Unity: The state of being one or joined as a whole.”

I first saw this billboard on Route 741 near my office just outside Dayton, Ohio. There was no corporate logo, just white text and a black background.

I chuckled when I saw the image. Not in a laugh-out-loud way, more like a shake-your-head-because-the-irony-is-thick way. This year is perhaps the most disunified our country has been in years, and this 14- by 48-foot vinyl wrap felt like an attempt to bail water from the Titanic with a measuring spoon.

Peace can exist only when two opposing sides agree to unite over a set of mutually accepted terms.

As I read it, I pondered how Christians should prioritize unity, particularly in times of chaos.

Let’s start with a key premise: God is not the author of strife or disunity. The Bible says, “War broke out in heaven” (Rev. 12:7), started by a prideful angel who didn’t want to be like God in character, but like God Himself (see Isa. 14; Ezek. 28).

After losing this first war, the angel-turned-demon brought the battle to our newly created earth, where Creator and creation were in perfect harmony; that is, until people were deceived by the satanic serpent. The same divide that took place in heaven had come to earth and has existed ever since.

As clearly as we know the beginning, we also know the end: “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God” (Rev. 21:3).

God never intended anything other than perfect relational unity; and one day soon He will restore it forever.

So the question is, what happens in between?

Sometimes We Need a Sword

The message that attended Jesus’ first coming revealed His intent to begin cleaning up what was broken in Eden. This was relayed in the angels’ proclamation to the shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace” (Luke 2:14).

Yet, Jesus Himself seemed to contradict this message of peace and unity, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34).

How are we to understand what seems a blatant contradiction?

Peace exists only when two opposing sides agree to unite over a set of mutually accepted terms. Until these principles are agreed on, there can be no peace.

As Christians, we must keep this at the center of our approach to unity. We can never sacrifice or compromise any aspect of the “everlasting gospel” that we have been called to take to the world simply for the sake of getting along.

Ellen White said it like this: “If unity could be secured only by the compromise of truth and righteousness, then let there be difference, and even war.”*

The darkest times in the history of the Western world—appropriately known as the Dark Ages—were not defined by secularism, but by a mixing of truth and error. Ironically, an image of this same power will achieve near worldwide unity. This is foretold in prophecy: “The whole earth was filled with wonder and followed the beast” (Rev. 13:3).

If we must choose between unity and truth, we must always choose the latter—no matter how clever the billboards are.

* Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1911, 1950), p. 58.

Jimmy Phillips is network marketing director for Kettering Health Network.

We’re now well into the COVID-19 pandemic and its continued dominance of almost every aspect of life.

At first it felt as though everyone was generally in agreement that a cautious approach was best, especially as we saw sports figures, celebrities, and people we know contract the illness. Schools closed, restaurants and retail shut down, and Tik Tok videos of puppies riding unicycles exploded through the clouds of quarantine boredom.

As things have progressed, the unity that appeared in those first days and weeks has dissipated. Many believe that we should stay the course, no matter the limits to our personal freedom and long-term effects on the economy. Others have started to wonder whether this whole thing has been a giant overreaction, a conspiracy to enhance our comfort level with governmental control. Perhaps you fall firmly into one of these camps; or maybe you’re squarely in the middle. No matter your opinions, one word is at the center of it all: fear.

A Different View

As a Seventh-day Adventist living in 2020, I view everything through a biblical lens. Most Christians would probably say the same, so let me be a little more specific.

I believe that we are living in the feet of iron and clay (Dan. 2:41-43), which, when we consider the entirety of earth’s history, puts us much closer to the end than the beginning.

As things come to a close, pestilences, epidemics, and pandemics are only going to increase in both frequency and intensity (Matt. 24:7, 8, 32).

As a Seventh-day Adventist living in 2020, I view everything through a biblical lens.

One day things will progress far enough that people’s basic livelihood through the ability to buy and sell will be stripped, unless they conform to the will of the masses (Rev. 13:17).

When we have a proper understanding of God’s Word, nothing that has happened in the first months of 2020 should come as a surprise. There will be more COVID-19s, government will continue to peel away our rights, and in general, everything is just going to get a whole lot worse (before it gets much, much better).

What emotions or feelings does this evoke? If we’re honest, fear pops up at least once in a while. The vital question is: How do we respond when that happens?

We’ve seen throughout this pandemic how the world responds. But no amount of toilet-paper hoarding, stocking up on canned food, or burying gold in the backyard will provide a level of security that permanently dispels fear.

When I am gripped by fear, I go back to something else I believe: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18).

Fear isn’t necessarily a bad thing if it prompts us to run into the arms of Jesus and experience the depths of His love afresh. When we choose that course, One greater than our worst nightmares will take over our hearts, putting fear in its place.

Regardless whether you believe we should stay at home or open back up, COVID-19 should serve as a reminder that this world will continue to come apart at the seams until it breaks. When it does, our strength to endure will be determined by the power of our personal relationship with Jesus.

Maybe it’s time to get off Tik Tok and have a bit more Jesus talk.

Jimmy Phillips is network marketing director for Kettering Health Network.

Generally speaking, I’m a pretty confident guy. In high school I spent two summers doing door-to-door sales; and in my current professional life I never back down from defending my viewpoint—even if a superior is on the other end. I actually enjoy public speaking, while for most Americans it is their number-one fear, outpacing things like snakes, death by drowning, and needles.

Yet in one particular area of my life I fantastically lack confidence. It can be summed up in the category of handiness—building things, putting stuff together, the general act of being handy. Or in my case, whatever the opposite of that is. Having kids and moving three times in the past four years has put this area of my life on full display. (Thankfully, Yelp has a whole section on “handyman.” Those guys are lifesavers!).

That’s why a recent conversation with my oldest son, Lincoln, yielded the greatest false compliment I’ve ever received. We had just finished building the “greatest tower of blocks the world has ever known.” That’s when Lincoln, who turned 5 last August, looked at me, and with the sincerity only a child can possess said, “Dad, you’re the greatest builder ever.”

“Maybe you’re not the best; but to him you are.”

I was horrified, but I tried not to show it. “Thanks, buddy,” I said. “That’s really nice of you to say.”

Wait until he finds out that Legos are pretty much the extent of my skills, I thought.

A few hours later I shared the exchange with my wife, who is often on the receiving end of my lack of usefulness around the house. She said something powerful in response.

“Maybe you’re not the best; but to him you are. He sees the best possible version of you.”

Speaking Life

I learned two great lessons from my son that day.

First, we have the ability to speak life to others. We meet people every day—in and out of our homes—who have insecurities we know nothing about. Our words aren’t magic, and they can’t instantly remove every inward doubt. But something we say might be the spark that challenges the negative narrator who does everything possible to exemplify weakness and control the story we tell ourselves. What Lincoln told me that day didn’t make me any better with a hammer, but it certainly made me want to keep trying.

“Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (Prov. 16:24).

Second, how we see ourselves is not how God sees us. We see a mountain of insurmountable faults, mistakes, and inadequacies. God sees what we can be once we’ve made it to the top. Our role is to simply keep climbing, believing that our heavenly Father knows our potential even if we don’t. After all, He made us in His very own image and is the original “greatest builder” who can mold us into what we need to be.

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10).

In 2020, I’m pledging to be a person who speaks life to others, and believes it when others speak life to me.

Even if—no, especially if—it comes from a 5-year-old.

Jimmy Phillips is network marketing director for Kettering Health Network.

California’s new “straw law” really cramped my style, man.

For those of you who live in a normal state, here’s some background. Last year California passed a law that on January 1, 2019, full-service restaurants would no longer be able to offer plastic straws without request.

Some establishments anticipated more change, moving away from straws to what essentially amount to disposable sippy-cup lids. If their master plan was to initiate vivid flashbacks to the toddler years, I think they succeeded.

The first time I encountered one of these lids I did the only obvious thing: asking for a straw, I jammed it into the sippy-cup opening and proceeded per normal. Upon arriving back to the office, one of my Gen-Z staff members looked at me with a combination of disdain and pity.

“Don’t look at me like that,” I joked. “They’re messing with my routine!”

Breaking Routine

Some changes are good, such as quelling that nighttime sugary cereal habit. Some changes are bad, such as getting fired without cause. And some changes don’t matter that much at all (hello, straws).

But sometimes, whether we like it or not, we need change, and a break from the routines that turn our lives into managing the status quo.

In his book The Heavenly Man, Chinese Brother Yun describes the multi-decade struggle he faced in Communist China. Change was a constant with Yun, who was tortured, and  thrown in and out of prison. But after being released from his first stint in prison, Yun fell into the routine of a “normal” life by taking care of his young family, doing housework, and continuing to try to spread the gospel. A short while later he was thrown into prison again, but this time he realized something different.

It wasn’t until I left that I realized what can happen when you spend so many years in the same place.

“I went to prison for a second time. The Lord saw I was exhausted in the ministry, so He graciously allowed me to rest in Him behind bars for a while and learn about inner spiritual life.”1

A similar experience is described in Genesis 37. Ellen White wrote about why God allowed Joseph to be sold into Egyptian captivity. “In the providence of God, even this experience was to be a blessing to [Joseph]. . . . His father, strong and tender as his love had been, had done him wrong by his partiality and indulgence.”2

My family and I moved from California to Ohio this year. It’s been a change. My wife is a native Californian, and our kids are now a plane ride away from their cousins. It wasn’t until I left that I realized what can happen when you spend so many years in the same place. Things become too easy, too normal. I needed to be somewhere I didn’t have any routines that kept me from seeing, hearing, and feeling what was really going on in my soul.

Perhaps you don’t need to be thrown into prison or sold to slave traders, but is there a routine in your life that needs to be broken so that you can experience the fullness of God’s presence?

By the way, I only jammed the straw in the new lid only once. Turns out that when I gave the sippy-cup lids a shot, I found that I actually liked them better.

  1. Brother Yun and Paul Hattaway, Heavenly Man (2002).
  2. Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1890, 1908), p. 213.

Jimmy Phillips is network marketing director for Kettering Health Network.

I moped to my mailbox, downtrodden and drained. It was Labor Day, a time for family, outdoor cookouts, and celebrating summer turning to fall. But the most exciting part of my evening was getting a week’s worth of mail after housesitting. Bills, junk, and more bills. Then something different: a thick envelope, from a prison . . .

I moved to Bakersfield, California, in June 2008, three weeks after graduating from Union College. I knew one person, my new boss, the vice president of marketing at San Joaquin Community Hospital, where I’d accepted a job in marketing.

Every time I questioned anything about my life, thinking about those words would bring complete peace.

By September I was lonely and contemplating if I was cut out for the health-care business. At that point in my career I fashioned myself as a writer, having interned at Adventist Review and begun writing this monthly column.

Bakersfield? Why here, God?

There are a handful of moments in life that you never forget. I’m not talking about major events such as graduating from college, getting married, or having your first child. I’m talking about those seemingly nondescript everyday occurrences that seem trivial. But in that time and place, it’s as if God reaches down from heaven, puts His arms around you, and says, “Don’t worry, kiddo. I’ve got you.”

This letter was one of those times.

Onward and Upward

I detailed the full story in a 2009 article for the Review, “Snail Mail From Jail.” Here’s an excerpt:

“As I opened the envelope and began reading the four-page letter, the writer identified himself as, sure enough, a prisoner in a California penitentiary. . . . The man, we’ll call him Ryan, had grown up in the church and attended Adventist schools. But somewhere in his volatile young-adult years, he’d fallen away from God and, thereafter, been sentenced to a term in prison.”

In prison Ryan had found hope through a relationship with Jesus and began reading copies of the Review that were brought to the prison. He stumbled across one of my articles and decided to reach out. I have to admit that while I enjoyed reading his story, by page 4 I still wasn’t sure why he’d decided to write me. Then he closed with these words:

“Jimmy, God has sent you to Bakersfield for a reason. You may not know what it is yet, but you don’t need to know right now. When it is time, you’ll know.”

It’s hard to explain how much that letter has meant to me. Every time I questioned anything about my life, thinking about those words would bring complete peace.

I’m reflecting because after 11 years, God has called me out of Bakersfield. This spring I accepted a role with Kettering Health Network as director of marketing.

The past few months have been an insane whirlwind. To summarize, I took the job within the same hour that my wife went into labor with our third child. I have to admit, the general craziness of it all has at times caused me to question this decision.

In these moments I take a deep breath and go back to that Labor Day night in 2008, hanging out in my dingy east Bakersfield apartment. I think about opening that letter and reading the climactic paragraph. Then I remember.

Jimmy, God here. Don’t worry, kiddo. I’ve got you.

Jimmy Phillips is network marketing director of Kettering Health Network.

It’s settled. “Would you be willing to play Jesus?” is the most intimidating phrase in the English language. This past holiday season I was on the receiving end of that question. My first inclination was to say that I wasn’t available.

The Hillcrest Seventh-day Adventist Church in Bakersfield, California, has put on a living Nativity for the community called Walk Through Bethlehem (WTB) for the past 15 years. Actually, calling it a living Nativity doesn’t quite do it justice. Each September volunteers begin building the city of Bethlehem. It takes 88 actors per shift (plus a few live animals) to pull off the live-action journey through “the first Christmas.” There are 15 shifts totaling more than 50 hours spread across the three weekends in December preceding Christmas. It’s well worth the investment. Last year the event drew nearly 7,000 community members.

As I started my script, the boy interrupted: “Do you know my brother, Tyler?”

Attendees are led through “Bethlehem” by their tour guide, clothed in full costume. On the way to the manger, groups encounter all walks of life: Roman soldiers, tax collectors, the town’s blacksmith, and women selling everything tax-paying tourists would need. My favorite part of WTB is that it goes beyond Jesus’ birth. After the manger scene groups are led to the cross, the empty tomb, and finally to the risen Jesus clothed in white. This is the role I was asked (and finally agreed) to play this year.

My favorite part was looking each person in the eye, pointing dramatically, and saying, “Now, I am going to My Father’s house to prepare a place for you, and you, and you.” It was an awesome experience, the power of which can be summed up in one very special testimony.

Do You Know My Brother?

On the last Friday night a 6-year-old boy stood right in front of me. I always try to put special effort into connecting with kids. As I started my script, he interrupted: “Do you know my brother, Tyler?”

Time seemed to slow down as my mind churned over the possible reasons he was asking that question. Regardless of the details, I realized that I had one job: to be Jesus for this little boy in that moment. Without missing a beat (thanks to the Holy Spirit), I leaned in and said, “Of course I do,” and continued with my lines.

The next day I learned the child’s backstory. As he left that night, the boy greeted our associate pastor, who happened to be playing a Roman guard. The pastor asked if he had enjoyed himself. The boy said, “Yes! Jesus knows my brother, Tyler!” This little boy had a little brother, Tyler, who had died. But here he was, believing that he would see his brother again because Jesus hadn’t forgotten him.

For me, this was a divine appointment. I was supposed to be there that night to give hope to a heartbroken little boy. I almost missed out on the opportunity for a variety of terrible reasons, such as a jam-packed holiday calendar and the slight intimidation that I wouldn’t be able to do the role justice.

You may not get asked to play Jesus anytime soon. But today, tomorrow, or the next, someone might need you to be Jesus. Will you be available?

Jimmy Phillips is regional marketing director for Adventist Health Southern California.

"In your anger do not sin.”

Throughout the millennia anger has so often been the companion to all kinds of commandment-breaking escapades—at both the group and individual level—that it’s easy to forget that these words are actually in the Bible. Every time I turn to Ephesians 4:26, there they are, a constant reminder that by itself anger is not wrong. In fact, the apostle’s charge implies that anger can be channeled for good.

An Old Testament example is found at the beginning of King Hezekiah’s reign. Hezekiah summoned the Levites to restore the Temple services and celebrate the Passover for the first time in decades. What followed was revival across the entire country, highlighted by a mob that “went out to the towns of Judah, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. They destroyed the high places and the altars throughout Judah and Benjamin and in Ephraim and Manasseh” (2 Chron. 31:1).

Salvation by Violence

One of the most confusing verses in the Bible may be the one in which Jesus said, “the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it” (Matt. 11:12).

I don’t think most of us see either violence or anger as positive. While there are many interpretations of this verse, I hear Jesus saying that God’s people are often pushed into conflict by the many evil forces entrenched in our world. If we want a place in the kingdom of heaven we can’t just go with the flow; we have to push back.

If we want a place in the kingdom of heaven, we can’t just go with the flow; we have to push back.

I’ve been a sports nut for as long as I can remember. As a kid, when I wasn’t in school I was playing basketball, football, or baseball with my neighborhood friends. This “love of the game” has followed me into my adult years.

I never thought of sports as an “idol,” because it’s never gotten in the way of going to church, redirected my tithe, or, by my own definition, become an outright obsession.

Yet when celebrating my wedding anniversary this fall, I checked the score of games a few too many times. When my team starts going downhill my mood has a corresponding slide, and those around me suffer the effects. By worldly standards I might not be obsessed. But that doesn’t mean I’m living up to heavenly ones.

When Hezekiah ascended to power, idols in the kingdom were robbing God’s people of their joy and spiritual rest. The only way to reverse that was to get a little angry and violently destroy the things that kept them away from God. Although my idols aren’t made of wood or stone, I’ve realized that I need to violently push back, getting rid of whatever is preventing me from a closer walk with my Savior.*

Yes, “in your anger do not sin.” Let’s channel our anger to take our place in the kingdom of heaven.

* I’m not implying that it is within my power to cleanse myself. The only one who can do that is Jesus. However, the presence of idols in our lives minimizes the effectiveness of the Holy Spirit. Our job is to respond to the Spirit’s promptings so that we can go to the next level in our walk.

Jimmy Phillips is regional marketing director for Adventist Health Southern California.

Last November my wife and I went on a short getaway to the Big Apple for our five-year anniversary. With two toddlers, demanding jobs, and extracurricular activities, our plates are constantly full. We needed time to talk. You know, talk.

Most of our conversation centered on my wife’s career. After weighing pros and cons, we decided that it was the right time for her to start her own business. We put a bow on that conversation and figured we’d taken care of our “big” adjustment for 2018.

A month later I received word that after 10 years in Bakersfield, I was being promoted to regional marketing director for Adventist Health Southern California. I accepted the role but decided not to move our family, requiring me to commute to Los Angeles three days a week.

My new role has been an emotional roller coaster.

My new role has been an emotional roller coaster. I’ve had to learn how to manage both people and projects remotely, earn the trust of three hospital executive teams, become comfortable never having a normal schedule, and learn where to find reliable Wi-Fi and vegan cuisine.

Most of all, I’ve had to navigate feelings of not really belonging. In my previous role I was a regular at events, a key liaison to local churches, and embedded in initiatives to engage more than 2,000 employees. Now I swoop in for strategic meetings, get my parking validated, and “zoom” through L.A. traffic to my next appointment.

I’m trying to excel in my new job, while still putting God, family, and church first.

Am I wasting my life? Is all this in vain?

I’m Not Alone

Most of us have likely experienced similar feelings at some point in our lives, even when we believe we’re living in God’s will.

The stalwarts of the Bible felt like this too. Perhaps no human accomplished more than Moses. He served as a divine mouthpiece to liberate an entire nation; met with God on Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments; faithfully led grumbling Israelites to the threshold of the Promised Land. Whew.

Yet as Moses came to the end of his life, unable to enter the Promised Land, he was in a state of mournful reflection. According to Ellen White: “As Moses reviewed the result of his labors, his life of trial and sacrifice seemed to have been almost in vain.”*

Moses—the guy who marched uninvited into Pharaoh’s palace and parted the Red Sea—doubted that his time on earth had been put to good use.

Looking back, it’s easy to see the eternal impact of Moses’ earthly efforts. Yet his vision blurred in the waning moments of his life.

Maybe, like me, you’ve asked yourself: Why am I living in this town? What is the point of this job? How am I supposed to reach these people?

The usefulness of our lives isn’t based on how we feel in a given moment. Our only job is to “die daily” and allow Christ to use us wherever He puts us, because He sees things we can’t.

From His view, my life—and yours—is anything but wasted.

* Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1890, 1908), p. 472.

Jimmy Phillips is regional marketing director for Adventist Health Southern California.

The rustic wooden lodge reverberated with anthems of praise. Melodies came from more than 150 men, men who refused to compromise and settle for mediocrity. I felt God’s presence. In my heart I saw angels among us, adding their perfect pitch to our feeble notes.

Tears rolled down my cheeks and I remembered moments I once knew but might have forgotten along the way.

Where It All Started

This year marks the 10-year anniversary of my column “Introducing the Why,” the very first of which was entitled “The Best Spiritual Times.”

I was a senior at Union College, with plenty of those times fresh in my memory. Youth retreats at Broken Arrow Ranch. Campfire altar calls that changed the course of young lives. Late-night dorm room talks that seemed to be bigger than the moment.

Being a lifelong Christian doesn’t mean that I know everything; it means that I still have a lot to learn.

These experiences inspired me to write that first column, reminding myself that times of spiritual depth and rejuvenation don’t happen only when we go to church; sometimes the “church” comes to us, “wherever two of three are gathered.” Here are a few lines from that original piece.

“Over the next hour we seamlessly transitioned from hymn to praise song and back again. The more talented harmonized, while the rest of us simply let words flow from our lips. . . . Then one small voice began to pray; before long each of us had poured out our pain and sorrow to our God—and each other. Though I couldn’t see them, I believe there wasn’t a dry eye in the tree house.

“In that old, wooden, elevated sanctuary, we held a church service. There were no pews, no cross-adorned altars and no sermons. We worshipped God with everything we had, wrapped our arms around each other in support and bared our souls to our Creator.”

Back Again

In June I went on a men’s retreat after being invited by my friend Stephen. It was a real retreat, complete with mountains, single cabin mattresses, and morning treks to the showers.

“Have you ever been to something like this before?” Stephen asked.

“I used to go on these types of things all the time back in college,” I said, like I was referring to something that happened yesterday. Then I realized: Man, that was 10 years ago.

A few weeks later, I found myself atop the California wilderness in a rustic wooden lodge, pouring out my heart to God with men who had walked through the shadow of death and emerged on the other side as warriors for Christ.

I was reminded of a lot during those 48 hours. I was reminded that being a good husband and father doesn’t begin with what I do, but with who I am. I was reminded that being a lifelong Christian doesn’t mean that I know everything. It means that I still have a lot to learn.

Most of all, I was reminded to remember. To remember that the best spiritual times don’t necessarily come from routine; sometimes they come from making the choice to break it.

Jimmy Phillips is regional marketing director for Adventist Health Southern California.

For the past seven years I’ve been systematically integrating the Conflict of the Ages series via the Ellen G. White iPhone app with my digital Bible.

So far I’ve read The Desire of Ages, The Acts of the Apostles, and Patriarchs and Prophets. The last 12 chapters of Patriarchs and Prophets cover the life of David.

As I wrapped up my study, a thought began to percolate: How did David go from a man whose conscience was bothered by cutting off a piece of King Saul’s robe (1 Sam. 24:5) to someone who consciously slept with one of his soldier’s wives, then one-upped himself by murdering this righteous man (see 2 Sam. 11)?

Odder yet, on the surface David didn’t have a falling away from God that would normally precede such acts. In fact, at the end of 2 Samuel 10, David and Israel had ascended to the height of their power, apparently reaping the blessings of faithfulness.

How did this happen?

I reread 1 Samuel 24 to 2 Samuel 11. This time I read with much more purpose, filtering for the text’s specific instances that suggested cracks in David’s seemingly noble character. It was the find function on my Excel spreadsheet.

Given how much I found, it seems I should have been reading more closely all along. In the 18 chapters between these stunning accounts, many signs indicated subtle yet significant compromises, a progressive deterioration of David’s moral judgment. Here are a few examples:

In 1 Samuel 29, while running from Saul, David lived among the Philistines. To keep his hosts unaware of his true loyalty, he made a show of accompanying the Philistines into battle against Israel. During his pretense away from Ziklag all the group’s women and children were taken captive by his enemies. Although they were reclaimed, it was David’s pretense with the Philistine king that caused their loss in the first place.

At the end of 1 Samuel 25 David proposed to Abigail, the former wife of Nabal. However, the text makes clear that he was already married. He went on to take numerous wives and concubines, opening the door of his mind to act on the lust he felt for Bathsheba.

In 2 Samuel 1:15 David quickly pronounced the death sentence on the man who claimed to have helped Saul commit suicide. The youth died for his lies, part of his outrageous attempt to ingratiate himself with David. Yet the death sentence he received illustrated David’s readiness to shed blood, the reason God did not permit him to build the Temple. Devaluing human life makes it easier to murder, Uriah’s lot when other cover-ups failed.

While David’s life provides many applicable life lessons—both good and bad—these examples give a taste for what can happen when we study with purpose. As we read, let’s allow the Holy Spirit to raise questions in our minds. Then before moving on, go back and apply a filter that answers those questions. We never know what we might find, and with whom God might call us to share it.

Jimmy Phillips is regional marketing director for Adventist Health Southern California.