This One’s For You

In life, we all have memories on the highlight reel. Some of them are big blockbuster moments of victory, and others are just funny stories that you’ll never forget. 

This is one of my favorites. 

One Sunday morning, one of my best friends introduced me to his daughter’s new boyfriend. He said something like this. “James, meet Pastor Shawn. Pastor Shawn is a great friend. James, do you know the difference between a good friend and a great friend? A good friend will help you move. A great friend will help you move a body.”

The best part of that story was not just the look on that poor kid’s face but the fact that what my friend said was true. That man was like a brother to me. He cared and prayed for my family and me. When I ran into obstacles I couldn’t overcome, he supplied wisdom and resources to make the situation better and easier. And I did the same for him.

Simply put, he was there for me, and I was there for him. 

If you’ve had a friend like this, you know how special they are and how impossible they are to replace. For some of you, reading that raised a warm, familiar feeling in your heart because you have (or had) a friend just like that. For others, reading that may sting a bit because loneliness or betrayal overwhelm you. 

As I asked God what He wanted me to write this week, He simply answered back, “I am for you!” I wasn’t expecting that. So, I dove into Scripture and found this gem in Isaiah. Have you read this one lately? 

“I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:9-10

In other words, God is for YOU. There is nothing that you could do that would ever stop Him from being for you, and there is nothing you could do that would make Him stop loving you. You are His favorite. You are the apple of His eye. His most valued treasure and He will protect you at all cost. In fact, He already did that on the cross. 

When we know that when a trusted friend has our back, we feel that we can accomplish greatness. We know that we have a safety net if we fail and a cheerleading section to give us the push we need when we’re down and out. Having that kind of friend is amazing. Being that kind of friend is incredible. Knowing that we already have that friend in Christ is irreplaceable.

Whatever it is your are facing today please remember:

For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you. -God. (Jeremiah 29 11-13)

Now that is a great friend!

We will get through this together!

In His Service and at yours!

~Shawn

My Thanksgiving List

Don’t you think that everyone should be required to wait tables at Shoney’s, IHOP, or Waffle House at least once in their lives? Maybe just for a summer, but these and most other food service-related places give opportunities to see people at their best and their worst. Wouldn’t that type of experience change the culture of our country? I think we all would treat each other just a bit better.

I have been watching reports on the shortages of everything going into this holiday season. It seems like we are about to get a front row seat to a bad experiment in human nature. It could get ugly out there. However, the coolest part about this upcoming season is that we get to be the change agent in this crazy mix. We can be the light in the dark.

It all starts with us, but maybe not in the way you automatically think.

Pastor Chip Judd once said, “Pay attention! We tell people how to treat us by the way we hold ourselves, how we talk about ourselves, and how we treat other people. We need to tell the world how we want to be treated.”

Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you do for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:40)

This week, when God put these two thoughts of being light in the darkness and telling the world how to treat us, it had me puzzled. However, the more I thought about this in the context as a pastor, a friend, and even part of a family, the more I realized people don’t treat themselves very nicely at all. 

What if Jesus wasn’t just talking about the other poor and hurting people we encounter? What if He was talking about ourselves too? Indulge me in taking some liberty with the scripture for a moment, but what if that scripture read, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you do for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, including yourself too, you do for me.’ 

This holiday season, I would like propose we remove some of those lofty expectations to please others, have the best dinner, give the best gifts, have the most epic holiday playlist, and the shiniest lit house. Instead of striving for perfection, how about we strive for contentment. 

In a world where we can’t get everything exactly how or when we want it, we can all learn contentment is internal, not external.

I love this season of thankfulness because it’s a reminder to be kind to others, but I’m adding myself to that list this year too.

Happy Thankful week!

In His service and at yours!

~Shawn

Next Gen Family

Recently I was listening to a podcast about what the church needed to do to be attractive to this generation of young adults. Listening to their tactical approach to inviting people to God’s house got me thinking about how much my church has been like a family to me. 

January marks the 23rd year since I lost a bet and came to Seacoast Church for the first time. Even though I stumbled through the doors still drunk from the night before, no one asked me to leave. In fact, they invited me back. As I left that Sunday, I had such little direction in my life that someone saying, “Hope to see you next week!” was all the direction that I needed. Over time, Jesus and the relational culture of the church seeped into me, and it became family, it became home. 

That’s how it should be. After all, God wrote the book on relationships and family.

“In the same way, though there are many of us, we are one body in Christ, and individually we belong to each other.” — Romans 12:5

“Look at how good and pleasing it is when families live together as one.” — Psalm 133:1

Do you know who also is talking about family? Everyone! This is the season for Christmas ads on TV and all your social feeds, and they are all pushing one thing – a season of community and family.  It’s easy to feel lonely and lost with all those happy gatherings and cocktail parties being force-fed to you.

Interestingly, we have the solution to that loneliness. But are presenting it wrong.

The traditional push every year at this time, is to invite a colleague or friend to church on Christmas. What if we changed our tune just a bit? Instead of an invite to what they may see as a building, What if we invited that colleague or friend to family? Our flexible, forgiving, generous, grace filled, fun family. That just may change how the next generation feels about church.

We will get through this together.

In His service and at yours!

~Shawn

Jello to a Tree

“Should we do it?” Anna asked me. “Should we skip putting up the Thanksgiving decorations and dive right into Christmas?” I was wrestling with a 4-foot inflatable pumpkin when she asked, so it took me a moment to weigh the pros and cons of this monumental decision. Before I waded into the profound long-term consequences of my actions, I thought, are we really moving at such a rapid pace that we need to start cutting things like whole holidays out of our conversation?

Call me a Grinch, but maybe the already partially empty grocery store shelves, hefty gas price hikes, and Target playing Christmas music before I’ve finished my Halloween candy have increased the pace of my hustle. Everything seems to have quickened its step, and just like the new fancy grocery store in my neighborhood, everything is all shuffled around from what I knew, and now I have to get used to something different.  

As I was attempting to take my frazzled thoughts about dragging the Christmas tree down from the attic captive and making them obedient to Christ, I remembered something my friend Joye said to me just this week “Our God never moves. He is steadfast and unmovable.”

I knew at that moment that God was speaking to me. 

Joye is one of those people that you know God must love best. If the Beatitudes wore a tee-shirt, it would have Joye’s face on it. She’s kind, humble, sweet, patient, and she loves and serves the Lord like no one I have ever seen. So, when Joye told me about a time when she was distant from God in her early 20s, I listened. The simple truth to her story was that if you feel distant from God, it’s because you moved.

I the Lord do not change.” Malachi 3:6 

Our God never changes and is always steadfast. In fact, His steadfastness is such a strong quality that the Bible mentions it 132 times!

‘Steadfast’ in Hebrew means: aman – To be firm, faithful, true, to trust; have belief; to believe. This word indicates that a subject is lasting or enduring. Also, it signifies being firm or trustworthy.

‘Steadfast’ in Greek means: bebaios – Immovable. Constant, stable, fixed, steady, firm.

Did the guys who wrote the Bible in Greek and Hebrew know something different than we do? Or were they just as much of a hot mess as us at times and needed that reminder too?

So how do we get so distant so fast? 

Why do we rush around this time of year buying this, doing that, going here and there as if we do not have a faithful, certain, immovable Father giving us wisdom, joy, and true peace? The world has gotten pretty savvy, convincing us through 6″ rectangular screens that selfish is better than selfless, control is better than submission, and our plan is better than His plan. 

But the veil has been lifted! We know the truth. We serve a God who does not change, and even when I feel like I’m trying to nail jello to a tree most of my days, He is still the Tree. 

Now we know! We got it! Until we forget it again and start grappling with inflatable pumpkins, hauling down Christmas trees, and grumbling at the price of such and such. I’m glad we get to do this together. I’ll keep reminding you of God’s steadfastness. Will you help me remember too? 

If this resonates with you, please share how in the comments. We are all in this together!

In His service and at yours!

~Shawn

Need A Rescue?

Last week I had the honor of leading a 4000 conference for pastors. It was the biggest event I had ever done, and it wiped me out. This week as I was putting myself back together. The thought I had was I needed a rescue. It reminded me of my great friend Steve Pollock, who has spent time as a Coast Guard Rescuer. So, I asked him to write for us this week. Here are the thoughts that he and God put together for us:

A common theme in life and our small group is the concept of timing and process. How do you get them both right? The analogy of one boat towing another boat came to mind from my experience as a Coast Guard Rescuer. 

A boat rescuer to the Coast Guard is what a fireman is to the local fire station. We’re on duty, physically sleeping, cooking, and eating at the station, for a couple of days in a row…waiting for a call to come in. We train a lot to conduct rescues during that time. Our average week runs 80+ hours between training and the several actual calls that come in each week.

We go out any time a boater gets in any kind of trouble and calls us. Sometimes they run out of gas, go aground, start sinking, or lose someone over the side. No matter the weather we go. It is often a thrill to be going into the teeth of a storm when everybody else is racing to get away from it. For me, it is a calling. I’m not kidding…the sea is in my blood, and I can’t imagine a time in my life that I don’t go back. 

The process of the rescue includes using a tow line that is really strong, putting pressure skillfully in the right places at the right time. In unskilled hands, a bad situation can get worse.

Have you ever noticed God’s timing and process is never convenient? 

I woke up at 2:30 am twice this week. I didn’t want to be awake, so I kept trying to will myself to go back to sleep. Since that never works, I figured I do some praying, and as I did, the word “writhing” came to mind – although I wouldn’t have said it before the word came to mind. I did have that unrest deep enough that I actually felt like I was writhing in a type of psychological turmoil. That same quiet voice that woke me up invited me to open the Bible, and I opened to the verse of the day.

“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you.”
Isaiah 26:3

I kept reading. Verse 17 in this very chapter describes “writhing” in pain as when a woman writhes while in labor. Coincidence? I am not that familiar with this scripture, so this had to be God’s special way to let me know He’s talking to me. It has happened before. He masterfully brings a word to mind and then guides me to a specific book of the Bible to find the same word repeated. God can be playful in this with me too. The next day, I told my friend Shawn about this experience. Care to guess what was written on his t-shirt? Isaiah 26:3! Coincidence? 

Here’s what I think He is trying to say: my life, my circumstances, my deliverance is not mine to control. I want to heal now. I want to understand my wounds now. I want to be as light as a feather now. In my eagerness for inner peace, I’m bypassing God’s process for healing by trying harder. I’m ignoring His timing by naming the time and place I’ll be changed. If I want peace, I need to recognize who is in charge and fix my eyes on Him. Otherwise, I’ll just keep on writing and giving birth to the wind.

You know what makes a rescue work? It’s when the one in trouble accepts the fact that he cannot save himself and needs the Rescuer.  ~Stephen Pollock

Big God Big Feet

This seems to be a season where my attention keeps getting drawn to how big our God is. You can see it in many of my posts over the past several months. He is way bigger than we can comprehend and yet still chooses to love and want to live with us on such a personal level.

“God hung the stars in the sky – the Dipper, Orion, the Pleiades, and the stars of the south. We cannot understand the great things he does, and to his miracles there is no end.” Job 9:9-10

“Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.” Psalm 147:5

Let’s be real, If I had that much power, the world would be a mess, and I would be a mess. But Jesus had that power and walked among us. His stomach growled when he got hungry, his muscles ached when he overworked them, and his eyes grew heavy when he was tired, just like us. 

He was God and chose to live among us for 33 years. He learned what it was like to be a man so that our relationship could be real. Think about it, is there anything more meaningful in a relationship than the words “I understand” and “Me too?”

Jesus formed us, made us in His image, taught us, laughed with us, disciplined us, was patient with us, and right before he was about to be beaten mercilessly and die for us, he did something radical. He served his disciples. He didn’t host a dinner party, buy them all lattes or give a speech. He took the form of the lowest servant and lovingly washed their stinky feet. 

“It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” John 13 1-5

Interestingly, in verse 3, the Bible notes Jesus’ power and authority. That same power and authority is also mentioned several other places in the Bible like this:

God put all things under the feet (authority)of Christ and made him head over all things. Ephesians 1:22

The last enemy to be destroyed is and will be death. For God has put everything under Christ’s feet. 1 Corinthians 15:27

In Him you and I have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; Colossians 2:10

Did you get that? Jesus, the God who has all of the heavens and earth under His feet, washed ours.

Mic drop…

You are worthy, righteous, redeemed, and washed clean by the King of the Universe. You are that valuable to Him. If you think otherwise, look above again. If it doesn’t sink in, reread those scriptures.

If this hits you square between the eyes like it did me or changes how you see things, please let me know in the comments. We are better when we do this together!

In His service and at yours.

~Shawn

His Promise

Are you watching Ted Lasso? No judgment if you are or are not. But the 7-time Emmy Award-winning flagrant cussing comedy finished its second season last week. It ended in ugly betrayal, and without revealing the spoilers, all I can say is the main character was done so dirty, it left me stinging for some reason. I went to bed uneasy, and I woke up seeking answers to my uneasiness and turned to the Word. 

I have not had much deception or deceit dealt my way, but when it comes, it sure stings. The feelings are memorable and linger long past the time it happens, especially when done by someone close to you. I think you would agree that most betrayal comes from wanting something someone else has. Position, power, relationship, status, and property all seem to drive shortcuts and cut downs. The closer the doer is, the deeper the wound.

King David said it like this:

“If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend…” Psalm 55:12-13

They were his “boys,” and they betrayed their friend, David.

What would I do with all those emotions if that happened to me? Betrayal stings. Would I sting back? Would I compartmentalize it? It’s so easy for it to turn ugly fast. Instead of violence or self-medication, David turns to God.

“As for me, I call to God, and the Lord saves me. Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice. He rescues me unharmed from the battle waged against me, even though many oppose me.” Psalm 55: 17-18

Great advice, Uncle Dave, but may I share one fundamental problem? That seems like a lot of pain to give to God. Does He really have time for my drama?

It’s hard to trust God because I think He is going to let me down. 

Why would the God of the Universe let one of His beloved children down? Well, He wouldn’t. It’s my skewed interpretation of God. People have let me down, so God will probably too.

But His Promise says something completely different.

“Be content with such things as you have: for He has said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

Never? And what does forsake mean anyway? According to Strongs Concordance, the word “forsake” in the Bible has been used as abandon, desert, leave in straits, leave helpless, utterly forsaken, to leave behind, to leave left just surviving.

Remember that promise that comes from Hebrews at the back of the Bible? That is a quote of a promise that God started in the very front part of the Bible, and He knew who He was talking to, so He even has Moses hear it and then repeats it to Joshua!

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their ancestors to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”‘ Deuteronomy 31:6-8

Let me repeat this:

God will never abandon you.

God will never leave you in straits.

God will never leave helpless.

God will never leave you utterly forsaken. 

God will never leave you behind

God will never leave you just surviving.

God will never betray you.  

He can handle your pain, disappointment, trauma, and even your drama. He is in this with you. And so are we. If you have anything I can help you pray about, would you please drop me an email? ShawnMcCarthy@seacoast.org.

We will get through this together!

In His service and at yours!

~Shawn

Your Language

A couple of friends and I are going through a small group study called Rooted that Mariners Church in California put together, and there was a particular chapter on how God speaks to us that really stood out. It said that God speaks to us through circumstance, His creation, other people. supernaturally, and often through His Word.

As we broke into a discussion about this, we all mentioned the different ways that God speaks to us. It was so interesting! Whether it was through song, emotion, colors, or just words not known to our vocabulary, it was incredibly cool how personal and different it was. My friend Brian had a statement that said it best. He said, “Isn’t it cool that in all the different ways we just listed, God speaks to us in our language.”

It was just another simple reminder to me of how much our God loves us. 

Not only did He create us from dust…

“Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” Genesis 2:7

He intimately knit us together and placed us in our mother’s womb…

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:13-14

He has led us each and every step of the way…

“The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in His way…” Psalm 37:23

AND He speaks to us in a language that’s personal, relatable, and intimately ours.

You may have read in my very first post on here how God speaks to me. Now, I want to hear how God speaks to you! I’d love to be encouraged by hearing your story. Please leave it in the comments below or shoot me an email at shawnmccarthy@seacoast.org.

We will get through this together! 

In his service in at yours, 

~Shawn

What Do You Want?

This week the Shawn-God Red Letter Moments thought train had many stops but ended up pulling into the best station possible.

Tuesday morning, I was standing at the coffee maker asking God what He wanted me to talk about in the men’s group that I lead. Most of the time, we have a curriculum to walk through. However, it was one of those weeks where we were open to other topics. So I said, “Hey, Lord, what would you like me to talk about today?” 

And He asked, “What do you want?”

I told Him frankly that I wanted to go back to bed, and as I was chuckling at my joke, I realized I was pulling the leg of the Creator of a universe and that He was serious. He wanted me to ask that question to my guys.

As I drove to the group, I remembered the story in the Bible where Jesus asked somebody, “what do you want” and so I Googled it and quickly found the passage, and it’s when Jesus was talking to a blind man named Bartimaeus. 

Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” They called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. (Mark 10:46-52)

So let me ask you this? If one of Jesus’ best friends grabbed hold of you excitedly and brought you to the feet of King Jesus and He asked you, “What do you want?” Would you know? Would you be too starstruck to talk?

I haven’t met many famous people, but I have a unique story about meeting Larry Bird in 2002. Larry Bird was a predominant basketball player in the 80s that played for the Boston Celtics. As an Irish lad in the north, you couldn’t help but cheer for the Celtics. So you can imagine how excited I was when I heard that Mr. Bird was in the banquet room of a wedding that I was working with catering staff.

I distractedly loaded up my tray with used glasses from around the room and kept my eyes peeled for “The Great White Hope.” I never saw him, or should I say I never saw him coming. I turned around after grabbing one more glass and ran smack into my iconic hero. Let me just say that guy is tall, and I am not. So when I say I ran right into him, I should clarify that my head ran into his thigh. 

As I stared straight up at this legend, all I could say was I’m sorry, and all he could say was, “Do you know where the bathrooms are?” Instead of telling him all the fanboy things at that moment or even walking him to the bathroom with excellent service, I just stared up at him and the ceiling pointing silently in the direction of the bathrooms.

It’s a funny story, but in all honesty, I got nothing from our interaction, and there was no autograph or even dialogue. Even now, looking back, I can’t say that I knew what I wanted to say if he had talked to me.

I told this tale to my brothers and then asked them if they had just one moment with Jesus would they know what they wanted? We had many good answers that morning. Transparent and true answers that don’t need to be shared here. Except for one that I think was the closest to being the “right” answer. My friend Josh said, “I want to know who Jesus says I am. I want to know my true identity. Not the one that I have cultivated over 30+ years. I want to know the name and identity God calls me and calls me into.”

Let me ask you the same question. Do you know what you would ask if you were one-on-one with Jesus? Would identity be on the top of the list? Or do you need healing of any kind? Or would you ask deep philosophical questions about creation or why dinosaurs are not in the Bible? 

Whatever you want to know, He is with you and waiting. He has the perfect answer for you, and it only requires that you ask.

We will get through this together!

In His service and at yours!

~Shawn

The Easy Way 

Over the last 17 years, I have passed a run-down mobile home park several times a month. The sign at the front entrance always smacks me with irony. It’s called, Easy Way Park, and let me tell you, there is nothing easy about the way there.

It’s like my grandmother’s words come to life. “The easy way may look easy, but it often costs twice as much.” While she was alive, I never knew what it meant, but as an adult, business owner, and pastor. It plays out around me daily. 

The book of Matthew quotes Jesus as saying, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.

So if this wisdom has been around since the 1930s and the 0030s, why is evidence of the easy way everywhere?

I think it’s as simple as fear. The fear that dwells inside of all of us. How many times just this week, have you said that you were afraid?

I’m afraid toilet paper will run out in stores again.
I’m afraid interest rates are going to go back up.
I’m afraid COVID is making a return. 
I’m afraid my car is on its last legs.
I’m afraid we will never have a baby.
I’m afraid our relationship is over.
I’m afraid that I blew that proposal.
I’m afraid I will never get married.
I’m afraid the roof needs replaced.
I’m afraid we are out of time.
I’m afraid we won’t make it there today. 
I’m afraid that the hurricane is in the gulf.
I’m afraid that lump is cancer.
I’m afraid I will never get promoted.

Simple fears, that influence us into settling on whatever we come across or what we can scrape together. All because we have psyched ourselves into thinking that good fortune is scarce and we should just take whatever shows up. 

But if we look at what Jesus says just before talking about some gate walking: 

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are heathens, you know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:8-10

We need to ask and believe that He ONLY gives us the good stuff. 
The really good stuff.

In this world you will have trouble, but take heart I have overcome the world.” “I have come to give you abundant life.” ~Jesus (John 16:33 & John 10:10)

Take notice that Jesus says He came to give us abundant life. He didn’t say anything about giving us an easy way out. He tells us that we will have trouble in this world. So, are you ready for the hard way? Does it make you nervous even thinking about it? The good news is God will work on it with you if you ask Him.

The hard way often looks like having real conversations. Truthful, kind, and direct conflict, severing unhealthy relationships, living within your means. Being kind to yourself, and placing boundaries. Not using coping mechanisms like alcohol, TV, or food to self-soothe.

Just circle the one above that makes you the most unnerved and let Him into it. He loves you and wants the best for you!

We will get through this together!

In His service and at yours,

~Shawn