Down & Dirty Theology: Giving Death the Finger

Some of you might remember that I wrote about Troy back in December.  At the time, he was facing terminal cancer.  At the time I wrote,

This past weekend, I led singing for a baptism service.  It was for a man named Troy.  Troy wanted to make a profession of faith about his love for Jesus, above all else.  He also wanted to tell his kids that God is a better Father than he will ever be.  “So when I’m gone,” Troy said, “remember this day.”

I also wrote,

I’m following the example of Troy.  I want to serve God now.  I want to worship God now, instead of idols, in the wilderness of our world.

Troy died this week and went to be with Jesus in eternity.  As I reflected on Troy’s life and how to worship in this wilderness, I was reminded of something else I wrote, after my son died.  I want to share it with you as we remember the testimony of Troy Mann and follow his example in walking with Jesus through the valley of the shadow of death…


Life moves on.  I get up in the morning and put my pants on, one leg at a time.  I eat my cereal and drive to work just like everyone else.  As I watch the faces of the other drivers, I wonder, “What they are thinking about?”.

The death of a loved one changes us in too many ways to count.  And now as I look again at the faces of the people driving past me on the way work, I realize at least one thing my son’s death has enabled me to do…

It enables me to give death “the finger”.

You might be shocked that I would say that.  But stay with me…at my son’s funeral, we sang Matt Mahr’s song, “Christ is Risen”.  The bridge is taken directly from Paul in 1 Corinthians where he paraphrases Isaiah 25:8 and Hosea 13:14.  He writes about the resurrection…



As we sang, Sara and I raised our hands to worship the Lord of Life, but as we did that, I instinctively turned my open hand into a fist.  I wasn’t just praising God, I was insulting sin and death that had taken our son.

I was giving death the finger.

Death might think that it took my son forever.  Death might think that it took Troy forever, but we know that because of Jesus this is temporary.  And as we live now, we are following Paul’s lead in defiantly living in the face of death with tears in our eyes.  Think about it…

Where is death’s power to hurt us?  We believers are dead and then we come back to live again forever.  We are out of death’s reach.  What kind of heat is it packing now?  We can trash-talk it’s power and give the finger to it’s wrath.  And the grave?!?!?! Where is it’s victory?  We used to be it’s prisoners, but now the doors are blown open.  The locks and dead-bolts have been broken.  Our chains are thrown off.  Death has died and captivity is now captive.

I still get up in the morning and put my pants on, one leg at a time, just like the other drivers on their way to work every day.  But for me, for us, we can now give death the finger.


New Song: One Day (When We All Get to Heaven)

Have you suffered a major illness?  Have you lost someone you love?  I have.  And the older I get, the more I look forward to the glory of Heaven with Jesus.

This weekend we are learning a new/old song about heaven.  It’s based on the old hymn, “When We All Get to Heaven”.  The original song was written by Eliza Edmunds Hewitt.  This amazing woman was a school teacher in Philadelphia and a christian volunteer who was deeply devoted to teaching the Bible to kids.  Eliza’s goal in writing her songs was to reach children and teach them the basic truths of the gospel.  She also enjoyed a long personal friendship with Fanny Crosby, another famous worship song writer.  The new song we are learning was recorded by Matt Redman with new verses.

But before we jump in, a few opening thoughts about heaven…

First, Heaven is the place where God dwells and the Jesus is preparing for us.  However, it’s also good to remember that the point of heaven is not that we “get out of here”, but that God brings his rule and reign (heaven) down to us in the new heavens and the new earth.

Secondly, there are two major views about what happens in heaven.  1. We know that we will have eternity to worship/contemplate/learn more and more about our infinite God.  2. We will be reunited with all believers throughout history without any sin or death.  These are both true, but I’d like to add a third thing we know about heaven.  3. Heaven will be all of that and more…we will be face to face with God!

Lastly, I think it’s important to remember that this song is sung by believers and to believers.  We still hold that heaven is a place for believers and that salvation is through the work of Christ alone and his grace and mercy to us as sinners.

Alright, enough talking…let’s jump in…We start at the end of time.  That’s right, the first verse comes from Revelation.

‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” -21:4

[Verse 1]
One day You’ll make everything new, Jesus
One day You will bind every wound
The former things shall all pass away
No more tears

Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. -1 Corinthians 13:12b

[Verse 2]
One day You’ll make sense of it all, Jesus
One day every question resolved
Every anxious thought left behind
No more fear

And then we come to heaven and the chorus that most of us have heard before.  It comes from 1 Corinthians and Revelation.  I love the added heading in the ESV version before Revelation 19.  It reminds us that all believers will be “Rejoicing in Heaven” because of the salvation victory of Jesus over sin and death.

[Rejoicing in Heaven] After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God… -19:1

Then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

“Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?”

…thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. -1 Corinthians 15:54-56a

When we all get to heaven
What a day of rejoicing that will be
When we all see Jesus
We’ll sing and shout the victory

Onto the next two verses.  Verse 3 refers to the book of 1 Corinthians…

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. -1 Corinthians 13:12a

 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.  -1 Corinthians 15:52-53a

[Verse 3]
One day we will see face to face, Jesus
Is there a greater vision of grace
And in a moment, we shall be changed
On that day

Finally, we are encouraged by Paul not to lose heart, but to finish the race…

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  -2 Corinthians 4:17

[Verse 4]
And one day we’ll be free, free indeed, Jesus
One day all this struggle will cease
And we will see Your glory revealed
On that day


DAVID Preview Video!

I have had numerous questions about available video for the DAVID show.  

So, we are going to release a short 11 min teaser from the weekend so you can get a taste of it and invite others to the show in.  (CLICK HERE FOR TICKET INFO)

Until then, I hope you enjoy this preview video from DAVID!

Performance February 16-18 and 23-25 with all-for-One Productions at the PPG ArtsLab Black Box Theater
300 E Main Street, Fort Wayne, IN.  Ticket info Here!


The other morning, the Christmas tree was twinkling as the darkness slowly lifted.  I had gotten ready for the day and was making a sandwich in the kitchen.  Sara was reading her Bible in the living room while our son played on the floor.  And then I heard it…

“Zion, don’t mess with the Christmas tree…”

Now we knew that the “little man” would want to mess with the tree.  So this year, we purchased a 4′ tree and put it on a full size table.  We also put the ornaments a little higher up the tree so he couldn’t reach them.  However, this doesn’t stop him from trying to grab the lowest branches and lights to put them in his mouth.  I know.  Why would you put pine tree branches and Christmas lights in your mouth?  I don’t know.  The kid is 11 months so…whatever.

“Zion!  NO!”

I put down the Mayo and started walking towards the living room because I knew this wasn’t going to end well.  I arrived in the living room to discover that the “little man” was in a heap of trouble.  He had managed to distract his mom by messing with the Christmas tree, crawl to the other side of the room, where she had left her Bible, and rip a page out of the gospel of John.

This kind of thing happens all the time on a cosmic scale as we mess up God’s world.  Why doesn’t he just destroy us all and start over?  It’s the same reason that my wife cares for her son more than any book she owns.  Love.

Love makes people do crazy things.  The stories we tell in literature and film are full of examples of the crazy things people will do for love…It’s the motive behind a thousand songs and poems.  It’s woven into the fabric of our universe because it’s reflective of the very heart of God.  Love is what sends Jesus into the humble estate of Mary’s womb.  It leads him through his quiet life, his rambunctious public ministry and his agony at Golgotha.*

This Christmas, let’s enter into the love song of Jesus.  It’s a song of suffering as he hung on the cross, but also one of praise.  He invites us to sing this Christmas carol of praise to the God who saves through his sacrificial love.  As we sing in the carol, “What Child Is This?”

Vs2: Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and lamb are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.**


*Quote from “Rhythms of Grace” by Mike Cosper.

**Lyrics by Will­iam C. DixThe Man­ger Throne, 1865.


Worship in the wilderness of our world is hard.

This past weekend, I led singing for a baptism service.  It was for a man named Troy.  Troy wanted to make a profession of faith about his love for Jesus, above all else. He also wanted to tell his kids that God is a better Father than he will ever be.  “So when I’m gone,” Troy said, “remember this day.”

Troy has an in-operable cancer in his esophagus and doesn’t know how much time he has.  And what time he does have left, he wants to live for Christ.

Yes.  Worship in the wilderness of our world is hard.

Worship isn’t just what we do on the weekend when we sing and listen to a sermon.  Remember when I wrote that our whole lives should be worship to the Lord?  Here is the reality of worship in the wilderness:   our lives DO reveal our worship, but many times it’s the worship of idols.  As the singer/songwriter, Bob Dylan, wrote,

“It may be the devil, or it may be the Lord, but you’re gonna have to serve somebody…”

We serve our work…grasping for status and money.

We serve the idea of “love”…with someone who “completes me”.

We serve our kids…hoping they prove our parenthood.

And while those things are good gifts from God, they make terrible idols.  They promise the world and give you nothing in return.

So this Advent season, I’m following the example of Troy.  I want to serve God now.  I want to worship God now, instead of idols, in the wilderness of our world.

So I am listening for another song.  It’s the song of God that he sings over his children.  It’s a song I long to sing…a song I’m waiting to sing…

…but that’s for next week.

Spoken Word Psalm 42

This spoken word psalm came out of the staff prayer retreat a few weeks ago.  We had been praying out of the bible and then took an hour for personal reflection.  I realized that I had been overly anxious about the news headlines and my son’s lack of sleep had expanded that fear.  It was coloring the way I saw the world.  During our prayer time, someone had read a piece of Psalm 42 so I went there and rewrote it to help me process my fear and anxiety.  Maybe you have experienced something like that.  Maybe this psalm will help you ask the same question and come to the same answer:  Why does my stomach churn with anxiety within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will again praise Him, my Savior and my God.

As my son screams for streams of

milk in his 3AM bottle,

So my soul cries for you, God.

My soul thirsts for Jesus,

the living God.

Where can I go to meet

with him?


My fears have been my junk-food

day and night.

While headlines fill my news-feed

and seed my mind with questions…

“Where is your God?”

These things I will remember 

as I pour out my soul:

How I used to go with your people

leading the vocals and band with

the children of God

with shouts of joy and 

thanks among the

ranks of His people.


Why?  Why are you down, my soul?

Why does my stomach churn with anxiety

within me?

Put your hope in God,

for I will again praise Him,

my Savior and my God.


But seriously, my stomach churns

and my soul still burns.

Therefore, I will remember you

from the hills of PA

to the chemo for 5 hours a day.

Deep calls to deep,

in the roar of headwaters,

all your waves and hurricanes

have swept over me.

But by day the Lord gives his love,

and at night he sings his lullaby over me.

So now, I pray to the God of my life.

So I say to God,

my Rock in the storm,

“Why does it feel I’ve been still-born?

Why must I deal with cancer and death

and a world that crushes thoughts and breath?

My bones ache, my stomach still churns

as the screen taunts me

all day long,

“Where is your God?”


Why?  Why are you down, my soul?

Why does my stomach churn with anxiety

within me?

Put your hope in God

for I will again praise Him,

my Savior and my God.

Worship itself is a re-presentation of Christ. . . . Consequently, when we worship, the conflict between good and evil that we experience in our everyday lives is confronted and resolved.  We leave worship once again with the personal assurance that the battle is won—Satan has been, is now being, and will be defeated. Because we are confident in Christ’s victory, we experience a great release from the burden of our sin and we become filled with joy and peace.

-Robert Webber, Worship Is a Verb: Celebrating God’s Mighty Deeds of Salvation, Second Edition

Spoken-word Psalm 6

I was in the hospital again this week with a friend.  He’s home now and is going to be ok.  I met with another friend over lunch who is struggling with what is happening in his life right now.  Both were struggling so I thought there might be others out there too.

Here is a psalm that I re-wrote for you when you’re tired, hurting, sick or just emotionally worn out.  It was originally written by David because he struggled with the same kinds of things…and he wrote this to God…for himself…for you…


don’t hammer me in your anger
    or whoop me in your wrath.
Please have some mercy, Lord, for




    Heal me, Lord, for my stomach’s on fire.
My soul is delving deep in darkness
    And my heart is a liar.

Turn, Lord, so I can see you;
    save me because of your animating love.
The numb no longer know your name.
    Who praises you while staring at the TV screen?

(Remote control:  click, click, click…)

And here I am worn out from…everything

All night, I sit like a vegetable with arms
    and mumble many mono-syllables.
My eyes grow heavy and hurt;
    and then my nose



run.  (snort)

Get behind me, sarcasm,
    (And yeah!, the Lord has seen my selfishness and…that sarcasm too.)
The Lord has heard me “hello?” for help;
    the Lord accepts my pathetic prayer.

All my insecurity will be overwhelmed with holy dreams and sleep;
    as my will repents and prays,

“…the Lord my soul to keep”.

Prayer by Dana Gioia

I discovered this poem and it touched me deeply.  I don’t know the situation or the circumstances that birthed these words, but I resonate with them.  The joining of grief, art, faith, lament, hope…

Echo of the clocktower, footstep
in the alleyway, sweep
of the wind sifting the leaves.

Jeweller of the spiderweb, connoisseur
of autumn’s opulence, blade of lightning
harvesting the sky.

Keeper of the small gate, choreographer
of entrances and exits, midnight
whisper travelling the wires.

Seducer, healer, deity or thief,
I will see you soon enough—
in the shadow of the rainfall,

in the brief violet darkening a sunset—
but until then I pray watch over him
as a mountain guards its covert ore

and the harsh falcon its flightless young.