What Do You Seek?

Then Jesus turned, and seeing them following, said to them, “What do you seek?”  

John 1:38 NKJV


What do you hope to gain by following Jesus? Have you ever really thought about it?

Are you after His blessing and favor in your life? Do you need Him to fix your financial situation? Do you need His healing touch? Is your marriage broken?

We all have things in our lives that would benefit from Jesus’ intervention, and He longs to intervene! But sometimes I believe we miss God’s blessing in our lives because our focus remains on the things we need Him to do for us instead of centering on Jesus Himself.

Dear one, Jesus longs to transform your heart above all else.

I recently came across this letter I wrote to Jesus in February, 2009. I penned the words in a journal in response to Jesus’ question to His disciples in John 1:38.

I share this letter with you for one purpose: that you might reflect on your own journey and consider what you’ve sought Jesus for. What have you given Him to redeem?

He came to heal your every wound, to fill every empty place, to empower you to greatness in Him. But He will not begin to change you if you don’t seek to allow him to. He does not take what has not been given. He will only touch those things in your life that you freely offer Him.

Jesus has called me to transparency. We can’t hide who we are and simultaneously walk in Christ’s light. So today I share with you a little piece of my heart, unedited, taken straight from the pages of one of my journals. As you read my prayer to our Savior, I ask you to join me in lifting your heart before Him. If His Spirit moves you, offer the words to Him as if they were your own. Or better yet, let Him lead you in writing your own prayer of surrender. Be blessed, dear one.


My Dear Jesus,

How do I even begin to describe what my heart wants to say to you? You are the filler of all my empty places. You continually bind up the pieces of my broken heart until it can begin to beat again with strength and new life.

My journey with you has not been easy, but it has been worth it. You have opened my eyes to see a glimpse of the glorious mystery that is You. I will never be the same!

At times I’ve wanted to run from you . . . thank you for holding me in your grasp and giving me the strength to hold on.

I commit to you this day that I will bind myself to you for eternity. I choose You! You are Love, Life, Joy, Peace, Comfort, Happiness . . . none of it is found apart from you. Teach me to be a woman who doesn’t want what you can give her . . . who just wants You. I want your Spirit to permeate every ounce of my soul. Empower me to grasp the depth of your love. Have your way, Lord!

I commit to walk in your Truth. I will live by your Truth, stand in your Truth, walk in Truth, speak Truth. Lead me Lord!

My heart’s desire is to be a woman of freedom, totally sold out to You. I will not let the enemy have control over any part of my heart. He will nave no authority here. I am yours! Show me “my truth” Lord. Who am I, and what needs to go?

Here is what I offer you. I give you my heart to be molded and shaped to beat in time with yours. I submit my will to yours, trusting that yours is far better. Take control! I give you my teaching. You have given me a gift. It is for Your Glory. I surrender it to your will and your use. Direct my path.

I offer you my selfishness, knowing that only you have the power to change it. Teach me the glory of the fast.

I offer you my fear. My flesh wants to shrink back from the glory that awaits me . . . your perfect plan for me. I can’t yet see it, but I know the enemy desires to keep me from it. I will not let him win. You are the victory.

I offer you my pride. Oh Lord, what a hard battle that has been. You were there when you saw my growing need for acceptance take shape. You watched in sorrow while I allowed the enemy to shackle me in his yoke. You caught each tear that fell so they would not be wasted. You brought beauty from my pain. I praise you Lord, for your absolute goodness!

I know that pride will be an ongoing battle for me because of that pain. Lord, I give you my need for the approval of men. Help me to walk in freedom. May the use of my gifts ever be about your glory and not mine.

I am weak, but I am yours. I am fearful, but I am yours. I am broken, but I am yours. Take control and lead me on the path I am to take. Let my thoughts be your thoughts. Have your way with me, Lord, that I may dwell in the abiding place of your love.

I love you, Lord. Thank you for showing me how.


Do You Love Jesus?

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.       

1 Peter 3:15

A few days ago, a friend of mine shared a story with me about her visit to her son’s elementary school for parent visitation day. This particular day, a little girl in his class had the privilege of being selected as the “star of the day.” She was given the opportunity to share some things about herself with the other students. After telling some stories about a few fun adventures she’d experienced, she finished by adding, “And I love Jesus.”

Caught off-guard by this bold declaration, my friend rejoiced inwardly that this child had been able to proclaim love for Jesus in the public school! Anxious to see what would happen next, she watched as the little girl selected three students from the class who could each ask her one additional question.

One child wanted to hear more about her trip to Disney World. A young boy asked about the NFL game she’d mentioned. And then the last little girl surprised my friend by raising the startling question, “Why do you love Jesus?”

All eyes rested on the star of the day. Why, indeed? A hush fell over the room as both the children and the visiting parents waited to hear her answer.

The hush grew to a tense silence, her unanswered question hanging in the air on pins and needles. No reply followed. The star could find no words to speak in response. Minutes passed before the teacher finally redirected the conversation and brought her time of sharing to a close.

And what of the little girl who wondered why this Jesus was worth loving? She never got her answer.

My heart goes out to the star of the day. I probably would have sat there dumbfounded as well if someone had asked me that question at her age. If I had found the courage to muster up a reply, I’m quite sure my answer would’ve disappointed—at least if the words that came out accurately reflected what was in my heart. “My parents told me I should.”

I spent years fearfully dreading the reality that Christians are supposed to witness to others and share the hope of the Gospel. I never wanted to tell anyone about Jesus. More than two decades would pass before I realized why it frightened me so much. The truth is, I didn’t have anything to say.

I had no real testimony to share. I had lots of knowledge about who Jesus was, and I had learned to respond with the “right” answers early on in Sunday School. But I missed knowing the most important piece of all: Jesus Himself.

I was 26 before I even realized there was a difference. How did I discover it? Jesus showed up one day when I was working through a Bible study.

It was business as usual, filling in the blanks in my workbook so I wouldn’t be embarrassed by empty spaces on the page at our next small group meeting. And then one question—four little words—changed my life forever. “Do you love Jesus?”

I lifted my pen to answer “yes” without even thinking. I knew the right answer: of course! But that day Jesus decided we were going to get real. I’d been pretending long enough, and He had determined to let me see the truth about myself.

Conviction fell over me like a shroud, drowning out any pretense. In that moment, I saw what He saw. I didn’t love Him. I never had. I’d been saying it all my life—at least within church circles—but they were just words on my lips that didn’t match the reality of what lived within my heart.

I remember my hand trembling as I struggled to answer the question. I couldn’t put down the answer I’d started to write, and through the blur of tears, I managed to scratch out two letters on the page. No.

In that moment, I was changed. You see, I encountered the Living God, and I heard what He was speaking to me. I chose to see what He revealed about the darkness in my heart as I stepped into His marvelous light. But what changed everything was my response to the encounter. I wanted to remain there. I wanted to love Him. I wanted to offer Him my heart and trust Him to teach me about Himself. I wanted relationship.

And so the little girl who had grown up in church, attended Christian school, prayed the sinner’s prayer, and married a Christian man, finally got saved at 26.

I began a relationship with Jesus, where I invited Him to lead and I would follow. This time, love shaped the foundation instead of knowledge, and He began to heal my broken places. He started to transform my heart, and the more I discovered about Him, the more I realized I wanted more of Him.

Today, if you were to ask me, “Why do you love Jesus?” you would find I have no loss for words. Instead of Christian platitudes about the cross and salvation, I would tell you sincerely that I love Him because He rescued me out of my emptiness and taught me the way of love.

He is the source of every good thing in my life. He whispers encouragement to my soul when I’m fearful. He assures me of His love when I’m broken and losing my way. He meets me in His Word every time I give Him the opportunity. He has given me purpose. He empowers me to be what I can’t be without Him. He rejoices with me in gladness, and He catches my tears so He can redeem them and bring beauty out of my pain.

Beloved, I love Jesus with everything that I am. He is worth every moment I give Him, every battle I fight for Him, every prayer I utter to Him. I pray you will not settle for knowledge about your Savior. Press your way past the crowds “doing church” and enter the inner sanctuary where His Presence dwells. There He waits to reveal Himself to your seeking heart.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.” Jeremiah 29:13-14

Drowning in Doubt

Okay, Lord. I’m ready to step. I think. I just need you to confirm this is your will.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve dialogued with God over the issue of doubting His will. In fact, the words above just appeared in my journal this morning.

I don’t believe I’m alone in that struggle. I’m pretty certain if you’ve sought to follow the Lord at all, at some point your heart has wrestled over that same question. We struggle in our ability to discern whether the desires prompting us to action stem from God’s will or flow from our own. Sometimes we get it right. Sometimes we don’t. Either way, God honors those who at least try.

That brings us back to our friend, Peter. Last week we looked at how his bold faith sent him over the edge of a boat and out onto the water. We also uncovered an important step he took beforehand that we often miss: he checked with Jesus for permission before he got out of the boat.

Unfortunately, Peter didn’t remain on the miraculous heights where he began. At Jesus’ Word, “Come,” Peter stepped out on the water and began to walk toward Jesus.

But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:30-31

My heart goes out to Peter, perhaps because God has been showing me so much of myself within his story. Maybe you can relate too.

I desperately want to experience everything God has for me. Don’t you? If I can help it, I don’t want to leave anything on the table that Jesus meant for me. I don’t want to be one of the disciples left standing in the boat wondering if that blessing could’ve been mine if only I’d had the courage Peter did.

Like, Peter, I expect great things of God, and when I believe I’ve heard His instruction, I will leap from the boat with both feet and start walking straight toward Jesus.

Unfortunately, our similarities don’t end there. Invariably, as I begin to step, waves start breaking at my feet and I grow unsteady. Wind rises up against me, and I find I have to fight to keep moving forward. My thoughts move from His promise to my view of my circumstances, and the doubt sets in. I begin to wonder if I heard Him right in the first place.

And with that shift in focus, I start to sink. What began as a bold adventure of faith marked by God’s miraculous provision transitions to a rescue mission. I find myself thrashing about, trying to keep my head above the surface of the water. And once again, Jesus must reach out his hand to catch me and lift me onto dry ground.

I’ve decided I’m tired of repeating the cycle. I’m tired of allowing doubt to rob me of the completion of Jesus’ blessings in my life.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful for Jesus’ mercy and His faithfulness to lift me out of the muck and head me back in the right direction, but why keep stopping our forward progress to back peddle because of my doubt?

Once again, I hear Jesus calling me out onto the water. I’m ready to step, and I know that He’ll be right there with me. But this time, I’m asking God to keep my eyes on Him and keep my ears tuned His promise.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  2 Corinthians 12:9

I am weak, but He is strong. I am fearful, but He is certain. I am broken, but He heals. I cannot keep myself above water, but Jesus can keep me so I do not sink.

God offers a promise in Jude 1:1 . . .

To those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ . . .

And in verse 24 . . .

To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—

Jesus is able to keep me from falling. I don’t need to keep stumbling backward. I just need to keep my eyes on Him, lifting the shield of faith against the doubt the enemy sends. With my focus securely on Jesus, I will not fall. He who promised is faithful.

Out on the Water

"Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. Matthew 14:29

I love Peter. He wasn’t one who played it safe, except, of course, for that fateful night when he heard the rooster crow. 

With the exception of denying our Lord at His arrest, Peter is probably most known for his brief trek upon the surface of the water. He alone held the privilege of experiencing that miracle. But then again, no one else got out of the boat.

Peter’s stroll on the lake has ignited many faith-filled believers into action over the centuries. Citing his example, eager disciples leap from their safe circumstances and plunge into the water to trust God for their miracle just like Peter did. Sometimes they get it. Sometimes they don’t.

Have you ever taken a leap of faith that didn’t result in the outcome you expected? Has it left you doubting God’s faithfulness?

We often miss a vital part of Peter’s story, an action he took that we commonly overlook. Before Peter took one step out on that water, he asked Jesus to command him to.

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” Matthew 14:28

Jesus responded with one word, “Come,” signaling to Peter that his journey upon the water was within His will.

Peter didn’t just leap in faith hoping Christ would catch him. He first sought the Lord’s permission. Then he stepped out in faith in direct obedience to Jesus’ command.

We would be wise to follow Peter’s example. Many times, we just jump out on the water without ever bothering to ask God if He’d like us to. Instead of witnessing God’s miraculous provision, we end up in over our heads.

God’s promises flow into our lives when we position ourselves within His will. We express true faith when we walk in obedience to His direction, not when we author our own plans and assume He’ll join us in them.

Do you recall Jesus words from John 10:27?

"My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me."

Peter knew Jesus would meet him on the water because He gave him His consent to proceed. Supernatural power flows at the Word of the Lord, not just because we desire it to. We must seek our Lord’s direction and follow Him into His will if we want to experience His power.

Perhaps that raises an unsettling question for you. If you have sought God’s will and stepped out in faith but didn’t get the outcome you expected, does that mean your actions were not within His will?

Consider Jesus’ words to the disciples of John the Baptist in Matthew 11:6,

“Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”

Jesus’ words came in response to a question John posed from a prison cell, “Are you the one who was to come or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:3)

These are surprising words considering John was the one who announced Jesus to be the Messiah.

. . . John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29

I guess prison walls have a way of obstructing our view. He had been so certain God had spoken (John 1:32-34) and had freely yielded himself to His service, yet he found himself in circumstances he couldn’t explain. They didn’t make sense if Jesus was really all He claimed to be, and so his certainty faded to doubt. And Jesus responded,

Blessed is the one who does not fall away when I don’t act in the way he expects.

When you have sought God’s will and stepped out full of faith in obedience to His call, you needn’t fear. Even if, for a time, things don’t look like you expected them to, He is still exactly who He claims to be. One day, all will be revealed. Until then, your job is to trust. And according to Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:6, that trust will find its way to a blessing.

Don’t allow fear to keep you watching from the sidelines. Choose to live like Peter. Seek the Lord’s direction and step out of the boat in obedience to His call. But if the outcome of your faith falls short of your expectations, heed Jesus’ words and don’t fall away. Eventually, your faith will result in blessing.

The Secrets of the Heart

Last week Bethany shared how God led her down the path of forgiveness after a devastating betrayal. Her willingness to submit to God’s will brought about dramatic restoration and allowed God to work His wonderful good out of her pain (Romans 8:28). Today, she shares some of what God revealed to her about herself that helped to bring about her transformation. May her transparency allow God to work restoration in you.


The Secrets of the Heart by Bethany Johnson

Many say that one of Satan’s most favorite sins is pride.  I never thought of myself as a prideful person (especially because I had such a low self esteem), but God used my painful betrayal experience to bring to light how I often let pride govern me.

Several days after the incident I was approached by a stranger that had been involved in what happened. He proceeded to tell me that I was to blame.  His words devastated me; quite frankly, I had always viewed myself as the victim. 

Now the reasons that this individual used to validate his claim were unfounded, but there was some truth in what he said to me that day.  The actions taken by my offender were ultimately a choice I did not make. He was responsible for his own actions, and I could not be held accountable for his choices. However, when I allowed God to search my heart, I saw that I had played a huge role in the circumstances leading up to those decisions. 

I had been trying to change this person for 9 years through my own abilities.  Never once during that period did I stop and pray for God to work in his heart. I was convinced that if I wanted something done, I needed to take care of it myself. I didn’t want to wait for God.  God was making it clear to me that I do not have the power to change anyone—only He does, and He does it in His perfect timing. 

If only I had put 1 Corinthians 1:30 to memory,

It is because of Him [not the efforts of Bethany Johnson] that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is our righteousness, holiness and redemption.

I needed to be less of a stumbling block for my offender and more of a surrendered vessel for the Holy Spirit.  My next step in this process was to take ownership of my personal guilt and seek repentance.

Scripture revels to us what a true repentant heart looks like in many places, but over the last 6 years these have become two of my favorites:

  • Matthew 3:8 (NLT) – Prove by the way you LIVE that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.
  • Acts 26:20 (NIV) – First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and DEMONSTRATE their repentance by their deeds.

In these verses, God gave me a standard by which I could tangibly see Him working through the both of us.  I saw changes that lasted longer than a few weeks or even months; they were permanent.  We didn’t just change the wrong behaviors; we completely changed the way we “LIVE.” That kind of transformation can never be accomplished through the works of man, but only through the power of the Lord Almighty when we honestly come to Him with a heart seeking repentance. 

Then God revealed the next step in my journey: trust in Him and Him alone.

God showed me that while I professed to have faith in Him, I didn’t really trust Him. Instead, I relied solely on myself and this other person—and look where it got the two of us.  Biblically speaking, my offender had been an idol in my life. I had placed him in a position God was meant to fill. I was giving Satan the victory by placing all my trust in something that was clearly not trustworthy and would continually fail me.  And boy does it hurt when your idols let you down! Thankfully, Jesus never will.

I can’t tell you how many times I was told that I should end my relationship with this person because “people do not change.”  That’s true. People don’t change on their own, and people don’t change other people.  We are all sinful by nature. We need to submit to the power of God’s Spirit.

The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants.  And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires.  These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. Galatians 5:17 (NLT)

My response to that statement quickly became, “You’re right. GOD changes people, and until you can trust in Him to do so, people will never change.”  The day I began saying this was the day I was no longer in control of my own life. He was.  I may have claimed to be saved when I was 7 years old, but I believe now that I did not completely invite the Lord into my heart and give my life to Him until this moment. 

This realization opened my eyes to one of the reasons why the pain of the betrayal was so deep: I had found my identity in that person instead of Christ.

For you are a people holy to the Lord your God.  The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be His people, His treasured possession.  Deuteronomy 7:6

I know that God has chosen me and that I am so very treasured!  He loves and accepts me just how I am because he “knit me in my mother’s womb”.  He will never leave or forsake me because the Holy Spirit dwells in the depths of my heart.  When I identify myself as a child of God then it does not matter what the sinful world throws my way. I am still His.


Begin your own journey to healing! Ladies local to Hanover, PA . . . Beginning October 17, Bethany will be offering an eight-week Bible study in her home entitled "No Other Gods" by Kelly Minter. Fellowship over a meal and then prepare to dig into Truth. Contact Bethany at bjjohnson1014@gmail.com for more details.