Monthly Archives: March 2012

My Son in College? Say it isn’t so.

I need to pack tonight for a visit to Chicagoland tomorrow with Josh and Diane.  We’re headed to Trinity International University in Deerfield for Josh’s first visit of a potential college.  How time flies…Yesterday morning I walked into the bathroom and found him shaving.  He’s a high school junior and has been doing that for a while, but the vision of it arrested me afresh.

I remember his birth, oh so well…I was leading the single adult ministry (30 and over) at Harvest Bible Chapel and had taken careful pains to find a speaker who could fill in, just in case Diane went into labor on or near our Friday ministry (known as Desert Streams).  Wouldn’t you know it – she went into labor on a Friday.  Rick Donald was ready to go; the problem was that I hadn’t taken care of the other details for the evening.  So there we were in the delivery room, Diane going through labor pains, and I on the phone arranging for cookies and punch.  In case you’re wondering, she has since forgiven me.

And then he was born: Glorious. Wonderful. Awesome. I recall walking around the hospital ward on Saturday morning, holding my day-old son, and introducing him to the sunrise.  Those days were so full of joy…and sleeplessness.  Welcome to parenting, Rog and Di – the greatest joy you’ll ever know coupled with the greatest…well, fill in the blank…worries, sacrifice, sleeplessness. Guess I said that last one already, but Josh wasn’t big on sleep in those days.  He has since learned.

We named him Joshua Kendon, after one of my favorite personalities in the Bible and his two grandfathers (Ken Fenske and Don Knowlton).  Diane’s dad got pride of first place because Donken didn’t have the same ring to it.

17 years…really? Where did they go?  And college…that’s a place where the children of my friends go, not my own.  My own children stay at home every evening to be read stories to and tucked into bed. My own children play hide and seek with me; we do “flips and tricks” in the living room.  Other people may have children who leave home for weeks and months at a time.  Not in the Knowlton household.   Knowlton children do not have experiences apart from me.  They do not make friends whose names I do not know.  They are home, in my arms, and I am introducing them to the sunrise.

Except tomorrow…tomorrow is the day when I wake up and begin the process of introducing my son…to college.


Posted by on March 28, 2012 in Uncategorized


Team 500

I’m sitting at the Madison airport on Sunday afternoon waiting for Flight # 4390, American Eagle to Chicago, O’Hare.  The kids dropped me off.  Under Josh’s capable direction, they’re going to paint the town red (go to the mall) before heading home this evening.  From Chicago, I head to Charlotte, North Carolina where until Wednesday this week, I’ll be meeting with about 35 other pastors from around the country. 

It’s a group called Team 500, for pastors in the Evangelical Free Church whose churches are between 500 and 1,000 in attendance.  We’ve found that we share common troubles and joys, and it’s nice to get together and encourage one another once a year.

We’re led by Bill Hamel, our denomination’s president, and 2 or 3 other pastors from larger churches in the Free Church, guys who have been where we’ve been.  One of those men leading the discussion this week will be Chris Dolson, pastor of Blackhawk church in Madison.

It was probably 7 or 8 years ago that I heard Chris speak at the EFCA National conference.  His message was terrific, and I thought it would be great to pick his brain about preaching.  At a district conference later that year, I mentioned to one of our leaders that I was blessed by Chris’ message, and this leader pointed to him across the room.  I introduced myself and we got together some weeks later.  He’s been a friend ever since.  Interestingly, Chris received the Lilly Grant a year or so after I did, and he too went on a terrific sabbatical, not in Scotland and Europe, but lazily driving up the West coast and cruising around Alaska.

Back to Team 500: The format for our week together is interesting.  We’ll first meet after lunch together on Monday and sit in a large circle with a number of white posters around the room.  On these posters we write various topics we would like to discuss.  (I have one or two I will write down.)  After this, all of us wander around the room and place a mark next to topics others have suggested that we ourselves would like to bat around.  The topics with the most votes get discussed.  The discussions are always fascinating, even if yours doesn’t get picked.

Some of the topics we have discussed through the years include staff management, multi-site ministry, hiring and firing, executive pastors (most of us are approaching the size that such a hire is being considered), preaching, prayer, what we’re reading lately, and on and on.  Occasionally we do “dumb tax”, which is where we share something dumb we have done lately to help everyone else not repeat the error.  That’s fun.  Team 500 is more work than the average conference where you simply go and worship and hear great preaching or teaching on relevant topics – I think these types of conferences are very important too – but at Team 500 you end up building in to others as well as being built into.  All in all, it’s a very enjoyable week.

I’m staying with a guy named Steve from Indiana.  I often share a room with another guy to cut expenses.  This year I rolled the dice and sent a note offering to share a room to our mass email list, wondering if anyone would take me up on it.  Steve answered, although after he agreed, he warned me that he snored…suffice it to say that I’ve brought ear plugs along. 

So if you’re thinking about me, pray for the next three days in Charlotte, for good discussions, enjoyable conversations, safe and non-bumpy flights, and…maybe even a night or two of good sleep.

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Posted by on March 18, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Preparing For The Hunger Games

Our tickets are purchased for next Friday morning at 12 midnight – the adventures of Katniss and Peeta in The Hunger Games. Everyone in the Knowlton clan except our youngest has read the book, and we’re fired up to silently salute Rue with two fingers on the lips. It should be quite a night.

If you haven’t read Suzanne Collins’ trilogy, there’s still time to get the first one under your belt before the movie. As for the second two, I read them, but as far as I’m concerned, they don’t compare. The first book was masterful, though – a delight. I read it when we went to Disney last year, and as much as I enjoyed the Magic Kingdom, I was almost tempted to stay home and read.  I hope the movie doesn’t disappoint.


The story: Sometime in the distant future, a post-apocalyptic world has emerged in former North America, and the country of Panem remains.  Within Panem, there are 12 districts, all ruled from a utopian like, technologically advanced city – Panem’s “Capitol.”  As punishment for an uprising nearly 75 years earlier, the Capitol now requires each district to hold a lottery each year, selecting one boy and one girl between ages 12 and 18 (24 in all) to head to an undisclosed location for a gladiatorial contest, a fight to the death where only one will survive.  And it’s all on television, yielding a combination of Ancient Rome and Survivor for your viewing pleasure (unless, of course, you’re a mom, dad, brother, sister, friend…or decent human being, for that matter).

Our heroine is 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, whose father has died in a mining accident sometime in the recent past.  She cares for her little sister Primrose (Prim), not to mention their mother who has never quite recovered from losing her husband.  Katniss is a hunter, illegally going outside the walls of District 12 with her male friend Gale to bring home food for her family, and to sell in the open market. 

When the lottery comes to pass, it just happens to be 12-year-old Prim’s first year of eligibility.  What are the odds she will be chosen?  And if she is, might just her sheltering older sister, the huntress, volunteer in her stead?


As I tried to think through what the book was saying (all books say something, even if the author herself is not clued in.) I thought to the comparisons with Ancient Rome.  It’s a fair comparison, and not original with me; however, there is one big difference – there are no Christians here, in fact no religion per se anywhere.  No mention of God or Supreme Being.  Nada.  John Lennon would be proud.  And yet – here’s the rub – throughout the book you will find great sacrifice, heroism, and deep, deep love. 

It’s funny, isn’t it?  We live in a world that assumes we can have characters like Katniss, including all the benefits of Christianity, morality and virtue, yet without…Christianity.  To be sure, the world Collins creates is predicated on a depth of great evil, but where does someone like self-sacrificing Katniss come from?  You see, it is assumed by most people in our culture (our public school system, of which our son is a part, is a classic example) that we can have moral excellence without God. I almost wish that were true, but it’s definitely not.  Such virtue may last for a while, while the vestiges of Christianity (including Christian teachers and the like) remain, but such goodness cannot last generation after generation.  Dinesh D’Souza, in What’s So Great About Christianity, quotes a man who makes this point, and I for one, was surprised to hear it from him:

The life of the West, Nietzsche said, is based on Christianity. The values of the West are based on Christianity. Some of these values seem to have taken a life of their own, and this gives us the illusion that we can get rid of Christianity and keep the values. This, Nietzsche says, is an illusion. Our Western values are what Nietzsche terms “shadows of gods.” Remove the Christian foundation, and the values must go too.

So read the book, go see the movie, and rejoice in the picture of love and sacrifice you will see again and again.  Yet know…and always remember, where such wonderful love ultimately comes from:

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

2 Corinthians 5:14-15 (NIV)


Posted by on March 15, 2012 in Uncategorized


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3 Years in Heaven for Don Knowlton

Tomorrow it will be three years ago that Dad went to heaven.  It was one week short of his 86th birthday.  I miss him. 

The end came pretty quickly.  He fell in the fall of 2008, and suddenly our world was turned upside down.  Mom has Alzheimer’s and Dad was her caregiver.  Suddenly the “junior Knowltons” were her caregivers, and those 19 days living with Mom (until we got her to assisted living) while Dad had moved to the hospital/nursing home were tough.  I stayed with her in their apartment, and got so low that I took to having the kids stay overnight with me while we managed her medications and life.  Dad had been doing that for years.  What an amazing man.  I wish I had helped him more.   

As a little boy, I remember thinking that my dad was the most handsome man around.  Maybe that seems to you like a strange thing to think, let alone to admit to thinking, but I don’t think so.  He was a good-looking guy, but I’m sure my thoughts had more to do with my admiration of him than his chiseled features.


Around age 5, I asked Dad if I was going to heaven.  He said I was the best candidate he knew.  His theology stunk…but his love was over the top.  After I became a Christian at age 18, I was burdened that Dad would know the grace of God that had transformed me. I’ll never forget the Thanksgiving weekend where he and I sat down to talk about the gospel.  I had asked him if he would mind me telling him about what I had learned at West Point.  He was wonderfully gracious.  In a bedroom at my aunt’s house in Decatur, Illinois, I drew out the bridge diagram on a piece of paper, showing two cliffs facing one another, man on one side, God on the other, a chasm of sin between them…and a bridge made of a cross.  I so wanted him to trust in Christ, but he wasn’t ready.  However, I’ll never forget what he said and did. He took the paper, folded it up, and said he would carry it in his wallet and think about it.  Ever after that he would occasionally mention to me: “Son, I’ve still got that diagram you showed me in my wallet.  I’m still thinking.”


Mom had come to Christ also, and was putting in a few good words for the Savior herself.  One Sunday evening as a junior at the University of Illinois, I called them for our weekly chat.  Dad started, “Son, I told you if I ever did this, you would be the first to know, and today…I asked Jesus to be the Lord of my life.”  The biggest prayer I had ever prayed had just been answered.

Dad was the real deal too.  He used to slip me 20 bucks and say, “Don’t tell your mother.”  But one day after his conversion, he said, “Son, if you’re wondering why I haven’t been passing along the cash like before, it’s because the Lord convicted me that your mother and I are one, and I shouldn’t be doing that behind her back.” Never was I so happy not to get money.

Dad took off in his faith.  We all attended Willow Creek Church for a time, and I would be in one section of the large auditorium with the single adult group, and my folks would be in their same seating section across the way every week.  I would watch from afar with joy as Dad served as an usher and communion server.  He and Mom got in a small group, served in Willow’s tape ministry and helped with various Willow conferences.

They moved to Waupun 7 or 8 years ago as we thought it might be wise to have them close in case of health emergencies.  That was prescient.

Though still alive, Mom is in some ways gone too, though not nearly as happy as Dad is right now.  I dropped by to visit her at the Christian Homestead at the start of the day yesterday.  “Who are you?” she asked, without apology, not trying to fake recognition as she has before. “I’m your son,” I said, and she hugged me like she believed it.  Alzheimer’s turns out to be bittersweet.  On the one hand, she doesn’t remember her only child.  On the other hand, she doesn’t have to mourn that she was once married to the handsomest man in town, gone now, but in a far, far better place.


Posted by on March 14, 2012 in Uncategorized


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How to get kids (and ourselves) to obey God…

Bash them with the Law (rules)?  Threaten with pain or grounding?  Cajole?  Nope.  Won’t work. 

How about trying it Paul’s way?

He wrote in Titus 2:11, 12…

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age. (ESV)

How about that?  The grace of God…trains us.  To be sure, we need to be certain that the rules are clear, and we need to discipline when the rules are disobeyed or flaunted.  But a home with the atmosphere of grace is surely the greatest draw to obedience. 

In the same way, focusing on God’s mercy and grace (displayed at the cross) in our lives moves us personally to obedience.  So Paul wrote, “The love of Christ compels me…”

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Posted by on March 7, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Crown Me With Only One Crown

I have sought many crowns in 47 years of life. I sought to be crowned with acceptance at a particular university. Then I sought the crown of diploma, and then the right kind of employment.  I sought the acceptance and approval crown of men and women.  I sought the crown of love, and the crown of material things, bank accounts and cars and houses and various small gadgets.

But my crown seeking is slowing today. Not disappeared, just disappearing.  Perhaps this happens on the back side of life, with a view of all the accumulated crowns, some nice, some not so much. Some rusted…and many turned to dust.

And today I read this, almost it seemed, for the first time…

Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

2 Timothy 4:8 (ESV)

The crown of righteousness…waiting for Paul…waiting for me, because I, for one, can’t wait for His appearing.  It’s on layaway, you might say, only with no further payments to be made.

This is the gospel – the greatest crown, the crown of perfect righteousness accessorized with a spotless robe…and it’s earned not like any other crown, through late nights and striving and stress.  This one is earned by the labor of Another, and granted to me by faith, at a banquet and awards ceremony given by the Righteous Judge.


Posted by on March 6, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Closing Thoughts on Prayer

40 days of prayer are here and gone. Time flies. It’s March now, which is a happy word during Wisconsin winters, and though I know that snow still finds its way here (like today) the temperatures moderate a bit, and if spring isn’t quite in the air, at least hope is.

So here are some final thoughts on this season of prayer:

1. Now is the time to watch.  David said in Psalm 5:3, “In the morning O Lord, thou wilt hear my voice; in the morning I will order my prayer to Thee and eagerly watch.”  As you have been “ordering your prayers before” God over these 40 days, now is the time to watch Him move in response to your petitions, and watch Him eagerly.

Watching is a key part of prayer, which is one reason that keeping track of your petitions, while not required in any sense, is a wonderful thing to do.

2. Now is the time to glorify God.  One of the great purposes of prayer is that in receiving answers, we glorify God.  Psalm 50:15 says, “…call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” (ESV)  If God has moved in response to your consistent seeking, then consider taking some time, some special time, to glorify and honor Him.

When we were trying to get pregnant for the first time, Diane went through two miscarriages.  Both times, obviously, we were heartbroken.  But we hadn’t really told anyone about the pregnancies, because we had heard you should wait until the 12th week to make sure you don’t miscarry.  Well, when she was pregnant the third time, we broke all the rules.  We started telling people right away. Why?  Because we wanted them to pray that the baby (a.k.a. Josh) would make it to full term, and when he did, we had many people to glorify God with us.

One of the great purposes of prayer is this: when God delivers us, we glorify Him.  I’ll bet God has done some deliverance if you have prayed over these last 40 days.  Glorify Him!

3. Now is the time to keep praying.  Jesus told his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.  The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”  And in the last 2,000 years, nothing has changed.  We have spirits willing to do what is right, and flesh that is weak.  And that is just one of a thousand reasons that we need to keep praying.  We need the Lord.  Simple as that.  We need Him for everything.  Have you seen that over the last 40 days.  More than one person has told me that their life will never be the same.  I hope that is true of you.

So by the grace of God, whatever pattern you have established over these last 40 days, don’t stop now.  Keep going.  Keep coming day by day to the throne of grace and you will see over and over again, that your receive mercy and grace in your time of need.

One final note: The blog will continue, though with a little more variety in subject matter (that is, whatever I’m pondering at the moment) and once a week or so, I intend, Lord willing, to continue to write about prayer over this year which at Edgewood we are calling the Year of Prayer. If you haven’t yet, you might consider clicking on the link to your right to receive email notifications when the blog is published, because likely it won’t be every day, but more like 3 – 5 times a week. So, God bless everyone, and thanks for reading!


Posted by on March 2, 2012 in Uncategorized


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The Best Thing You Can Do For Your Pastor

Stephen Altrogge writes:

“What is the best thing that you can do for you pastor? Compliment him on his “outstanding, almost Charles Spurgeon-like sermon”? Give money to the church? Give your time and skills to the church? Not heckle him? Admire him for his manly beard? While those are all wonderful things, they are not the best thing that you can do for you pastor.”

And readers of this blog over the last 38 days will know exactly where this is going.

Altrogge continues:

The absolute, most important, best thing that you can do for your pastor is to pray for him.

I was freshly reminded of that fact this morning when I read 2 Corinthians 1:11 –

You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.

This is Paul talking. The apostle. The dude who wrote a significant portion of the New Testament. The guy who got blindsided by Jesus on Damascus Road. The guy who had the whole “taken up to the third heaven and seeing things too glorious for words” experience. This isn’t a little ol’ Average Pastor With Minimal Gifting. We are talking about THE Apostle Paul who studied under THE Gamaliel. If anyone could feel sure of his ministry success it was Paul. I would expect Paul to say, “I am confident of my success in the Lord, but your prayers would also be helpful.”

But that’s not what Paul says. He says, “You also MUST help us by prayer.” There’s a hint of desperation in his voice. He is pleading for the prayers of the Corinthians. Why? Why does Paul feel such a deep need for the prayers of others?

Because he knows that the depth of his fruitfulness hinges on the prayers of others. He knows that he will not be successful unless he is propelled forward by the prayers of the saints…

I couldn’t agree more. As a pastor, I need people to pray for me, desperately.  If you’re from Edgewood, would you consider putting me, Mike Giebink, Jamie Thompson, Jeff Thompson and Jeremy Thompson on your lists? You might also want to consider Jane Neevel, Becky Faul and Brittany Kastein, part time staff but full-time servants.  Matter of fact, why not take the back of a bulletin and make it a prayer list – then you’ll get all of our admin and elders too.

If you’re not from Edgewood…well, you know what to do.  You might also pray regularly for your pastor’s wife and kids.  Lately I have begun praying for the kids of our pastoral staff as well as spouses.  I know nothing that can upset a person’s life faster than pain in the family, so it’s good to pray for his loved ones as well.

And if you add us to your prayer list, tell us, would you?  It’s wonderful to be prayed for, but the icing on the cake is to know you’re being prayed for.


Posted by on March 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

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