Devotions With Montgomery Gentry

Okay, I admit it. I like country music. I also like rock, Motown, jazz, pop, folk, gospel and classical music. But I once tried to distance from country in an ill-fated attempt to be sophisticated. To quote an old family idiom that effort was like putting earrings on a hog. I am a small town boy and my roots are in the hills of Kentucky. So I no longer deny that I have a few banjos and some fine squirrel recipes in my genetic pool.

In addition to the chromosomal predisposition toward Nashville I am developing a deep appreciation for the honesty of country music. It is one of the few safe places to discuss God and country and marriage and old fashioned values without fear of politically correct busybodies getting their undergarments twisted. We all laugh at a few outrageously titled country tunes but there are many that reflect exactly who I am. A proud father, a husband who married way up, a patriotic American and an unabashed follower of Jesus. Not exactly attributes that would make me an A-lister at elite parties.

So a couple of days ago I downloaded (legally) the latest CD from country duo Montgomery Gentry. I had used their song Some People Change in an earlier iPod Devotional article. As dog friend Hannah and I walked I was amazed at how many of their songs led me to spiritual thoughts and meditation. So here is a little review of my Montgomery Gentry devotional.

The first cut on the album begins with a fiery preacher railing at an old fashioned revival meetin’. I remembered stories of churches that took the verse in Mark about juggling snakes quite literally while ignoring many other important texts like love your neighbor. I would need a burning bush from God to pursue that activity (I mean the snake part). But the song reminded me of how we hang our hats on verses and things that don’t matter and miss the meaning, maturity and mission that God has for us.

The title track, Back When I Knew It All, resonated with me. The lyrics describe the passage of many of us.

Back when the world was flat and mama and daddy didn’t have a clue
That was back…back when a pitcher of beer and a couple shots made me bulletproof
Back when God was a name I used in vain to get a point across when I got ticked off
Lord I’m learning so much more……than back when I knew it all

I realize now how little I really knew about being a man and about walking with Jesus. I had bad theology and bad motives so it should come as no big surprise that I was a bad Christian. I was judgmental because I knew exactly what those “sinners” should be doing. I didn’t know their circumstances or challenges. I didn’t care enough to pray for them or come alongside them to help. I just knew they were wrong and I was better than them. At least I felt that way back when I knew it all. Here is another part of the lyric…

I’ve learned that love is a woman that will settle you down
a Sunday sermon can turn life around
Man I can’t believe all the answers I’ve found
since ….back when I knew it all

The song “Long Line of Losers” talks about coming from a unusually dysfunctional family even by country music standards. One line stood out to me.

My bloodline made me who I am.

I thought about the incredible Gospel and how putting your trust in Jesus can reverse that long line of losers legacy. The Cross is not only about forgiveness of sin but also about receiving a new identity. Our old self is also put to death. That long line of losers label no longer applies to those who trust Christ. That old loser mentality is no longer who we are but we have a really hard time trusting that truth. My family bloodline made me who I was. God says that the bloodline of His Son makes me who I am.

“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he declared us righteous…”  (Titus 3, NLT)

God has declared me righteous. A saint. His child. Amazing.

The theme continued with the song God Knows Who I Am. The words talk about realizing that God knows exactly who I am and He still loves me completely. I once agreed completely with the theology expressed in this bit of lyric from that song.

I’m a full time sinner and a part time saint
I ain’t afraid of fear
If it makes me a better man
God knows who I am

Now I have to gently disagree with that theology. I have changed my view of who I am. I have a new identity. I am a full-time saint that still sometimes sins. That is not how I feel a lot of the time. But that is who God says I am. And who am I to argue?

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. (2 Cor 5, NLT) 

God knows who I am and He says I am changed. He sees Christ in me. I stand in amazement and worship. And that realization, not fear, makes me a better man.