeremiah 49:1–39; Romans 11:25–12:8; Proverbs 26:12–28

When we consider ourselves wise, we’re in danger of losing perspective on the truth and making others feel small. The Proverbs often discuss this problem, remarking, “Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Prov 26:12). This foolishness doesn’t just appear when we elevate ourselves or fail to consider others; it also shows up when we fail to consider our own needs.

When we’re lazy or do less than we can, we’re actually sinning—we’re ignoring what God meant us to be and thus holding back His plan, not just our own productivity. One of the Proverbs says, “A lazy person says ‘A lion is in the road! A lion among the streets!’ … A lazy person buries his hands in the dish; he is too tired to return it to his mouth. A lazy person is wiser in his eyes than seven who answer discreetly” (Prov 26:13, 15–16). The Bible’s condemnation of laziness makes sense for hyperbolic situations like lions showing up or someone being too lazy to eat, but it is even more practical when applied to regular situations.

If you consider many of the problems in our world—hunger, water, sanitation, or medical issues—it becomes clear that laziness and funds are often the obstacles preventing us from resolving them. If we stopped ignoring the lions and considering ourselves so wise, we would be able to help many people in need. We would also stop hurting those around us with our arrogance.

God wants to intercede in our world. He wants to use us to do so—we just have to step up.

What type of laziness are you excusing?

John D. Barry[1]


[1] Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

December 24: You Should Do This, but Maybe You Shouldn’t

Jeremiah 47:1–48:47; Romans 11:11–24; Proverbs 26:1–11

We all know the feeling. When someone belittles us in front of others, we want to rail against them or make their lives miserable by filtering our rage through our best passive-aggressive behavior. When a friend continuously doles out inflammatory remarks, it’s easy to snap and say (or tweet) something inspired by the white-hot rage sweeping through us.

We’d be better off turning to the book of Proverbs, which can offer wisdom for dealing with these situations. The book seems to deliver hard-and-fast rules for life we can easily apply—do this; don’t do that. Do this and you’ll prosper; do that and you’ll suffer for your foolishness. However, Proverbs 26 delivers statements that confuse those who live by the rules: “Do not answer a fool according to his folly lest you become like him—even you. Answer a fool according to his folly, or else he will be wise in his own eyes” (Prov 26:4–5). Do we answer the fool or leave him alone?

The entire trajectory of Proverbs is the attainment of wisdom. The author of this proverb isn’t offering a simple rule. He’s giving guidance. Although it’s sometimes better to keep silent—when speaking would inspire us to be equally foolish—other times the situation might call for us to reprimand the fool. If the fool is misleading others, we need to gently correct them for their good and everyone else’s. The fool may be teachable, just lacking in instruction and discipline.

We need discernment to know which response the situation requires. Pray for guidance in your interactions with others. Pray for wisdom from the Spirit, who can provide you with the discernment you need to answer in the right way. Just don’t be the fool and set the conversation ablaze with inflammatory words (Jas 3:5).

How do you respond to foolish people? How can you, guided by the Holy Spirit, answer (or choose to remain silent) in ways that build up or challenge the fool?

Rebecca Van Noord[1]


[1] Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

December 23: The Rise to Power

Jeremiah 44:1–46:28; Romans 11:1–10; Proverbs 25:1–28

If you’re driven, you’ve probably worked very hard to get to where you are. Being driven is a good thing, but being driven at a cost to others or by elevating yourself by your own accord is detrimental. Proverbs 25 offers this warning from the perspective of King Solomon: “Do not promote yourself before the king, and in the place of the great ones do not stand. For it is better that he say to you, ‘Ascend here,’ than he humble you before a noble” (Prov 25:6–7).

People tend to get nasty when power or money is involved. It’s uncomfortable to wait for that promotion, but God asks us to remain patient. At the end of the day, attaining leadership because you’re worthy is a much greater honor than obtaining it because you were louder than someone else or placed yourself in front of them. We should always take initiative and strive to succeed, but we need to remember that it’s not our place to decide our fates. We must place that in God’s hands, and we must wait to be asked to take the reins rather than snatch them ourselves.

Many people would put themselves before others when given the opportunity; they would promote themselves at the cost of someone else. As Christians, we have to ward off such temptations. We must maintain our integrity. Proverbs speaks about this as well: “What your eyes have seen [in a king’s court], do not hastily bring out to court, for what will you do at its end, when your neighbor puts you to shame? Argue your argument with your neighbor himself, the secret of another do not disclose, lest he who hears shame you and your ill repute will not end” (Prov 25:8–10).

Abuse of power is one of the most common leadership problems. People seeking and obtaining power when they’re not ready can be equally disastrous. As we seek to advance ourselves, we must be cautious with how we earn power—and with how we handle power when we’ve earned it.

What “power” situations are you currently handling well? What must change in your current “power” struggles?

John D. Barry[1]


[1] Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

December 22: A False Form of Righteousness

Jeremiah 42:1–43:13; Romans 9:30–10:21; Proverbs 24:23–34

Zeal can be treacherous if it’s misplaced. It may lead us to set and strictly follow standards that have nothing to do with God’s work—standards that make us feel like good people but that can devastate our lives and the lives of others.

Paul addresses the misplaced zeal of many Jewish people in his letter to the Roman church: “Brothers, the desire of my heart and my prayer to God on behalf of them is for their salvation. For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For ignoring the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Rom 10:1–4).

Many Jewish people who had rejected the Messiah were attempting to make themselves right with God by keeping the ot law. In doing so, they missed God by seeking their own righteousness. Paul tells the Romans that these Jewish people ignored the “righteousness of God”—God’s work of salvation in Jesus Christ. It’s only by submitting to God that they could be “right with God” through Jesus Christ.

This lesson isn’t applicable only to the Jewish people and their relationship to the law. Jesus restored relationship with God when we couldn’t. We only have to believe in Him. Yet a dangerous zeal can still trip us up. If we rest in anything except Christ’s work and try to reach God by being good people, we are sure to miss Him. And in the process, we can become stumbling blocks in the lives of others.

Are you trying to attain righteousness through your own effort? How does your life reflect humility because of Christ’s work in you? How can you lovingly point others toward the righteousness of God, found only through His son, Jesus Christ?

What are you trying to attain? How can you focus your hope and the hope of others on Christ and the righteousness He has attained for you?

Rebecca Van Noord[1]


[1] Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

December 21: Expenses

Jeremiah 39:1–41:18; Romans 9:13–29; Proverbs 24:1–22

It’s important to pause occasionally to reflect on the cost of sin. If we don’t, we can find ourselves living in it without thought of the ramifications. Few passages illustrate the cost of sin more vividly than the fall of Jerusalem recorded in Jer 39. The fall of Jerusalem is brutal, depressing, and sadistic, but we can learn from Jeremiah’s account of the event.

We could view Jeremiah’s depictions as merely historical, or we could recognize the theological lessons they offer: Sin is expensive. Sin will destroy you. Sin will bring a nation to its knees. Sin will leave you begging for mercy. Sin is death. That’s what God’s people learned from this event: Disobeying Yahweh is a costly action. It’s not that God wants His people to endure this pain, but pain is a natural consequence of their decisions. He cannot defend people who refuse to live as beacons of light—of goodness, beauty, and blessing—to the world. If they aren’t willing to live in His image, then He is not willing to be their defender. If Yahweh did not allow for Nebuchadnezzar to destroy Jerusalem, the people would never learn. And the exile that comes in this moment is also a natural result of their sin.

When we’re faced with the horror of the destruction of Jerusalem, we’re given a choice: Will we listen to the prophets of our age and respond accordingly? Will we hear God when He calls us back to obedience? Or will we continue to live in sin and suffer the consequences?

As a side effect of the grace that God has given us in Jesus, many people assume that sin is somehow okay—that it’s okay to allow it to exist. God’s response is the opposite. The grace is unmerited, and we must respond with the only merited response: complete dedication and obedience to Him. We must see the death of sin and deny it.

What sin is currently present in your life? What do you need to repent from? Have you asked God to direct you in this?

John D. Barry[1]


[1] Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

December 20: Looking to God and Others

Jeremiah 37:1–38:28; Romans 9:1–12; Proverbs 23:19–35

We have a natural tendency to be concerned with our own condition. As redeemed people, God is transforming us from being self-centered people—concerned with our own ambitions—to other-centered people who want to see God’s work done in and around us. Sometimes even our spiritual concerns point us inward. But God’s work in us shouldn’t be just about us.

Paul sets a startling example in his concern for those who hadn’t come to know Christ: “I am telling the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears witness to me in the Holy Spirit—that my grief is great and there is constant distress in my heart. For I could wish myself to be accursed from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my fellow countrymen according to the flesh” (Rom 9:1–3).

Although he was called especially to be an apostle to the Gentiles, Paul was deeply concerned about the spiritual state of the Jewish people—his own people. The promise of the Messiah was given to them, yet many refused to believe the fulfillment of this promise, the redeeming work of Christ. They weren’t aware of the fulfillment of that promise given especially to them. Paul was so grieved by their rejection of their salvation that he was willing to be accursed for their sakes.

God is at work in us—transforming us for His purpose. We should be keenly aware of His work. But our gaze shouldn’t be fixed inward. We should be looking to God, amazed by His grace and His concern for people like us. As we are changed into His likeness, we should be caught up in caring for the things that deeply concern Him. We should care about the people He wants to be transformed to His likeness. He is molding and shaping us into His likeness so that we can be His instruments, His agents on earth. The people we meet and the situations we encounter are all opportunities to reflect Christ—not because we want to be holy examples, but because we have a task to do.

How is God’s work transforming you to be deeply concerned about the spiritual state of others? Who can you pray for? Who can you reach out to?

Rebecca Van Noord[1]


[1] Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

December 19: The Rechabite Saga

Jeremiah 35:1–36:32; Romans 8:18–39; Proverbs 22:17–23:18

We’re often slow to learn and quick to speak. We think we know God’s ways, but He can easily prove us wrong. Many of us have made this mistake: We think we’re living righteously, and then God slams us for our actions. He quickly deconstructs our worldview, calling into question our ethics, our way of being, our lifestyles. Why? Because even if we don’t think we’re breaking any rules, we might be living by our own choices rather than Yahweh’s will—and that is disobedience. The story of the Rechabites demonstrates this point.

Yahweh had requested that the Rechabites shun alcohol and live in tents, so they did. They obeyed this request until Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judah, which they inhabited with the rest of God’s people. Then Yahweh sent them one final test: He asked His prophet, Jeremiah, to prompt them to drink wine. They resisted—and passed the test (Jer 35:1–11).

The Rechabites’ obedience stands as a model that shows the actions of the rest of God’s people reprehensible by comparison. Yahweh remarks to Jeremiah, “Go and say to the people of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, ‘Can you not learn a lesson to listen to my words?’ declares Yahweh. ‘The words of Jonadab, the son of Rechab, that he commanded his descendants to not drink, have been carried out, and they have not drunk until this day, for they have obeyed the command of their ancestor. But I have spoken to you over and over again, and you have not listened to me’ ” (Jer 35:13–14). God’s people had disobeyed Him by seeking other gods and committing other sins, but this line hints at the deeper problem: They had not carried out Yahweh’s basic commandment to listen to His will.

God’s people thought they were in the right. They believed they were behaving correctly. But in reality, they had disobeyed His basic commandments and then disobeyed His very will. Are you, like God’s people, living in disillusionment, failing to acknowledge that you’re living outside of God’s will?

Ask yourself: “Am I really on the right track? Is this really God’s will, or is it the manifestation of a false belief about my obedience that I’m creating?”

John D. Barry[1]


[1] Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

December 18: Into the Family

Jeremiah 33:1–34:22; Romans 8:1–17; Proverbs 22:1–16

As people once bound to sin and destined for death, our ability to approach God personally—to call Him our Father—should astound us. Yet we sometimes forget to pray. We can take it for granted that He looks out for our every need.

The concept of approaching God as Father would have been a radical concept for the Roman community. In his letter to the church there, Paul discusses how our former lives without God were nothing but slavery to sin and death, the wages of sin. Christ’s work has set us free from this trajectory: “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself confirms to our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, also heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer together with him so that we may also be glorified together with him” (Rom 8:15–17).

Paul’s audience would have used the term “Abba! Father!” only within immediate family relationships. To call God “our Father” would have been a shocking paradigm shift—especially for Jewish believers. However, Christ’s sacrifice made this relationship possible. He paid our debt and repaired the rift. Because of His work, and because we share in His Spirit, we also share in His relationship with the Father. We can call out to God, just as Jesus did. And the Father cares for us, just as He cares for His Son.

We may forget our intimate relationship with God, yet the Spirit continues to work within us to bring our lives into accordance with this relationship with the Father. Pray for insight and gratitude for your new position because of Christ. When you call on God, relate to Him as a child would to a loving father—bringing all to Him and knowing He understands you and knows what is best for you.

Do you neglect prayer? Pray that the Spirit would work to bring you a childlike faith and trust in God.

Rebecca Van Noord[1]


[1] Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

December 17: Land and Deeds

Jeremiah 32:1–44; Romans 7:7–25; Proverbs 21:13–31

Those of us who have purchased a home know the frightening feeling of closing day—“Am I signing my life away? Am I binding myself to this building forever?” Imagine, on top of those feelings, knowing that the place you’re buying is about to be overrun by a foreign nation and may no longer belong to you. That’s what the prophet Jeremiah experienced.

Yahweh tells Jeremiah that his cousin will arrive with an offer to purchase a field. So when Jeremiah’s cousin shows up, Jeremiah views it as Yahweh’s will that he purchase the land, and he does (Jer 32:1–12). Meanwhile, Jeremiah knows that the Babylonians are coming and that they will overrun the land of God’s people, including the land that he has just purchased. This is not a reckless act; this is a moment of faith. Jeremiah seizes the opportunity to proclaim Yahweh’s faithfulness.

Turning to his assistant, Baruch, Jeremiah remarks in front of everyone witnessing the purchase, “Thus says Yahweh of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Take these deeds, this deed of the purchase, the sealed one, and this opened deed, and you must put them in an earthenware jar so that they may be kept preserved many days.’ For thus says Yahweh of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Houses and fields and vineyards will again be bought in this land’ ” (Jer 32:14–15).

Each of us has moments when we must do what no one else will do—and that includes saying what others are not willing to say. What “land” is God asking you to buy, and what is He asking you to proclaim about it?

What deed is God asking you to do today? What are you to say about Yahweh’s faithfulness, and how are you to act upon it?

John D. Barry[1]


[1] Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

December 16: Freedom

Jeremiah 31:1–40; Romans 6:15–7:6; Proverbs 21:1–12

We like to think of ourselves as autonomous. Our modern culture champions freedom and the right to pursue happiness. But if we apply the concept of rights when we think about faith, following Christ can feel like religion, dogma, rules—a type of bondage that requires us to think and behave in ways that make our autonomous selves bridle.

Paul looks at the issue differently: “Do you not know that to whomever you present yourselves as slaves for obedience, you are slaves to whomever you obey, whether sin, leading to death, or obedience, leading to righteousness?” (Rom 6:16). He uses another analogy in his letter to the church in Rome—one that draws on the practice of the slavery within his own culture—to highlight the opposite view. If we live without God, he says, we have a debt that binds us. We are a slave to sin, and it’s the type of bondage that leads to death.

Yet, there is hope. Although we were slaves to sin, we can be redeemed from that slavery. Christ has paid the debt we incurred. He has set us free and brought us into a new bondage—not one that binds to death, but one that binds us to Him in life. If we believe this is true and put our trust in Him, we are no longer slaves.

As redeemed people, we’re called to a new life. While we once charted our own independent path—one that led to death—we can turn and follow a path that leads to sanctification and eternal life, a path that God charts just for us. While our path required a toll—death—Christ has paid that toll so we can walk in new life: “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 6:23).

How have your old habits and patterns of behavior changed now that you’ve been set free? What still needs to change to reflect your new loyalty to Christ?

Rebecca Van Noord[1]


[1] Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

December 15: After the Storm

Jeremiah 29:1–30:24; Romans 6:1–14; Proverbs 20:13–30

As we blink and squint in the light that emerges after a storm, we marvel that the sun was there all along and we just couldn’t see it. The same is true during times of difficulty. When we’re in pain or worried, it seems impossible to find God, but in retrospect, it always seems obvious: God was there all along.

Jeremiah prophesied to God’s people about their unraveling. The people heard words from Jeremiah’s mouth that must have seemed hopeless and full of despair. But in Jeremiah 29, we catch a glimpse of the light that comes after: “Build houses and live in them, and plant gardens and eat their fruit. Take wives and father sons and daughters … and multiply there, and you must not be few” (Jer 29:5–6).

Even in exile, God will continue to guide His people. Because of their sins, they have endured (and lost) war and have been driven away from the land that God gave them; but God remains with them nonetheless. They may need to experience the pain of exile to understand the consequences of turning away from God, but God still plans to be good to them. He will provide for them.

We witness a parallel picture in Rom 6. After describing the death that sin brings into the world and the current sad state of humanity, Paul presents a full vision of living without sin—of conquering the very problem that drove God’s people into exile: “What therefore shall we say? Shall we continue in sin, in order that grace may increase? May it never be! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom 6:1–2).

Even with the grace God has offered us, Paul encourages us to live the vision God has created through Jesus—one that strives to be sinless. Likewise, Jeremiah does not offer empty words without the command that God’s people follow Him with their entire beings (Jer 29:8–14).

We have all made mistakes. We’ve all lost ourselves in the storms—in storms we caused and storms that came upon us for no apparent reason. But what’s certain in both instances is that God is with us and desires for us to be one with Him.

What storm are you currently in, coming out of, or anticipating? What is God teaching you through it? What is He asking of you?

John D. Barry[1]


[1] Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

December 14: Patient Endurance

Jeremiah 27:1–28:17; Romans 5:1–21; Proverbs 20:1–12

In theory, it’s easy to provide answers to difficult faith questions. But when we face real trials, everything changes. We gain a new perspective on the Bible passages we’ve memorized; the Christian maxims we’ve passed on to others reverse and hit us full force. We don’t have the option to talk in hypotheticals. Trials require heartfelt faith and total reliance on God.

Suffering and trials are not punishment or neglect on God’s part. In fact, they’re quite the opposite. Paul describes how God works through trials to build us up in faith. And His work is not a quick fix or an easy answer. It’s a process, as Paul describes in his letter to the Roman church: “And not only this, but we also boast in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces patient endurance, and patient endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom 5:3–5).

In times of suffering, we aren’t meant to abandon mourning or put up an artifice of strength. We’re not supposed to conquer and overcome and become the next Christian success story. God uses these trials to work in us—a slow, evolving work that begins with endurance, creates character, and culminates with a hope that won’t disappoint. We don’t embark on such a process by ourselves. Throughout our suffering, “the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom 5:5).

We will face trials and suffering in our lifetime—whether everyday difficulties or life-altering events. But affliction doesn’t separate us from God’s love (Rom 8:35). Indeed, God uses it to confirm His love for us. May Paul’s words give us comfort and perspective for the work God is or will be doing in us.

What trials or suffering are you enduring? How do Paul’s words shed light on your trials?

Rebecca Van Noord[1]


[1] Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

December 13: Sage Advice

Jeremiah 25:1–26:24; Romans 4:1–24; Proverbs 19:1–29

Proverbs is full of sage advice, and some examples deserve special attention. No words could better describe the concept expressed here: “Better a poor person walking in integrity than one who is perverse in his speech and is a fool” (Prov 19:1).

When times get tough—especially when money runs out—integrity is often the first thing we sacrifice. Yet only those who have truly lived in poverty understand the trials it brings. We can’t begin to know how we would act if we had nothing. For this reason, we should mentally prepare for times of want. In doing so, we might better gauge whether we’re conducting ourselves appropriately in times of plenty.

I heard of a man who chose to live as a homeless person so that he could understand their plight. It’s easy for the rich person to call such an act foolish, but how much did that man learn as he was challenged to maintain his integrity during hard times? Does the rich person own that wisdom?

Proverbs 19:2 seems to hint at this idea: “A life without knowledge is not good, and he who moves quickly with his feet misses the mark.” Some people move so quickly in and out of circumstances that they don’t learn from their experiences. It’s better to move a little slower than normal and pay attention to our actions and their ramifications than to make a mistake and not learn from it. Likewise, we must have knowledge about our work and what we’re doing, or we inevitably fail.

Let’s learn from people with integrity. And let’s learn from our mistakes, both in hypothetical situations and real ones. Let’s take the time to notice what went wrong and what went right.

What situation is God using to teach you? Where should you slow down?

John D. Barry[1]


[1] Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

December 12: Forgiven and Forgiving

Jeremiah 23:1–24:10; Romans 3:21–31; Proverbs 18:1–24

Idioms are often unhelpful because their overuse has robbed them of meaning. But the idiom “putting up walls” has a twist in Proverbs: “A brother who is offended is worse than a city of strength, and quarrels are like the bars of a fortification” (Prov 18:19).

The writer of this proverb gives us imagery that helps us understand how people react to offenses. Regardless of whether we intend to, we can raise a great structure, like a “city of strength,” in the gulf between ourselves and others. Such barriers make it difficult to reach those we have offended, which may suit us perfectly. But we’re called to live differently.

None of us can live perfectly in this life, so conflict is inevitable. If we have the insight to see that “we all fall short of the glory of God”—and more specifically, how we have fallen—we’ll see we have no right to hold a grudge (Rom 3:23). When rifts develop in relationships, we need to own our sin and bring it to God. His forgiveness and His reconciling work make it possible for us to be vulnerable with others and seek their forgiveness—even if they have also offended us.

When we choose to humbly admit our failings, we break down “the bars of a fortification” and create space for reconciliation. We might be spurned, or we might be forgiven. The other person may take responsibility for their fault, or they may not. But either way, we rest secure in God’s forgiveness.

Have you offended someone? Have you neglected to confess your sin and seek forgiveness? Reconciliation is a picture of what God has done for us—He has returned us to Himself. Be like the peacemaker: Seek and offer forgiveness.

Have you offended someone without asking forgiveness? If so, how can you step forward to confess your offense to God and the offended person?

Rebecca Van Noord[1]


[1] Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.