Dr. Mark Claussen

Mark ClaussenIntroduction: Dr. Mark Claussen, originally from Prior Lake, MN, has been a Bemidji resident with his wife Tammy since 1994.  They have 5 children (four boys and one daughter), 2 daughters-in-laws and 2 grandchildren living in various parts of MN.  Mark is a General Surgeon in Bemidji, Minnesota, and completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota. Then I attended medical school at Oral Roberts University School of Medicine. His pastimes include family gatherings, readings and collecting old books, writing, running and basketball.  

   I will share my testimony about my relationship with Jesus Christ.

   I'm going to start with the Duberstein family on a boat crossing the Atlantic, coming from Germany to America. As the story goes, the little Duberstein girl, being the frisky little girl was leaning over the railing, while looking at the ocean. She kept on leaning a bit too far, and went over. Her father, very attentively, instantly grabbed her and caught her by the petticoats of her dress, bringing her back safely back into the boat.    This story has been passed along in our family many, many times. The point of the story is if that little girl had not been saved by her father; she wouldn’t have grown up to be married to a guy named Helterhoth. It goes from Duberstein to Helterhoth. Isn't German a wonderful pretty language? "Helterhoth" Then my grandfather Harold would never have been born, and therefore I would not exist. This is simply the truth of Psalm 139 that I, like each of you, am fearfully and wonderfully made, woven together in our mothers’ wombs at just the right time so that all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

   It doesn't do any good to complain to God about being born into the wrong family, or into the wrong country, or even into the wrong century. I’m quite sure that I was never really supposed to have to deal with the troops. You are placed into time and space exactly where God wanted you. He could've used a million different happenings, such as my great-grandmother falling over the railing to change it if He wanted. He didn't, and so now here we are all for breakfast this morning in Bemidji, Minnesota in the year of our Lord 2020, and we praise God for his perfect plan. We may not always like it, it may not always be a comfortable plan, but I firmly believe we are in the midst of God's plan.

   As it worked out, one of the Helterhoth girls married my father; who was a Claussen, and my Midwestern German heritage has been passed down. My father is an interesting fellow, because he started out as a title insurance lawyer. If any of you really know what a title insurance lawyer does, even after all these years, I'm still not sure that I completely understand.

   They had me as their first son, and my father decided to leave being a title insurance lawyer. He felt a calling to be a Lutheran minister, which is the religion he was raised. He went through all of the training while I was young. We moved around a bit in Illinois, and he ran successful churches in Evansville, Indiana, and then we moved to River Falls, Wisconsin.

   I was old enough to sort of understand what was going on. I was about nine or ten and my dad went to a Lutheran conference on the Holy Spirit. He had an experience of an infilling of the Holy Spirit that changed his life. He came back a changed person, and it was real and sincere. It wasn't that he didn't believe in God. It wasn't that he didn't have a sincere and honest desire after God, but this changed him. It filled him with power. It filled him with a passion that he hadn’t previously ever experienced. Through a different set of circumstances, my mother went through a very similar experience at about the same time.

   What happened, though, he came back to his church, enthusiastic and excited about what was going on. To his great disappointment, his church wanted nothing to do with it. In fact, there was even a church meeting where one man stood up and said, "Pastor Claussen, we like your sermons on Sunday, but we just really don't want you to affect the rest of our life the rest of the week." This crushed my dad, and was really difficult for him.

   It became clear to him that he couldn't, in good conscience, be a pastor, and so with a great change in our family, he left the ministry to follow God. The one thing that I learned very deeply at that moment is that the difference between what's going on, on the outside and what God is doing on the inside. This has been a theme throughout my life; the structure of being religious or the structure of looking holy and what's going on inside can sometimes be too fast in different ways.

   Our household changed, and all of a sudden God became a constant topic. Songs and worship became a part of who we were as a family, in a way that had never been there before. We went to a couple of different churches that were absolutely instrumental in my life, and created a foundation for a real living relationship with God. Rather than going to church, was somehow being a magical way of making you whole. It became deeply ingrained in who we were as a family.

   Now through those years, I was really blessed with teachers and pastors who were really proclaiming the word of God and proclaiming the truth. But there is a huge amount of value in just simply speaking the truth. That's what we do, we speak the truth. It doesn't matter how well you know Him, and how much you're convinced that God loves you. We still need to know that God loves us. We need to proclaim that into each other's life all the time. Now, I've lived my life with the church. There are very few sermons that I ever hear that are truly brand new, you know? I've heard a little bit of that, and yet each time it's food. Each time its life.

   So one Sunday morning church service, I'm sorry I don't have a date, but the pastor was preaching a salvation message, and there was a prayer time. My prayer went something like this, "God, I think I've already taken care of this, but if not, I take You as my Lord and Savior, had dedicate my life." Not exactly lightning bolts, no fireworks, and not a very dramatic story. It was more like a transition than a conversion. God has continued to mold me, teach me, and in little ways, make me more and more like Jesus every day.

   The next big phase in my life, were those years of intense training. I don't mean just academics; I mean spiritually and maturing as well. There were four years at the University of Minnesota, where I got really involved with a wonderful church. I learned what it meant to be involved in leadership, with all the ups and downs that that goes with. Then, there was four years of medical school at Oral Roberts University. Tammy and I had just been married and we drove down to Tulsa, Oklahoma,

    Oral Roberts was a faith healer, most famous during the 1930’s, 1940’s. People would come up to him and get healed. Then he was called to build this university and then was called to build a medical school. Some folks may think that that's kind of an odd combination of a faith healer building a medical school. One of the reasons that I went down there, I was interested in the school, and because of his teaching. His teaching was that prayer and medicine go hand in hand. They're not separate. It's not like you have to be one or the other, or if you believe in the knowledge and science that God has yielded and given to us, that somehow makes you faithless. Oral Roberts saw it as just the opposite, saying prayer and medicine were meant to go together. He built a whole medical school based on this principle, and obviously has affected my whole worldview of what I do, and what's there.

   This friction between knowledge and faith, this friction between science and faith, of medicine and faith, is something that God has worked deeply into my heart. I view it as knowledge is the information about reality that God reveals to us through our senses. It's what we can see, and hear, and touch, and taste, and test. It's what you look at under a microscope. It's what we can find out about, by using our God-given minds.  Which often involves a revelation, if you look at the history of science? There's often these flashes of insight that different scientists have had, which is useful and good. The Bible talks about knowledge as being a good thing. 

   Faith, I think is equally about reality that goes beyond our senses. So a materialist thinks, like the author Carl Sagan famously said, that the universe is all there is, that's all there ever was, is all there is and all it ever will be. Christianity says there's something beyond the material, and beyond what we see with our senses, and there’s a whole reality that’s even more real than what we have around us. It's the process of this revelation about what's real beyond our senses, which is the realm of faith. We don't need to be afraid of science, and we don't need to be afraid of knowledge. It's going to point us to God. But often, I run into that with the church and with religious organizations, that there's a fear about this and there needn't be.

   During medical school at Oral Roberts University and the experience down there; where praying with your patients during morning rounds wasn't something that happened every now and again, it was expected. You don't come down the Oral Roberts University Hospital and think you're not going to be prayed for; it's the natural part of what we did every day.

     Quite surprisingly, I went in the direction of surgery; which is not something I was expecting to like at all. I thought that surgeons were a bunch of arrogant, hard to get along with, ridiculous people, and some are. My surgery rotation was the last rotation of my third year. I was just trying to expect to get through it. I was about 2 weeks into it, and I was driving in about 3:00 in the morning. I still remember that night, all of a sudden, the thought just popped into my head, this is kind of fun, you know? And it just kind of took off. 

   I thought, well maybe I kind of liked it because the two professors I had were incredible and charismatic, a little snarky and sarcastic, even cynical, and just a lot of fun to be around. I took a rotation with a guy at the nearby Union hospital, he had a reputation for being about as interesting as watching paint dry. And he was. And so, I did 6 weeks with him and I still loved it. So, then I was hooked, and I knew that that's just what God wanted me to do.

   So we went to Lacrosse and 5 years of surgery training there. We had 3 children during medical school, and I don't know how my wife managed. There was a lot of peanut butter, macaroni, and cheese, and not a lot of money. And all that kind of stuff and God just provided what we needed. It was just a really neat and wonderful time. But there was 2 kinds of foundational truths during that time of education with the churches, and the pastors, and the different congregations that we were with, that I guess I would really like to share with you.

   So the first one is the foundational truth of just the centrality of Jesus Christ, and if you asked me to kind of sum up my theology, what do I think about God? How do I view the world in one sentence? I think the way I would say it is that I believe that Jesus Christ is who He said He was, and I believe that He did what the Bible says. That's it in a nutshell. It all centers on that. If you take Jesus out of Christianity, the whole religion falls apart. It all hinges on the reality of who He is, what He did, and the act of dying on the cross, and rising from the grave. He gave us teaching. He revealed the Father to us. He told us, that was part of His purpose. "I am here to let you know what the Father is like." But it's so much more than that, because He actually paid the price for our sins. He actually rose anew so we can have a new life in him. If He didn't do that, then the teaching itself is not enough to carry. And this just has become so real to me through the years, and something that I've just tried to proclaim at every possible chance that I have.

   So as a 16-year-old, I took one of my dad's books was Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. I was staying with my grandparents for a summer because I was working for the boss, Helterhoth. And I read for the first time, what is literally one of my favorite paragraphs in all of literature. Every time I read this, I'm not sure I can get through it just means so much to me. But this is what Lewis is saying about Jesus.

   He says, "I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say a lot. I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim in God." That is the one thing we must not say. A man who is merely a man and said the sort of things that Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic on the level of a man who says he's a poached egg or else he would be the devil of Hell.

   You must make your choice. Even this man was and is the son of God, or else a mad man or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool. You can spit at him and kill him as a demon or even fall at his feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about him being a great human teacher. He is not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

 

   So the second foundational truth through this time that has been really important to me is sometimes almost a little hard to put into words, but it's just simply the call to a full, complete, and absolute surrender and serve Him. And as I read through the Bible, this is what it calls us to do. And I'm constantly impressed by and mystified by the people in the Bible who were able to truly lay it all down and surrender for the Lord.

   I don't know about you guys, but I kind of like having my own plans. I like having plan A and plan B and plan C. And I like running things myself and this idea of me surrendering even my daily schedule to God is sometimes a big struggle. And yeah, I am absolutely convinced that if I ever want to be who God truly created me to be is going to entirely revolve around how much I surrender my heart to him.

   And it doesn't become this kind of thing where, "Oh, I surrender myself to God and I become some sort of robot, some sort of Godly zombie." Okay. It's just the opposite. Once we are free and fully surrendered everything, we want ourselves to be, then out of that blossoms the fullness of what God wanted us to become. For the first time, we'll be true to ourselves.

Mark's Hearing His Voice Testimony

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