Category Archives: Connect the Testaments

December 11: Faithful Decision-Making

Jeremiah 21:1–22:30; Romans 3:1–20; Proverbs 17:1–28

“I asked God, and He didn’t answer me.” When I hear people say this, I’m often tempted to reply, “Haven’t you read the prophets?” Because sometimes what people are really saying is, “I asked God to do something for me, and He didn’t answer in the way I expected, so He must not be listening or He must not care.” Yet the prophets repeatedly tell us the opposite. God is not human, so He does not make decisions like a human. Instead, He sees all possible outcomes and knows the best route. We simply struggle to understand the wisdom of His decisions.

One particular event in the book of Jeremiah illustrates this point. When King Zedekiah (the last king of Judah) asks Jeremiah to intercede with Yahweh on behalf of Jerusalem against King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, Jeremiah gives an unexpected reply: Yahweh has refused to do so. He will not intercede for His own people. Rather, He will make Nebuchadnezzar’s task easier (Jer 21:1–7).

Before we view Yahweh as harsh and unforgiving, let’s recall that this occurs after God’s people have been rebelling against Him for hundreds of years. Even so, in Jer 21:8–10, God’s people are given a choice: They can remain in Jerusalem and die—for Yahweh has deemed that the city must fall—or they can enter what appears to be death but is actually life. Yahweh sets up a faith choice for them: “He who goes out and goes over to the Chaldeans who are laying siege to you will live, and his life will be to him as booty” (Jer 21:9).

Even in the midst of unbearable circumstances, Yahweh offers a way of grace. Even when everything seems to fail, we can decide to choose faith. This story mirrors what we experience on our deathbed. It also mirrors the decision we face every day of our lives: Will we listen to the voices of the world, or will we listen to the prophets who proclaim honest indignation and faithful decision-making? Will we stay in the city, or will we go where God calls us—no matter how difficult it may seem or how improbable?

Where is God calling you? What must you walk away from? What faith decision is before 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 10: Constructing Lives by the Law

Jeremiah 18:1-18; Romans 2:12-29; Proverbs 16:12-33

Dispensing good, helpful advice gets the benevolent juices flowing. As easy as it is to give advice, though, it often hits me with the irony of a cartoon anvil when I end up tripping over my own counsel. When this happens, I’m convicted to examine my motives for advice-giving.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul challenges the superior mindset that was common among some Jewish people at the time: “But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God and know his will and approve the things that are superior, because you are instructed by the law, and are confident that you yourself are a guide of the blind, a light to those in darkness, and instructor of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth in the law. Therefore, the one who teaches someone else, do you not teach yourself?” (Rom 2:17–21).

Paul is explaining why looking to the ot law for righteousness is futile. No person could perfectly keep the law. By holding to it, they were in fact condemning themselves. Paul even points out that some Jews thought they had attained a higher moral standing because of their knowledge of the law—and believed they were in a position to teach others. Yet they were still breaking the law.

It’s easy for us to discard this as an early church issue. Yet we still sometimes take comfort in “keeping the law” today. If we cling to our own good behavior rather than the righteousness we have in Christ, we commit the same sin. We can attempt to live like a saint—we can cultivate a reputation for goodness and dishing out wisdom—but we’ll set ourselves up for imminent failure because we can never keep up the pretense of godly behavior on our own.

However, if our “circumcision is of the heart”—if we trust in Christ’s sacrifice for our righteousness and the Spirit is working in us—then our hearts will be in the right place. That place is where we know we are great sinners, and where we are receptive to His transforming work to bring us into complete loyalty to Him. Then we will seek God’s favor, not the favor and superiority we crave from others.

If our lives are truly changed, we will be motivated to love others out of the love God shows us. That will give us the right perspective for seeing the transformation that God is working in their hearts. And it will free us to give the best advice of all: Seek God in everything.

What are your motives for giving advice?

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 9: Self-Evident Hope

Jeremiah 16:1–17:27; Romans 1:18–2:11; Proverbs 16:1–11

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all impiety and unrighteousness of people, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what can be known about God is evident among them, for God made it clear to them” (Rom 1:18–19). A statement like this could easily be taken out of context if we leave off everything after “people.” But when we contextualize this message, we find hope instead of hopelessness.

Paul goes on to tell us that creation itself reveals God and His goodness to humanity, so there is no excuse for failing to understand God and the salvation He offers: “For from the creation of the world, his invisible attributes, both his eternal power and deity, are discerned clearly, being understood in the things created, so that they are without excuse” (Rom 1:20).

We have all heard people who are concerned that salvation seems unfair: What about the people who won’t ever hear about Jesus? Yet Paul argues that everyone has an opportunity to witness Christ at work in creation itself. In Colossians he remarks that it’s in the “Son [Jesus] … whom we have the redemption, the forgiveness of sins, who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation, because all things in the heavens and on the earth were created by him, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers, all things were created through him and for him” (Col 1:13–16).

All people have an opportunity to know God. No one has an excuse. God’s justice reigns in creation; it reigns in Christ; and it reigns in the lives of those who choose Christ. Christ is everywhere, in all things. The world is not condemned unfairly by a God of unreasonable wrath; instead, it’s ruled by a God of joy and empathy who is love.

What misperceptions do you have of God? How can you correct them and work in the lives of others to do the same? How can you spread the empathy God wants you to display?

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 8: The Gospel for Barbarians and Fools

Jeremiah 14:1–15:21; Romans 1:1–17; Proverbs 15:1–33

It’s dangerous when we feel entitled. We may come to believe our communities are righteous while all those outside are not. This can even take place inside our faith communities—popularity or various achievements can create subtle feelings of superiority. We begin to believe it’s something we’ve done that brings us favor.

As he writes to the church in Rome, Paul explains that it’s not anything we do, anything we are, or anything we obtain that makes us right with God. His calling verifies this: “I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. Thus I am eager to proclaim the gospel also to you who are in Rome” (Rom 1:14).

Ethnicity was a big obstacle for the early church to overcome, as the church was now made up of both Jewish and Gentile believers. God promised Abraham that through him “all the peoples on earth will be blessed” (Gen 12:3). Christ’s redemptive work had finally made this blessing a reality. God’s favor was no longer reserved for those who might be educated or wise. Paul emphasizes that God can redeem those who—to us—might seem unlikely recipients of redemption.

But most important, our standing before God is not based on our goodness. Paul is eager to proclaim the gospel in Rome because it is belief in Jesus, the fulfillment of the promise, that makes believers righteous before God—“the gospel … is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16). Christ’s righteousness has become our righteousness.

If anything, this fact should eliminate any sense of entitlement we might harbor and prompt us to walk in humility with believers and non-believers alike. Our relationship with God is intimately tied to how deeply we understand our need for God. The gospel frees us of any need to attain or achieve. For this, we should be incredibly thankful to God and live with humility for Him.

Do you put stock in the things you think make you a “favored” Christian?

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 7: Relationship Will Change Us

Jeremiah 12:1–13:27; Philemon 1:8–25; Proverbs 14:15–35

Although God has granted us complete access to Him through Christ, we struggle at times to live this reality (John 17:15–17). The stale or frightening depictions of God in stained glass and Renaissance paintings have convinced us that He is distant, quick to anger, or disinterested. Nothing could be further from the truth; the Psalms remind us that He is caring, close, and listening (e.g., Pss 22; 23; 26), and He yearns for a relationship with us.

Sometimes it helps to hear the words of others who have struggled with the same thing. Jeremiah provides us with such an example. He remarks, “You will be in the right, O Yahweh, when I complain to you. Even so, let me speak my claims with you. Why does the way of the wicked succeed? All those who deal treacherously with treachery are at ease” (Jer 12:1). Jeremiah knows that Yahweh is right in all He does, but this does not prevent him from freely expressing his concerns.

If we really look into our hearts, we may find that fear is preventing us from entering into an intimate relationship with Him. We’re afraid of what He will say; we’re concerned that He may rebuke us. Indeed, this is what He does when Jeremiah speaks to Him: “If you run with foot soldiers and they have made you weary, then how will you compete with horses? If you have fallen in a peaceful land, then how will you do in the thickets of the Jordan? For even your relatives, and the house of your father, even they have dealt treacherously with you, even they call loudly after you. You must not trust in them, though they speak kindly to you” (Jer 12:5–6). Yet within this rebuke, we also find advice—and the advice is comforting. By openly communicating his concerns to God, Jeremiah now knows what he must do. He knows how he must act.

There is joy to be found in knowing that we have a God who listens—a God who is not offended when we speak to Him but is eager for our company. What are we afraid of? After all, He already knows what’s on our minds. We need to grasp the idea that God is all about relationship.

What would change about your life if you went deeper into your relationship with Christ? What should you be asking God right now?

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 6: The Easy Way

Jeremiah 10:1–11:23; Philemon 1:1–7; Proverbs 14:1–14

There is a certain amount of freedom in being foolish. Foolish people don’t stop to reflect on their actions. Characteristically unimaginative, foolish people don’t stop to consider how their words and actions affect others. The scary effect of foolishness is that it’s contagious: “Leave the presence of a foolish man, for you will not come to know words of knowledge. The wisdom of the clever is understanding his ways, but the folly of fools is deceit” (Prov 14:7).

There is an ease in self-deception because it’s our natural state. “There is a way that seems upright to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Prov 14:12). But the right way is not simply a more reflective, thoughtful life. We need a new way of life that can only be brought about in Christ—the one who reversed the power of death. Following the right way doesn’t mean relying on our own ability to be righteous through thoughtful actions. Rather, it means understanding our need for His righteousness. It’s God’s work in us, recreating us. It’s His Spirit, directing our ways and making us new in Him.

The fool does have influence, but a life transformed has far-reaching influence because it’s not our own work—it’s God’s. This is the calling of which Paul reminds Philemon. Paul tells Philemon that he has “great joy and encouragement” because of Philemon’s love. Because of his love, “the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you brother” (Phlm 7). For this reason, Paul also holds Philemon to a high standard. Because of his great influence, he needs to be intentional about how he treats Onesimus, the redeemed slave who had wronged him.

Pray for a transformed life, and pray for the work of the Spirit in your life, dividing the light from the darkness and the foolish, deceitful parts from the wise. He will help you understand His ways if you ask Him. He will make the darkness evident, and He will show you the way of wisdom—a life that reflects Christ.

How are you praying for the Spirit’s ongoing work in your life, dividing the foolish ways from the wise?

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 5: Do No Harm

Jeremiah 7:30–9:26; Colossians 3:18–4:18; Proverbs 13:1–25

Love can hurt. Many well-intentioned people have done more harm than good while attempting to care for others. This is especially the case in cross-cultural situations, as well-meaning people attempt to introduce change without understanding the local culture. But it can even be true in our homes.

Paul’s words in Col 3:18–4:1 have been misused countless times by those seeking to gain or maintain power. Yet when we examine the passage closely, we find that Paul’s main goal is to teach the church in Colossae to help without hurting as he works toward seeing cultural norms in the light of the gospel.

When Paul talks about wives “submitting” to their husbands, he frames it in light of the phrase, “husbands love your wives” (Col 3:18–19). The submission he speaks of is not about giving up will or freedom; Paul is acknowledging the cultural and economic realities of the time and encouraging the Church to operate within those norms. In Graeco-Roman culture, the idea of married women having their own livelihoods—and thus holding complete autonomy in decision-making—was incomprehensible. Women couldn’t own property or vote. Paul acknowledges that Christ’s work in making all people equal will radically reframe culture (Gal 3:23–4:7), yet in Col 3:18–4:1, he’s concerned that if the Church introduces radical changes, it will gain a negative reputation in Graeco-Roman culture. He wants the Christian work in culture to help, not harm.

It’s for this same reason that Paul includes a provision for masters and slaves; however, as with men and women, he reframes the cultural norms to the extent possible: Masters are to grant their slaves “justice and fairness” (Col 4:1). Paul would have likely been alone in calling people to this standard. As his decision to subtly ask Philemon to free Onesimus shows, Paul likely wished to completely overturn slavery, but he also understood that doing so would take time (see especially Phlm 15–16). Paul’s charges to slaves and masters in Col 3:22–4:1 are meant to help until a more complete reform could take place.

Paul sees the Church as first setting basic examples, then progressing to a more radical framework as culture itself is changed by Christianity. In Paul’s lifetime, a radical reworking was not feasible—it would have resulted in culture completely rejecting Christ, and thus ended the very work He was trying to make happen. Therefore, Paul creates provisions to help people during the process of the change.

Love must work to change things that need to change. But ultimately, love must always avoid harm.

What is God calling you to change? How can you do so without harming others?

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 4: Put Off, Put On

Jeremiah 6:1–7:29; Colossians 3:1–17; Proverbs 12:1–28

We often hear that being a good Christian means not doing bad stuff. This statement is true—but not exhaustive. In Colossians 3, Paul says, “Therefore put to death what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, uncleanness, lustful passion, evil desire, and greediness, which is idolatry” (Col 3:5). He then lists other inappropriate behaviors: “anger, rage, wickedness, slander, abusive language” (Col 3:8). And he also lists new behaviors we need to “put on,” like “affection, compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience” (Col 3:12).

From this we can gather that, as Christians, our lives should look different. But is there more to this command than certain behaviors?

We’re not supposed to put on new behaviors simply so that we can have polished, admirable lives. Colossians 3 opens with a statement: “Therefore, if you have been raised together with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is” (Col 3:1). Believers identify with Christ—just like we’ve died with Him, we’ve also been raised with Him. He is life for us. And one day, we will be reunited with Him, and we’ll reflect Him perfectly.

All of Paul’s teaching rests on this truth. And all of our actions should reflect this new life we have in Christ. We shouldn’t continue in the old behaviors that used to be common to us (Col 3:7). We are changing into His likeness. “You have taken off the old man together with his deeds, and have put on the new man that is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of the one who created him” (Col 3:9–10).

Avoiding certain behaviors is part of being a Christian, but it’s hardly just that. It’s about a new life built completely on the foundation of Christ’s life-giving work. We should forgive one another because He forgave us (Col 3:13). We should love each other and strive for unity because He loved us and united us to Him (Col 3:14). We should strive for peace with one another because Christ has conquered chaos (Col 3:15). The message of Christ and our new life in Him should help us encourage and challenge each other as believers (Col 3:16).

Does your life reflect this new life? How can you turn from simply avoiding bad behavior to seeking new life in 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 3: Facing the Storms on the Horizon

Jeremiah 4:19–5:31; Colossians 2:6–23; Proverbs 11:13–31

Having knowledge or insight into a situation and feeling helpless to act upon that information is one of the most frightening feelings we can experience. It makes us anxious, even pained.

Jeremiah 4 describes an experience like this: “My heart is restless within me, I cannot keep silent, for I hear in my inner self the sound of a horn, the alarm of war. Destruction on destruction is proclaimed, for all of the land is devastated.… How long must I see the banner, and hear the sound of a horn? ‘For my people are foolish, they have not known me. They are foolish children, and they do not have insight. They are skillful at doing evil, and they do not know how to do good’ ” (Jer 4:19–22).

How should we react in moments like these? How should we operate? There are no simple answers to these questions. But what is certain is that we must depend on God and His provision over our lives. We must look at the coming storms in our lives and the lives of others and recognize that Yahweh will be at work—regardless of the difficulties we encounter in the process.

Like Jeremiah, we must speak up, but we must root ourselves in Christ as we do so. As Paul writes, “As you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, live in him, firmly rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding with thankfulness” (Col 2:6–7). We must thank Christ for His work in us and live as He has asked us to live. If we are called to tell others about the ramifications of their actions, we must always be motivated by Christ’s love. For as the book of Proverbs tell us, “A gossip walks about telling a secret, but the trustworthy in spirit keeps the matter. Where there is no guidance, a nation shall fall, but there is safety in an abundance of counsel” (Prov 11:13–14).

Let our counsel be godly counsel. Let our words be truthful. Let us see that God will guide us in the events we can change and those that we can’t. And let our actions proceed from thankfulness and love.

What storm are you anxious about? How can you depend on God in that storm?

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 2: The Mystery of God

Jeremiah 3:1–4:18; Colossians 1:15–2:5; Proverbs 11:1–12

“God wanted to make known what is the glorious wealth of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col 1:27).

Paul’s use of the word “mystery” in this passage may strike us as a bit strange. How is the person and work of Christ shrouded in secrecy? And why would Paul present Christ as a mystery if his point is that God wanted to make Christ known?

The answer is found in the culture of early Colossae, a city known for its infatuation with magic and the occult. Among the Gentile cults, “mystery” was often associated with a secret ritual that people must perform to create a relationship with a god. False teachers in the community at Colossae were promoting alternative ways to get to God—secret rituals that would lead to special knowledge for a select few.

Paul contextualizes the gospel for the Colossians. He adopts this “mystery” language to show that Christ is the only way to God. The mystical path presented to the Colossians was a farce—a shell of what the Colossian believers had in Christ. It’s in Him that “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden” (Col 2:3).

Paul wisely draws on language and tradition familiar to his audience to make the “mystery” of Christ known to all—not just a select few. Paul says he proclaims Christ so that “by admonishing every person and teaching every person with all wisdom … we may present every person mature in Christ” (Col 1:28).

Because he was familiar with the culture of Colossae, Paul was able to acknowledge the challenges the believers faced, and then present the gospel as they needed to hear it: Christ is the only way. How are you resting in Christ as the only way to God? How are you thoughtfully revealing this “mystery” to those in your church and community?

Do you look for other ways to get to God, like your own goodness or your own ability to earn favor?

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 1: The Calling of Jeremiah, Colossae, and Us

Jeremiah 1:1–2:37; Colossians 1:1–14; Proverbs 10:1–32

We all have trouble accepting our calling. When God asks us to do His work, we tend to wonder whether we’re able to execute His will. We are not alone in this—the prophet Jeremiah felt the same way.

“And the word of Yahweh came to me, saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you came out from the womb I consecrated you; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.’ Then I said, ‘Ah, Lord Yahweh! Look, I do not know how to speak, for I am a youth’ ” (Jer 1:4–6).

Jeremiah had been chosen by God before his birth, and yet he struggles. The issue at the heart of Jeremiah’s hesitancy is doubt about how it will all play out. A simple reframing of his call creates the reassurance he needs: “ ‘Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you,’ declares Yahweh. Then Yahweh stretched out is hand and he touched my mouth, and Yahweh said to me, ‘Look, I have put my words in your mouth. See, I appoint you this day over the nations and over the kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, and to destroy and to tear down, to build and to plant’ ” (Jer 1:8–10). After God reassures Jeremiah that He will be with him—that He will deal with all of his fears—Jeremiah is ready to be the man he’s been called to be. He goes on to become one of the greatest prophets who ever lived.

Paul takes on a similar role as God’s mouthpiece to the Colossians, reassuring them of their calling: “We give thanks always to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ when we pray for you, since we heard about your faith in Christ Jesus and the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope reserved for you in heaven, which you have heard about beforehand in the word of truth, the gospel” (Col 1:3–5). God has called the church at Colossae, and He is now moving them toward something greater—something more like what Jesus wants for their lives.

Like Jeremiah and the church at Colossae, we must take hope in the calling God has given us. We must reconcile ourselves to His work in our life. We must realize that He will give us what we are lacking, whether resources, confidence, or skill.

What do you fear? What do you need God to provide so you can better do His work? How should you go about acquiring 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.

November 30: Do Not Turn to Folly

2 Kings 23:28–25:30; Ephesians 6:1–24; Proverbs 9:13–18

I have a problem with criticism. Being one of the youngest in a large, opinionated family, I quickly learned how to stand up for myself and get my way as a young child. I learned to deflect teasing. I also learned I had a knack for ignoring reprimands—punishment free (there are certain, inalienable rights that shouldn’t be bestowed on the youngest). The louder I projected my voice, the better; the more stubborn my stance, the more respect I earned. I wish I could say it was a phase that I quickly grew out of.

When we’re challenged by others, we often interpret the wisdom offered as criticism instead. We defensively deflect feedback like beams of light, hoping they’ll land in their rightful place (our neighbor’s darkness, and not our own). This type of reaction can become second nature to us. Soon, even messages in church are meant for others: “I wish [insert person who is currently annoying us] was here. He or she really needs to hear this.”

Proverbs tells us that we don’t just deflect criticism to the detriment of others. Although we might shock people with our strong reactions, or scandalize them with our biting comments, we ignore their advice to our own detriment: “If you are wise, you are wise for yourself, and if you scoff, alone you shall bear it” (Prov 9:12).

Wisdom offered and received is part of God’s intention for community. It’s a means through which God builds us up—a theme found throughout the book of Ephesians. We don’t grow as individuals—the helpful conflict provided by community (the truth in love) helps us know ourselves better. But when we deflect criticism, we rush headlong into the peril we’ve created for ourselves. Proverbs has startling words for this type of peril. When the young man chooses to listen to the words of Folly personified, his fate is sealed: “Whoever is simple, may he turn here!” (Prov 9:16) she cries. “But he does not know that the dead are there, in the depths of Sheol are her guests” (Prov 9:18).

The next time someone offers you criticism and you’re tempted to react, choose to examine your heart and motives. Ask God for the wisdom you need to respond to criticism offered in love.

Think back to the last time you received criticism. How did you react? How should you react?

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.

November 29: Revitalization: Moving Beyond the Catch Word

2 Kings 22:1–23:27; Ephesians 5:1–33; Proverbs 9:1–12

Ideally, spiritual renewal wouldn’t be necessary—we would continually grow closer to God. But that’s not the case. There are ups and downs in our walk with Yahweh. We experience times of intimacy and times of distance. We lose focus, energy, or the desire to obey. These highs and lows could be the result of our fallen world or our taking God for granted, but whatever the reason, we need renewal. Spiritual revitalization is essential. We can always grow closer to God.

During his reign, King Josiah launches a reformation—a revitalization of the way God’s people think and act. He even changes the people’s understanding of God Himself. After finding a scroll (likely of Deuteronomy), Josiah tears his clothes in remorse and repentance and instructs the priests to inquire of Yahweh on behalf of the people (2 Kgs 22:8–13). Yahweh is aware of their misdeeds. Then Josiah immediately does what needs to be done: He reforms the land (2 Kgs 23:1–20).

Josiah makes the difficult choice to do what God requires. He ignites God’s work among His people again. He restores obedience. The work is challenging and exhausting—it means changing the way people live.

If we were faced with an opportunity like this, would we have the strength and dedication to take it? Would we be willing to change what must be changed? Would we be willing to proclaim the word of Yahweh to people who are not ready to hear it—who may resist the change? Would we carry out Yahweh’s work despite its unpopularity? These are issues we face every day.

The time of hypothetical speculation must end, and the time of igniting real renewal and real reform must begin. It starts with us, and it doesn’t end until all the lives around us are renewed, changed, and transformed.

In what area is God asking you to lead change?

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.

November 28: The Unity of Believers

2 Kings 20:1–21:26; Ephesians 4:1–32; Proverbs 8:27–36

It’s easy to sort believers in a community based on the quantity of their service. Most of us could roll out the masking tape and divide those who contribute their time and efforts from those who don’t. If we’re honest, the topic itself easily divides us—it makes us feel used, overtasked, and resentful. But that’s not the picture of unity of purpose that Paul presents in Ephesians. He describes the church as a body—one in which “each single part” is needed for the growth of the whole.

“But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow into him with reference to all things, who is the head, Christ, from whom the whole body, joined together and held together by every supporting ligament, according to the working by measure of each single part, the growth of the body makes for the building up of itself in love” (Eph 4:15–16).

We are each given unique abilities for the growth of the body, and “each single part” is necessary to grow the body of Christ. God gives gifts to each supporting ligament—each person—in order to build up the community. But it is Christ who joins and holds the church together.

Because of Christ’s unifying role, a key aspect of growth as a community and as individuals includes speaking the truth in love—helping others grow to spiritual maturity in the truth of the gospel. Instead of chiding, we can remind others of God’s goodness to them through Christ. Instead of further ostracizing them, we can invite them in by speaking the truth with love, realizing that God has blessed them with special abilities that will soon be realized.

How can you use your gifts to serve your community? How can you lovingly help others recognize theirs?

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.

November 27: When Hezekiah Gave Away the Farm

2 Kings 18:13–19:37; Ephesians 2:1–3:21; Proverbs 8:19–26

After the announcement that Hezekiah “did right in the eyes of Yahweh,” the next description comes as a surprise: “At that time, Hezekiah cut off the doors of the temple of Yahweh and the doorposts which Hezekiah king of Judah had overlaid, and he gave them to the king of Assyria” (2 Kgs 18:3, 16).

For a moment Hezekiah was a strong king over Israel—he abolished idolatry and refused to obey the king of Assyria (2 Kgs 18:4, 7). As 2 Kings 18:6 describes, “He held on to Yahweh; he did not depart from following him, and he kept his commands that Yahweh had commanded Moses.” But Hezekiah did not possess fortitude (see 2 Kgs 18:13–18). In an attempt to gain peace, he gave away not only treasures, but even pieces of Yahweh’s temple itself (2 Kgs 18:15–16).

We’ve all been in situations where it’s tempting to do anything for peace. Perhaps we’ve even compromised our ethics or values in these moments. But no matter the situation, giving away the farm like Hezekiah did is never the answer. Politicians often talk about “peace at all costs,” but our world is full of dilemmas that don’t allow for that option.

When desperate situations arise, we must have fortitude. We must seek solace in God and His will instead of giving in. If we make a decision based on the circumstances, it will be the wrong one. If we make our decisions based on prayer, we will make the correct moves.

Hezekiah could have relied on God when Sennacherib came knocking on his door and knocking down the cities of Judah, but he didn’t. He paid a high price for his decision; the cost was his relationship with Yahweh. Even death is preferable to that.

Sometimes our decisions are more important than we realize because they may involve our relationship with God. We must let that relationship drive our decision-making. Rather than being distracted by fear, anxiety, pressure, or even concern for anyone else, we must focus on God and His will; He alone will look out for us and others. We must give Him the opportunity to act.

What decisions do you need God’s intercession for?

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.

November 26: A Moment to Reflect

2 Kings 17:6–18:12; Ephesians 1:1–23; Proverbs 8:9–18

Anyone will admit that wisdom is more than just knowledge. We think of wisdom as thoughtful insight acquired with life experience. However, Paul and the author of Proverbs tell us that it is not something we gain with a little age and some good direction. Wisdom is inseparable from the fear of God.

The author of Proverbs tells us wisdom is “knowledge and discretion”; it’s associated with the desire to fear God, and it is a reward to those who seek it out. “I love those who love me,” says Wisdom personified. “Those who seek me diligently shall find me” (Prov 8:17). Paul speaks of wisdom in light of understanding the grand story of salvation we’re part of. When writing to the Ephesians, Paul prays that they will receive a certain type of spirit so they can grow in faith—“that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him (the eyes of your hearts having been enlightened), so that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what are the riches of the glory of his inheritance among the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power toward us who believe” (Eph 1:17–19).

The Ephesian believers were brought into this family of faith through the work of Christ as part of God’s plan (Eph 1:3–14). Paul prays for them to understand what it means for them to live as a hope-filled community that has been adopted—a treasured inheritance in God’s great plan of salvation. The Ephesians will receive this type of wisdom and revelation as it is given by God, not on their own accord. Understanding their place in this story will, in turn, shape their entire existence.

Both Paul and the author of Proverbs note this need to seek out wisdom, which God will give if we ask. Stop to consider your place in God’s redemptive work on your behalf. Pray for a spirit of wisdom to understand His work in your life.

Do you pray for wisdom? What type of response do you offer because of God’s work on your behalf?

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.

November 25: You Have to Mean It

2 Kings 15:1–17:5; Galatians 5:1–6:18; Proverbs 8:1–8

Wisdom really isn’t all that difficult to find. We think of this attribute as hidden or fleeting, but the book of Proverbs portrays Wisdom calling out to us: “Does not wisdom call, and understanding raise its voice? Atop the heights beside the road, at the crossroads she stands. Beside gates, before towns, at the entrance of doors” (Prov 8:1–3). When we seek Wisdom, she shows up. She’s everywhere. She’s waiting—not to be found, but to be embraced.

The intelligence of Wisdom, the prudence she teaches, is at our fingertips. In Proverbs 8:3–5, Wisdom cries out, “To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to the children of humankind. Learn prudence, O simple ones; fools, learn intelligence.” Maybe the real problem is that few of us are wise enough to be what Wisdom requires us to be. The folly of humankind may not be in a lack of seeking, but a lack of doing. If we really want something, we work for it. Wisdom requires sacrificing what we want for what she desires.

And the key to knowing what Wisdom desires—identifying the wise decision—is right in front of us as well. As Wisdom says in Proverbs, “My mouth will utter truth, and wickedness is an abomination to my lips. All sayings of my mouth are in righteousness; none of them are twisted and crooked” (Prov 8:7–8). The wise decision is the opposite of what’s “twisted” and “crooked.” If it feels wrong, it is wrong. If our conscience is aligned with God’s, we will know what’s right. The rest will seem like an “abomination.” If we want Wisdom, she’s ours for the having—ours for the living (Jas 1:5–8).

For what decision do you need wisdom? How should you be seeking 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.

November 24: The Ties that Bind

2 Kings 13:1–14:29; Galatians 4:1–31; Proverbs 7:21–27

We don’t often consider our former lives as enslavement. We characterize our lives before Christ by bad decisions and sinful patterns, but not bondage. We like to think of ourselves as neutral beings. But Paul paints another picture. The things or people we once put our trust in were the things that enslaved us. Paul asks the Galatians why they would ever want to return to bondage.

“But at that time when you did not know God, you were enslaved to the things which by nature are not gods. But now, because you have come to know God, or rather have come to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and miserable elemental spirits? Do you want to be enslaved to them all over again?” (Gal 4:8–9).

Paul tells the Galatians that turning back to the things they trusted formerly—whether the law for the Jews or spiritual beings for the Gentiles—is choosing enslavement. For us, it could be anything from thought patterns, greed, habits, people—anything we used to find value, comfort, or worth that is not God.

Before, we were subject to these things, which ruthlessly dictated our fate. Yet God didn’t leave us in this state. Paul says we “have come to know God, or rather have come to be known by God” (Gal 4:9). While we were still sinners, He broke into our spiritual bondage and broke the chains, giving us freedom and life in Christ.

We are no longer slaves with no freedom to make decisions; we are adopted as sons and daughters—we are heirs (Gal 4:7). By making this association, Paul shows the Galatians that Christ has paid the price. He also pushes them to grow up. They can’t just continue on in spiritual immaturity. Rather than trusting in the former things, they must continue in faith by being transformed by the Spirit.

What things from your life before Christ tempt you to return to spiritual bondage?

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.

November 23: The Games We Play

2 Kings 11:1–12:21; Galatians 3:1–29; Proverbs 7:10–20

We live in the age of online résumés, with pages dedicated to us and our faces. We can broadcast our thoughts in seconds and republish ideas that make us look smart by association. And we do it all in an effort to earn recognition or acceptance. We want to be heard in the midst of the noise—to earn a spot in the spotlight. The works of the law that drove Judaism in the first century ad weren’t much different; they were pitched as a way to obtain God’s favor as well as the favor of others.

Paul responds to the ideals of his age: “Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as having been crucified? I want only to learn this from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” (Gal 3:1–2). Paul’s questions are rhetorical. We’re not saved by works, but by the graciousness of God. It is not through works that the Spirit dwells among us, but through God’s goodness shown in sending His Son to earth to die for humanity and then rise again.

We struggle to admit that we’re looking for recognition—both from God and others. We know we can’t earn our way into heaven, but that doesn’t stop us from trying. We still think that if we can be good enough, smart enough, or successful enough, God and others will accept us. It’s a game we play that is for naught—we cannot earn what God offers.

What are you fooling yourself into thinking is important?

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.

November 22: Counterfeit Gospels

2 Kings 9:30–10:36; Galatians 1:1–2:21; Proverbs 7:1–9

We’re fine with the idea of God being our savior, but we’re not always keen on the notion of letting Him transform every area of our lives. We often emphasize sharing the gospel, but do we consider the reality of the outcome?

It’s a question Paul poses to the church in Galatia. Typically, when Paul opens a letter to a church, he follows his greeting with a prayer of thanksgiving for the members of the community. But in his correspondence with the Galatians, he skips the niceties and opts for a biting remark, signaling that something is drastically wrong.

“I am astonished that you are turning away so quickly from the one who called you by the grace of Christ to a different gospel, not that there is a different gospel, except there are some who are disturbing you and wanting to distort the gospel of Christ” (Gal 1:6–9).

Paul’s message is especially cutting because the Galatians knew better. Paul himself had preached the gospel to them. After he left and false teachers infiltrated the community, the Galatians veered off course. Instead of holding to the true teaching or even testing these teachers’ claims against the gospel message, the Galatians adopted a new, counterfeit gospel.

Paul interrogates the Galatians, who may have been affected by the teaching of people who wanted them to adopt Jewish legal requirements, asking, “Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Gal 3:2–3). The simple gospel had been cluttered by attempts to remain obedient to the law. The believers were no longer living in the Spirit.

We are prone to push aside the lesson in this passage by claiming that it’s specific to that context, but we might be guilty of this very fault. Do we think of becoming a Christian—getting saved—as the end of the journey? The reality of the gospel should affect all areas of our lives, which can now be used to give God the glory. Our entire lives—our thought processes, our ideals and theologies, our relationships—should reflect Christ and be shaped by the Spirit. The gospel isn’t for one moment. It’s going to transform everything.

Have you, without realizing it, turned from the gospel? What area of your life needs to be transformed?

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.