Pray With Open Eyes, For Open Doors, Openly Investing In Others

Moving Outside The Church Walls to Reach Those Who Don't Believe In Jesus

Eric Estes
Jan 2, 2022    46m
This message calls for us to pray with eyes open, watching for open doors, to move outside of the church walls, and reach those who don't believe in Jesus. We learn of opportunities that are available, through missions work, to reach those who are outside the church and invite them into a relationship with Christ. Video recorded at Grapevine, Texas.

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121 Community - Pray with open eyes, for open doors, openly investing in others
Eric Estes : [00:00:46] Lord, thank you, that you are one who saves and that you've rescued us. And Lord, as we go into 2022, I thank you, first of all, that we just get a fresh start. And Lord in you, we always get a fresh start, each day is new because of what Jesus did for us. Lord, I pray that you'd open our hearts, open our minds to your word, that you would shape us and mold us to be more and more like your son, Jesus. It's in His name we pray. Amen.

Eric Estes : [00:01:16] All right, a quick update on Ross, I know everybody's kind of asking about him. Ross and Lisa are completely, they're doing great, they're out of quarantine. As a matter of fact, he is leading a group of our young adults to the passion conference. Right now, they're on their way, so this was scheduled a long time ago for this to happen. So God willing, he will be back next week, and we can continue on.

Eric Estes : [00:01:42] But today, what we had scheduled was for myself and Elvis Gallegos, our Mission's Pastor, to kind of walk through this particular place in scripture where I think God can really show us some really cool things in there.

Eric Estes : [00:01:55] So speaking of young adults, it was in that time period of my life, my kind of late 20s, where I was first saved, where I first came to know and trust Jesus. Rather than trusting myself, I finally started to trust in Jesus, and God saved me in that period of my life. And in that period of my life, I was playing rugby. I started playing in college and then, as I kind of moved back here, I would continue to play. And if you know anything about rugby, it's a rough sport. It's not only rough on the field, but it's probably equally rough off the field, and it just kind of draws a crowd of just rough people, and there's kind of a culture of debauchery that kind of goes along with rugby, and that was the environment that I was in when God saved me. And I knew in my new faith that I needed to share this good news with my teammates around me, and I knew that they wouldn't have a whole lot of interest in that. So what I did was I said, OK, well, I was the team captain at the time, and part of my job as team captain was before the match, we would gather together in the middle and kind of talk strategy, and I would give a pep talk, and then we'd kind of go play the game. So I thought, you know what? I'm going to pray for that during that time period, and so I gathered everybody together and I said, guys, we're going to pray, and I just dove right into it. I didn't know what I was doing, I was a brand-new believer, and I just dove right in so that nobody would say anything or object. And I had a prayer, and I had my pep talk, and somehow, I got the two kind of mixed together and it was ugly. It was something like, God, thank you for letting us come out here and play this game today. Now let us go out there and rip their bleep, bleep bleep, and let us go and we'll kick them in the bleep, bleep, bleep. And it was ugly. I mean, it was awful. These guys didn't know anything about prayer, but they knew that was not a good prayer.

Eric Estes : [00:03:55] So it raises the question, what is a good prayer? Before we even ask that question, what is prayer. right, how do we grow in our prayer life? Why do we pray? These are questions that we're going to be wrestling with this month, for the month of January, as a church and as individuals, so that we can grow in our prayer life so that we can really anchor down our prayer life. So that as we go into 2022, we're not just going full out without going first to God, and saying, God, what do you want us to do? Making sure that we're aligned with what he has for us. And then also, that we're doing what we're doing not out of our own power, but in God's power, right, that we are needing him.

Eric Estes : [00:04:43] And so that's what we want to do as a church, so over this month of January...Let me read a quote from Tim Keller, by the way, it comes from this book, Tim Keller's Book on Prayer, you know, it's a really unique name. But the name of the book is, it's one of the best books that I've read on prayer. And here's what Keller says, he says, “Prayer is the only entryway into genuine self-knowledge. It is also the main way we experience deep change—the reordering of our loves. Prayer is how God gives us so many of the unimaginable things he has for us. Indeed, prayer makes it safe for God to give us many of the things we most desire. It is the way we know God, the way we finally treat God as God. Prayer is simply the key to everything we need to do and be in life.” See, Keller got it, like most of church history, and what we see in scripture, is that prayer is absolutely critical to our life in Christ, to our relationship with God, it's the inward part of our faith, and it's where that relationship is formed, it's where we're shaped. And so, as a church, we want to really spend a lot of time in this month of January, building good habits of prayer. So Sundays, we will be looking at different scriptures on prayer, then on Friday nights, we're going to gather together in worship and pray together as a whole body. Then in our life groups, as we do life group, we want to spend significant time in prayer, not just talking about prayer, but actually praying together. And then also, we will be sending out, if you want to sign up on the website to get, just a daily prayer, wrestling through questions about prayer, and helping us to understand and grow in our understanding of what is prayer and how do we grow in that? That'll be all we do this month so that we can build habits and become a people of prayer, and really start this year devoted in prayer, building new habits, praying, and asking God to do some amazing things.

Eric Estes : [00:06:44] So today we're going to be in Colossians 4 verses 2 through 6, and I'm going to ask Elvis Gallegos to come out, and we're going to kind of wrestle through this together because what I want Elvis to kind of help us with is, in the scripture, some of it's fairly straightforward, but then how does this play out? And I want Elvis to kind of help us see, how does this play out in the life of 121 with our partners, and mission partners all across the globe and locally, and then also in the lives of individuals here? So Elvis is joining us.

Eric Estes : [00:07:15] And so in the first thing we're going to see, as we kind of look at Colossians 4, the big idea here is Paul is going to tell us three things, he's going to say that we are to pray with eyes wide open, for doors to wide open, and that we are to invest in others. We're to pray with our eyes wide open, for doors wide open, openly investing in others.

Eric Estes : [00:07:42] And so it's really kind of three pieces there, and the first thing we're going to see is that we need to pray with our eyes wide open. And so in verse 2, he says, "Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving." Now what we need to understand here is Paul isn't just urging us to pray, he's asking us to pray continuously, steadfastly, devoting ourselves to prayer, to be busily engaged in prayer. Oftentimes, what we do is we tend to be more just kind of like, hey, whenever there's a need that comes up, we pray, right? Or maybe there's kind of a routine we have, but we're not really heavily engaged. It's a matter of fact what Tim Keller says in the book, as he says, oftentimes what we do, is rather than pray, we worry in a Godward direction, all right? Can anybody identify with that? Some of my prayers are really just me worrying towards God.

Eric Estes : [00:08:36] And so what we want to do is, we want to grow in our prayer life as we do this. And if you want to kind of grow in your life, one way to do that, kind of the first step that I would recommend, is if you go to our website and go under the Eight Ways to Follow Jesus, that's our discipleship curriculum, there's a module on prayer in there. And I want to encourage you to spend some time there, it gives you a kind of a pattern, and a kind of a format to pray, some tips, some hints on how we can grow in our prayer life. And then, to turn around and pass that on to someone else, share with somebody else what you're learning about prayer because as we start to pass it on to someone else, as we all know, it starts to become our own, we start to really internalize it as we go.

Eric Estes : [00:09:20] So, one of the things we see in there is that prayer is a conversation, it's a conversation with the King. And so just like when going before a King, we acknowledge who he is, and then we confess our sins, then we ask him for what's on our heart, and then we listen. And it's in those spaces where he shapes us, where we're shaped and molded, that's what prayer is. Because it's a conversation, because it's a dialog, we're to, to go back, it takes time, and we have to go back constantly and continue to go before the Father.

Eric Estes : [00:09:59] That's why Jesus tells the parable in Luke 18, starting in verse 1, he tells this story about an unrighteous judge, a judge who doesn't really have a lot of concern with justice, right, which is a problem when you're a judge, and a widow who comes before him, and pleads for justice, and he kind of dismisses her. And she comes before him again, and again, and again, and she keeps coming before him, and the unrighteous judge finally relents, he just says, fine, I'll give you what you asked for. And then Jesus makes the point that if this unrighteous judge gives justice, how much more so will the righteous God of the Universe bring justice to us when we continue to go before him like that? So this idea of continuously going before him, and then to continuously go before him with open eyes. So you see this kind of pattern in verse two where he tells us to pray, to watch, and to think. Pray, watch, think, and so we go at it with open eyes.

Eric Estes : [00:11:02] And I think, I don't know about you, my kids, for some reason, I don't mean necessarily that's literal, that we literally have to have our eyes open. For some reason, my kids have gotten the idea that if you pray with your eyes open, it's like a sin or something. And so at dinnertime, this happens all the time, we'll be praying, and we'll say amen. And one of them, it never fails, will say so and so had their eyes open. I'm like, wait a second, the only way you would know that is if you had your eyes open, right? But we pray with our eyes open, what that means is that we're to pray and watch what God is doing. We pray and we expectantly watch and go, ok, God, what are you going to do here? We pray and we watch, and what that does is it starts the cycle, we pray, and we watch, and we see, and then that drives us to more prayer, and then we thank God for what he's doing, and that drives us to more prayer, and it kind of starts this cycle.

Eric Estes : [00:11:53] And what else it does, is it gives us then, once we pray and watch, let's say I'm praying for my neighbor and I'm watching to see what God is doing there. He helps us then to see that there are ways that I can help, that I can be part of that, that I can actually be an answer to that prayer by engaging my neighbor, or helping my neighbor with something, or whatever it is. So those are ways that we pray with open eyes. So Elvis, help us understand, what are some other places where, in our church, where you've seen people just praying with open eyes like that?

Elvis Gallegos: [00:12:23] Yeah, there are a few groups that come to mind, and it's our Vision 2025 prayer group, and then our prayer walk team. But the Vision 2025, for you guys that aren't familiar with this, is really the big initiative that God's leading us into this path over the next five years to really establish worship. Those are things like our Bible Translation Team, Africa Research Team, a new initiative in Africa, neighborhood engagement, Lionheart Scholarships, things like that. But this is a group that's led by Valerie Levi, that gathers up weekly, on Sunday mornings, now they're gathering up virtually, but they are receiving these prayer requests from our Vision 2025 teams, and just lifting up those prayers that they're receiving weekly. And that's also something that they've really gotten to a routine, if I'm not mistaken, I think Valerie's got a great way where she prays through on a daily basis for every different team, whether it's Monday, Lionheart Scholarships, Tuesdays, more neighborhood opportunities, et cetera, Wednesday, Thursday, so on and so forth. So that's one group that's just continued to faithfully meet and committed to prayer before we launch Vision 2025.

Elvis Gallegos: [00:13:33] And then the second one is a prayer walk team. It really started through our Spanish service, about three individuals got together once a month, Saturday mornings, gathering up here, it's now grown to about nine or ten folks gathering up. They get together here at the building Saturday mornings, pray together, and then get out and prayer walk our neighborhood. And Trail Wood mobile home park here, they're breaking up into groups and walking up and down those streets and just praying that God will just, with open eyes, that God will open up opportunities to just meet people and pray for people, it's just been a great way to invite people in. I know there's been a family that through that started joining the prayer team, and now is attending our Spanish service. But it's a great way where our Spanish and our English service can come together, prayer walk the Mustang Drive the apartment complex, but just to eagerly watch to see how God's moving through those teams.

Eric Estes : [00:14:24] And what I love about both of those teams is that they're praying and then they're watching, and they're tracking, OK, what is God doing in each of these, and they're celebrating what God has done as they're praying. And I think it's just so cool to see the fruit of that prayer, especially in the neighborhood around us, and all the things God is doing there as we go.

Eric Estes : [00:14:44] So, we're to pray with open eyes is the first thing he says. Then the second thing, is that we're to pray for open doors. And so in verses 3 and 4, here's what Paul says, he says, "At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— 4that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. So did y'all catch where Paul is, as he's writing this letter? He's in prison, right? Now, what I find fascinating here is that his prayer is not, hey, pray for me that I'll get out of prison. His prayer is, pray that God would open a door so I can share Christ in the midst of prison, wherever he is. He could pray for God to open the doors to the prison, God's done that before, right, for him. But instead, he doesn't pray for the circumstances to change, he prays for him to be faithful in the circumstances, for God to open doors of opportunity within the circumstances that he's in. And if you look at Paul's prayers throughout scripture, we don't see him praying for other people to get out of situations, instead, we see him praying that they would be faithful in those situations, or that God would open the eyes of their heart, or see them, or grow in knowledge of him, or whatever it is, but that's kind of how Paul rolls. And I think for us, we can learn a lot from that because oftentimes what we pray for, is to get out of situations, right, rather than into situations. And I think there's nothing wrong, we see it in scripture, for us to pray for healing, and to get out of these situations. But we should have a balance there, are we also praying for God to work within the situations that we're in. Or for us to even put us in situations where it might not be comfortable for us, but it's an opportunity for us to be a light, to share the Gospel, to help people to see and know Jesus.

Eric Estes : [00:16:49] The phrase he uses here is the idea of open doors, and we see that throughout scripture. In First Corinthians 16, he says, "But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, 9for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries." So we see this picture of an open door. So, Elvis, help us to understand, like what are some of the things, the door open doors, that we're starting to see, and some of those things that we're praying for as a church?

Elvis Gallegos: [00:17:13] So what we've noticed, a lot of our global partners, there have been incredible opportunities where God's opened up doors for a lot of our global partners. But one, in particular, I want to focus on is Pioneers. I think you guys are pretty familiar with Pioneers, I've been partnered with them for a long time. A lot of our missionaries, we call global workers, have been sent out through their trained ups and out supported through Pioneers. But if we look at really over these last few years, and through this pandemic, the engagement online through technology and media has been through the roof, obviously too with the fact that everybody has a phone, whether rich or poor, living here or globally, wherever you live, that realize that people have a phone or devices that they're on online. So Pioneers has developed, and it's exciting for us to talk about it today because we're partnering with them now and being a part of something, they're calling Media to Movements, and this is where they're really finding a way to connect with those seeking online. Think about it in three ways, they're leveraging technology and Omni channels to make disciples online. Two, just creating this content, if you will, to engage and get people to just interact. I think they've also realized that, hey, people are going to be more open and vulnerable in connecting with you and having a chat online before meeting in person. Because the ultimate goal, the third piece, is really that they want to start online, but eventually, move offline and discipleship face to face.

Elvis Gallegos: [00:18:41] So it's exciting for us to be a part of it, we're starting a team here ourselves at 121 to be more involved in media, being more involved in technology, and how to reach the nations. Especially, the way people groups are just moving, migrating all across the globe, so it's a great way for us to get more involved in missions through media. And we have a short video here that we can show you.

Video: [00:19:13] We love the country God has called us to in Eastern Europe, but the ministry has been slow going. For 10 years, we tried different approaches to build relationships with spiritually hungry people, humanitarian aid, English classes, running a business, flood relief, Christmas child boxes, and believe it or not, goat farming. We met a lot of people through our efforts, they just weren't interested in Jesus or spiritual conversations. We were doing good things, but it never led to the discipleship relationships we were looking for. That's when we decided to try media, we learned about a strategy from a team in another country using media to catalyze disciple-making movements, or media to movements, for short. In this strategy, media serves as a way to find and connect with those seeking spiritual answers online. But it doesn't stop there, the goal is to move these relationships offline and see people become disciples of Jesus who continue making disciples among their friends and family. It took us six months to launch our first campaign, the response we saw exceeded our expectations. We ran Facebook ads asking, are you one of those people who had a dream of the man in white, referring to Jesus? Twenty-three thousand people watched one hundred percent of our video ads, twenty-five hundred people visited our website, one hundred and ten people messaged us, ten requested a Bible, and two people met with us in person. In 20 days, we had more engagement with spiritually seeking people, than in the first ten years combined, it felt like we had been using a small fishing pole, and now we had a large net. As a result of our first effort, we realized we needed to build systems for prayer, media development, and partnerships to follow up with those who responded. Since our launch in Bosnia, God has expanded the use of digital strategies to nearby countries like Serbia. After nine months, they saw two hundred and eighty-one new people involved in a discipling relationship, and fifty-eight people accept Christ as Lord. God continues opening doors to share what we've learned, and we now coach 18 other teams using the same strategy. Our goal is to see media to movement initiatives take root in all forty-four countries in Europe, so they too can experience an increase in fruitfulness that ignites a powerful movement of God. You don't have to be a media person to do this, but it does take commitment. There are people from a variety of ministries ready to help you to get started or connect with others, go to, to choose a pathway that's right for you.

Eric Estes : [00:22:37] So that's an example of doors that God is opening, and I think we also see those places all throughout our own lives. So, these are things that we're giving you are ways that you can pray for open doors, but also who are those people in your life who don't know Christ? Are you praying for open doors for them? Then also, are you praying for those who are in your circle, who are your friends, who are actively sharing their faith? We need to be praying for each other. Paul asked them, hey, pray for me. And we'd be praying for each other as we go to Life Group, we should be praying for each other that, hey, that you would have this opportunity to speak to your coworker, or your neighbor, or whatever it is.

Eric Estes : [00:23:18] Jesus tells us, in Matthew 9, "That the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few, and so pray to the Lord of the Harvest to raise up new laborers." And we should all be praying for God to raise more and more people up, to share the Gospel, to share the good news of Jesus as we move forward in this. So these are all ways that we can pray for open doors as we look at this.

Eric Estes : [00:23:43] And Paul tells us here, that what he's asking for us is, open doors to be able to declare the mystery of Christ. Now, what does that word mystery mean? I know most of us, what do we typically think of when we think of mystery? Well, most of the time we think of Scooby-Doo, right? Scooby-Doo, there's something hidden, and they have to gather up all the clues to figure out what it is that's hidden. But biblically, what we see, is that word mystery means something a little bit different. There's something hidden, but rather than trying to figure it out, it's something hidden that only God can reveal. And God has revealed this mystery, the mystery is that of Jesus, how we tend to seek after, and try and pursue, and try and earn, and do all the right things so that we can be made right with God. But the mystery, the twist, is that that'll never happen, that it can only happen through Jesus and what God has done in Jesus. That only through what Jesus did, that he wipes our slate clean, so no matter what we do, if we trust in Jesus, that is how we find salvation, that's how we find joy, and that is how we find life in him.

Eric Estes : [00:24:56] In Colossians 1, at the very beginning of this letter, Paul actually defines what he means by mystery, and he calls it the mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. I love that phrase because all of us are seeking, everyone we talk to, is seeking glory in different areas, but the paradigm here is that we will continue to run into roadblocks as we seek our own glory. But if we will set our side our own glory, and follow Christ and give him the glory, then we participate in his glory, and that's where glory is found, that's where hope is found. Everyone we talk to is seeking hope in somewhere, but the mystery is, that hope is actually found in Jesus. And, that's the only place where we can find joy, we can find true joy, true life, and life abundantly is in that mystery of Jesus.

Eric Estes : [00:25:53] What I love about the way this mystery is described, is it's that God is the one who reveals the mystery, but then Paul says, "Pray for me that I can reveal the mystery." So which one is it, is it God, or is it Paul, or is it us who reveals the mystery? And the answer is, yes, it's both. God uses us to declare this mystery, to help people kind of understand it and navigate it, but yet it's God who comes in in his Holy Spirit and changes the heart of people. And this should take so much pressure off of us, right? Because we, as we look at this mystery and what that looks like, we don't have to convince someone, we don't have to really make them understand, all we have to do is be faithful to share and explain, here's this mystery, and then let God pull up the veil and reveal to them what it is that's happening there.

Eric Estes : [00:26:51] So, we are to pray with open eyes, then we're to pray for open doors, and then the last thing he says is, we’re to intentionally invest in those outside. So in verses 5 and 6, he says, "Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. 6Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person." So he says, pray for open doors, and then when God opens the door, walk through it, walk through it with wisdom to those who are outside the faith. That we're to walk there, and he tells us two specific ways to walk, use wisdom in our time, and use wisdom in our words.

Eric Estes : [00:27:34] But before we even talk about those, let's talk about this outsider. Elvis, what is an outsider, and what does that look like?

Elvis Gallegos: [00:27:41] Yeah. So what he's referring to here is one that's outside the faith, a nonbeliever, and one who is lost. And so when I think of this and let me just also invite you into these teams that I keep mentioning these groups, whether it's our prayer groups that are gathering up or even the technology group that media the movement's team that we're putting together here. But another way I want to invite you in is it's through our mission trips, so we've been, for years, going on trips, on missions. Now, recently, we haven't been, but it's going to be a big year this year, and we're going to have a lunch, an interest lunch, on all our trips coming up, January 30th. If you're interested in that, please join us, how you can just be praying through to see if God will open up that door for you to travel with us, and to partner, or to really support our partners that are out on the field that are these front lines of sharing the word with the outsiders.

Elvis Gallegos: [00:28:31] One, we have a few trips potentially planned to India this year, but another one that I want to focus on right now is the trip, the partnership that we have in the Czech Republic. We are there with Young Life, we've been there for many years, and this is a country that over 80 percent of the population is atheist, so atheism is the religion in the Czech Republic. So we have an incredible opportunity, and God has opened up a door for us to travel and support our partners there, put on a weekly camp where you will see 70, now this was pre-COVID, but I think you'll see 70, to 80, to 90 students come, and for us to have that opportunity to invest wisely and be with those, or share the word with the outsiders. And so an incredible way where God's moving through the youth there, with an incredible partnership. But yeah, again, just invite you into those, and also please just always be looking out, or just stay up to speed on the QR codes behind the chairs, it's always stuff happening like this, ways that you can get invited into an opportunity to be praying and see where God's opened up doors.

Eric Estes : [00:29:34] That's awesome. So, in order for us to walk with wisdom, in order for us to walk with outsiders, we have to step outside, right? And so for this next year, 2022, what Ross has kind of laid out, he started to lay out, and we'll kind of continue to talk about it, but what God has led our leadership to do is to really kind of focus on outside as the theme for 2022. And so what that looks like is it means, first of all, for us to get outside the walls of the church. Not just to gather here, but then also what are we doing to get outside, to serve others, to live out our faith, to have those conversations with outsiders, who are outside of these walls? And then secondly, to get outside of our comfort zone. So for this year, what would it look like for each one, each person, here to get outside of their comfort zone in one area of their life? And then the third piece to this is 121 Outdoors, and I'll talk about that here in just a minute, but let's dig in a little bit to this idea of outside the four walls. Elvis, help us to understand what are ways, how could that look?

Elvis Gallegos: [00:30:42] Well, for one, we've been really involved outside the walls, and you've heard us talk a lot about reaching our schools. So God has been opening up some incredible doors of, just we've seen the fruits of just middle school girls starting Bible studies, new FCA starting at middle school. So really want to invite you as a body to get more involved in our schools as we're trying to start up beach clubs, support more FCA's, get more involved in Young Life, Students Standing Strong, just prayer groups that Michelle mentioned that's meeting up at the Timberline Elementary. Just ways that you can engage and be involved in the schools, whether you have a student there or not. We're always looking for volunteers to just assist with those that are leading up those efforts there.

Elvis Gallegos: [00:31:25] Two, is, really praying through a stronger partnership with World Relief here on Mustang Drive because of the increase of refugees to the DFW area, especially Afghan refugees. We've been working and talking about what would it look like to have some families here on Mustang Drive, where we as a body can minister to them daily? And so what we're trying to do is put together something that we call a good neighbor team, that would really just come alongside these families that can move here into our community, and we would just love them well, whether it's just taking them to the grocery store, praying for them, just having community, connecting them to the schools or the community outreach center, different things that were already in a relationship with, and connect them to.

Elvis Gallegos: [00:32:08] And then the third is, serve day, in the fall. We're going to put on a big serve day where, as a body, will get together here in the morning on a Sunday, but we will be that day for us worshiping as a church, we'll be out and serving our community and all our local partners. So the entire body at 121, being outside these walls and servicing, that will be how we will worship together, so I'm just really excited about how we'll do that this coming fall.

Eric Estes : [00:32:34] I've love seeing, especially the reaching our schools, how the doors that have been opened inside our schools, it's really been amazing. And that's come from a lot of prayer from teachers, and parents of students who are in these schools, and then our teams here at the church, praying and praying and praying for these schools. And it's really amazing to see some of how these doors have opened and some of the fruit that's come from that. Well, how about outside our comfort zone? What's an example of that?

Elvis Gallegos: [00:33:05] Yeah, I would definitely say that number one is our 121 Espanol service, it's been incredible how God's just continuing to bring people in at the five o'clock here on Sundays. But it's our kids' ministries that are growing, and we have over twenty-five kids now. And so there's a need for volunteers there, and you don't have to know Spanish, the kids all know English. But just an incredible way to meet a need as so many new believers are coming and just hearing Arnoldo's teaching there, so to have adult supervision and volunteer there at the 5:00, is a huge need that that could be outside your comfort zone.

Elvis Gallegos: [00:33:40] The second piece would be our ESL program that we're starting January 23rd here at the building, so we've partnered with a few other local churches, and praying through a four-year prayer, just what was the biggest need here in the community? And it continues to be English classes, so we're going to offer English classes Sunday evenings from 6:30 to 8:00, and free childcare, which that was something we had to pray for, but we knew that that was the one thing that was really probably holding a lot of folks back to be able to attend. So we're going to remove that, and so we're really praying through for volunteers, teachers, assistants. You don't have to know a second language, but that's just another way to be outside your comfort zone in being a part of that ESL program.

Eric Estes : [00:34:20] That's great. And then 121 Outdoors, you've seen some kind of teasers on that, if you're at the budget meeting, Ross talked about it a little bit. But what that is, is we want this next year for us to be taking a lot of different trips to the outdoors as small groups of people, maybe eight to twelve, doing something, an activity, that they love to do that's outdoors, whether that's fly fishing, or mountain biking or whatever it is, to go out, do that activity, but then also bake in significant time to be out in God's creation in solitude, and just to really seek God. And then as this group gathers together, to have a meaningful conversation. It would be a great opportunity, also, to bring a friend, to bring one of those outsiders who don't know Jesus and say, hey, come along, because maybe they love the kayaking or whatever you're doing. But yet, while they're there, that they'll have a meaningful time where they can experience the goodness of God and have meaningful friendships with those who know Christ. So this is something that we're going to be doing this next year, if you have an interest in leading one of these trips, you have something you're passionate about and you want to lead a trip, let either Elvis or I know, and we'll get you on the list to kind of gather together and kind of do an interest meeting of what that looks like. But we're excited about this, this year, of what that could be as we all get outside in this area. So, Elvis, I know you're going to do one of the trips, what are you going to do?

Elvis Gallegos: [00:35:45] Yeah. My family has lived in New Braunfels for a long time, and I've heard the fly fishing, especially, in the Guadalupe River and the Trout, are incredible. I've never fly fished, have always wanted to do it, so I felt like God could be just opening up a door there to say let's take a group of guys, be outdoors, be in God's word and his creation, and get an opportunity to fly fish down south. But also, I think even my wife had mentioned, we just recently took a trip over Thanksgiving in New York City, it was just an incredible time. But to see, to be a part of there, but Central Park was really where God was showing her that, hey, what would this look like to take a group of women there? Could we really pray through and just be a part of Central Park, be outdoors, his creation, with a group of women worshipping and just praying through. So, those are a few things that I hope God continues to open up those doors for us.

Eric Estes : [00:36:35] That's great. So that's kind of an overview of 2022, and one of the big initiatives is this outdoor theme, this outside theme, that we're doing. But what Paul tells us here, is that we are to invest in those who are outside. And he tells us kind of two pieces, we're to walk with them using our time as well as our words. So when he uses this time, he says, we're to make the best use of our time. The word literally means to buy out something, to buy up something, it's the picture of an investment. Like I buy up something in order to then turn around and sell it for a big return, right? So just picture if you had a time machine, and you could go back 15 years and buy Amazon stock, or Tesla stock, or whatever it is right, that you would know you'd be buying it, knowing there's an incredible return on that investment coming, right? And the same is true here, he's kind of giving us this picture of there is no greater return on investment of your time than if you're having conversations, if you're spending time, investing time, with those who don't know Jesus. Because it's an eternal reward, right, if they come to know and trust Christ, then the rewards of that will continue on for eternity. So the return on investment there is like infinite as far as what that looks like, and how we spend our time with this. So we're to spend our time wisely, by investing it in those who don't know Christ. And we know there are lots of different ways that we can spend our time, right, we have a bazillion different things we can do. But what would it look like this year, in 2022, to strategically invest our time in someone who doesn't know Christ?

Eric Estes : [00:38:23] So we are to invest our time, and then also he's telling us we're to be wise in our words, he says we're to have gracious speech, seasoned with salt. And so the picture here is that we have, you know, kindness in our speech, we're encouraging in our speech, right? And that alone would stand out from the world, but then also were to be seasoned with salt. And that picture is, is the picture of we season things with flavor, right? So we're to be kind, and we're to be interesting, we're to be excited about what we're talking about. I think of all, as I was studying this passage, this probably convicted me more than any with anything else, just this idea that as Christians, what I tend to find myself doing is I tend to tone things down, right, especially I'm talking about Jesus with those who don't know him, I kind of tend to tone it down. Because I don't want to, you know, make it feel awkward or anything else, but that kind of makes it bland, right?

Eric Estes : [00:39:23] I go to lunch occasionally with a friend of mine who when he orders, he orders a piece of chicken or whatever it is, with, like, take off all the seasoning, no flavor whatsoever, and then some broccoli on the side with no seasoning or no flavor, because dietarily, that's what he needs to do. And the restaurant does that, they oblige him, no problem. But what if that restaurant said, you know what, since he doesn't like that flavoring, let's make all of our menu items flavor free, right? Try to make them as appealing to you, as open to anyone, as we can. Well, the problem is nobody would come to the restaurant, right, because it's bland.

Eric Estes : [00:39:59] And so us, as Christians, we should not be bland. We should be some of the most exciting, interesting people that people come in contact with because we have the knowledge, the secret, to eternal life. We know the mystery, it's been revealed to us, we know we have life, and life abundantly, because of what Jesus did for us. We, of all people, should experience joy and excitement as we explain, as we talk about, who Jesus is and what he's done. So, what would that look like this year, for us to just step out in a little bit more excitement and boldness in our speech and our words, as we're talking to different people? And let's face it, there's a lot of different things that people can engage in, so if we're kind of talking to them and we're kind of bland, then they're going to engage in something else. But if we're excited about what we're saying, people are drawn to excitement, even if they don't agree with what you're saying, if you're excited about it, they're going to give it a listen. And who knows what God will do? Who knows how God will pull back that veil and show himself to them?

Eric Estes : [00:41:09] Now you might be thinking, wow, that's a lot, right? How do I do that? Have you seen my schedule? I mean, now you're saying I need to invest time in those who don't know Christ, I need to change my words and how I speak, we've talked about a lot of different things here like, gosh, which one do I even start with? The answer to how, goes back to the beginning of what Paul is saying here because what Paul is saying, he's not just saying three things that we're supposed to do, he's telling us this flow of how it works. And so if we will go, and we will start by praying with open eyes, really praying specifically for things, and watching God work in that. And then if we will pray for open doors, really watching and begging God to open doors of opportunity to talk to people, that we would shift our prayers to not just be about getting out of situations but asking God to help us get into those conversations, into those situations. Then what will happen is when he opens up those doors, he will also give us the time to do that. We'll have been praying so much for these people that we're so invested that, yes, we'll gladly give up some time to spend time with this person because God is answering that prayer. And then we'll also have the words to say, because as we've been praying to God, now what we're saying is just an overflow of our time with him, we'll be gracious and seasoned with salt because we started with prayer, a continuous prayer, a prayer with eyes wide open, and a prayer for open doors.

Eric Estes : [00:42:53] So whatever happened with that rugby prayer that I gave? I mean, let's just face it, it was a debacle, and for years I got ridiculed for that. I mean, at the banquet, they gave me a Jesus action figure with kind of instructions on the back on how to pray, and it continued for years. But here's what happened, it also opened up a lot of doors, even though it was a disaster, people were now paying attention, and they watched for a little bit to see, OK, is this a fad or is this the real deal? And they saw that there was change, that I was a different person. And then as we go, they started to ask questions, and it started to open up doors for me to dialog with people, to step into their lives, because I'd already thrown myself out there, right? I had already kind of made a fool of myself, there was really nothing to lose. And then because I was out of my comfort zone, God brought these conversations. And over the years, I've had at least one or two of them kind of reach back out to me, and they told me that they're now following Jesus. And I know it wasn't because of that prayer, it was in spite of that prayer, but it's cool to see how God opened doors even through what was kind of a debacle to begin with.

Eric Estes : [00:44:13] And the same is true for us, as we go into 2022, God will open these doors if we are praying for God to open doors, we're praying with eyes wide open that he will do that. So what about you, in 2022, what does it look like for you? I want to challenge you to pray with your eyes wide open, find a few things that you can go to God with over, and over, and over again, and pray specifically, and watch what he's doing, watch expectantly. And then pray for open doors, not just to get out of situations, but pray that God would put you in situations, even situations that are uncomfortable, that he would take you out of your comfort zone and put you in there. And then pray for us to be able to step forward, I want to challenge you to step into those doors, to be able to walk with those who don't know Christ, carve out time, and to use our words, that our words would express the joy that's inside us. Because we, of all people, should have more joy than anybody else because of what Jesus did, because of the mystery of who Jesus is. Let's pray.

Elvis Gallegos: [00:45:23] Heavenly Father, thank you for this time. And, Lord, we're just grateful for the many doors that you have opened up this year, and our prayer is this morning is you will open up many more, and we will just be open to what you are doing and how you're moving through our local community, through our national churches, and global partners, and that you allow us to be a part of that. Lord, will you give us the courage to be bold and step outside of our comfort zone? Will you just give us, clear up our calendars, and just remove the busyness of our lives, allow us to spend our time wisely, and make it a priority to seek those that are lost? But use us, Lord, that we would just anchor in prayer on a daily basis, and just commit to see what you are doing next, and we will be bold and try something new this year and get outside of our comfort zone. Just move us, unite us as a body, as we continue to reach those that are lost. We ask all these things in Jesus' name.

Elvis Gallegos: [00:46:29] Let's take a moment here and just be still, and just hear the Lord, and seal anything he's revealed to you today.

Recorded in Grapevine, Texas.
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121 Community Church
2701 Ira E Woods Ave.
Grapevine, Texas 76051