Happy New Year from the Blackhurst Family

Happy New Year from the Blackhurst’s

The Christmas letters have been flooding in and we have enjoyed reading about what has happened in all of your lives this past year. Thank you for remembering us and keeping us up to date. We are so thankful for you all – and as God brings you to mind, through a photo around our home, a Facebook update, an e-mail or a providential thought, we remember you and are so grateful for the time we have shared together. For some of us – that was a long time ago and others; we are still enjoying your company.

This will be our seventh year in Amarillo. And we are so thankful that God brought us here close to Crista’s parents. As many of you know, Crista’s mom was diagnosed with cancer a little over a year ago and went to be with the Lord on August 4th. We got to spend so much time with her over the past seven years and are so happy that we were able to be with her through most of her treatment. What a blessing God has given us to experience His grace in the midst of real difficulty.

Katelyn is in 5th grade and her second year of school at the Blackhurst Academy – (home school for those of you who didn’t get that). She is doing great and is an excellent student. She loves to read and is learning Latin along with her other subjects, but almost all of her spare time is devoted to dreaming about horses. Thankfully, we have some wonderful friends who actually have horses that allow her to join them for some rides occasionally. This summer on a family trip to Colorado, we got to share a ride through the Garden of the God’s together (daddy-daughter). I kept thinking how much longer and she kept turning around saying, “does it have to end?”

Ashlyn is in the 2nd grade at our neighborhood elementary school and has the same teachers as her older sister. She is a true friend to all the kids in her class and cares for everyone. We love to see how God uses her to reach out to girls who feel left out and don’t have the community that others might. She is our social butterfly and would love to have a party every day of the week if she could – and I’m sure when she gets older, we will!!! She loves movies and is our resident expert on electronics – usually fixing things that the rest of us mess up.

Andrew is 5 years old now and goes to a three day preschool at our church. He’s a manly man growing up in a house full of women. He loves everything sports related and playing soldiers and knights. He’s even found a way to integrate his sisters Barbie’s into his battles. He played soccer on a team with all his friends this year and who knows what the next thing will be. He really enjoys the activity and being with his friends. He and his sisters get along well and play together like best friends.

Crista spends much of her day teaching and mothering. I don’t know how she does it all, but she does it with excellence and joy. I’m so proud of her for the way she takes care of us and also teaches Katelyn. She also leads a group of young single women through a study of systematic theology one night each week and is teaching a high school girls Sunday school class. It has not been an easy year, but God has been faithful to care for us and give us His strength and grace in increasing measure along the way.

I have spent the year learning about my family and how much more important they are than anything else I do in life. My work is important and I enjoy it, but it is not my life. God has used the events of the past year to teach me many things that I’m still figuring out, but the most important is that my influence and impact at home will be the most far reaching and important thing I accomplish with my life. The things that I do outside of my family all flow from the reality of my life in my family. That being said, one of my best friends took me with a medical team to Honduras this summer where I had a wonderful experience learning about grace. I also was able to return to Taiwan for the fourth time this summer and continue the work we began five years ago. Our team got to participate in the baptism of one of the college students we began working with two years ago who God saved along the way!

God has been good to our family, far beyond what we deserve. His grace to us in Christ is our strength and help. You are a part of our story and we hope that 2010 connects us together. But if not, please know you are not far from our thoughts and prayers.

Todd, Crista, Katelyn, Ashlyn & Andrew

We’d love to hear from you. Be sure to find us on Facebook or write us at:

todd.blackhurst@tbcamarillo.org
cristablackhurst@gmail.com

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Porter Briggs – Living Life Well

I was able to spend the last week in Honduras with a medical mission team from both Amarillo and Madison, WI. It was a great week for many reasons, but one of the best was that I got to reconnect with an old college friend, Porter Briggs, from UMHB. Porter and I were in school together for three years (87-90) and haven’t seen each other since about 1991-1992. I want to tell you a little bit about his story and ask you to pray for him and the ministry God has called him to in Honduras.

About 7 years ago, Porter was living in the Dallas area and working for a large bank when God began to move in his heart regarding missions. He had just bought his first house and gotten a pretty nice promotion at work. His missions pastor at his church called him and invited him to lunch while at the same time Porter picked up the book Wild at Heart and read it over the course of about three days.

The next week Porter met with his missions pastor and was asked this question. “Would you consider giving your life to full-time mission work?”. When was the last time a pastor asked you that? Because of what God was doing in Porter’s heart – his answer was – yes. Over the course of the next year, he went on three short term trips to Honduras and then pretty much liquidated his life here in the states and moved. He built a home and supported himself for the first year he was there and is now supported by a small group of people who believe in what he is doing.

Porter runs three day care programs for single mothers in one city. The uniqueness of these day cares is that the only charge for using them is that the mothers go to work or go to school. In the Honduran culture, there are many women with multiple children who have been left by their husbands. There are between 35-50 children in the daycares at any one time. He also is the director for an orphanage in another city which is in the process of building up to a four house facility for 40 children. Currently one home is complete and the construction began this week (June 1, 2009) on the second home which should be finished in a few months. He works with the state and local government to house children who don’t have a home anymore.

Porter has chosen to live a simple life. I won’t tell you the US dollar amount that he lives on each month, but the sad reality is, most of us spend more on our monthly entertainment that Porter does to live. When he gets extra money, he gives it away to people he is ministering to. The orphanage is funded through a US foundation. I’ll be posting the information for anyone who would like to contribute to either Porter or the orphanage here as soon as I get it.

So how can you pray for Porter. You can pray for these things:

  • Opportunities and the personnel who will help him love and disciple the children God has given him in the Gospel.
  • Money to build out the orphanage.
  • An ever growing closeness to the Lord Jesus.
  • Opportunities to share the Gospel.
  • Safety & Protection (He’s been robbed multiple tens of times, once at gunpoint)

He lives primarily (60%) in Comayagua (where the daycare’s are) and spends the rest of his time at the orphanage in Yaramanguila. Click here for a map.

View Santa Rita in a larger map.

Transparency and Friendship

What does it mean to be a friend? To have a friend?

I spent this past week in Honduras on a medical mission trip with one of my best friends and some dear new friends. I think that God is so good to put people in our lives that shape and form us, round the edges off, knock the hard edges when necessary and softly sand when needed. I saw a very old friend who is serving in Honduras as a missionary to the people there (more on Porter in a future post).

All this along with some conversations on marriage, friendship, accountability and trasnparency got me thinking and here it is.

In the Christian church, there has been a great emphasis placed on the idea of male friendships and transparency. I would argue in some cases an over emphasis. I certainly have a few men in my life that I treasure and value highly and consider to be great friends. And along the way the Lord has been so good to me and given me friends at every stage in my journey that I would consider to be of the highest value. So what does it mean to be transparent with them? And how does this friendship affect my primary friendship with my wife.

I think many men value their male friendships above the relationship they have with their wife and I would argue that this is trouble. The Bible is clear that the most important human relationship a person can have is the one with their spouse. Yet many men seem to thrive on exposing the darkest secrets of their heart with a group of men while leaving their wives almost completely out of the loop.

Why does this happen? How does it happen?

I would make the argument that most men get married based on heat. Let me define that. Most men are attracted to a woman physically and romantically, but don’t give much thought to her spiritually and emotionally. Therefore they don’t know if they really have a deep connection based on the things they value most and hold at the center of their lives. However, this is most often how men choose their friends. We tend to be friends with people who value and hold dear the same things we do. So the buddies we hunt, fish, drink and hang out with are the ones who share the deeply held values in our soul.

So you wake up some months down the road after getting married and while there remains some residual heat from the romantic and physical relationship, you look over at your wife and wonder why she doesn’t really get you and you wonder why you don’t really get her. Now, I’m not saying that this situation can’t be remedied, by the grace of God and a true commitment to love your wife as Christ loves the church. Christian men and Christian women do have the same horizon – an overarching passion to love, serve and glorify Christ. So ultimately that will bring them together in a common pursuit that will supersede all other relationships.

But if a man remains committed to his male friendships above the relationship with his wife, this will leave her feeling, at best, in second place all the time. And as an added bonus, she will not trust her man, because she will always wonder what he is sharing with those men about himself and about her that he is not sharing with her.

If you really want to find transparnecy and genuine friendship, look for it first with your wife. The partner God has given you and then it will spill over onto a few others.

A must read for dads

This is a great article by my friend Steve Wright.
http://thelastingdivergence.ning.com/profiles/blogs/over-my-dead-body-son

Family Worship

Treasuring Christ in Family Worship

One of the things that I want to encourage every family I know to do is to have regular family worship. You might call it family devotions, family bible reading or whatever you like. While the task might sound intimidating at first, it really is very simple and only a few things are necessary to make it work: Your family, a bible, a leader and the Lord. Let me give you some ideas that might help you get started in your home.

For Families with Younger Children

I really like the One Year Bible for Children (Tyndale Kids) for readers or The Jesus Storybook Bible (ZonderKidz) for pre-readers. Gather your family and start at the beginning, reading through the scriptures. The One Year Bible for Children is already broken into daily pieces. The Jesus Storybook Bible is broken into stories. Take one story at a time and then ask questions based on the story. Don’t worry if your children ask questions or get a little off point to start. You are training and teaching them every time you sit and read to them and teaching them to listen to God’s word and more importantly to the Holy Spirit. With really young children it is helpful to begin to train them to sit in mom or dad’s lap while the story is being read. Now, be ready, your first few attempts may go south quickly and your child may get distracted and not seem to pay attention. But don’t give up, don’t get discouraged and most of all, don’t get frustrated. Show patience and love with firmness so your children will learn to listen. After reading the story and spending some time talking about it, then take time to pray for each other. This is really important because here is where you will train and teach your children how to pray. Mom and dad, you take time to pray for each other personally. Pray scriptural themes for each other, don’t pray childish prayers or your children will learn to pray childish things. Pray real God-centered, Christ-exalting prayers and teach your children how to approach God’s throne boldly seeking grace. Pray for your child’s salvation. Let them hear you ask God to save them. As you are first starting out, this time together may just be 10 minutes or so. But there may also be times when it is hard to quit because you are having such a sweet time of grace together.

For Families with Older Children & Teens

For this age group, I also like the One Year Bible for Children (Tyndale Kids), or an adult one year Bible or any of the scripture reading plans that have a systematic way to read through the scriptures. These are really helpful to keep you moving along through the scriptures so you don’t repeat the same stories and also experience the whole counsel of Scripture over the course of time. Don’t worry about missing a day or two, just pick up wherever you find yourself and don’t get caught trying to catch up. As you read the scriptures, talk about how they apply to life. Get a one volume commentary like “The MacArthur Bible Commentary” which covers the whole Bible or ask one of your pastors for help choosing something to assist you. It might be awkward at first to talk about spiritual things with your children, but it won’t take long before you are diving deep into the ocean of faith. What you are teaching your family is that your true treasure is the Lord Jesus Christ and His kingdom. And then be sure to spend time praying for and with each other. The older your children grow, the more personal and specific your prayers can become and you can really begin to share together in the joy of lifting each other up to the throne of God for mercy and grace.

In addition to the Bible reading and prayer, some families might want to sing together. You can sing your favorite hymns or worship songs and let that musical family member have an opportunity to use their talent. Just remember not to let it be a showcase for their talent, but a real expression of worship to God.

There are plenty of great resources on family worship to help you if you decide you want to dig deeper. The main thing is to get started. If you do it once a week, that will be 52 more times this year than you did last year. Don’t be legalistic. For some families, this might be something you decide to do every night. For others it might be once a week. Just be consistent. Your children will begin to treasure what they see you treasure, so don’t make this an add-on to an already busy and crowded schedule. Show them the importance of your faith by crowding something else out and making this a priority in your home and family.

Just stopping by

Just stopping by. I love it when people stop by. It’s easy. There’s no preparation, no frantic cleaning of the house, no making food, and all the assorted getting ready that goes into a full blown visit. Not that I don’t like the full blown visits, but there is just so much more work that goes into having one of those. But have I just been stopping by my greatest treasure?

This past weekend, I had the great privilege to attend the “Connecting Church & Home” conference in Brentwood, TN at Brentwood Baptist Church. There were about 100 people in attendance representing 70 churches from around the country who are pursuing a Biblical ministry to families. It was a great experience and apart from the great speakers, there were some great times of fellowship and networking between the men who were there, sharing our common love for the Gospel, the church and the home.

The first two presenters were from Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, NC. Their pastor, David Horner, spoke on Friday evening and then Steve Wright, their student pastor, spoke on Saturday morning. (Steve is coming to Trinity Baptist May 2-3 to share his ideas about student & family ministry)

They both shared their stories of how God has worked in their own lives and homes to bring about change and growth towards the Gospel and then how that has worked out in their churches. But one thought that really struck me was this – what do we treasure in our homes.

I think most families who attend church, and probably a majority of people where we live, would answer this question by saying that God is the most important thing. But this weekend, the Holy Spirit really began to dig into my heart and soul to examine how I am treasuring Christ. We have regular, almost daily family devotions, and I think if you asked my family members what the most important thing in our home is they would say God, but then I had to look at how we lived and how we ordered our life.

Our family devotions are done usually after the rush to get everyone ready for bed and sometimes with haste so we make some semblance of a regular bedtime on school nights. We work on our scripture memory plan at church, but most weeks, I don’t even learn the scripture with his children, let alone review what they have learned in the past. And I could go on with a whole list of failures – which is not really the point.

The point is I have a true treasure in the Lord Jesus Christ, but in my daily living, if someone were to just watch, they would probably say I treasure trash more than Him. And I want to change. I love Christ too much, I am too thankful for what He has done for me to stay the same here. So we’re going to be making some changes at our house and I’m going to be making some changes in my life.

And I want to encourage you to give some thought to this as well. Jesus told the parable about a man who found a treasure hidden in a field and so he went and sold all that he had so he could purchase the field and own the treasure. I think most of us just like knowing where the field is and stopping by at least a couple of times a week while holding on to all of our things because we aren’t really sure if the treasure is worth it.

The Blind Hog and the Acorn

My dad has lots of funny sayings, well, I didn’t think they were very funny, but people his age laugh at them. (sorry dad). One of those sayings that was usually used when we did something really well or at the right moment goes something  like this, “Even a blind hog sneaks up on an acorn every now and then.” I’m still not sure if that was a compliment or a slight nod to our lessening foolishness. I’m going to take it as a compliment.

Sometimes, community in the church can be like the proverbial acorn. We occasionally find it, but its not because we did anything intentional. We just blindly stumble into it and boy it sure does taste good, but then its gone and we go back to stumbling around hoping we might find some more.

True Biblical Community, however, is not like an acorn you eat, it’s like an acorn you plant. And after its planted, it begins to grow its roots down deep and then it springs up into a tree that grows branches with leaves and eventually it produces other acorns. It becomes a tree that gives life to others.

The problem it seems is, we are too quick to eat the acorn and not so quick to plant it. Because when you plant something, it takes time, patience and energy for it to grow. And who has time for that today? Why not just enjoy a quick bite of community at the fellowship and hope it holds you over until the next one sneaks up on you down the road. Because true community – life changing, spirit shaping, emotional, dig into your life, prying into your soul, because I love you community is costly, time-consuming, sometimes painful and yet, one of the greatest gifts God has given his people to enjoy.

Would you join me in planting some acorns and see what kind of forest we might plant, right here on I-40?