Jim Woodroof’s discovered reality

“We find in the gospels the power to do what’s in the letters.”

So said a counselee of Jim Woodroof—when he was a missionary in New Zealand, I believe. And I’ve been thinking rather regularly of this axiom for several months:

  • When launching a serious Bible study group, I was convicted that the study needed to reside in one of the gospels.
  • When homosexuality, a deep-seated set of issues, began to surface with a vengeance on my Christian college campus, I thought of Woodroof’s words.
  • I also think of them when feeling weak, dispassionate, and distant from God …
  • And while wishing Christendom would shape up and get back to scriptural faith-practice, but feeling powerless, in my small corner of the world, to effect any real change.

Really, just about any time, the idea of the centrality of Jesus is helpful. One of our church’s shepherds recently spoke these words to the gathered saints, and I didn’t even know John knew of Jim Woodroof. I don’t know whether he’d read the book Four Realities or had just heard Jim talking about this “reality” at some point.

My experience with life, scripture, and Christians tells me that Jim had hit on something centrally true–something really worth saying and repeating! And he extended this conversational experience, among other extrapolations, with a Bible-reading plan that went something like this:

  1. Read a gospel.
  2. Read some Psalms.
  3. Read another gospel.
  4. Read Galatians.
  5. Read a gospel.
  6. Read Genesis.
  7. Read a gospel.
  8. Read Acts.
  9. Read a gospel.
  10. Read Isaiah.
  11. Read a gospel.
  12. Read Revelation.
  13. Etc., etc.

If God desires it to be so and my conviction remains roughly the same, I may never read all of Lamentations or Ezekiel. I may not study Esther seriously, and not having a handle on the canonicity struggles of 2 Peter or Jude doesn’t trouble me. If I never “get” those books, I’m OK with that. But I will read and reread the gospels. God helping me, I will stay connected to the teachings and life of Jesus the Messiah.

Some sayings that come and go. Some truths, even, have impact on us for a time, and then we forget them. The ones that keep returning to our consciousness may be doing that for good reason.

Thank you, Jim Woodroof, for being the kind of person that led that woman to exclaim this truth to you so many years ago. Thank you, also, for being convicted and driven to share this reality: it is in the gospels—in Jesus—that we find the power to do what’s in the letters.


6 thoughts on “Jim Woodroof’s discovered reality

  1. Evan 03/04/2010 / 4:22 pm

    While I agree that the words of Jesus are of the utmost importance, I would also say that to disregard or even short-change the rest of the Bible would me detrimental at best, and more likely dangerous in reality. I think we (the modern church) have often neglected the old testament and other books in favor of the Gospels, and while obviously these hold core truths, to leave the rest behind is a folly in my opinion. There is so much to glean from the old testament (and other oft-unread letters), and if it was good enough for Jesus to learn and quote from, then certainly we should do the same.


    • blcasey 03/04/2010 / 9:10 pm

      Wow, Evan. In my experience, the gospels haven’t gotten nearly ENOUGH play! (It’s been Acts, at least until the last 10 years or so of my life, that’s been overworked.) Regardless, please be assured that no one’s saying to leave the rest behind! I think I might have been a little over-the-top … hyperbolic or something like that … in expressing my personal resolve; I didn’t meant to be suggesting that I don’t care about the other books. In comparison, though, my fully “getting” the message of the gospels is central. The quote wasn’t “Read the gospels and never read the rest.” 🙂

      It is in the divinity and the person of Jesus that all the rest becomes clear. Maybe we could even say that the gospels hold the key to interpretation in general? All scripture is scripture, and as such, it’s from God, but that doesn’t mean He wants us to pay the same kind of attention to a prophecy meant for the ancient Chaldeans that we pay, for instance, to Jesus’ exhortation to be one as He and the Father are one. The history of an obscure king of the northern tribes may provide an interesting factoid, but Jesus’ example of single-minded focus and nonviolent suffering are of more import. The numbers and specifics of sacrifices under the Mosaic covenant are informative, and I appreciate knowing a good deal about them, but they are only spiritually helpful in comparison to our covenant, /a la /the letter to the Hebrews.

      All scripture is authoritative in some sense, but it’s not all equally important. I think it’ll be a long time before I intentionally read Leviticus in its entirety. The Psalms, yes. Genesis and Joshua and 1 Samuel, yes. Ruth and Esther have their place, but not alongside John and Mark (and, next for me, such pieces as Romans and Galatians and Revelation and 1 John …). If I had an infinite amount of time in this life, sure, I’d get immersed in Leviticus, and I’d be the better for it, but not as much the better as if I’d read Luke again, searching out deeply his portrait of the Christ, in order to understand and to drink deeply . Given the lack of time, I must opt for those things that are more central. It’s analogous to the missions philosophy question that pits France against Irian Jaya or Kenya. If there were infinite numbers of people to send, sure, we can send some to France or Italy, because they might be .05% effective with hardened souls. But given limited resources, we opt for 2nd- and 3rd-world regions where the receptivity is greater.

      Back to the question of what’s important and why, though. Let me ask you this: are you offended by the notion of a Bible trivia game? 🙂

      Now I’ll offer you a few more quotes from the Woodroof book — this time, not out of my memory, but off the pages:

      The central event (the cross) can be understood only in light of the central quality of Jesus’ life.

      Jesus’ action toward the thief was, and still is, a perfect miniature of what he, at that very moment on the cross, was doing on a broader scale for the whole world.

      More of the record (of the gospels) is spent describing those around the cross than Him on the cross.

      There is no power in “believing we ought to believe.”

      Acts and the Letters to the churches were not designed to provide power. They were designed, rather, to provide direction.

      Though Christ can be communicated through the word alone, it is not the best way. We know this by witnessing how God revealed himself to the human race: He clothed the Word in human flesh.

      Brian Casey ~ Confidently engaged in restoration, not comfortably ensconced in orthodoxy ~


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