ommy and Daddy, there’s someone in our backyard!”
Those are the shocking words our daughter yelled early one morning as we were getting the kids ready for school. That morning is one we’ll never forget because it is when we began a journey to rebuild our family altar one stone at a time.
I (Karen) will share more about that particular morning later in this article, but first let me tell you that Satan desires to steal, kill, and destroy your family’s destiny. We learned that without a divine interruption, even Christian parents will find themselves raising up a generation that does not know how to walk in the freedom, power, and presence of God. The Enemy is busy stealing the hearts of the next generation and blinding them to truth. It is our job to take them back.
We can regain ground lost to the Enemy by stepping onto the battlefield in God’s power and authority, but in order to do that, we as parents must be awakened to the battle that is taking place in our own backyard. Ours is a generation of dry bones (Ezek. 37), and the greatest terrorist among us is named “lethargy.” Our families need to be awakened to the power and presence of God, and we do that by teaching them how to build an altar.
The devil’s agenda against the home is vicious and bold, yet many times we don’t even realize when the Enemy is at the front door of our house. The culture, media, and educational systems are working tirelessly to remove Jesus from the lives of this generation, and too often those of us who know God just stand by. There is an agenda that has spread across the land to present perversion as normal. It is as the prophet Isaiah wrote: “They say that what is right is wrong, and what is wrong is right; that black is white and white is black; bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter” (5:20 TLB). While the culture is busy proclaiming there are no absolute truths, we must listen to the cries that declare, “Someone is in the backyard!”
In the parable of the weeds, Jesus said, “While everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away” (Matt. 13:25 NIV). Families all across the globe are sleeping while the Enemy is busy sowing seeds of destruction in our youth. Are we falling asleep spiritually because we are worn out from the stress and the busyness of life? Know this—while we are sleeping, the Enemy is busy destroying the next generation. It’s time for an awakening. “Therefore He says: ‘Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light’” (Eph. 5:14 NKJV).
It’s time for Christian parents and adults to wake up and crawl to the altar because the Enemy is at the door! It’s time to become aware of the devil’s schemes (2 Cor. 2:11). We cannot allow this generation to walk into the abyss of lost purpose, power, and protection. If we sleep on and do nothing, then the next generation will say of us that we neither protected the presence of God nor showed them how to experience it. Judges 2:10 says, “After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel” (NIV). Let not the same be said of us—that a generation grew up who knew not the power of Pentecost!
Our family has been on an intense journey for many years to press into the fullness of Christ. It all started when we began to see “9:11” constantly. Little did we know that God was calling us back to Psalm 91:1 and reminding us that “he who dwells in the shelter of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty” (MEV).
We take great joy in our family and have always worked to keep our family healthy and our first priority. Our motto has always been, “We can’t win the whole world and lose our own family.” Sometimes, though, life gets so hectic and crazy that things get out of whack. We are public figures, and it’s easy to become great at public prayers but fail at creating an atmosphere at home for God encounters. That is, until you hear your daughter exclaim, “Mommy and Daddy, there is someone in the backyard!” Moments like that definitely put life back into perspective and set off your spiritual radar.
I remember the day clearly. Our son, Nate, was a senior in high school, and our daughter, Abby, was in first grade. On this particular morning, as we were preparing the kids for school, a figure appeared in our backyard. Our backyard is fairly large, and we have a tall privacy fence that completely encloses the yard. As soon as Abby told us she saw a person in the backyard, our son, Nate, looked out and said, “There is a guy in dark pants and a black hoodie in our backyard.”
I looked as well and saw the figure standing there. Immediately Pat ran out the back door to confront whoever had entered our yard so early in the morning. But the moment that Pat ran out the door, the figure disappeared. It simply vanished.
It would have been impossible for anyone to run from Pat and scale our tall privacy fence without being spotted. Yet there was no one to be found anywhere outside our fence or on our street who fit the description of the person we saw in our backyard. He was simply gone.
At that moment we realized our home was under a spiritual attack and that a demonic figure had been in our backyard. We realized Satan would do anything to get in our home (and he wants to get in your home as well). Then and there we awoke to the fact that it was past time to make our house a place of prayer. With the words of Jesus from Mark 3:25 resonating in our hearts—“If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand” (NIV)—Pat and I committed that day to build an altar in our home.
But that wasn’t the end of the story. Satan was still boldly coming after our children. Shortly after the incident with the man in the backyard, Pat and I were out of town leading a conference when we were awakened early one morning by a call from Nate. “Mom and Dad, I’ve been up all night, and the Enemy is trying to take me out. I can’t take it anymore,” he cried. That’s another moment we’ll never forget. It was 6:00 on the morning of June 15, 2010.
Nate was desperate for our help, and we were out of town ministering. Our hearts sank as parents. Nate was weeping as he began to explain the destructive path he had been on over the last several months since he’d started to be recruited to play college football. We were devastated. As his parents we wanted to run and embrace him, but we couldn’t. Nate has always been an amazing, fantastic son. While he was growing up, he traveled the world with us as we ministered the Gospel. He had become sold out to Christ at a young age.
So how did this happen? How did we not see this coming? Had we allowed the busyness of life, ministry, and personal ambitions to blind us to the fact that we were losing our son to the world? As all these thoughts swirled around in our minds, we remembered a recent dream.
Just two weeks earlier, Pat and I both had a dream on the same night. In the dream Nate had died in a car accident, and we could not locate his body. It was every parent’s worst nightmare. The next morning on our walk together we began to share the dream each of us had, only to realize God had given us both the same dream. God was speaking to us and warning us, saying, “Wake up!” With this realization we immediately went into battle mode in prayer. For the next two weeks we petitioned God to protect our son.
When we got the call from Nate that June morning, we finally understood what the dream was all about. The Enemy wasn’t trying to take Nate out by killing his body. He was going after his soul. That morning on the phone with Nate all we really wanted to do was get to him and embrace him, but all we could do in that moment was to pray with him and encourage him to hold on.
Pat was scheduled to speak before hundreds of teens later that morning, but all he could think was, We have no right to preach; our son is in trouble. We are failures as parents. The same thoughts were swirling through my mind. As the Enemy was busy whispering these lies in our ears, God spoke to us, It’s time to go to war for your family. Let this day mark you both forever with an urgency to rescue your home first, above all else. I will use your son to change lives!
When we arrived home after the conference, we didn’t scream or yell at Nate. We just wanted to embrace him. The minute Pat walked through the door, he ran and embraced Nate, and they fell to the floor weeping. Over the next three months our family closed ranks. We made up our mind that we didn’t need another visitation from God where He was merely a guest in our home. We needed a habitation. We needed God to move in with us and reside in with us as a permanent resident. So we decided to build a room of praise, a place where God’s glory could dwell among us. Restoring Nate and our family was all that mattered.
In the weeks that followed, we helped Nate walk back into the freedom of an intimate relationship with God. We wanted him to know that the past does not dictate the future. He needed to know that we still believed in him and that we had not turned our backs on him or given up on him. His mistakes could not change our love for him, nor could they change God’s love for him.
As the father did in the story of the Prodigal Son, Pat placed a ring on Nate’s finger, signifying the freedom and dignity that is ours through Christ Jesus. As we wrapped Nate up in love, he was able to feel the love of the heavenly Father demonstrated through us. That time of demonstrating the love and honor between father and son became an altar experience in our home.
On that day Nate began his journey to healing, restoration, and freedom. God was able to take what the devil meant for great evil and turn it into a powerful testimony that has changed lives. Nate is now a father himself. And he and our beautiful daughter-in-love, Adrienne, lead a movement of thousands of students and leaders as youth pastors at The House in Modesto in California along with Pastor Glen Berteau. Nate is now using his testimony to snatch a generation away from the lies of the culture. Take that, devil!