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by Cary Branscum


“Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish...” (Luke 13:3).

    You know what? Repentance seems like an old word from an ancient world. Just say the word “REPENT!” and your mind instantly latches hold of a TV preacher with a shiny suit, and coiffed hair, shaking an old worn Bible at the camera.

    Repentance?

    In this day and time?

    Come on, what does that have to do with me?

    Each morning we awaken, swing our feet over the side of the bed, and begin another day. Many of us drift through life, while many others are set on a specific course. Life is like a river, or a journey, or any other metaphor that keeps us moving down an ever-changing course. A friend of mine had a favorite saying. When I was in the dumps about something he would put his hand on my shoulder, and gently say, “Cary, the sun rises, the dogs bark, and the caravan moves across the desert.”

    He’s right, of course. Unfortunately, we often get so caught up in the drift and the motion that we forget to see where we’re heading. So on we go, meandering down life’s journey, never realizing there are times we need to make a course adjustment, or get pointed in the right direction. We forget we need to repent.

    The word repent literally means to “turn around,” “to do an about face,” “to go in the other direction.” It means to occasionally stop on the journey, cock your head to one side, and listen for God’s small quiet voice to turn around. It means to go in the direction God wants and quit going in the direction we have chosen. You see, sometimes God wants us to turn around. Not so he can be the grand puppeteer in our lives, but so that he can keep our life from disaster, or something worse, meaninglessness.

    Several months ago I was driving through a dusty Texas town, and as I sped through the road out of town, I smiled as I passed an old fashioned “gospel meeting” tent. It sat baking in a hot Texas wheat field. In fact, the sides of the old revival tent had been rolled up to catch any wayward breeze.

You see, sometimes God wants us to turn around.
    I smiled and shook my head, wondering how in the world those old fashioned tent meetings could stay in business today. As I drove down the road in my late model car, with my sophisticated religious sensibilities and air conditioned comfort, I decided to turn around, and have a closer look — just out of curiosity, of course. I pulled off onto the dusty field, and parked. The place was quiet. There were no cars, no people, no houses nearby, just hot brown dusty wheat stubble. I stepped out and the wall of Texas heat slammed me in the face and dried me to my bones in an instant. There was something in that the turning around, or the stopping, or dust, or the tent, or the heat that penetrated through the layers of my indifference.

    On the side of the tent was an old creased sign “Gospel Meeting Tonight.” Squinting in the broiling sun, I walked toward the tent, and saw about fifty old wooden folding chairs set up in rows. The speaker’s platform, at the front of the tent, was a small slab of plywood about six inches above the audience. I stood on it, and looked around.

    There were two lights hanging off the center tent pole, high enough to keep the inevitable bugs off the congregation that evening. I stepped to the small, old battered pulpit — the old wooden finish was worn away from many sermons and years of pounding. On each side of the pulpit, two small dusty fake ferns in plastic urns had fallen over, so I set them back up. Gripping the sides of the pulpit, I was touched that people of faith would come here; that people would come to this hot, dry wheat field to hear the Word of God preached and pray for lives to be changed.

    As I hugged the sides of that old pulpit, I began to pray — for the preacher, for the hearers, for the Word — and as I did that, to my surprise, tears started to flow. Tears of repentance for my so-called sophistication, tears of repentance for feeling smug about simple faith, repentance for going in the wrong direction, and gratitude for turning around and coming to this old tent so that I could turn around from some of the directions I was heading.

    I’m glad I turned around — both my car and my heart.

    As I finished praying, I looked down at the old wooden pulpit. My tears were already drying, and soon would be gone without a trace, just like I would be. That’s fine...

    I got back into my car, and headed down the road with the tent receding in my rearview mirror. I did’t know who was “puttin’ on that meetin’” and I don’t know who sponsored it. I know nothing about it. I DO know when they tabulate the responses, there is one they will never know about. One for whom their efforts, prayers, battered pulpit, dusty ferns, and hot dry wheat field had made a huge difference.

    You see, the important thing is that the Lord and I know one that was “brought to repentance” on a hot afternoon in a dusty, sun-baked wheatfield before the “Gospel Meetin’” got started.

    What about you?

    Do you need to turn around?

    If you do, then I offer you an old tent, a dusty wheatfield, a worn old pulpit, a couple of dim lights, the hard dusty heat of a Texas night, and an old invitation to change: “REPENT!”

Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, calling for you and for me...

      Title: ""
      Author: Cary Branscum
      Publication Date: August 21, 2001


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