“Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again rejoice.”
My son, Logan, and I spent several days in Rome, Italy last July. As you walk through the city streets, you are surrounded by ancient architectural beauty. From the ornate detail of the Trevi Fountain, to the wonder of the ceiling of the Pantheon, to the towering history of the Coliseum, it is almost too much to take in. But the beauty of Rome is not my favorite thing about the city and I would have missed it if a friend had not told me about this beforehand.
Under the ancient city of Rome runs a freshwater spring. All over the city there are spigots constantly flowing with this spring water. They are not labeled, and most are just plain pipes that stand about three feet out of the ground. My point is, if I had not been looking for them I would have passed them by and walked into a gift shop to buy a bottle of water, missing the best, most refreshing water in the world (my judgment may be a little skewed because it is very hot in Rome in July so I was often very thirsty).
The Apostle Paul spent time in Rome as a prisoner of Nero, a sadistic emperor who hated Christians and brutally tortured and murdered them for sport. It was during Paul’s first Roman imprisonment he wrote a letter to the church in Philippi, which is now our New Testament book of Philippians. The overarching theme of this letter is to encourage the Philippians to live in true joy. In fact, the word joy or rejoice occurs 16 times in this short letter!
In this same short letter, Paul made reference to the Lord (Jesus Christ and the Father) 91 times because He is the source of true joy. RC Sproul defines Christian joy as, “A good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the Word and in the world.”
Paul knew that true joy is found in Christ, so despite his circumstances (living under the constant threat of death by Nero) he was able to say, “Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again rejoice.” (Phil. 4:4 ESV) Joy comes when we, “Set our minds on the things above, not on the things of the earth”(Col. 3:2).
This does not mean we are happy about terrible things, like a global pandemic, or a category 4 hurricane hitting Texas and Louisiana, or a family crisis, or the loss of income. It means we look at the things that are happening to us and around us and we trust that the Lord will use it for His glory and our good. It is about shifting the focus from the circumstances of this world and looking at how God is working in and through them to conform us into the image of Christ. This brings true joy.
Every believer has access to this joy. It is like a freshwater spring running under our lives. The refreshing Roman spring available to me was not obvious; I had to be on the lookout for it. It is the same with joy, it is not always obvious in our circumstances. We we must “set our minds on the things above” so that with Paul, we can “rejoice in the Lord always.”
My precious husband, Bill, and I have been planted in Fort Myers, Florida for almost 35 years. As a newly married couple, God most graciously had placed people in both of our jobs to share Christ with us. Its hard to believe it has been almost 34 years since we asked Jesus into our hearts! Bill and I have been blessed with four children, 3 daughters, then a son. These blessings came quickly, all within 6 years!! During these years I'm so thankful I was able to be part of women's ministry classes at our church, helping me to grow in my walk with Him. Then came the day when I was asked that question that stretched me way outside of my comfort zone...will you teach a class? Its hard to believe that I have now been teaching more than 20 years. Bill and I love to travel, most of the time going to visit our 9 grandchildren, oh ya, and their parents! I also love reading, walking and hanging out with some very special young moms in Beloved that bless my socks off!
Julie is a Kansas girl who resides in sunny Southwest Florida. She's been married to her husband Sean for 23 years and they share two boys ages 21 & 17. She enjoys baking and biking, but her absolute favorite thing is snow skiing which is a little difficult to do in a sandy 80 degree land.
She became a follower of Christ at age 10. She loves studying and teaching God's Word. She has a passion for encouraging moms to love and follow Jesus.
Beth grew up in a loving home; however, in her early 20s she faced a very lonely time. During that time, she cried out to God and asked “If You are real, please show yourself to me!” God met her where she was and she trusted in the Lord Jesus at that time. Her life verse and desire is “no matter what happens, to conduct herself in a manner worthy of the gospel.” Philippians 1:27
Beth now resides in Tampa, Florida with her husband Larry. The Lord has blessed them by blending their family of five children. They currently have eight grandchildren and are hoping that there will be more grandchildren in the future.
Donna accepted Jesus as her Savior at the age of nine and has been amazed at God’s goodness and faithfulness throughout her life. She has been blessed to have had many mentors through each season of life, who have shown her what trusting God looks like. Donna and her husband, Bryan, have five children, one son-in-law, one soon to be daughter-in-law, and one wonderful grandson. Donna and Bryan have recently moved back to their home state of Arkansas after livingin southeast Alabama the past 23 years. Donna enjoys spending time with her family, laughing with friends (usually over coffee), going for long walks with her husband, and reading a good book (which may also be accompanied by a cup of coffee).
Sarah is a true Florida Cracker. She was born and raised in Southwest Florida. At the age of 6, Sarah accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior, and she hasn't looked back since. Hebrews 13:8 is one of her favorite verses, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." Eating delicious desserts, spending time with her family and friends, and teaching people about Jesus are a few of the things she enjoys to do in her spare time.
Sarah has been married to her best friend and husband, Brandon, for 7 years. They have been blessed with one beautiful, determined son, Asher, who keeps them on their toes. Sarah and her family live in the Tampa area. They love exploring their community together, family hugs, and eating pizza whenever possible.
Katie Flint just recently moved back home to Fort Myers, Florida with her husband, Ryan and two children, Collins and Madden. At the age of 5, Katie accepted Jesus Christ to be the Lord and Savior of her life, after attending Vacation Bible School. Through each phase of her life, God has shown her that He alone is trustworthy. The verse that has been her life source is Psalm 46:10- “Be still and know that I am God.”
She is a stay-at-home mom and enjoys exercising and baking. She has been married to her husband Ryan for almost 9 years, who is her high school sweetheart. They enjoy trying new restaurants, family trips to the beach, and relaxing at home.
Marsha grew up in a small rural town in upstate New York. In 2006, after finishing college, she moved to sunny SW Florida where she met her, now husband, Shawn. Together they enjoy spending family time with their two fun-loving toddler boys Zachariah and Kairos.
Marsha enjoys living an active lifestyle, which is helpful, considering that her favorite hobby is baking.
Though she attended church as a child, Marsha was not saved until adulthood when her eyes were finally opened to the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.
Since being saved, God has placed a loving burden on her heart to share the truth about God’s healing grace with those who may feel like forgiveness is not possible for them.