God Shows Up
2018 focused on the life of Jesus—who he is, his actions, and his teachings. During this year in the life of Jesus, we were challenged to follow the Gospel Reading Plan, a tool to use to learn more about his life.
This concept is one Sally Cumming, who attends the Lake Mary Campus, faced with much excitement. I had the pleasure of meeting with Sally to chat about her experience with the reading plan over the year. She followed the plan faithfully, marking off each day on her paper copy as she read. I could tell that God really showed up for her this year as she showed me her well-loved reading plan and Bible, and I could see how joyful she was to talk about him.
Sally decided to use the Gospel Reading Plan to actively make God her focus each day. “I realized that in my life...I wasn’t giving the first part of my day to God,” she says. “I just decided I gotta let him know that he’s my priority. And the way I can do that is, number one, read Jesus Calling every morning, and the second thing is to keep on top of this”—she motions to her reading plan in her Bible—“and to thank him. It was my personal way of saying to God, ‘You’re my number one. If I forget to say it later on today, or get caught up in life or something, then I want you to know.’”
Jesus Calling, a book of daily devotions, and her Bible study group have been part of her relationship with God for some time, Sally shared, but before now, diving into the Bible itself, without a type of guidance, seemed like a bit of a daunting task. “Where do you start, and how do you understand?” she asks. Sally was thankful for this reading plan to give her that place to start. She says she had “a desire to learn the Bible better,” and this was an opportunity for her to do so. Now, even her dog knows not to ask to go out until Sally’s done with her morning devotional and the Gospel Reading Plan!
Sally made reading her Bible a habit in her life. She says that once she got into the practice, it became easier and easier to keep up. “I’m not as well versed as I think some people are,” she says, “and to come into church having had read this and then listen to the sermon—it just made it so much stronger...and more pertinent to my life.” And sure, she would fall behind if she was away from home on a trip or busy with life, but she always took the time to catch up. “The more you get into it, the more you remember it, and you can apply it to your life.”
The application of what she was reading became a highlight of the plan for Sally. “I started bringing my Bible to church with me because as they were doing the sermons, I was taking notes. I found myself wanting to remember little things, little explanations. And then as I did the reading plan, as I saw this”—she points to the notes scrawled in the margins of her Bible—“I had my notes and it just made it so much more real.”
Throughout our time together, Sally kept emphasizing how the reading plan helped Jesus and his life become more clear for her. “It just drives things home for you, makes it real,” she says. She also says that she loved how each day, she was reading the same part of Jesus’ life from different Gospels in the Bible. “They’re telling the same story with the same facts. It kind of drills it in. This is real stuff.”
“He spoke to me through it,” Sally continues to say about the reading plan. “I always used to wonder when people said, ‘Oh, well God told me…’ and I thought, what did he do, did he come down and sit across from you? I was looking for a more tangible visit from him, and then I realized that through this”—Sally motions to her Bible again—“that he is speaking to me.” She heard him speaking to her through his word especially as she continued revisiting the notes she wrote during sermons. She says that she knows he’s paying attention because as she read, she could hear his message to her just at the right time in her life.
Sally’s biggest takeaway from this year in the Gospel Reading Plan is that she needs a reading plan. “This is a pretty big book,” she says, Bible in her lap. For her, an organized plan was the right push to help her dive into God’s word. Sometimes the hardest part about consistently reading the Bible is getting started, and now Sally has the motivation and desire to keep going. She plans to go through the Gospel Reading Plan again in 2019! She says, “You learn in a year, so maybe you can pick up a deeper meaning from the first time you heard it.”
If someone is considering jumping into the practice of daily or more consistent Bible reading, Sally says, “Just do it!” She also says that the most helpful thing to do as you’re getting started is to decide what part of your day you will set aside for time in God’s word.
“Did I succeed all the time? No,” Sally says. “But I succeeded more than I didn’t.” God showed up and revealed to her the importance of spending time in his word. And Sally spent time with God in his word for a whole year, which is great success.
We hope the Gospel Reading Plan has been a great tool for you in whatever way you used it during our year in the life of Jesus. As we move into 2019, if you want to continue a daily reading practice, we recommend the “Bible in a Year” reading plan from Ligonier Ministries on the YouVersion Bible app.