Ditching your Unhealthy Habits: Karl Clauson
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Karl ClausonKarl Clauson is a husband, pastor, author, conference speaker and adventurer. His passion for spiritual awakening runs through them all. He’s had diverse life experiences, like completing the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race at the age of eighteen, coaching a track team in South Africa, and pastoring churches in Chicago and Alaska. He loves to have conversations about life change through Jesus Christ over a good cup of coffee.
Gotten used to unhealthy habits? Could you be settling for too little? On FamilyLife Today, Dave and Ann Wilson host author Karl Clauson–who’s got ideas to help you create new systems and seize God’s power.
Ditching your Unhealthy Habits: Karl Clauson
Shelby: Hey, Shelby Abbott here. Before we get to the program today, I wanted to share with you one encouraging post that was made recently about FamilyLife Today. One of our listeners said: “This podcast is my new favorite. Every topic is so relevant. It’s helpful, light-hearted and, yet, goes deep. The topics they choose are exactly what I want to discuss. I can listen to every episode while going about my daily life, and the resources they offer are so valuable. Thank you for this podcast.” Wow! That’s just so encouraging to read. Thanks so much for listening and allowing us to help you pursue the relationships that matter most.
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Okay, now on with today’s show.
Karl: It’s sad to say, but many of us have a life that has lost the zeal and the joy of our salvation. Now we find ourselves living by ought’s and shoulds, like: “I ought to be doing this,” “I should be bearing fruit.” Here’s the crazy maker: Jesus said, “If you abide in Me and My Word abides in you, you will bear fruit. Apart from Me you can do nothing,” and “It’s to My Father’s glory that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be My disciples [John 15:5-8].”
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today.
Dave: Alright, I’m going to tell you: “Just fasten your seatbelts; you’re in for a ride today.”
Ann: It’s going to be fun.
Dave: We’ve got Karl Clauson back in the studio, our good friend from Chicago—used to be a FamilyLife Weekend to Remember® speaker—pastor, radio disc jockey, and a good friend more than anything. Welcome to FamilyLife Today, Karl.
Karl: It is a thrill to be here—that’s not over-stating it—it is a thrill to be here.
Dave: You’ve got Junanne in the studio with you; she’s sitting over there on the couch.
Karl: She’s over there, waving at me.
Dave: I can’t see her, so I’m guessing she’s making little gestures.
Karl: She’s doing good; she’s grinning from ear to ear right now.
Ann: How many years have you been married?
Karl: Thirty-five years! And I still call her my bride.
Dave: Two kids.
Karl: Two kids/two adult kids—yes, they’re going to be 32/34—they are that. So here we are.
Dave: Last time you were here, you talked about your book, The Seven Resolutions. All throughout the book are stories of you: the only/the first ever 18-year-old to do the Iditarod?
Karl: I entered at the youngest age possible. There’s been younger, since me, run that race.
Karl: Yes, we get months; but up until the year I ran, no 18-year-olds had completed it. I was able to run it/compete it at the youngest age possible, that of 18. It was a journey/1100 miles across Alaska.
Well, talk about The Seven Resolutions.
Ann: Yes, why this book, Karl?
Karl: Yes, there’s a lot of Christian-in-name-only, running around out there—and they don’t want to be—they want to be the real deal. I think there’s a lot of people, who wonder, “What’s the gap between where I’m living today and the promises of God? Why is that gap there?”
In Jeremiah 2, Jeremiah is laying it down; he says, “God has two things that He wants to say to you guys.” He says, “You have forsaken living water and you’ve carved out cisterns that can’t hold water [Jeremiah 2:13].”
Dave: —"broken cisterns.”
Karl: —"broken cisterns.”
The way I interpret that for today is that we’ve cut off the supply and the flow of the Holy Spirit/those rivers of living water, and we’ve carved out a life for ourselves that can’t hold water. Oftentimes, it’s due to the Christian world that we live in—I’m pretty convinced of this—I’ve thought a lot about this. Our brothers and sisters—in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, China, because of the intense persecution and pressure on them—they’re forced to streams of living water and carving out real deals out of the rocks every day.
But we’ve got this incredible blessing of this American dream; and the very blessing from God, sometimes, can be our very downfall. I feel prompted by the Spirit to say this: “This has to be the move of the Holy Spirit.” You know, I was raised in a very solid biblical tradition. Then, when I was radically saved by Jesus in 1984, I went off to a great Bible college, really taught us good stuff. But for some reason, we neglected to talk about the power of the Holy Spirit. We really did; we neglected it. I have been on this incredible quest, for the last decade, rediscovering the fact that He is here and He wants to fill us up!
The Apostle Paul—since we’re in the swift water here, let’s go for it—I love what he says. This could be written today, and this was written to the church at Galatia, which is encouraging—you realize the problem that we have, oftentimes, in our own spiritual life here, especially stateside in America, they had 2,000 years ago—because this is what he said:
“O foolish Galatians,”—that would be hard stuff to get in a letter, wouldn’t it?—[Laughter]—“who has bewitched you?”—it gets deeper, right? [paraphrasing: “What demon got a hold of you?”]—“It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: ‘Did you receive the Spirit [Holy Spirit] by works of the law or by hearing with faith?’ Are you so foolish? Having begun by the power of the Holy Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh [Galatians 3:1-3]?”
That’s us! We’re pasting fake fruit on ourselves rather than abiding in the vine and producing that lasting fruit. Utter humility—bowing low before the Lord/tapping into the power of the Holy Spirit—come on, man—that is the life that God has called us to.
Dave: Paul wrote in Colossians: “The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead lives in me.”
Karl: Boom! It’s really wild; but we’ve neglected, in some ways, the power of the Holy Spirit.
Then, you’ve got to ask, “Why?” when Jesus Himself said as He was leaving—the Gospel of John—“…it is to your advantage that I go... [John 16:7]”
Ann: Don’t you read that, and think, “Wait! No, it’s not!”?
Ann: “I need You here beside me!”
Karl: Yes! Right—we would think that—but “It’s to your advantage that I go; because I will send you a Helper, the Holy Spirit, and He will guide you into all truth [John16:7, 13].”
Really, everything that I’ve written about and all that I live for—whether it’s preaching, or radio, or whatever—is to help people connect with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in a way that ignites their faith again; because it doesn’t need to grow cold.
Dave: You write Seven Resolutions.
Karl: Yes, let’s start at the top: “Join God” is critical. If we don’t join God, everything else is nothing. Joining God is all about positioning ourselves in a place of His grace and power. What do we find in Titus 2:10-11?—“This grace,” Paul says, “It is the grace that saved you and the grace that is going to train you.”
We trusted God’s grace/His power to do in us, for salvation; but we often leave it on a back burner for sanctification, which is a big fancy word for growing up in Jesus. But the same posture that we come to Jesus is the same posture that we grow in our relationship with Jesus.
I did this in at men’s camp in Williams, Arizona, one time. I’m on my knees, preaching; and I stayed there for about ten minutes. I said, “Guys, I need you to hear me: this is where real men are born—right here—this is where we’re born. But the fatal flaw we make is we think, ‘Now, after we’re born again, I got to get up in my strength and make this thing happen.’ Nothing could be further from the truth.”
I was knocked over—at that same men’s event that I was at in Williams—I pulled a couple of guys up on stage to illustrate John 15, which is another key/key principle of joining God—
Karl: —abiding; we’ve got to abide. I pulled a guy/a big ole boy up on stage. I said, “All right, bro, you’re going to be Jesus for a second.” He’s like, “Oh, no!”
- I said, “I’ll get you out of this role here really quick.” I said, “You’re a vine; you’re a big knotty, gnarly vine.”
- I pull up another brother; I say, “Okay, you’re going to be a branch—that’s your job—you be a branch. What’s a branch do?” And he puts his arm out on that vine.
Then I began to, from John 15, just give these guys a vision for where to focus their life. See, we can focus either on abiding in Christ or producing fruit, but we can’t do both. It’s sad to say, but many of us have a life that has lost the zeal and the joy of our salvation. Now, we find ourselves living by oughts and shoulds, like: “I ought to be doing this,” “I should be bearing fruit.”
Here’s the crazy maker: Jesus said, “If you abide in Me and My Word abides in you, you will bear fruit. Apart from Me you can do nothing,” and “It’s to My Father’s glory that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be My disciples [John 15:5-8].”
- I ask this guy: “Put your hand on him right there.” He’s got his hand on him. I said, “Now, here’s the choice: we can focus on the abiding relationship with Christ or focus on producing fruit, but we can’t do both. Every time we focus on: ‘Oh, I need to be loving,’ ‘I need to be joyful,’ ‘I need to have self-control,’ we inadvertently lose connection with our Savior; because we’re living a man-centered gospel.”
That’s my heart is to help people understand: “The way you got saved is the way we grow.”
Dave: My son said it in a sermon once: “We easily focus on the fruit rather than the root.”
Dave: I’ve never forgotten it. He probably got the rhyme thing from his dad. [Laughter]
Here’s the thing—
Karl: It’s the way to go.
Dave: —we have to have our eyes on the root. We have to be on the vine—abiding in the root/join God—whatever way you want to say it; that is it.
I love that on-your-knees analogy.
Ann: Me too.
Dave: I mean, that’s the visual we have to have in our head at all times.
Karl: Yes, the thing that I didn’t complete with that thought is: I said, “Guys, here’s the thing: we come to Jesus here, but this is how we have to follow Jesus.” I said, “It’s more than a metaphor”; and I started to walk, on my knees, across the stage. I said, “This is the way we grow.”
A couple of guys who reviewed the book—[whom] I really respect: Robert Lewis is one; Dave Wilson is another/oh, he’s here; [Laughter] Erwin Lutzer, former pastor of Moody Church—most of these guys said, “This chapter, ‘Killing Sin,’ is maybe the most important for today.”
Because oftentimes, what we do with our sin is it goes into the shadows; and it just sits there. We rationalize it, or explain it, or minimize it, or blame it; but God challenges us: “Bring it into the light,”—expose it and, then, attack it. A lot of people/we don’t know how to get serious with sin; but Jesus said, “If your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out; if your arm causes you to sin, cut it off [Matthew 5:29-30].”
Ann: Sounds kind of serious.
Karl: It’s serious. Thankfully, He’s using hyperbole; or else, we’d all be in trouble. But He gave us a vision for killing the things that are killing us; that’s what we’ve got to do.
I think the most important aspect of killing sin, for me, is how you sustain it and the promise out of Galatians 5:16: “Walk in the Spirit,”—Paul said—“and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh [Galatians 5:16].” Woo! That’s a promise. Irrigating your soul, with the power of the Spirit, after you’ve cut these things out—it’s a way to live—frankly, I’ve journeyed there; and it’s awesome.
Dave: Real quick: “Take Risks”—that’s another resolution.
Karl: You know, risk-taking is an interesting thing; it’s essential.
Let me take you on the Iditarod. Could I tell you a story from the Iditarod Trail Race? I love this; this one is maybe one of the most important stories from the Iditarod Trail Race for me. God had me run this race: it took me 21 days, 8 hours, 12 minutes and
32 seconds. He gave me a metaphor around every corner/every bend of the trail. I mean, it was just one adventure after another.
But I got out onto the sea ice onto the Norton Sound, and I went out onto the Norton Sound against the counsel of the village elder in Shaktoolik. He’s in Shaktoolik; and he tells me, “Karl, don’t go. The wind’s going to blow tonight; it’s going to be bad.” I’m 18 years old; I want to catch up to the teams in front of me. I didn’t listen to the wise counsel, and I headed out. I headed straight out onto the ocean. I’ve got 45/50 miles to get across the Norton Sound, and the wind begins to pick up to the point where it is howling.
Now, I’ve got a white-out condition. I cannot see—if I extend my hand, I cannot see the tip of my mitten—it’s that obscured. At one point, I put my foot down between my sled runners to see “How fast am I going? What kind of headway am I making?” and the sled was stopped. I get down on my hands and knees—and I crawl, holding onto the sled and holding onto the lines—because if you crawl in a white-out, and you let go of a sled, you’ll crawl to your death. Because unless you happen to find your way back to that sled—which is about nil—you’ll crawl to your death.
I’m holding onto the sled; I’m holding onto the dog lines, and I’m getting up to my team. Sure enough, they’re all hunkered down; because they can’t move. I later found out we had gusts on the ice to 92 miles an hour. They had sent out two snow machines after me. It had ripped the cowling off of one of them; so they sent it back and said, “He’s on his own; hope he makes it.”
I’ve got my dogs all strung out in a straight line; I’ve got about eight dogs left in my dog team. None of the dogs had died—you just drop them [for help], because they get lacerated pads or injured in some way—I have eight dogs left in my team. I piled them all up in a big ole dog pile; keep them all warm together. I crawl back to the sled. I got into two sleeping bags with all my gear on. When you’re in that kind of chill factor, you stay in your gear. I slid into my two sleeping bags. I’ve got on fox mittens, beaver hat—all my Artic Gear®—wolf ruff, and I feel the wind cutting through. I have all the gear that I have with me on, and I’m scared.
I put up a wind break—I put a snow shoe in the ice, and I put up some GOR-TEX plastic windbreak—and I huddle down behind that thing and I began to pray; I said, “God, please get me out of this thing.” I was running so hard away from God. Here’s what’s amazing about God’s mercy: even when He knows we are not ready to turn to Him, He’ll still grant us His love at the craziest times. I needed it; I said, “God, if You get me out of this thing, I’ll come back to church; I promise.”
Within a couple of hours, the storm lifted. I was able to stand up. I’m glad I’m six feet tall; because right at the five-foot mark—boom! —my head poked through. I could see the lights of Koyuk off in the distance. I got my team strung out; gave them the command, “Hike!” My two leaders up there in the front—girls were named “White Eyes”—and they towed me to safety; we made it in.
You know what I learned out there on that day? I learned something amazing, and I’ve lived it to this day; that is, “We’ve got to live in a place that is bigger than us. We’ve got to be taking risks.” To this day, I feel like the greatest gift I can give myself, or to share with a man that I’m working with, or whatever it would be, is: “Put yourself in a position that it’s bigger than you—where you can’t do it; where you’ve got to call out to God, ‘God, I need Your help,’—because that is the best place to live.” [Laughter]
Ann: What are you laughing about?
Dave: I want to live there; I don’t ever want to play safe. There’s times, where you want to hold onto the boat—but I want to be a water-walker; I want to get out of the boat/the safety—I hear that story, and I’m like, “Yes, take risks.” Why don’t we?—we’re afraid.
Ann: I remember being at a conference, and the speaker saying, “Are you doing anything right now that you could not do it apart from Jesus?” I remember thinking, “No.” But I did think, “I want to do that.” I think we have that in us; like, “I want to do something that would be so risky that I cannot do it apart from the Spirit of God in me.” That’s what the disciples did.
Karl: Someone’s listening right now, going, “I have so much pain in my life right now. How in the world can you invite me into more pain?” Here’s the crazy maker about this: the more we get out over our skis, and the more we get in over our head, the more dependent we are on Jesus—and the greater potential there is to experience friendship with God and the adventure of a lifetime with Him—that’s just a reality.
Dave: Yes, I would say: “If you’re listening today, and you don’t know God/you don’t know Jesus, resolution number one’s for you.” Often, we think anybody listening out there/anybody listening to our program is a follower of Christ. Maybe you are—or maybe you’re just apathetic or lukewarm—I think resolution number one is for a man or a woman today to say, “Okay, I’m going to join God. I’ve walked away from God.” You didn’t need the Iditarod moment to draw you back, but today’s your day. Get on your knees.
Karl, your image—can you imagine a man, in his kitchen right now, getting on his knees; or a woman in her family room, getting on her knees—and saying, “God, I surrender. I want to join You; I want to take risks. I want my life to count for something more than it’s ever counted for. I surrender; I am going to abide in the Vine. Would You produce fruit in my life?”
He will meet you right where you are—
Dave: —and literally change your life.
Shelby: You are listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Karl Clauson on FamilyLife Today. Karl is going to tell us about a scary prayer his dad prayed that changed Karl forever; that’s in just a minute. But first, his book is called The Seven Resolutions: Where Self-Help Ends and God’s Power Begins. These are seven resolutions that will teach you how to overthrow old patterns, create new life systems, and take hold of God’s promises. We’ve got copies of Karl’s book available at FamilyLife Today.com.
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Okay, here’s Karl and how God met him in his car when he was at his lowest.
Karl: I walked a lot of miles, as a kid, growing up in church; I walked down the center aisle; I prayed a lot of prayers—I was a good kid in a lot of ways—memorized a ton of verses, guys.
You know my story: I got into serious cocaine use and abuse/serious Crown Royal® use and abuse. I was such a mess that I had chronic nose bleeds that I couldn’t hide. God broke me, and He showed me that it’s not about me praying a prayer, or walking down an aisle, or memorizing verses. It’s about total abandonment into the arms of a loving God, who loved me so much that He gave His Son for me. Those are not words to me; those are real.
It’s so wild. I was driving down a road in Anchorage, Alaska; I had a fresh nose bleed. Every crutch had been kicked out from under me. My praying dad told me six months prior to this; he said, “I’m praying that you get fully surrendered to Jesus, once and for all, or that God take you out of this world; because you’re killing yourself anyway.” Guys, for 22 years, at that point, I had seen my dad and mom’s prayers answered regularly; so I thought, “Man, God’s going to kill me; I’m out of here.”
But now, every crutch was kicked out from under me; and God came into a broken young man’s car, who knew a lot of verses/gone to church—I knew all the songs; I did the deal—He asked me this one question: “Are you done yet?” That’s almost the exact words: “Are you done yet?” I broke into this bundle of sobbing tears—Mr. Young Iditarod Alaska man. You know what?—I couldn’t fix it; I couldn’t repair it; I couldn’t restore it; I couldn’t rebuild it. God, by His grace, showed me the only thing that was going to build my life was the Rock of Jesus Christ. On that day, He radically altered me.
I don’t know where you’re at—and this isn’t about drugs to Jesus—it’s about anything to Jesus. I want to tell you right now: “God wants to save your soul. You don’t have to be in church to get her done.”
Shelby: Let’s be honest: “Do you ever just feel totally alone sometimes?”—I do. Well, tomorrow on FamilyLife Today, Dave and Ann Wilson are back with Karl Clauson to help us navigate building and rethinking our closest connections with others; that’s tomorrow.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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