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The Dark Night of the Soul

I know there are a lot of people in our church who are going through difficulties.  Truth is there is probably pain in every pew.  In his writings, St John of the Cross, coined the phrase the “Dark Night of the Soul.

“There comes to all souls, at least once in life, a severe test.  It is known as the Dark Night of the Soul. It is when we are beleaguered by darkness: spiritual and mental and where no hope seems to be near and everything we try to do is thwarted. It is where the soul is forced to persist and enter into the glorious Golden Dawn of Illumination and kinship with God, or relax into the dull slumber of a mediocre physical existence.  You cannot avoid it.  If this test hasn’t already come in your life — it will. How will you deal with it is as important as life itself.

St. John continues…

“…He takes us into the dark night. He weans us from all the pleasures by giving us dry times and inward darkness. In doing so, He is able to take away all these vices and create virtues within us. Through the dark night pride becomes humility, greed becomes simplicity, wrath becomes contentment, luxury becomes peace, gluttony becomes moderation, envy becomes joy, and sloth becomes strength. No soul will ever grow deep in the spiritual life unless God works passively in that soul by means of the Dark Night.””
                               – The Dark Night of the Soul by 16th century St. John Cross

Jesus experienced His Dark Night of the Soul in the Garden of Gethsemane where he sweated as it were, “great drops of blood.”   Who could forget His scream of agony on the cross, “My God, My God, why has Thou forsaken Me.”  

Pain is a part of life.  Just read the Psalms.  One of the reasons I LOVE the Psalms is that it is filled with every kind of emotion a person can feel.   The book of Psalms has been called a TEMPLATE OF HUMAN EXPRESSION.  When Jesus said, “My God, My God, why has Thou forsaken Me,” he was quoting from Psalm 22.

Chuck Swindoll once said, “God rarely uses a person greatly who has not been hurt deeply.”

So what do we do when we find ourselves in the midst of a “Dark Night of the Soul?”  St. John of the Cross says that ultimately it’s God who takes us into the Dark Night.  So if it’s God who takes us into the Dark Night, we need to SEEK HIS FACE.  

It’s been said that hardship and difficulties can either makes us BETTER or BITTER.  Don’t let the Dark Night make you bitter.  Look to Him.  It’s been my experience that when God appears to be silent there is either (1) Some area that I need to surrender to Him or (2) He’s about to reveal/teach me something incredible.

I really believe we grow the most spiritually not when times are good, but when times are bad because we’re forced to look to God.   

I also believe that when times get tough we need to be VERY intentional about taking our thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ and one of the best ways to do that is by reading, meditating, and memorizing the promises of God.   I’ll close this article with a few:

I Choose:

  • To Believe the Best and Not the Worse: I Cor 13:7
  • Optimism and Not Cynicism: Prov 4:8
  • Faith and Not Fear: I John 4:8
  • Love and Not Anger: Eph 5:22
  • Life and Not Death: John 10:10
  • Solutions and Not Problems: James 1:5

I Receive:

  • The Desires of My Heart: Psalm 37:4
  • A Future and a Hope: Jer 29:11
  • All Things Being Added to Me: Matt 6:33
  • All Thing I Need For Life and Godliness: 2 Peter 1:3
  • Every Good and Perfect Gift From Above: James 1:17
  • The Reward of Being a Diligent Seeker: Heb 11:6
  • I will meditate on these things and give my full attention to them so that my profiting (my growth in grace) may be evident to all. (I Tim 4:15)

Finally remember that the “Sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”



“The Problem with Favoritism”

Bill Stegemueller preaching at Medina United Methodist Church in a message entitled, “The Problem with Favoritism” taken from James 2:1-13

“Trials and Temptations”

Bill Stegemueller’s message “Trials and Temptations” taken from James 1:2-4 was lost due to technical difficulties

“God’s Plans Are Bigger than Our Plans”

Bill Stegemueller preaching at Medina United Methodist Church in a message entitled, “God’s Plans are Bigger than Our Plans,” taken from Acts 28:1-10

“Without Faith…”


For the next few months I want to touch on a few things that really make for an effective CHURCH.

This month I want to talk about the role of FAITH in the Church.   2 Corinthians 5:7 tells us that we are to walk by faith and not by sight.   Hebrews 9:27 says that without FAITH it’s impossible to please Him.   In fact, Jesus is drawn toward faith.

Years ago Henry Blackaby wrote a book/curriculum entitled, “Experiencing God.”   It was one of the most powerful books I have ever read.  One of the many life changing quotes in that book was, “You cannot stay the way you are and go with God.”   I believe that applies not only for the individual, but also to the Church.

Too many individuals and churches are playing it safe by operating within its their own means.  People say, “God will never ask me to do something I can’t do.”  That has not been my experience at all!  Over and over again in Scripture you see God asking people to do that which they could NEVER do on their own.  The kind of assignments God gives in the Bible are ALWAYS God sized.  They are well beyond what people can do so that God can demonstrate His power and grace to His people and a skeptical world.

I’m not saying that we should go out and live reckless lives, but I think too often we play it way too safe.  That is walking by sight.   Walking by sight is the opposite of walking by faith.  God never leads us to do something that He doesn’t also provide us a way to accomplish His will.

Our mission statement is: To Know Christ and to Make Him Known.  One of the best ways to make Him known is for the world to see what God can do with a person that walks by faith.

The world needs to see not only the GRACE of God, but also the POWER of God manifested in His church.  What would’ve happened if the early church played it safe and chose to simply operate within its own resources?  Scary thought.  I’m not sure there would be a church today.  What make the early church powerful was that it chose to walk by faith and NOT BY SIGHT.

Two questions for this month:  (1) What is God calling YOU to do that requires faith?  (2) What is God calling US (as a church) to do that requires faith.  Remember, without faith it is impossible to please God.

You say, “I don’t think I can do what God is calling me to do.”   Perfect!  That it means it’s probably a God sized task in which you have to depend on Him.  He wants you to depend on Him!   I would encourage you to be honest with God with your struggles.  Remember the father that struggled with his faith?  He said to Jesus, “I believe, but help my unbelief.”  You know what?  Jesus helped him and I believe He will help us as well IF WE ASK.

See you in church.




“Fellowship in the Church”


For the next few months I want to touch on a few things that really make for an effective CHURCH.

Our vision statement at Medina United Methodist Church is:  “To Know Christ and to Make Him Known.”

This month I want to share with you some thoughts on FELLOWSHIP.   The church is called the BODY OF CHRIST.   That is, when believers meet together in His Name that the world ought to be able to see Him more clearly.  Jesus said in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”   The church is very important in making Christ known.

One of my favorite movies is, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”  It is a comedy love story based on the real-life experiences of Greek American Actress Nia Vardalos.   At 30 years of age, this unattractive, slightly overweight woman seemed doomed to be a hostess in her father’s Greek restaurant for the rest of her life.  But Toula has dreams of a better life.  Those dreams cause her to made something out of herself.   She goes to college and then lands a great job where she meets and falls in love with a long-hair, non-Greek, English teacher, Ian.

Ian’s parents are a wealthy couple without any kind of real extended family.  One day they accept a dinner invitation at Toula’s parent’s home and are shocked at what they find.  As they drive up to the house, nearly 100 people – the entire Greek clan, greet them on the front lawn with hugs and kisses.  Amid the dozens of cousins, aunts, and uncles (most of whom are named “Nick”), there is a goat hanging on a spit over an open fire.

Toula’s father smiles and says, “Welcome to my home!”  Toula’s mother approaches the bewildered couple and gives them the traditional hug and kiss on the cheek. The initial shock eventually begins to wear off and soon they start to relax once they realize how much they are loved.

What a picture of what the family God can be!  I think the movie really captures a dimension of fellowship that is so rich and vital to the church.  I am so glad everyone at church doesn’t look and act alike.  How boring that would be!  God made us incredibly different in terms of taste and preferences.  I’m so thankful that there is rich diversity in the midst of our unity in Christ.  My prayer for all of us is that we might have a rich fellowship in which we truly let it all hang out and be real with one another.  (1 Corinthians 12:12-26)

In Christ,


Resurrection Sunday!

If you were to ask me, “What’s the greatest event in history?” I would have a hard time answering because I can think of three different events that all involve the person and work of Jesus.   His birth… His death… and His RESURRECTION!

On April 1st were going to have our RESURRECTION SUNDAY.  You say, “That’s April Fools!”  That’s what makes it AWESOME!  It was the tradition in the early Eastern Orthodox Church of telling jokes on Easter.  You say, “Easter is not a laughing matter,” but they told jokes because on Good Friday the Devil thought he had won, but God got the last laugh on Easter Sunday when Jesus rose from the dead.  The monks called it, “The Easter Laugh,” and it became known as a day of joy and laughter.

Easter is a time that a lot of NEW people come to church.  People think about coming to church who don’t regularly come.  Let’s begin praying about who God wants us to invite and how we can be more inviting.  Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying.  I believe we are already perceived by the community to be an extremely inviting church, but the question is, “How can we be more inviting?”

Try to imagine how intimidating it might be to walk into a crowded place.  It takes a great deal of courage to come to church for the first time.    Yet we have never been more crowded and studies have shown that when a church is 80% full, it’s FULL.  So we are not only FULL… we are way over capacity.

So, PLEASE if your able sit as close to the front as possible and leave the back pews open for our guest.  Park as farther away than usual if you can.  Also, be on the lookout for new faces and as you greet them, ask God to show you what to say and do.  Let’s not only prepare our hearts for what God wants to do in our lives, but also in the lives of others.

I also want to remind you that your pastor is only as good as your prayers.  Please pray not only for me, but for our Sunday School Teachers, Nursery Care Workers, Breakfast Club Crew, Safety Team, Worship Team, Greeters and Ushers that we would reflect Christ.

… and let’s gets excited to once again relive  THE RESSURECTION OF JESUS CHRIST!

See you in church,


… our Service

The past couple of months I’ve been writing about the commitment we make when we become a part of Medina United Methodist Church.  In addition to acknowledging Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we ask you to support this church with your Prayers, Presence, Gifts, SERVICE, and Witness.

This month I want to talk about what it means to support the church with your SERVICE.

When I think of SERVICE I think of the story of Albert Schweitzer

(Born 1875 – Died 1965).  Schweitzer was a man with multiple earned doctorates including a PHD in philosophy and PHD in theology.  He was also one of the greatest organist of his day.

One day, Schweitzer was reading a theological paper on God and he suddenly realized that his only experience with God was on a intellectual level.  He didn’t really FEEL like he had a personal relationship with Him.   About the same time, he saw a pamphlet asking for missionaries to go to Africa and God spoke to his heart, “Go…”

You know what Switzer did?  He went back to school to become a Medical Doctor.  His plan was to go to the mission field as a Medical Doctor.   In Africa, he converted a chicken coop into a makeshift hospital.  Switzer went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Albert Schweitzer’s theology was simple:  You cannot know God until you SERVE Him.   For Schweitzer, SERVICE was the issue of the cross.  He believed that the theologians of his day had made Christianity so intellectual that they had lost touch with the simplicity of Christ’s command to LOVE GOD and to LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR as yourself.

“You Cannot Know God Until You Serve Him”

Medina United Methodist Church’s Mission Statement is:  To Know Christ and to Make Him Known.  One of the best ways we can do that is through our SERVICE.    I feel in many ways that I’m preaching to the choir because so many of you “Get It,” but maybe there’s someone like Schweitzer in his early days.  You are struggling with your faith wondering, “Where is God?”   Try serving Him.  Jesus said in Matthew 25:40, “As surely as you have done it to the least of these, you’ve done it unto Me.”

See you in Church.





“He Leadeth Me” Part 2

Acts 16: 11-15
Sorry folks… the recording of the service didn’t come out and is incomplete, but here is a partial recording.


“War on Grace”


Bill Stegemueller preaching at Medina United Methodist Church in a message entitled, “The War on Grace,” taken from Acts 15:1-29