Thankfully, United Airlines had a nonstop from Los Angeles to Eugene, Oregon. I was wearing four different hats at the time, juggling a variety of responsibilities, and spending much of my life in airports and on airplanes. I was glad I wouldn't have to connect through Portland or Reno or some such place to get to Eugene for the retreat.
It was a men's retreat, the first of two which were scheduled on back-to-back weekends in the snowy mountains of west central Oregon. In between, I would dash up to Seattle and do another conference. Then, finally, a quick trip home to Southern California and I'd be off again somewhere.
Preaching and teaching, those lofty endeavors, were outlined in the aisle seats of so many jumbo jets. Much of my ministry preparation was being done in that narrow slice of space between arm rests aboard the aircraft.
Now, as United carried me through their "friendly skies" toward Eugene, I tried to settle my mind into a studying mode.
There would be more than five hundred of them in the two retreats combined. I knew that they were gathering to hear something worthwhile, something life-changing, something they could take back to their homes and their offices, their shops, and their hunting trips. They wanted something that would help them reach the maximum in their manhood, enabling them to live more Christ like than ever before.
The upcoming retreat was actually small in comparison with many events where I had ministered, or even in comparison with the television ministry in which I had been engaged for years. There was no reason why this trip should seem at all special.
Yet, there was a weightiness, a sobriety, a heaviness- that would not go away. God was doing something in my spirit. I sensed that this jaunt to Oregon to speak to men was a major milestone in my life.
For weeks I had been praying for the right words to say to these men. Pictures of modern man paraded across my mind. In our society, there is a moral pollution that is taking its toll on manhood it is disintegrating before our eyes. I began to realize what a great need there is for men to understand what is happening and to do something about it.
Things are not the way that God intended them to be.
The jet engines whined in the background, and my Bible and notebook were both opened on the table tray in front of me. But, in my meditation, I seemed to lose consciousness of my surroundings. Something was happening in my spirit. I was aware of the Presence of God.
I recalled the teaching that Campbell McAlpine, a well-known Bible teacher, had brought to our fellowship of believers a few weeks before. The passage of Scripture he used had a powerful impact on me. It was as though it were alive, and I had been dwelling on its importance for men ever since.
Campbell had spoken on First Corinthians, chapter ten. The sixth through ninth verses list the five reasons why the Israelites did not get into Canaan, the land of Promise.
It was a basic truth-that God has a land of Promise and blessing for His people. The Israelites had missed their opportunity to enter that land because of five basic sins.
But for me, this Scripture had a meaning that transcended anything I had thought of before. This chronicle of sins related to Israel, but there was a direct correlation to modern man. Scripture says the Israelites were examples for us.
What did it mean for men today?
I looked down at my Bible. I reread the chapter in Corinthians, meditating on those five reasons for Israel's failure to reach the Promised land.
The right words, right approach, right timing are so important to ministry. And I really wanted this message for these men on the snow covered mountains of Oregon to be right.
Here were the reasons for failure, listed in the Word.
As I went through that list of sins that Campbell taught, the sin of fornication really stood out. I began to think about people I had known-know even now-- who failed to reach their "Promised land" because of sex sins.
Couples, men, friends, preachers, congressmen, senators, people from every walk of life. Believers and non-believers. Sinners and saints.
A short time before, a friend of mine from California had approached me. "You know, Ed, you really need to get hot on the subject of sexual promiscuity," he told me point blank, "because its happening all over Orange County! There are people living together and not married, and still going to church and believing they're Christians!"
The children of Israel had nothing on us. We match sin for sin.
Something happened at a family breakfast one morning that really jolted me. As we sat around the breakfast table, I mentioned to my wife, Nancy, and my daughter, Joann, about my growing concern for the sexual problems of modern man.
They listened quietly to me, and then Joann responded with an insight from both her college life and her Christian understanding.
"Dad, don't you know that sex sins will be the problem of the Church in the '80's?"
I just looked at her. It had never occurred to me just that way. But after she said it, like a light springing up within me, I saw an instant picture of our national life-men and women, young and old, leaders and common people alike-all across America. Then around the world. I saw it.
It had been evident that the moral fiber of our nation was being weakened and even shredded on every hand. But then I saw that the Church was not immune. The mores of society were imposing themselves on the Church of Jesus Christ.
So many lives-all being affected by sex sins.