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This past spring our friends Jill and Guri secured a table at Talula’s Table, one of the most difficult dinner reservations to snag in the entire country. There was seating for eight, and we were elated to accept their invitation to take two of those spots. About a month out, the restaurant emailed the menu and we immediately commenced drooling and dreaming. Spring vegetable fricassee sprinkled over goat’s milk panna cotta with toasted honey wheat, popped sorghum, and local vinegar—that’s just course one. We were in for several hours of delicious, inventive, inspired food.
On the night of the dinner, we arrived on the dot, not wanting to miss a single moment (or a single appetizer) and enjoyed four hours of food bliss. Small plates, glasses, and fun accompaniments arrived and were whisked away at just the right moments. We savored every course—olive oil poached halibut and bloomy cheeses with savory huckleberries and burnt honey (okay, back to drooling again). The dinner was creative, fresh, and maybe most importantly, nothing we could have cooked up on our own. It was truly special.
So much of food preparation these days is an opening of a package, a slapping together of a few too heavy or too sweet ingredients, a lack of finesse—this is true even in many restaurants. We aren’t always accustomed to finding such care, such intentionality in a meal, or really much else in our culture. Our culture tends to aim for quick and efficient, for satisfying at the most surface level.
And it’s so easy to fall in line with this way of life. We thoughtlessly bypass the best for the easiest, the instant gratification. We do this when we choose fad diets over a healthy lifestyle. We do this when we swipe our credit card for a cute new sweater. And we do this when we seek security and approval through what we can earn and accomplish.
Paul describes it this way in the book of Romans: “They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life. They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand” (Romans 1:22–23 MSG).
We do this all the time, don’t we? Rather than trusting in God, “who holds the whole world in his hands,” we place our hope in just about anything else. We may not have idols in our homes, but we certainly have our own cheap figurines. We place our faith in our appearance, our degrees and positions, in big houses, full closets, fancy vacations, and social status. But these trinkets won’t save us—and chasing them robs so much of our energy, joy, and contentment.
In contrast, if we hold fast to God, he promises to rescue us, to put us right—secure, valued, at peace. Our energy won’t be sapped and we’ll reclaim our joy. In fact, Paul says that the person who is put right by trusting God “really lives” (Romans 1:16–17 MSG).
This is what it means to get what we really want, our deepest, truest desire—when we bypass the cheap knock-offs for the real thing. God is our Creator, Sustainer, the author of our lives. When he declares “this way is best,” we should listen. We’re foolish to trade out the Creator’s best for the path of least resistance.
Our God relates to us with wisdom, intentionality, and great care. His desires for us are for us. He doesn’t call us to anything just to make us jump, to beat us into submission. God isn’t on a power trip. He invites us to trust him, to rest in him, to rely on him because as our Creator, he knows what’s best. When we choose to rely on ourselves, working day and night, scrambling to get all we can, shuffling from event to team to practice to lesson, we are bound to run ourselves ragged.
God never intended for us to live this way. Paul writes that “if you go against the grain, you get splinters, regardless of which neighborhood you’re from, what your parents taught you, what schools you attended” (Romans 2:9 MSG). This isn’t about being punished, it’s about natural consequences. When we rest in God’s care, it brings about a healthy life, a full life. Whereas all that self-sufficient striving leaves us beat up.
Could it really be that easy? Let’s release the pressure to succeed and receive the best life God has carefully crafted for us. God’s promise to put us—and everything—right is based on him and his work. It’s not based on what we do or accomplish, or how perfect we try to be. “We call Abraham ‘father’ not because he got God’s attention for living like a saint, but because God made something out of Abraham when he was a nobody” (Romans 4:17 MSG). He dared to trust God to do what only God could do.
Paul tells us that Abraham’s extraordinary life is a God-story, not an Abraham-story (Romans 4:2 MSG). This idea applies to you and me too. I want to live an extraordinary life—but I’ve been going about it all wrong. I’ve been trying to secure my own place rather than resting in the one God’s already made. I’ve been running myself ragged to create a life—ironically sapping the life right out of myself. It’s time that I recognize my life as a God-story, not a Jen-story.
It’s time to give up the striving and trust that our author and Creator knows best, desires the best, and will bring out the best in this story.
Life takes it out of you. But the reset you’ve been desperate for is within reach.
Writer and Bible teacher Jen Wise knew that holistic faith—that reaches into every facet of life—is what brings grace and renewal. But she didn’t begin to live this truth until her world fractured. So as she searched Scripture for a better way, she discovered Jesus’ invitation for just that: small steps able to lead us into a bright new beginning.
So to the woman who feels her all is never enough, The Bright Life is your invitation to a new start. You were created to be healthy, strong, vibrant, and to rest in the unforced rhythms of grace Jesus so lovingly makes available to us all. Come along and learn how to avoid habits that seem smart but are deceptively self-sabotaging, pick up habits of wholeness that actually stick, and try surprising ways to practice kindness toward yourself and generosity toward loved ones.
The Bright Life extends a daily invitation with striking insights, tips to reclaim your energy, and a three-part practice of looking inward, upward, and outward as you step into a brighter way. This 40-day reset weaves story and Scripture together to cultivate a peaceful place where, through the attentive love of Jesus, you can experience the unforced rhythms of grace. Learn more at www.brightlifebook.com.
Jen Wise is happy to spend most days rotating between friends, family, writing, cooking, and her neighborhood yoga studio. A color enthusiast, obsessive foodie, and compassionate theologian, Jen holds an MA in Theology from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and develops curriculum for a variety of churches. She lives in Philadelphia’s Main Line neighborhood with her family. Connect with Jen at www.restorationliving.org.
When you read different books of the Bible, do you get confused about the order of events; for example, how the message of a prophet in one book fits into the timeline of activity recorded in another book? Or when and where the stories of Scripture took place and why it’s important to understand these details?
What does it mean to read the Bible chronologically?
Dr. Ron Rhodes: It means reading the Bible in the actual order of events as they transpired in Bible times. To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, the book of Job is the 18th book in the Old Testament. However, most scholars agree that the events in the book of Job took place in close proximity to the patriarchs in the book of Genesis. Hence, in my book I address the book of Job right after dealing with Genesis.
We can make a similar point regarding the book of Acts and some of the short epistles in the New Testament—such as Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and James. Did you know that a number of the epistles were actually written during the historical timeframe covered by the book of Acts? So, for example, when Acts 15 discusses the Jerusalem Council which met in AD 49, it’s perfectly appropriate to address the book of James following Acts 15, since James was written the very same year. Addressing some of these short epistles within the broader context of the book of Acts flows quite smoothly.
What are the benefits of reading the Bible chronologically?
Dr. Ron Rhodes: The Bible is a divinely inspired book—or, more accurately, collection of books—that tells the true story of human redemption. Taking a chronological approach helps us to understand this redemption drama as it chronologically unfolded in ancient times. That helps us to understand the drama in context. It helps us to understand the drama in real history. And that’s a good thing! Everything just makes better sense when understood chronologically.
What are the challenges?
Dr. Ron Rhodes: There are definitely some challenges in taking a chronological approach to studying the Bible. To start, let’s recognize that the ancients were not as concerned about precise chronological order as we are today. Sometimes the ancients organized material in a book according to a particular purpose or theme, not according to a day-by-day calendar of events.
We must also admit that even though the Scriptures are inerrant, human attempts at Bible chronology are not! Some Bible scholars have different opinions on the precise order of events in the Bible. My personal view is that so much study has been done on all this through the years that it’s now possible to put together a chronology with a strong confidence that we’re “in the ballpark.” It seems to me that we’re all fairly certain on the “big picture” of Bible chronology. It’s primarily the finer details that generate the most debate. The chronology reflected in this book is, in my studied opinion, one that makes good sense of the biblical data.
Dr. Ron Rhodes: There are 365 days’ worth of short Bible studies in A Chronological Tour Through the Bible—one for each day of the year. These 365 daily studies are categorized under nine broad eras of time:
Era 1: Beginnings (the undated past–1800 BC)
Era 2: The Birth of Israel (1800–1406 BC)
Era 3: Possessing the Promised Land (1406–1050 BC)
Era 4: The United Monarchy (1050–930 BC)
Era 5: The Kingdom Divided (930–586 BC)
Era 6: Living in Exile (586–538 BC)
Era 7: The Return from Exile (538–6 BC)
Era 8: The Coming of Jesus Christ (6 BC–AD 30)
Era 9: The Early Church (AD 30–95)
These eras give us a historical framework that makes it easier to approach the Bible from a chronological perspective. They help us to see the “big picture” so that the finer details in each biblical book make better contextual sense. The more we understand this “big picture,” the easier it is to comprehend the overall redemption drama recorded for us in Scripture.
While your book is divided into 365 readings, you include five sections in each reading. Tell us about that.
Dr. Ron Rhodes: Well, foundationally, each chapter has a descriptive heading that lets you know the topic of each day’s study. Immediately following, I state the exact Bible passage(s) we’ll be exploring that day. That gets us off to a quick and easy start.
After you read each passage (or set of passages), you’ll find five very brief but helpful sections:
Key Concept: This is a broad thematic statement about a particular day’s Scripture reading.
The Big Picture: This is a short summary of the most important aspects of a particular day’s Bible reading.
Transformational Truth: This involves a Bible principle we can apply to our lives.
A Verse for Meditation: This is included for personal reflection.
A Question to Ponder: These questions motivate self-examination. They help us to apply Scripture to our lives.
Each of these sections are necessarily brief. After all, the book has 365 chapters, which means each chapter needs to be very short—in essence, a “micro-chapter.” But these short chapters are strategically designed to give you maximum benefit as you read Scripture and allow it to transform your life. Harvest House did a fantastic job on the layout of the book. It’s very user-friendly.
What one or two Bible books were a highlight for you in writing this book?
Dr. Ron Rhodes: That’s easy to answer: Genesis and Revelation, the first and last books of the Bible chronologically. The Bible (in Genesis) begins with paradise lost. The Bible ends (in Revelation) with paradise regained. Actually, it’s fascinating to contrast the book of Genesis with the book of Revelation. There is a grand reversal worthy of our deepest contemplation:
In Genesis, God creates the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). In Revelation, God creates the new heavens and a new earth (Revelation 21:1-2).
In Genesis, the sun and moon were created as “two great lights” (Genesis 1:16-17). In Revelation, there is no longer any need for such light, for the glory of God lights up the eternal city of the redeemed (Revelation 21:23; 22:5).
In Genesis, human beings succumb to Satan’s temptations through the serpent (Genesis 3:1-4). In Revelation, Satan is eternally quarantined away from the people of God (Revelation 20:10). He is no longer around to harass God’s people.
In Genesis, the first man and woman succumb to sin (Genesis 3). In Revelation, redeemed humans are free from sin and live in a perfectly holy environment (Revelation 21:1-2).
Lord, I ask you to open my eyes and enhance my understanding so that I can grasp what You want me to learn today (Psalm 119:18). I also ask you to enable me, by the Holy Spirit, to apply the truths I learn to my daily life, and be guided moment by moment by your Word (Psalm 119:105; 2 Timothy 3:15-17). I thank you in Jesus’s name. Amen.
It makes good sense to ask the Holy Spirit to enable us to understand and apply Scripture to our lives. After all, the Holy Spirit inspired all of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16). He who inspired Scripture is also its supreme interpreter and teacher.
What is a favorite Bible passage of yours?
Dr. Ron Rhodes: Unquestionably, my favorite Bible passage is Matthew 11:28-30, where Jesus said: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Such liberating words!
What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway?
Dr. Ron Rhodes: I love the website. I’ve written over 80 books, and I don’t think I’ve ever failed to consult Bible Gateway in the process of writing all those books. It’s feature-rich and user-friendly. Keep up the good work.
Bio: Dr. Ron Rhodes has been happily married for almost four decades, and has two grown children who are both devoted Christians. He earned his Masters and Doctoral degrees at Dallas Theological Seminary (where his son will soon graduate), and was for eight years heard regularly on the national Bible Answer Man radio broadcast. He continues today to answer Bible questions on various national radio and television broadcasts. He has written over 80 books, including A Chronological Tour Through the Bible, The Big Book of Bible Answers, and The Challenge of the Cults and New Religions. His number one goal in life is to honor Christ by serving the body of Christ.
See the Fulfillment of God’s Covenant in the Names of a Family Tree
From the first chapter of Matthew, the New Testament displays how God keeps the covenants he gives to his people throughout the Old Testament. Matthew 1:1-17 lists the incredible genealogy that stretches from Abraham to the Messiah, outlining the long and breathtakingly complex plan that God fashioned throughout more than 40 generations of broken, sinful people, whom God used for his glory and our salvation.
How many times did individuals fall to temptation or danger or trials? God tested Abraham with Isaac’s life, threatening to end his line almost before it began. He included murderers and prostitutes. He was even willing to incorporate into the decedents of Abraham and David a man whom God himself cursed.
The king, Jeconiah (Matthew 1:11-12) was pronounced cursed in Jeremiah 22:30 by God. Jeconiah (also Jehoiachin) was the last of the Judean kings, ending the royal line until Jesus, who not only restored the line to glory, but also did not inherit God’s curse because of the nature-defying miracle of the virgin birth.
Sometimes it’s easy to overlook how miraculous Jesus’ birth was, even while we celebrate his arrival on Christmas. But the more closely you read into the genealogies in the Gospels (Luke also outlines David’s line), the more fully you can come to appreciate the fulfillment of God’s covenant.
Bible Gateway Has Tools to Help You Read Genealogies with Greater Understanding
Genealogies themselves may be eye-sores to your morning devotions. After all, they’re just lists of names. Anyone familiar with some of the stories from the Old Testament will immediately recognize some of the names listed in Matthew 1:1-17: Isaac, Jacob, David, and Solomon.
Others, however, are harder to identify. Minor characters—we tend to skim. Jeconiah, again, is a good example. Remember him? Nope? Well, you can’t be blamed for that. He happens to have an alternate name—Jehoiachin. Actually, he has two alternate names, which Jeremiah liked to call him (though, in some Bible translations, Coniah is switched to Jehoiachin).
The good news is that you don’t have to be a Bible scholar to obtain this knowledge. You may notice as you click the links throughout this article that the Scripture on Bible Gateway opens next to some preview text of biblical resources. One of the most useful resources when learning about a genealogy is the New International Encyclopedia of Bible Characters, which is available when you upgrade your account to Bible Gateway Plus. There are over 40 study Bible notes, commentaries, encyclopedias, and other resources, like maps and videos, under the blue sidebar to the right of the Bible passage you’re reading on Bible Gateway. Some of them are free—like the Reformation Study Bible—so feel free to explore.
The New International Encyclopedia of Bible Characters is certainly the more effective for tackling genealogies, though, and you can open previews of the material to find out more. Look around using some of the links above, or go here to learn more about Bible Gateway Plus. It’s one of the best tools to have in your pocket if you want to delve deeper into Scripture this Christmas season, and when you sign up you’ll be given a 30-day free trial, so there’s no risk!
Be sure to sign up for the free daily email devotional Christmas Joy. Many people do these 25 readings every year as a rhythm of reflecting on the wonder, the power, and the joy of the coming of Jesus the Christ. Each brief daily reading takes a word from the biblical text associated with the coming of Christ.
“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” — Matthew 1:21
Sometimes a name is just a name, and sometimes a name captures someone perfectly. The ancients inclined to choose names carefully, so as to make a lifelong statement about a person’s identity. “Jesus” is a name so familiar to us today that we easily forget it was a name with extraordinary significance. The name an angel announced should be given to Mary and Joseph’s new child. And what a name! “Jesus” means “the Lord saves.”
He does indeed.
“Call him Jesus,” the angel said, “because he will save his people from their sins.” None of us can save ourselves anymore than a person sinking in a rowboat can save himself by pulling up on the side of the boat. We need a savior, and not just a theoretical savior, but one who really has the power of God to separate us from the tyranny and the guilt of sin.
But there wouldn’t have been a saving sacrifice if there hadn’t been an incarnation. Bethlehem was the start of the mission. We don’t need to wait until Good Friday and Easter Sunday to celebrate the Savior. The saving started at the birth of Jesus.
Mary and Joseph could not have understood all of this, of course. They were obedient and named the newborn Jesus, “the Lord saves,” but how and when the Lord would save them was still a mystery to them. Not so for us. This side of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, we know the extent of the saving love of God.
Prayer for today:
Lord, make me more aware of my sins today and help me know that they shrink before the powerful person of Jesus.
[If you believe this series is helpful, this is the perfect time to forward this to a friend, a group, or a congregation, and tell them they too may sign up for the weekly emails here]
Mel Lawrenz (@MelLawrenz) trains an international network of Christian leaders, ministry pioneers, and thought-leaders. He served as senior pastor of Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin, for ten years and now serves as Elmbrook’s minister at large. He has a PhD in the history of Christian thought and is on the adjunct faculty of Trinity International University. Mel is the author of 18 books, including How to Understand the Bible—A Simple Guide and
Many hymns sung in the Christmas season have their roots in the Bible and the gospel message. How well do you know these carols? Have fun taking this brief quiz to find out. Encourage your family, friends, and social media followers to try their hand at it, too.
“…Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth…” (O Holy Night)
— For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Romans 3:23-24 (MEV)
“…Remember Christ our Savior
Was born on Christmas Day
To save us all from Satan’s pow’r
When we were gone astray…” (God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen)
— But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. Galatians 4:4-5 (ESV)
“…Glory to the new-born King!
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled…” (Hark the Herald Angels Sing)
— For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time. 1 Timothy 2:5-6 (EHV)
Author and speaker Margaret Feinberg believes the Bible is meant to be more than read—it’s meant to be tasted and savored and explored with holy chutzpah. She recently went on an extraordinary biblical quest to explore six different foods in the Bible. The result is a scrumptious 6-Session DVD Bible study and book.
What inspired you to undertake this spiritual-culinary quest?
Margaret Feinberg: Several years ago, I wrote the book and Bible study Scouting The Divine: My Search For God in Wine, Wool, and Wild Honey. I spent time with shepherds, beekeepers, farmers, and vintners and opened up the Scriptures and asked, “How do you read these passages in light of what you do every day?” Their answers changed the way I read the Bible forever.
You sought out people whose lives and livelihoods are intimately entwined with the foods you were investigating. What did these people reveal about food and biblical principles?
Margaret Feinberg: If you look for food in the Bible, you’ll discover it popping and sizzling on almost every page. I zeroed in on six foods and traveled the globe to better understand the Scriptures and ancient agrarian world.
I cast fishnets in the Sea of Galilee, descended into salt mines 450 feet below ground, baked fresh matzo at Yale University, harvested olives on the Croatian coast, studied artisanal meats in Texas, and tasted figs at a world premier farm.
For those looking for delicious insights, for those who hunger for more of God, there’s a richness to life and relationships and faith when we dig more intentionally into the text.
Taste and See: Discovering God Among Butchers, Bakers, and Fresh Food Makers Book Trailer - Vimeo
What do you mean when you call God “the original foodie”?
Margaret Feinberg: A “foodie” is simply someone who takes a particular interest in food. In the opening pages of Genesis, God lays out creation like a heavenly buffet (Genesis 1:9-28).
Adam and Eve are invited to nosh on everything good (Genesis 1:29). Only one food—a particular fruit—is off-limits, and the original couple bite into the temptation (Genesis 3:6). One might think God would make food a dark thing, but instead God redeems food just as he does us.
The Son of God is even described as someone who knocks on the doors of our souls, so we’ll invite him in for supper (Revelation 3:20).
As children of God, our story begins with food, continues with food, and concludes with food. That’s why I think it’s fair to say God is the original foodie.
What do you hope people discover as they dive into the Bible study?
Margaret Feinberg: Sometimes when we read Scripture, the stories can feel thousands of years old, the places thousands of miles away—we want to connect, but sometimes it’s hard.
By studying fruit in the Bible, we catch a fresh glimpse of what God intends for us as we become fruitful through Christ. We also taste and see the sweet intention of God for us.
By spending time reflecting on the mentions of salt in the Bible, we discover that Jesus’ calling to be the “salt of the earth” is so much more than being “down to earth.” In fact, it means something different entirely.
By learning livestock in the Bible, we start to grasp of what it means that our God owns the cattle on a thousand hills—and how that reality impacts us today.
There’s so many more foods in the Bible we explore in the study, but it literally makes study groups hungry for more Scripture, more of God, more the his transformation.
Bio: Margaret Feinberg is a popular Bible teacher and speaker at churches and leading conferences such as Catalyst, Thrive, and Women of Joy whose books have sold more than one million copies and received critical acclaim. She lives in Utah with her husband, Leif, who pastors a local campus, and their superpup, Hershey. She believes some of the best days are spent in jammies, laughing, and being silly.
Out of more than 2 billion pageviews conducted by visitors to Bible Gateway during 2018, the most popular verse for the year was Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” This verse ranked second in 2016 to John 3:16.
English was the language of choice for users, followed by Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, and French (44% of our visitors were from outside the USA). People visited BibleGateway.com from a total of 241 countries or territories, including Vatican City, Israel, China, Vietnam, and Cuba. The top 10 countries visitors came from were the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Mexico, Colombia, Australia, Philippines, South Africa, Argentina, and Brazil.
Continuing with the other nine most popular Bible verses in the top 10 list for 2018:
2. John 3:16 — For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (#1 in 2016)
3. Philippians 4:13 — I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (#3 in 2016)
4. Romans 8:28 — And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (#5 in 2016)
5. Psalm 23:4 — Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (#4 in 2016)
6. Romans 12:2 — Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (#12 in 2016)
7. Psalm 23:6 — Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (#7 in 2016)
8. Psalm 23:1 — The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. (#6 in 2016)
9. Psalm 23:5 — You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. (#8 in 2016)
10. Matthew 6:33 — But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (#19 in 2016)
The other nine most popular keywords searched:
2. peace (#3 in 2016)
3. faith (#2 in 2016)
4. joy (#5 in 2016)
5. hope (#4 in 2016)
6. heart (#16 in 2016)
7. pray (#18 in 2016)
8. holy spirit (#7 in 2016)
9. prayer (#6 in 2016)
10. spirit (not in the top 25 in 2016)
We look forward to engaging our visitors (you!) in the Bible even more in 2019. Come back often; sign up for our daily email devotionals, reading plans, and verses of the day; and tell your friends, family, church, and followers to as well. Follow us on Twitter and LIKE us on Facebook. Even make BibleGateway.com your computer’s homepage for quick and repeated access (or at least bookmark us in your browser). Thank you!
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It looked like a routine play. Cincinnati Bengals receiver Josh Malone ran a shallow crossing route over the middle of the field. After Malone caught the ball, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier took two steps and delivered a hit with his right shoulder pad. It was an athletic play Ryan had made hundreds of times before. But this time something went wrong—and he knew it.
Immediately, Ryan reached for his lower back. He rolled over, unable to move his legs. Every eye in Paul Brown Stadium on December 4, 2017, focused on the Pro Bowl linebacker. The game stopped. He was strapped to a backboard and taken off the field on a cart surrounded by doctors, medical experts, and concerned teammates.
At the hospital, doctors determined Ryan had suffered a spinal contusion. He underwent a spinal stabilization surgery a couple of days later. Even in the midst of this devastating injury, Ryan took to Twitter a day after being carted off the field, saying: Thank you for the prayers. Your support is uplifting to me and my family. #SHALIEVE
Since that time, Ryan has been uplifting everyone else. On February 1, 2018, Ryan was released from the University of Pittsburgh medical center. At first, medical professionals wouldn’t comment if Ryan would ever walk again. But Ryan took to the challenge like he did to reach his goal of playing in the NFL. He immediately started rehab four times a week for two hours a day. He posted photos of himself doing pull-ups at a gym. Then on April 26, 2018, Ryan surprised everyone at the NFL Draft in Dallas, Texas. The crowd erupted in applause and tough athletes had tears running down their faces as Ryan walked—yes, walked!—onto the stage to announce the Steelers’ first-round selection.
After making his inspiring appearance, Ryan went to Twitter and said, Love you all thank you. God IS SO GREAT!!! In interviews with NFL.com, Ryan says his goal is to return to football and one day make it to the Hall of Fame. Every day is a challenge, but Ryan fully trusts God. He and his family have asked for prayers for full restoration to health. As you read this, please pray for Ryan and his family. Ask God, the Great Physician, to heal Ryan in miraculous ways. He was told before that he’d never play football again. That was in high school. Now his determination, dreams, and faith have him focused on recapturing his on-field greatness.
Ryan’s favorite Bible verse is Philippians 4:13 (NKJV): “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” He’s personally driven to be the best, but without Christ’s strength in his life, he knows that he falls short.
But this hasn’t been the only challenge Ryan has had to face. He also suffers from scoliosis of the spine and alopecia. In Ryan’s words:
“You might never play football again.” More than one doctor gave this short and dreaded diagnosis to me when I was in high school. My scoliosis was so bad that medical professionals feared that my football career was over just as it was starting. Having a curved spine is a bad medical condition for a football player, but it’s not the affliction I’m most recognized for.
Some fans may not know I have scoliosis, but everyone can see my bald head caused by alopecia. A beautiful, bald head is a fashion statement for men these days, but being bald as a child was a source for teasing and ridicule in the schoolyard. Kids called me “Patchy” or “Cue Ball.” A lot of kids didn’t realize an autoimmune disease caused my baldness. With the love and nurturing of my parents, I began to accept and proudly display my baldness. As I got older, playing in college and the professional ranks, I even started speaking to children who suffered from this affliction to help them deal with their situation just as I did.
Playing football with alopecia is no problem. Playing with scoliosis is a different story. A curved spine can develop for a number of reasons. My family worked with doctors to monitor and treat it so it wouldn’t progress. And as I worked to correct the condition, I became a standout on the Plantation High School football team in Florida. At 6’2” and 205 pounds, I played defensive end and tight end. When I graduated, I was ranked by college recruiters as one of the top 25 linebackers in the country. Even at my size, I could outrun most wide receivers. I played three years at Ohio State, racking up 317 tackles and fifteen sacks, before declaring for the 2014 NFL Draft.
Injuries are part of football. Mine was more severe than most. I used to get mad at the Lord when I sustained an injury, but I got over that quickly. I learned that I needed to stay strong in the Lord and faithful to him. I stopped asking, “Why me, Lord?” and just stayed close to him…. No matter what troubles or challenges you’re going through, you aren’t alone. God is always with you if you make him the Lord of your life. You just gotta Shalieve!
Ryan says, “Christ died for your sins. It doesn’t matter who you are. Christ died so that YOU may have eternal life. He died and rose again so that, if you believe in him, you can go to heaven. God doesn’t need you to be perfect when you come to him. He needs you when you are broken and humbled. Many people have counted me out, but I wouldn’t be where I am today without the Lord.”
Editor’s Note: Ryan Shazier’s amazing recovery continues. On December 5, 2018, it was reported that he has started jogging for the first time since his injury. On December 6, 2018, a video was posted of Ryan lifting weights while standing.
A Walk in Our Cleats is an exciting, inside look at 25 notable NFL players and their faith journeys. Each player has faced unique circumstances in staying fit, pursuing their dreams, and getting to play in the NFL, but all have one thing in common: the power of Jesus Christ in their lives. It includes never-before-seen photographs that will appeal to American football fans everywhere.
Featuring an eye-catching four-color interior, you will be drawn in by the short, personal entries written by each player. Fans can jump in throughout the book to browse photos and pick up inspiration from each NFL player’s unique perspective on God’s amazing grace. Each player entry includes a relevant message, their favorite Scripture passages, and an encouraging life application to encourage and motivate you in your own faith journey.
Decorated and popular NFL players included in A Walk in Our Cleats are: Benjamin Watson, Ben Roethlisberger, Manny Ramirez, Miles Killebrew, Chris Harris Jr., David Bass, Lorenzo Alexander, Tyson Alualu, Jordan Matthews, Shamarko Thomas, Matthew Slater, Chris Clark, Don Carey, Arthur Moats, Derrick Morgan, Will Johnson, Wesley Woodyard, Ryan Shazier, Charles Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Tyler Patmon, Sam Acho, and Ben Garland.
Steven Johnson Jr. is an American football linebacker entering his seventh season in the National Football League. He is also the CEO and founder of the Faith Motivated Foundation, a charity designed to empower youth by demonstrating how to set and achieve goals while also seeking to educate and model a healthy lifestyle by motivating good choices through Christ. Steven has overcome insurmountable odds his entire life. He is the definition of diligence, patience, and perseverance. Check out the Faith Motivated Foundation at www.faithmotivated.org.