Amen! Can everyone hear me alright? I love that song. You just get to hear the church sing; that is one of my favorite sounds in this room.

If we haven't met before, my name is Ryan, and we are going to jump into our lesson here. I know we have an event happening after the service today. We're all very excited for the Trunk or Treat. We're going to dive into the Word of God a little bit, do some things together, and then we'll get to the candy and the fun.

I do want to say though, for everyone involved in the Trunk or Treat, if you are volunteering, I want to give it up for the Silveys. Steven and Melissa Silvey have put this together. I don't even know if they're in here because they're probably out there getting everything set up. But honestly, as a member of our staff team, we are so grateful. This is one of the events where we can come together with so many volunteers. And even just as a dad in this church, I am so grateful that you would give your time, your energy, your creativity, and everything you've got to really support and encourage the families in this church. So, we are so grateful. We're going to have a great time. There'll be more details about the Trunk or Treat a little later.

I see the students leaving. If you're a teenager in the room, teens are having their class, so you could head on out. And turning your Bibles to Galatians chapter 5. You know, for the past four or five weeks, we've been studying out the Holy Spirit. And I don't know about you, but I have taken in a ton. But as it is with God and with the Spirit, there is always going to be so much more that we can learn. Amen? But no matter how much we take in, we always need to remember our pursuit is not just to simply know more about God or more about the Holy Spirit. We want to cultivate and sustain a relationship with Him. And that's been something we've been talking about all throughout this series.

I want to start this morning here in Galatians 5. This is a passage we've read a few times in this series. Verse 16, Paul writes, "So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law." Later in verse 25, "Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit." That's going to be the title of our lesson this morning: In Step with the Spirit.

You know, I'm not afraid to admit, when I was growing up in high school and in college, I was a band geek. I was in marching band for four years in high school, playing trumpet. I did it probably about three years, marching band and pep band in college. And that one's awesome because they pay you. They give you a scholarship to do it. And so, you're not just there for the geekiness of it; you actually get a little paid.

But you know, in marching band, it's a crazy concept if you think about it. Our band in high school was about 150 to 200 people. You're trying to get that many people to play one piece of music excellently, but then to get all of those people together in sync, moving across the football field. Right, left, right, left, right. And it has to be left, right, left, right. You have to be in sync. And if you're watching a band on the field and someone is out of step, you see it immediately. It kind of just ruins the picture; it ruins the synchronicity, if you will.

But think about Paul's direction for us to keep in step with the Spirit. The question I want to talk about this morning is, how do we do this? What does it actually look like practically to be in step with and keep in step with the Spirit of God? How do we discern His will and follow His lead?

Now, as we talk about this question of how, I think it's most important first to look to the Scriptures. Amen? Look first to the examples of women and men who have walked with God before us. We've talked about this a few weeks ago, but from the very beginning, humanity spent quality time in the presence of God. You see Adam and Eve in the Book of Genesis, walking with God and talking with God, being given direction by God.

Generations later, there's Abraham. Genesis 22 tells the story of Abraham. And if you know the story, God is asking Abraham to do the unthinkable. But every time God comes to Abraham in that story, Abraham's response is the Hebrew word "Hineni," which means "Here I am." Basically saying, "God, ask whatever you will of me. I'm here. I'm ready. I'm willing. Here I am."

Then, fast forward later in the biblical story, there's Hannah. You know, Hannah in 1 Samuel desired to be a mother. She longed to have a child. And the Scriptures say that in her deep distress, she would pour out her soul to God. And then Hannah would end up having a child, Samuel. And Samuel would grow up serving God. And one day, the literal voice of God comes to Samuel, and he doesn't know who's calling him or what to say, until Eli gives him the words. You guys know that prayer, "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening."

Again, generations later, you have Daniel. Daniel was a man who fought for his faith in the midst of idolatry, persecution, and exile. And the Bible tells us that Daniel had a routine of prayer at least three times a day. He would open up his windows toward the city for everybody to see, and he would pray to God.

Of course, our primary example is Jesus. Jesus knew His Father in the most intimate way. He sought the Father's will and obeyed the Father's will in everything. And that intimacy with God wouldn't just come; he would have to fight for it at times, sending crowds away to create space for Him and His Father. At times, getting up early in the morning while it was still dark. At times, going to find solitary, lonely, isolated places to connect with His Father.

And it wasn't just Jesus. You see the followers of Jesus carry on that pattern. After Jesus' ministry in the Book of Acts, you see disciples of Jesus crying out to God together and praying to God together. The story of Cornelius, the conversion of Cornelius and his family in Acts chapter 10. When this amazing vision comes to Peter, Peter is on a rooftop alone, praying to God, and this vision comes to him that really changed the world.

And I just name a few, but these men and women, they lived in such a way that they were sensitive to the Spirit. They were paying attention to the Spirit. They lived in a state of faithful awareness. They were watching and waiting and listening for the voice of God, wondering, "What is God up to, and how can I join Him in that work?"

Do you ever ask that question on your own time? "What is God up to? What is He doing? I wonder where He's moving today. I wonder how He's trying to call me into His will today."

And all the people I mentioned, you'll notice a practical similarity between all these people. Each of them had consistent, sacred, spiritual rhythms. They all had rhythms of their life. Some refer to these as practices or habits or disciplines. But these rhythms were built into their lives, and they enabled them to walk with God. Rhythms of prayer, silence, solitude, fellowship, fasting. All of these were these kind of sacred habits that would help them to see the work of God, that would help them participate in the work of God. They were habits that would kind of keep out the noise at times, practices that would slow them down and equip them to walk in steps with the Spirit.

I want to ask you this morning, what are the rhythms of your life? What are the rhythms of your life? You know, your time, your schedule, your focus, what you create space for says a lot about what's important to you, right? If you desire to be a man or woman of God, do you have spiritual practices that routinely place you in His presence? Do you have habits that put you into that posture of Abraham that says, "Here I am, God," or Samuel, "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening"?

Do you have alone time with God? This isn't a given for every Christian, is it? Undistracted time, even if just for a few moments, for a few minutes. Do you have the heart of Jesus that fights for time with His Father, whoever is clamoring for your attention or whatever is clamoring for your attention?

I think of Mary in Luke 2, amidst her to-do lists, preparations, and her nagging sister. Amidst all that needs to get done, Mary is found sitting at the feet of Jesus, just being in His presence, hearing His voice, and listening to her Rabbi.

For those of you who aren't disciples, you might look at a list like this and think, "What in the world are you trying to get me to add to my schedule?" These aren't just tasks to add into your day or week; these are meant to be life-giving rhythms that draw you into the presence of God, helping you grow in faith, in your relationship with God, and even with yourself and godly people.

So, I encourage you, if these aren't a part of your life, if you haven't tried these out, experiment with them a bit. Maybe talk to the person who brought you here and do it with them. Some of us claim to want more of the Spirit, to want to walk in step with the Spirit, yet in reality, we make less and less room for Him. We're so focused on other things or filled up with other things that we don't have time, energy, or space for God or for godly rhythms.

John Mark Comer, in "The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry," said some claim to be too busy for God, and you know what? You might be right. What are the rhythms of your life? For others in the room, you have cultivated these spiritual practices and held on to them, hardly missing a day without reading or praying. That is awesome. These practices have helped us to be transformed, and we can be thankful for them. But even to you, I want to say, we have to be sure that we allow our rhythms to still allow God to speak.

In our prayers, if we're not careful, our prayer lives could be very one-sided, filled with our words, plans, desires, concerns, and maybe even our praise. But are we quiet long enough to let the Lord speak to us? When it comes to scripture, if we're not careful, we can approach the Bible as if it's something we need to master, rather than allowing it to master us. The alive and active Word of God can simply become a textbook that we know about or a tool that we can wield. But is it converting you? Are you allowing it to still speak into your life, into your marriage, into your purposes, and your perspective?

I want to encourage all of us this week to evaluate the rhythms of your life, specifically the spiritual disciplines that may or may not be present. This list is not exhaustive, but it will definitely get us going. Rhythms of prayer, meditation, silence and solitude, scripture reading and memorization, musical worship, fasting, fellowship and community, confession—are these a part of your day, your week? Are these a priority to you? When we take part in these, are they carried out in a way that allows God to speak, that allows the Spirit to do His work of healing, transformation, and empowerment? When we take part in these, do we do so as a checklist, or do we do so with a posture of humility and openness that says, "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening"?

These sacred rhythms are just one answer to how we walk in step with the Spirit. These practices can slow us down and help us contemplate the Lord's glory, as Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 3. They can help focus our hearts and minds on God and what He is doing. They can draw our attention to God and help us consider how He might be calling us forward.

For the rest of our time, this is going to be a little different. Are we okay with different in here? Alright. So, I want you to think back to school. For some of you, that might be thinking further back than others, and that's okay. For school, some topics required two different sections: a lecture and a lab. Because for some subjects, it wasn't enough to just get in the classroom and hear about something; you needed to create space to actually put it into practice and experiment a little bit.

So, we're going to have a sort of spiritual lab this morning for the rest of our lesson. I'm going to throw out to you two different spiritual exercises: one is a form of prayer, and one is a form of reading scripture. These might be new to you, and that is okay. Both of these were created in the vein of what we're talking about, to consider what God is up to, and they've been practiced by Christian communities for centuries.

I know some of you might be thinking, "This is not for me. This is not how I pray. This is not how I read." And that's okay. I'm still going to ask you to do it anyway. Because if you think about it, who we are now, the things we know, and the things that are special to us now, they were new at some point. So, I want to ask you to lean into the new with me a little bit this morning. Embrace the awkwardness a little bit.

The first exercise is called the Prayer of Examen. This form of prayer was created over 500 years ago by St. Ignatius. He created a number of spiritual exercises designed to remind us of the constant presence of God. The Examen is a practice for discerning the voice and activity of God within the flow of a day. It's a vehicle that creates deeper awareness of god-given desires in one's life.

Here's what the Prayer of Examen involves:

  1. Pause and Meditate: Review the events of the day and notice what comes up, whether good or bad.
  2. Contemplate the Highs and Lows: Think about the times you felt most connected to God, yourself, or others, and the times you felt the absence of God.
  3. Pray Through It All: Consider what God might be doing or bringing up. Ask any questions you have for God.

Prayer of Examen

Now, for the next five minutes, we're going to put on some background music to help us focus, and I encourage you to engage in this practice.

I invite you to engage in this exercise. Feel free to close your eyes if that helps you concentrate. For those participating online, you can find handouts of these exercises on our church app. I'm going to leave these instructions up here for you to follow along.

For the next five minutes, let's immerse ourselves in this exercise, think through it, and pray through it. Afterward, we will regroup. Are we all ready? Let’s begin.

[Music playing]

[After 5 minutes]

That concludes our 5 minutes. For some, it might have felt like a long time, while others might have found it just right. That was a brief experience of the Prayer of Examen. I encourage you to practice it more in your own time.

Now, moving on to the second exercise, it’s called Lectio Divina, which is Latin for "divine reading." This is a form of reading scriptures, also known as praying the scriptures. It is an ancient practice that became a regular practice in monasteries in the 6th century, introduced by St. Benedict and the Benedictine monks.

For the first 1500 years of Christian history, practices like this were essential, especially since many people did not have access to the scriptures and were illiterate. Lectio Divina involves listening to the scriptures being read aloud and contemplating what God is saying through them.

Lectio Divina requires us to be open and willing to listen to the voice and words of God. This type of reading goes beyond gathering information about God to growing in our relationship with Him. We read for quality, not quantity, approaching the Word of God with a willingness to let it master us, allowing God to speak through these words.

Here’s how Lectio Divina works:

  1. Silence: Prepare yourself to read and pray, removing distractions.
  2. Read: Read the passage slowly and out loud, stopping if something strikes you.
  3. Meditate: Read the scripture a second time, reflecting on the words and their meaning.
  4. Pray: Read the scripture a third time, praying about what has come up for you.
  5. Contemplate: Think through the passage, considering what God might be teaching or showing you, and how you might share this with others.

Lectio Divina

For the next seven minutes, let’s practice this together. If you have a specific passage in mind, feel free to use it. If not, I suggest Romans 8:14-17, a passage we’ve looked at throughout this series. We will put on some music to help us focus, and then we will come back together to close out.

[Music playing]

[After 7 minutes]

That exercise is a bit more involved, and some of us might feel like we need more time with it. My passage was Psalm 116:7, “Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.”

These exercises are not the only ways to pray or read scripture; they are practical examples of spiritual rhythms that can help us pay attention to the Spirit and walk in step with Him. I appreciate everyone’s willingness to try these out. There are many more practices like these, known as contemplative spirituality, which help us to contemplate the Lord’s glory.

I encourage you to reflect on these exercises today, whether at the trunk or treat event or at some other point. Talk to someone else about what came up for you, what you learned, and what surprised you. Share what you feel God showed you during this time of prayer and scripture reading.

As we close out this series, remember that we believe the Spirit of God is at work. He desires to work in us, through us, and around us, leading us into the will of God and guiding us into all truth. Evaluate the rhythms of your life this week. The Spirit is speaking—are you listening? The Spirit is moving—are you keeping in step with Him? The Spirit is at work—are we paying attention?

Let’s pray as we close out.

Father, we praise you this morning. You are glorious, and we want to contemplate and reflect on you. We believe that you are moving through your Spirit to bring about your will in this world, in our homes, neighborhoods, hearts, minds, and in this church. Help us to attend to what you are doing, to create and cultivate spiritual rhythms in our lives. Help us to keep in step with your Spirit and be a community that is holy and pleasing in your sight. Be with us during our trunk or treat event and our worship afterward. We thank you for this time and pray all these things in Jesus' name, amen.