Jesus is My Apple Tree

apple-tree

“Like the finest apple tree in the orchard
    is my lover among other young men.
I sit in his delightful shade
    and taste his delicious fruit.”

Song of Solomon 2:3, NLT

Jesus is my apple tree. He keeps my dying soul alive.

He is the subject of many different metaphors. We know him as a shepherd, a door, and bread. There are many other ‘pictures’ in Scripture, that speak of his ministry and life. There is one that strikes me today, that of Jesus Christ as a life-giving tree– an apple tree. Song of Solomon 2:3 and Revelation 22:1 are the ‘roots’ of this wondrous thought.

“On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations.”

Rev. 22:2

To think of Jesus as ‘the tree of life’ or an apple tree is both an honor to Him and a strength for us. We can swirl metaphors around all day and never exhaust their truths. Jesus (a.k.a. “the apple tree”) is seen imparting life and healing through his fruit. He is the source of everything good and grand in our lives. Eating his fruit is not only significant but encouraged. (Like most things in God’s Kingdom.)

The young maiden in Song of Solomon has given us her take on Jesus— her shepherd, lover, and king. She sees him as the finest in the forest. He provides shade to her, as she eats the fruit of his branches.

Oh, what a worthy picture of Jesus our savior. We can look at this all day. As we come to him we can see the One who is gifting each of us his blessings. We do well to consider him this way.  The first few lines set the tone for us.

The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree.”

The song, based on an anonymous poem, first appeared in a New England hymn collection by a New Hampshire preacher in 1784, so it has a history. Many people sing this as a Christmas carol, although there is nothing in the words that refer to Christmas. Go through each stanza. See if it fits you. Perhaps it will cause you to see Jesus in a new way. Here is the poem in its entirety:

Jesus Christ, the Apple Tree

The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree.

His beauty doth all things excel:
By faith I know, but ne’er can tell,
His beauty doth all things excel:
By faith I know, but ne’er can tell,
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree.

For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought:
For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought:
I missed of all; but now I see
‘Tis found in Christ the apple tree.

This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive;
This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive;
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.

“Consider Jesus. Know Jesus. Learn what kind of Person it is you say you trust and love and worship. Soak in the shadow of Jesus. Saturate your soul with the ways of Jesus. Watch Him. Listen to Him. Stand in awe of Him. Let Him overwhelm you with the way He is.”   

John Piper

Mentally Ill Christians Can Do Ministry

 

“Religious people love to hide behind religion. They love the rules of religion more than they love Jesus. With practice, Condemners let rules become more important than spiritual life.”

Mike Yaconelli

“We are told that Christ was killed for us, that His death has washed out our sins, and that by dying He disabled death itself. … That is Christianity. That is what has to be believed.” 

                                                                C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity 

People with mental illnesses, for the most part, have been diverted underground.  We have been pushed into hiding our true identity;  we can come out into the open, but only if we agree to play according to the rules—their rules. 

We are expected to censor ourselves and say appropriate things at the right time.  Pharisees [who are alive and well] insist on a level of purity that all must maintain. [I am not picking on anyone, just a generality.]

If I say that I am depressed, paranoid, manic, or desperate I will upset the apple cart and muddle up everything.  “Truth?  You can’t handle the truth?”, [a line from some movie.]  But if we use our shortcomings as credentials, we have the ability to speak about grace, love, and of self-acceptance, with real authority. 

Christians with mental illnesses have been given a gift that we are to share with the Church.  The Holy Spirit has sprinkled us into each fellowship of believers.  He places us as we are suffering in strategic places. Our “gifts” are to speak to the Body, spiritually about a lot of things, but especially grace. 

If our fellowships become religious, it is usually because of our weaknesses, we have allowed ourselves to be silenced into submission by the “interpreters” of scripture.  If we don’t like the rules, we are told to go elsewhere.  We are not welcome. 

But don’t you see, that is our moment to shine! 

Our “unsightly” presence shouts out to the “wonderful” people, proclaiming grace in weakness.  Those who receive us, receive Him.  Those who turn from us, muffling us, are doing that to Jesus. Frightening, isn’t it?  It’s interesting to note that those who do not believe yet have often used “legalism” as the touchstone for their evaluation.

I would strongly suggest that we take our illnesses into the open.  That we become transparent toward others.  As we do this, we can oh-so-gently guide our fellowships into true grace and love.  They look at me and they see Jesus. 

And that is our ministry as mentally ill people to the Church. 

9 But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power  is perfected in weakness.”  Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.”

10 “So because of Christ,  I am pleased in weaknesses, in insults, in catastrophes, in persecutions, and in pressures. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 

                               2 Corinthians 12:9-11 (HCSB)

Dear friend, the gospel is either radical, or it is nothing.

 

Are There Benefits to Being Bipolar?

Bipolar people can be really different.

Originally Published on July 20, 2010 in “Psychology Today”

Let me start by acknowledging what is well known: Manic Depression or Bipolar disorder can be a devastating illness. Affecting at least 1% of the population, it can, untreated, result in suicide, ruined careers and devastated families. Bipolar disorder is often accompanied by alcohol and drug abuse and addiction, criminal and even violent behavior. I acknowledge this because I do not want to make light of the burden this illness places on people’s lives, families, and communities.

On the other hand, the history of the world has been influenced very significantly by people with manic depression (see website www.wholepsychiatry.com for details). They include:

“It seems clear that for at least some people with Bipolar disorder, there is an increased sense of spirituality, creativity, and accomplishment. It may be that having bipolar disorder holds great potential, if one is able to master or effectively channel the energies, which are periodically available, to some higher task. This would of course presume the ability to abstain from harmful drugs and alcohol, to have good character, and at least some supportive relationships and community networks.”

Y
It might be helpful to consider a reconceptualization. Perhaps instead of it being a disorder, we can think of people with bipolarity as having access to unusual potency. This potency will find a way to be outstanding-either in a destructive way, or in a constructive way. If such a choice is presented to the person, perhaps it can open some doors.
——————————————–
 

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them”

Romans 8:28

Source of this article: Psychology Today 

Bryan’s note: A great book, a favorite of mine, that works a lot of this out is Exuberance: The Passion for Life,” by Kay Redfield Jamison.

 

Jumpstarting a Prayer Life

We must (MUST!) pray as believers in Jesus. Prayer is the oxygen of our spiritual life. We must breathe, or else. When I go to my doctor she puts an 0ximeter on my finger so she can assess how my lungs are using oxygen. I suppose if we would put it on our “spiritual finger,” might it reveal something?

We don’t know exactly how to pray, I think communicating with God isn’t natural. We must be taught. The disciples wanted desperately how to pray–they didn’t know how, (Luke 11:1-2). So, we too must have Jesus teach us.

We can only learn how if the Spirit teaches us.

Also, we must practice praying. We may do it terribly rotten, but we should never give up–it’s not natural–it’s supernatural. But we learn by doing. We may get discouraged but keep at it. Even if you’re a pro, the Holy Spirit will make sure you keep learning. Our walk should always grow deeper.

For me praying the Psalms is good practice, and there are 150 of them. The Jewish people have a 4000-year start on us–they’ve used the Psalms as their prayer/praise book. My sense is that this covers every human need–the entirety of our spiritual walk!

I think that Psalms 103 might be a great place to get started.

I’ve been told by some that the “Lord’s Prayer” is quite useful as well. I guess if you honestly take it phrase by phrase, something good will happen. I’m still learning (and I suspect I still will).

Below we find a way to jumpstart our prayer life. I hope you can use it.

One more thought. “Conversational Prayer” is a good thing for me lately. Talk with Jesus as if He was in the same room with you (He is) and just converse. Share your ups and downs, and it’s okay if you feel messed up. Relax. He’s your Father!

He absolutely loves talking with you.

%d bloggers like this: