The Wonder of the Word, Pt. 2

Date: 10/23/2021 
Pastor Doug Batchelor's testimony.

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After losing his godly mother, when he was just seven years old, John began to hang out with the wrong crowd. Disturbed by his delinquency, his father, a sea captain, began taking him along on ocean voyages, but John's life soon spiraled into increasingly bad behavior. After being pressed into the British Royal Navy, John gave up on God entirely. He adopted atheism and he loved tormenting Christians with his blasphemy. Consumed with anger and hate, the rebel's life overflowed with misery and despair. Eventually he signed on as a crew member on a slave ship, but through a strange turn of Providence, John became a slave himself. When finally rescued, John continued in his reckless lifestyle of cursing, fighting and drinking, but all of this dramatically changed during a terrifying storm at sea when John Newton, the author of the best loved hymn, "Amazing Grace," finally acknowledged his need of Christ. John Newton's dramatic and famous conversion certainly isn't unique.

I personally know of thousands of remarkable accounts of people from all ages who've experienced total transformation through the incredible power, love, and grace of Christ, myself included. I invite you now to join me as I share my own personal testimony, and I pray that you'll be blessed. Everybody in life wants to be happy. And many people in the world think that happiness comes from either physical pleasure, or, "If I could be wealthy enough," or, "If I could be more beautiful or more popular than I'd have real happiness." And so many people go through life dissatisfied with what they do have wanting something else, and I've learned that happiness does not come from those things.

Now I'll start by giving you a little background, tell you about my parents briefly. Mother and father were as opposite as you could get. My mother grew up Jewish background, but she wasn't practicing. My father grew up with a Baptist background, but he pretty much became an atheist after World War II. He was a pilot, captain in the air force and flew in Europe during World War II, but he became very successful. He started buying army surplus planes and built it into an airline delivering cargo, then delivering passengers, and at one time he owned two airlines. He knew a lot of very wealthy, powerful people like Howard Hughes and others in that business, and he grew into a multi-millionaire. Started in LA, moved the business to Miami, had a company called Batch Air.

Now, here he is, this is wife number four, meeting Pope John Paul II. If you got enough money, you can... He met presidents and he knew a lot of people. He was a philanthropist, gave a lot of money away, but that's not where happiness comes from. My dad used to drink himself to sleep every night. He was so stressed. Jesus said, "A man's life does not consist in the abundance of things he possesses." The Lord tells us, "Do not lay up treasures on earth for yourself." In our garage, we had Rolls-Royce. This is not my dad's Rolls. I just grabbed one online. He had a white Rolls-Royce, a Maserati, stepmother had a Jaguar, Ferraris, I mean, they had all the toys. Had fighting, coldness, unhappiness in the family, and I thought, "What's the purpose of life? Nobody seems to be happy." "Thieves break through and steal. Rust and moth corrupt," the Bible tells us. So that's dad's side.

Mom, I don't know how they ever got married. He was a Republican. She was a Democrat. He was a redneck from Oklahoma. She was a hippie from New York City. That's maybe why they divorced when I was three years of age. It didn't last that long. But mom was very talented. She did not have much formal education, but she could sing, she could write. She was an attractive lady. And she started writing songs for Elvis Presley when she was still a teenager, and recorded two or three with Elvis. But she had songs that were in movies like "Stagecoach," and she knew people like Frank Sinatra, and Andy Williams recorded her songs, and she wrote some standards. She was an actress. If you've ever seen the movie, "The Ten Commandments," mom had a really little part in that movie. And I'd tell the kids, I said, "There goes grandma." That was it. But she did some acting in a couple of movies in Hollywood.

At that time she started having kids, and so she gave that up and she became a film critic. And I'm condensing her whole life very quickly, but she was the president of the Film Critics in Hollywood and Beverly Hills. And in that position, it's a very powerful position because she knew everybody in Hollywood. If a movie came out, and they spend millions of dollars on these movies, if the film critic gave a bad review, then their income went down, and so they were always afraid of the power of her. She was a film critic on "Good Morning America," and replaced Rona Barrett. And I just threw in a few pictures. I could just sit here all day and show you pictures of mom. But like here's mom with Muhammad Ali, with Sir Paul McCartney, Sylvester Stallone, Natalie Wood. Some people think she looked a little bit like Natalie Wood. Roger Moore, he was one of the James Bonds, Sally Field, who's still alive. There's mom with Clint Eastwood, and Paul Newman, and Benji the Dog. I don’t know if anyone remembers that. So I just show you these to let you know that when I was with mom...

Now dad, I was born in Burbank, California. Dad and mom split. He ended up moving his business to Miami Beach. Mom moved to New York City. My brother and I moved around through these different places. When she died, she was all alone. And we saw growing up these people that had lots of money and they had lots of influence and fame, and we knew some of them, that good looking, wealthy, healthy, miserable, killed themselves. And I used to think, "Why? Does life have any purpose?" And so that was the thing that struck me. Then I decided I'm just going to, I'm going to try and have all the fun I can. I saw this commercial where it said, "You only go around once in life. get all the gusto you can." I thought, "All right, well, I'm going to die having fun. I'm going to just have as much fun as I can and just go out enjoying myself." And I started to live a very reckless life.

I began using drugs. I started smoking when I was 13, because mom and dad both smoked and I'd just take their cigarettes. Then mom used to smoke pot. And one night she said, "Now well Doug, I know that you're going to end up being exposed to this out on the streets." And she said, "I'd just as soon you did it here at home." So she started to smoke pot with me two or three times a week, or hashish, and we'd eat ice cream and watch TV.

But you know, and so when I was with mom, I began to use drugs at home, and then when I was with dad in Florida... This is actually a Google Earth photo of the island that dad lived on. It's still there today, Sunset Island Number One, and he had that house on the top of the picture, right on the water with the dock, and had security guards that kept you from going on the island. Had a butler, a maid. Dad had a bar in the house bigger than some bars you might find in a city. So whenever I wanted to go drink, my friends and I would go drink all we wanted. And so I learned how to drink with dad. And he never realized it was missing because the butler kept replacing it thinking dad was just drinking more. And so my friends and I would often party during the day and I started drinking.

And by the way, all drugs are bad, but more of my friends have died from alcohol than anything. And I just mention that because I encounter Christians every now and then that think drinking a little bit is okay. I'll tell you friends, one out of seven people that drinks becomes an alcoholic, and it's just caused all kinds of misery in our society. Christians shouldn't drink anything, any alcohol.

But then I started getting into more and more trouble. I ran away from home the first time when I was 13. Went up to the hills. I always felt drawn to the hills. Ran away the last time when I was 15. Dad said, "I don't know what to do with you." I was just getting into trouble with the police and drugs, and I'm condensing the story. I left home. This is actually a picture from when I was 16 years old, a passport picture, and just started hitchhiking. I went from Florida to Maine. I had lied on my driver's license, I'm born in 57. I turned the seven into a two on my learner's permit. I used that permit to get one that said I was born in 1952, which made me old enough to buy alcohol and to get a job. So I moved to Boston with some very undesirable friends and we began to break into homes and to steal, steal cars, steal televisions, and it was getting a little more heavy duty. And I had a part-time job as a security guard during that time. I know, it's really bizarre. And I never stole from the people I was guarding, because I thought, "Well, they're paying me. They trust me. That wouldn't be right." But I had a friend who was a security guard and he knew about my day job. See, I'd guard places at night, I'd steal during the day because if you walk out of someone's apartment with a TV during the day, they think you're moving. You do it at night, you look suspicious.

My friend, he found out about what my day job was and he said, "Doug, your karma's going to get you." I said, "You going to turn me in?" He said, "No, no, your karma's going to get you." I said, "What's karma?" He said, "Whatever you do, it comes back." I said, "Ah, there's no God. There's no such thing." He said, "You'll see." And I started watching. You know, that principle is actually in the Bible where it says, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. And with what measure you mete, it'll be measured back to you." You call it on the street, "What goes around, comes around." I said, "Nah, there's no God." He said, "You'll find out."

I don’t know if he was praying for me or what was happening, but not too long after that, I woke up in my apartment in Boston and my door was open and my TV was gone, and my radio, and you should have seen, I was so indignant, I called the police and said, "You got to track down these thieves. What's happening to our neighborhood?" And I started watching, and everything I did backfired. I would steal something, and my friends were all thieves, they'd steal it from me. Or I'd steal something while I was drinking or high, and then I'd forget where I hid it and I'd wake up and I couldn't find it. Or I'd risk my life to steal something, and it was broken. I'd steal a stereo and plug it in, it didn't even work.

And you know what finally convinced me was a small thing. I didn't just quit stealing cold turkey. I tried to taper off, because I noticed that I went to someone's house and I stole a box of Krusteaz Instant Pancake Mix. And I did it because I was very health conscious. I'm drinking and using drugs and smoking, but I only wanted whole wheat pancake mix because I was very health conscious. And so I stole this person's pancake mix, and it cost $1.19. The blue stamp of the price was on the top of the box. That very same day, some friends went through my place and they took my jar of Tang Instant Breakfast Drink. Anyone remember that?

[Audience Member] Yeah.

And I had a brand new jar, and there on top of the jar it was stamped $1.19. and I looked at the pancake mix, my friends had drunk my whole jar. It was gone, and there was an empty jar with a lid and I thought, "Crime doesn't pay. There must be a God." Once I realized there was a God, I thought, "Wow, I better start searching."

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I wasn't interested in Christianity because I said, "Aw, they're all hypocrites." I was looking at Christians. Friends, if you want to find out what a Christian is, don't look at Christians, look at Christ.

[Audience] Amen.

People will let you down. Jesus will never let you down.

[Audience] Amen.

And I said, "Oh, the Protestants in Ireland are blowing up the Catholics, and the Catholics are killing the Protestants, and they all say they love Jesus. He says, 'Love your enemies,' and they're trying to kill each other. They're all hypocrites." And this is back during the Beatles era. So I started getting into Eastern religions. I was just searching through the whole gamut. I got into Hinduism, and Buddhism, and I was meditating, got into the spiritual science of DNA, shakti, transcendental meditation. Tried to mix it a little with the Jewish Kabbalah and some of the Rosicrucian teachings. And I just made this big old potluck stew of all these different religions trying to find God. Had gone to Catholic school, but I was so confused.

And it was during this time my father flew up to Boston. He said, "Doug, you've got to go back to school." He said, "Your brother's sick." He said, "I've got these companies." He said, "You're just throwing your life away. You must get an education." And he said, "I found a school I think will make you happy." I said, "I'm not going back to military school." Back then they had no girls. Since then they actually have girls at New York Military Academy now. They had none back then. I said, "I'm not going back to an all boy school." And he said, "I found a school. It's actually two boats that sail around the world. It's called 'Flint School Abroad.'" He says, "There's girls on the boat." And he said, "You'll go water skiing. You'll see all the world. You'll have adventures." I thought, "Well, all right."

So right from there he flew me to Genoa, Italy. And I'm at the school, they were in Naples, and put me on this boat, and I found out I'd been tricked a little bit. This is actually from the website, a picture of the school, the two ships that we sailed on. It was a school for the children of wealthy politicians and millionaires that had gotten involved in drugs or some cult to get them out of their environment and to try and straighten them out through isolation. Very expensive, very sophisticated. And they teach atheism. They indoctrinate you with atheism. They show you films of Darwin. You're always reading Ayn Rand books. I mean it was... And now I'm very religious. Now I'm meditating trying to find God in my DNA. I was playing my flute down in my cabin. And I sort of rebelled. I got into a lot of trouble.

One thing I learned though that I thought was very interesting, is even though now everyone on board claimed to be an atheist, we were sailing from Northern Africa over to Spain just before Christmas, and we encountered a terrible storm. And I know on a map the Mediterranean doesn't look very big, but if you get out in the middle of it in a storm, it looks very big. And the waves got to be 25, 30 feet. And the bow of the ship was going through the waves, and parts of the wave would roll across the boat and things were washing overboard. The wind picked up. It was like a hurricane and the sail ripped and the boat's rocking back and forth. So you go below deck and everybody's bunks and books and things were all tossed helter-skelter in the bottom of the ship. And everybody was seasick. And the captain was seasick. And the water was very cold, and the captain said, "Look, if you get blown overboard, we need to let you know, you have to be very careful because we can't turn around and get you. We will mark the spot. But in this storm, if we turn around we'll capsize." I mean, it was that scary.

What do you think atheists do in a storm when they think they're going to die? Nobody needed any lessons. And everybody knew what to say. So, and I was praying too. And they're all making promises. People know what to confess when they're about to die. They don't need any... They know what's wrong.

Well, about this time, when they gave us Christmas break, I took off. I said, "I'm never going back to this school again." I went home. I sold everything I had to my brother, and I took off and I started hitch hiking from Miami, Florida to California. My grandparents lived in Desert Hot Springs. And I had found a cave when I was 15 years old hitchhiking around the country. Found a cave and I thought, "I'm going to go move back up in that cave. I'm going to now find God in nature." And so I did that.

On my way across, I got stuck hitchhiking in Oklahoma. Now this is Christmas time and it was freezing cold. And I had come from Florida and I wasn't thinking, and I've got this thin windbreaker jacket and no warm clothes, and the weather is below freezing and I'm out on the interstate begging for a ride. And I thought I was going to die out there. And I spent hours out there and nobody would pick me up. I was hungover from drinking and playing pool. The day before, I'd lost all my money in making silly bets. And I became very desperate. I was a pretty rotten person.

I said, "Lord," I prayed. I said, "Will you please help me?" I didn't even know how to pray, I prayed the simple prayer. I asked God for four things. I said, "Will you please help me get a ride to where I'm going?" I still had like 1500 miles to go. "Will you please help me get some food, I'm hungry." I said, "Please help me get some money. I'm broke." And I said, "Please give me a ride with someone normal." Because hitchhiking, I kept getting picked up by crazy people, or they had ulterior motives, or they were drunk and nearly scared me half to death.

As soon as I finished praying, the next vehicle stopped and picked me up, took me 1500 miles to the door of Palm Springs of where I was going. Fed me all the way out. I didn't ask him to. He gave me $40 when he dropped me off that I didn't ask for. I also did not ask for him to preach to me all the way from Oklahoma to Palm Springs, California. This guy was a born again Christian. So when I prayed for a ride, God said, "I'm waiting for the right ride, Doug." This guy picked me up and he's just very nice. Whenever we stopped to eat, he said, "Let me buy your food." I had to listen to him or jump out of the car. And so, you know, I pick up hitchhikers and I witness to them now. I still do that. And I find it helps if you wait until you're doing about 65, and then you make your gospel presentation. And then you turn and look at them and then you accelerate and say, "Would you like to accept Jesus?" No, I do, I still pick up hitchhikers. I don't do that, though.

So this time now I was going to find God through nature. And this is some pictures that my brother actually took of when I was... I'm 17 years old at this point. And I went up to the cave and... I found a cave that was, it was several thousand feet above Palm Springs. And then you go back down in this valley and right by the cave there was water. The mountain was 11,000 feet. It's Mount San Jacinto. There's actually a picture of it. I think it's the next picture there. So water always came down by the cave. And it's a very isolated spot even though you're in Southern California. And I lived in the cave, I never wore any clothes. It was warm. And I thought, "I'm going to find God in nature." And I even had a Bible argument, "Adam and Eve were naked. This is God's plan." Now I went to town, I put clothes on, because you don't last very long walking around like that in town. But one time I did go to town and I forgot, but that's another story. So I would panhandle, I'd play the flute, and I'd dig around in the dumpster.

Now think about this. When my grandparents found out and they told my father, they said, "Doug is getting his food out of the garbage behind the market." My father worked so hard so that we would not be poor like he was during the Depression. His father died when he was seven, and he and his brothers had to work so hard to fight off poverty, and he thought, "I never want my kids to do that." They said, "Doug is getting his food out of the garbage can." How do you think that made him feel? That just broke him. How do you think your Heavenly Father feels when he gives his Son to save you from sin, and we go to the devil's dumpster for happiness? That breaks his heart. It's not going to satisfy you.

Well, the miracle that I didn't share with you... Oh, by the way, here's a picture. I'm in my cave with my cat, Stranger. I found one picture where I had my clothes on. Thought I'd share that with you. The miracle is in my cave, somebody had left a Bible in the cave. When I moved into the cave, other people had camped there. There was soot on the ceiling, and there was some old sleeping bags, and pots and pans, and a Bible. Well, I didn't pay much attention to it, but after about six months, I thought, "I'm going to read the Bible so I can argue with Christians." because I kept meeting these Christians, and I thought they were so ignorant. I said, "No, you're just... I believe in reincarnation." And they were just... I said, "Bible's been changed. You can't believe the Bible. It's fables and fairy tales." So I said, "I'm going to read the Bible so I can argue with them," because I felt ignorant. They'd say, "Are you born again?" I thought, "What do they mean?" "Are you washed in the blood?" And I thought, "That was gory. What are they talking about?"

So I began to read the Bible, and I got bogged down in the Old Testament. Someone said, "Doug, you need to go to the New Testament." So I went to the New Testament, and I read Matthew, Mark. I read about Jesus, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Every day I'd make banana bread from the day-old bananas I got from the market, and I'd eat banana bread and I'd read the Bible. And I kept saying, "This can't be true. No, this can't be true." But a voice kept telling me, "This is the truth. And just the teachings of Jesus." I finally came to the same conclusion as C.S. Lewis. He says, "You really, when you encounter Jesus, you've only got three options. He's either a liar, he's a lunatic, or he's Lord."

[Audience Member] Amen.

And I said, "Well, he's not crazy, because he said the most profound things I've ever heard. He's not a liar because he could've lied to save his life." Everything he said resonated with truth. "My only option is this man was telling the truth that God became a man to save us from our sins." And then I knew what that meant is that I needed to ask him to save me. And while I was only 17, I had a pretty good record of sin. And so up there in the cave I got on my knees and I said, "Lord, I'm a mess. But if you would forgive me and give me some purpose for living."

I was a number one first class zero. I was running around in the mountains, eating out of garbage cans, using drugs, drinking, stealing, thought I was spiritual, long hair and a beard. I mean I was just a big zero. I said, "Lord, if you give me some purpose for living," and he came into my heart and began to transform me, and I felt so happy, I felt a peace and a joy that now every time someone came by my cave hiking, I started giving Bible studies. First Bible studies, I had no clothes on. But they didn't have any clothes on either. So you know, the Lord meets us where we're at. I think, God, he's very patient. I was absolutely sincere, and I was giving Bible studies to people.

And then I said, "Lord, maybe you don't want me to live in a cave forever." I said, "I want to tell people about you, but I don't know how that's going to happen." I said, "I'm in a cave, but I feel this desire to tell." I said, "Lord, if you want me to tell other people about you, you've got to work this out."

So a quick story. After I prayed that prayer and I said, "Lord, if you want me to tell other people about you, I don’t know how I'm going to do it, I'm a hermit." I go down to town and I call my mother collect. I used to check in and she'd say, "Just tell me you're alive once every couple weeks." So I called mom. She said, "I'm glad you called." She said, "Are you going to be at your cave next week?" I said, "Yeah." She said, "I'm going to come visit you." I said, "What?" I said, "You can't get up there." She said, "No, no. I'm bringing a film crew with a helicopter. They want to interview you. They think it's interesting that a millionaire son is living in a cave."

And ABC, I'm sorry, NBC rented a helicopter and a film crew. They flew me up to the cave. This was actually that day in front of the cave. They flew mom in with a helicopter. This is Bill Applegate. It was on national television three times. And they said, "Why are you doing this?" I was able to share a quick testimony. Right after I said, "Lord, if you want me to tell anyone, I don't know how I'm going to tell anyone. I live in a cave," he sends a film crew to my cave. That's when I started thinking, "Maybe he will give me an opportunity to tell other people."

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