Temperance as a Characteristic of Love

If we’re allowing others to dictate how we act or feel, we’re giving them far too much control over our lives.png

Leave it to the Lord to save the best (or worst, depending on how you look at it) for last.  Yes, today, we’re talking about temperance—another word whose usage has been lost over the centuries.  However, if we pinpoint the beginning of the word, we’ll see something we’re all painfully familiar with—temper.

In its simplest definition, temperance means self-control or restraint.  It carries with it the idea of keeping a tight rein on our words, actions, attitudes, and desires.  This is not a popular principle in this day and age where people live to “get what they deserve.”  Between all-you-can-eat buffets, credit cards, and social media, our self-control is tested every day.  Should I go back for another plate, or is three enough?  Should I go ahead and spend the money on that new furniture even though I don’t have the money to spend?  And don’t even get me started on the rants that take place on social media.  Of course, this is only a few areas where our temperance is put to the test.

First Corinthians 13:5 tells us love is “not easily provoked.”  Jason and I joked about this on the way to the grocery store this morning.  He was in one of his playful moods (which translates into seeing how much he can annoy me) and was making this terrible clicking sound with his mouth.  After about ten seconds, I looked over at him, and I guess the expression on my face was comical because he burst out laughing.  “I was wondering how long you’d let me do that before giving me that look.”  I laughed too and told him how my devotion today was on temperance.  I don’t think his clicking truly provoked me but had he continued, I may have become a bit irritable.  So much for self-control, right?

As if that phrase doesn’t make us squirm enough, Paul doesn’t stop there.  He goes on in verse 7 to remind us that love bears all things.  The word “bear” in this verse implies a covering, as in love covers all sin.  It’s not that we excuse the sins of those we love but instead, we choose to overlook their faults and focus on their strengths, and let me tell you, that takes a lot of self-control.  So many times, it’s easier to see the bad than the good.  Dwelling on the negative leads to bitterness which then leads to hateful words and harsh actions.  From there, the downward spiral continues until marriages are ended, friendships are ruined, and other relationships are destroyed.

As I was praying about and considering my word for 2019, one that ranked high on the list was the word “choose.”  Had I decided to use it as my daily motto, it would have served as a reminder that I have a choice in how I think, act, and feel.  Each day, I choose to dwell on the positive or the negative.  I decide whether or not to surrender my will to God fully.  I determine how I act and what my attitude is like.  Each day is full of choices.  I can choose to let my temper get the best of me—to be easily provoked—or I can choose not to sweat the small stuff.  So what if Jason left his socks in the middle of the floor again?  In the grand scheme of things, does it matter?  Isn’t it more important that I focus on the fact that he took time out of his day off to help me with the grocery shopping so the task wouldn’t be too much for me?  Absolutely!

One phrase we carelessly use in our everyday language is the phrase:  “make me.”  For example, “he makes me so angry” or “she made me feel bad.”  Dear one, if we’re allowing others to dictate how we act or feel, we’re giving them far too much control over our lives.  No one can “make us” angry or emotional.  We choose to give in to those feelings, and that’s where temperance comes in.  I’m not saying it’s easy.  When someone says something unkind, my first reaction is to take the comment as a personal insult and give into the painful emotions that accompany that choice.  Instead, I should shrug my shoulders and hold fast to the truth found in God’s Word.  If someone doesn’t like it, oh well!  As long as I’m doing right, that’s all I need to worry about.  It’s not my job to please everyone in the process, and the sooner I get that through my thick skull, the better off I’ll be.

Temperance.  Self-control.  Restraint.  How are you doing today?  Are you easily provoked by someone’s annoying habits or quirky personality?  Do you find it difficult to look past the negative to focus on the positive?  Do you blame others for how you feel, speak, or act?  If so, you may want to talk with the Lord about helping you work on your temperance.  After all, if we—as Christians—lack self-control, how can we adequately portray the love of Christ?

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
— II Timothy 1:7

Forget About It

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Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 3:13-14

As I read through this familiar passage this morning, the Lord gave me a new insight on the phrase "forgetting those things which are behind."  In the past, I've assigned that phrase to past sin, guilt, mistakes and such.  But this morning, I heard the Lord whisper, "What about past struggles?  What about past valleys?  What about the difficult yesterdays?"  For me, that's another story.

I don't know about you, but my bad days tend to be more like bad weeks, months or even years.  The valleys in my life are not typically one-day hikes; they are lengthy journeys.  But could it be that I see life that way because I'm carrying yesterday's heartaches into today?  Instead of beginning the day with new strength and a fresh perspective, I wake to the weariness of yesterday still weighing heavy on my shoulders.  Is it any wonder then that the rest of the day is a struggle?

My friend, it's time for us to leave the past in the past, whether that means mistakes or trials.  Forget about the weary yesterdays.  Strike from your memory the pain of last week's heartbreak.  Begin each day with a clean slate and a new perspective.

This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.
— Psalm 118:24

I Can't Help It!

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Today’s devotion is out of the blue. It doesn’t revolve around Christmas or the New Year. It has no place within our current series, The Negatives in the Bible. But the idea came to me as I read through my devotions this morning, and I wanted to share it with you.

When we took our trip to the UK back in May, I felt sure the most difficult things for me would be the time difference, the food, and adjusting to the accents. But I was wrong. I actually adapted to those things quickly. (I know, I was shocked too.)  As it turned out, the hardest thing for me was forsaking the years and years of Southern manners I was taught from the time I was old enough to know better.  

It’s not that the people of the UK are rude; they merely live by different rules, particularly with the use of “Yes, ma’am,” “No, ma’am,” “Yes, sir,” and “No, sir.” Across the pond, such phrases have unspoken rules about them.  They are used only when speaking to royalty or occasionally to the elderly (and I mean VERY old). When answering anyone else, it’s “Yes” or “No.” Do you have any idea how difficult that was? Well, I’ll tell you it was so hard that I failed at it repeatedly. I rehearsed this mandate repeatedly in my head, but as soon as someone asked me a question, my ingrained manners took control of my mouth, and inevitably, a “ma’am” or “sir” ushered its way through my lips, causing me to cringe as soon as I heard it. I couldn’t help it! I wasn’t trying to be uncaring of their ways or disrespectful to the crown. It’s just that Southern manners have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I don’t have to recall the rules; they just happen instinctively. Fortunately, everyone there seemed to understand.

The thought that crossed my mind this morning was this: Why was it so difficult to forsake my manners yet often so easy to forget to be thankful? Shouldn’t gratitude be ingrained in me as well? You would think.  After all, part of those Southern manners included phrases like “please” and “thank you.” Yet, thankfulness and praise don’t flow out of me effortlessly as my manners do. Sometimes, they even seem forced because I don’t feel like being thankful, but I know I should be. Have you ever been there?

Thankfully (pun intended), God has offered a solution—a course in spiritual manners, if you will. It’s called practice. Remember the old saying, “Practice makes perfect”? Well, it’s true. The more we practice praise and thanksgiving, the more natural it will become. Even during those times when my appreciation seems insincere, something stirs within me and reminds me that God is good even when my circumstances aren’t. I can pout, or I can praise. Pouting only prolongs my agony and bad mood while praise holds the key to free me from the chains of despair.  

I am a Southern girl, and that fact becomes apparent the moment I open my mouth. I am also a Christian, so that, too, should be clear by the words I say and even how I say them. Not only will my praise and testimony inspire others to join in, but it will encourage me to be more thankful and full of praise. Thankfulness breeds thankfulness. Praise produces praise. And Southern manners? Well, they breed a well-meaning redhead who is appreciative of all those who understand that forty years of instruction can’t be unlearned in a few days.

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.
— Psalm 19:14