Monday, October 22, 2007

Funeral for Randy Burmeister

May 11, 1961 to September 30, 2007

Prelude music- Josh Groban CD

Job 19:25-27a- “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes- I and not another.”

Psalm 46:1-3- “God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”

John 11:25- Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”

John 16:33- [Jesus says to his disciples] “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

2 Corinthians 1:3-4- “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

Randy L. Burmeister, age 46, of Coopersville and formerly of New Era, passed away Sunday, September 30, 2007 at his home. He was born May 11, 1961 in Shelby, the son of Robert "Jim" Burmeister and Anna Lutz Burmeister.

Randy was raised near New Era. He was a 1979 graduate of Shelby High School. He served with the U.S. Navy for thirteen years. He had attended auctioneering school in Minnesota. Randy was a truck driver for Holland Special Deliveries.

He is survived by his wife, Joyce; his son, Robert W. Burmeister; the mother of his son, Chris (Dominic) Merlington; his brother, Glen Burmeister; aunts, uncles and cousins; and his most loyal and best friend, his dog, "Hootch" and his other dog family- of which there are numerous and beautiful. Randy was preceded in death by his mother in 1975 and his father in January of this year.

This was a good man. There are so many ways to describe “good” in reference to a person but for Randy, the definition is made up by friends and family. I have listened among you, read the condolences and considered what “good” meant in the perspective of his life as it intertwined with yours.

“He was a generous man with a big heart.” It has been noted over and over his willingness to help others, to volunteer and give of him self. He was compassionate to those who were in greater need than him.

“Randy was a kind and funny man.” He loved humor and enjoyed a good joke. He most definitely enjoyed chiding others. A good ribbing by Randy meant that he liked you. His jokes were witty and entertaining to everyone involved.

“Randy was a good friend.” Those who were closest to him saw him as a man of devotion and love. He would literally give what he had if you needed it.

“Randy was an exceptional man.” He possessed talents of all sorts- a licensed contractor, truck driver, mechanically inclined, goat farmer and “auctioneer”- and on and on the list goes. He considered himself a jack of all trades and master of none. But I don’t believe it- and neither do a lot of you. His natural abilities to learn new things and his creativity allowed him to give of himself to others and to do a wide variety of things.

“Randy will always hold a special place in my heart.” We all echo that sentiment this morning. He will truly be missed and yet still be loved. Despite the emptiness we might feel or the loneliness that creeps in we can know that his memory will be cherished all of our days. Yes, Randy holds a special place in all of your hearts today. That is why you are here.

Allow me to add that Randy was a passionate man. He had an intense love for his wife Joyce. He was committed to her as a husband should. He had an intense love for his son Rob. He was proud of his son who is serving our country in the U.S. Navy in Japan. Despite the distance and time-zone difference, they spoke weekly on the phone. Whatever Randy did he did with passion.


Music by CD- Josh Groban

There are three important questions that we need to deal with.

1. Why?

Why did this happen?

Every pastoral ministries class will teach the students that you never try to answer why. Every book for those who deal with grieving families will tell you to not try to answer the “why” question.

I do not take lightly this issue, nor do I do so without the family’s express permission. They could have simply asked that I go a different direction and I would. However, they believed that Randy would not want it any other way. Joyce said that Randy had a high respect for me, and that he began to really accept the Christian faith for him self in a way he had never been able to for years. I want to honor that respect.

In answering the “why” question, we have to consider the ramifications of the Scriptures, the reality of a sinful world that we live in and have the recognition of Randy’s illness.

a. The Ramifications of the Scriptures.

The Bible teaches that it is a sin to take your own life. Within the commandment, “Do not kill” lay the principle of the taking of human life. (Exodus 20:13) We assume that it is God’s prerogative to give or take life. We are, what Psalm 139 calls, “fearfully and wonderfully made” by God. To end our life intrudes upon sacred territory that belongs to God. As Job said: “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

But is it possible for saints to feel so bad that they want to die?

If I told most people that Moses and Elijah wanted their life to end they’d probably not believe me. However, the fact is that both Moses and Ezekiel came to the very end of themselves.

Moses was frustrated with the stress and pressures of leading people out of Egypt who later wanted to go back to their slavery and slave-masters. They were dissatisfied with Moses’ leadership and he felt the brunt of their dissatisfaction. So he calls on God in Numbers 11:14-15- “I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. If this is how you are going to treat me, put me to death right now- if I have found favor in your eyes- and do not let me face my own ruin.”

Elijah should have been flying high after an emotional victory over the prophets of Baal in the book of 1 Kings. He faced down 400 of these pagan priests. The result? He is suddenly running for his life. King Ahab’s wife, Jezebel, has threatened him, he’s exhausted and depressed as he makes a beeline for the wilderness. Under a broom-tree he sits down and prays that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” (1 Kings 19:4)

b. The Reality of a Sinful World.

We must constantly be aware of the sinful world that we live in. This is not the way it was supposed to be. God created a perfect world for humanity, but because of humanity’s choice, sin entered and the perfect became mutated and humanity became separated from God, nature, each other and themselves.

Sin is a perversion of what is holy and good.

Jesus Christ came to show us how we should live. His death on the cross and resurrection from the dead brings defeat to sin and sin’s power.

However, we still live in a fallen world and we still deal with sin all the while we are here on earth. And because we live in such a world filled with sin, we are forced to wrestle with issues bigger than our selves.

c. Our Recognition of Randy’s Illness.

This was not a matter of someone who was out to hurt other people nor was it a matter of selfishness. This was a matter of a serious mental disease that was only recently discovered.

If Randy had died of cancer there would be very little difference in our gathering here today. Most times, it is not the cancer that kills, but the results of its effects on other parts of the body. In this case, Randy’s mental disease took a devastating toll on him.

Randy suffered from bi-polar disorder. He hurt people he dearly loved because he had a mental disease that was slowly taking over. Some of you here felt that hurt immensely.

Understand that in his latter days he expressed regret to Joyce in private conversations as they sought a means for him to cope with this disease. He told her that when he would lose control it was as though something was taking over and he could not control himself.

The last few months were very difficult as different medications were tried, adjusted, changed as well as him seeking new employment in order to have a more consistent schedule. He was not sleeping properly but yet seemed to be feeling better. In the end, though, it was too little too late.

Let me interject this: we don’t take mental health serious enough in today’s society. We’re getting better, but we too often forget that the human brain is the most important organ to the human body but gets little fanfare. We need to become more aware of such diseases as bi-polar disorders that affect so many people. There is help for those seeking help.

So this brings us to the second question I want to address:

2. What?

When I received the call, I was in my office working on church stuff. I dropped my head into my hands. This did not seem real to me, and I didn’t know Randy as well as many of you.

Two important “what” questions come to mind.

a. What could any of us have done?

I think of myself and wondered if a phone call sometime might have made the difference. Many of you, who were closer to him as family and friends, probably have even more intense questions than a simple phone call.

What could any of us have done? Not a whole lot. The fact is that people in Randy’s condition sometimes get to a place beyond the point of no return. They become mentally exhausted, frustrated with themselves and tired of fighting. They come to a place of just simply giving up because they feel that they are the burden and that others would be better off. They lose sight of how much God loves them and how much their loved ones love them.

As a family you should take caution not to be consumed with guilt. If death had occurred because of an incurable disease, you could not have changed the direction of events. The same is true here.

b. What can you do now?

First, forgive Randy for what has happened. Yes, it was wrong for him to do this, but also realize that he did not do this out of rebellion against any of us or against God. Forgive him for the way he has hurt you in the past. Only an Eternal God can know the sickness and suffering that can grip both mind and spirit. We must endeavor to remember the goodness and kindness of his life.

Secondly, give grace to others. We all encounter people who have varying problems and circumstances. Too often we are too quick to judge someone who cuts us off on the highway or says something to hurt us.

Thirdly, if you need help or a loved one needs help, then seek it. I am more than willing to assist you in anyway possible. Randy would want you to.

And the last question I want to address is “how?”

3. How?

How do we move on from here?

Our challenge at this point is to turn to God- through our Lord Jesus Christ and the blessed Holy Spirit, for comfort and assurance. Jesus faced his hour of death and said, “Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me.” (John 16:32)

I say this because I want you to know that in the shadow of death you are not alone. Jesus is saying to you right now, “you are not alone, for the Father is with you.”

How do we carry on?

I like the verse in Ephesians 2:4-5- “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions- it is by grace you have been saved.”

a. Accept God’s Amazing Love.

The Bible teaches us that Jesus loved his own to the very end. (John 13:1) That is the kind of intense love God wants you to realize in your own life. The very essence of God’s character is love. He loves you right where you are at in your life and in the midst of your own personal frustrations and failures. God’s amazing love reaches deeper than we could ever imagine to the very core of who we are.

b. Realize God’s Amazing Mercy.

None of us could be what God calls on us to be without his mercy. While we were sinners Christ died on the cross for us. This is important for us to understand. God’s mercy is what makes God forgive us of our sins. All of our sins.

c. Experience God’s Amazing Grace.

When you and I accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we then experience God’s amazing grace.

This sinful world thirsts for God’s grace. I am sure that all of us here today long to experience the reality of God’s amazing grace in our life.


Randy had a wide variety of music that he enjoyed from Kansas to Leann Rimes. But one song that I am sure he would want you to know about is “The Long Black Train” by Josh Turner.

This song warns those who might choose to follow the devil’s way of living. I have no doubt that Randy would say to us today:

“But you know there's victory in the Lord I say
Victory in the lord
Cling to the Father and his holy name
and don't go ridin' on that long Black Train.”


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

October 14, 2007 The Endangered Harvest

Matthew 9:35-38

Matthew 9:36- Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”

“God had only one Son and he made that Son a missionary.” So said the great African missionary, David Livingston.

The heart of being a missionary is realizing that missions is not about money or ability but about compassion for the lost- for those sheep without a shepherd.

Last week we had a real live missionary family come and speak to us about their experiences in Mexico, their current status and their vision of expanding the work of the church through Bible training of pastors.

This week we are going to talk about you and I as missionaries to our fields here in Oceana County.

Have you ever realized that you are a missionary? Have you ever considered that as a follower of Jesus Christ, you have a direct responsibility to reaching the lost?

“I thought that was the pastor’s job.” Sheep beget sheep; pastors lead the sheep. It doesn’t absolve me of personally sharing my faith. However, too often we miss the point of evangelism and missions because it’s too easy to see others do it rather than we ourselves do it.

In our text, Jesus speaks as one with a heart of compassion for the lost. If there is ever one thing that bothers me more than anything else and that is when God’s people who are supposed be born again, don’t have any compassion for the lost.

Here’s my challenge: love and appreciate the most unlovable person with the same kind of love and appreciation that you are showing me as your pastor this month. If you want to appreciate me and show me that appreciation, then don’t throw dinners and give me gifts; love others in our community and be willing to bring them to Christ.

Moving on…

One of the grave aspects of farming is that sometimes all of the harvest does not get harvested. There are reasons for that. Jesus points to one of them but before we get to his point let me share a few other reasons that churches do not harvest more than they do.

1. The Weather Factors.

One could be the weather factors. Too much rain, not enough rain, too much heat, too much cold and on and on- weather is a key issue to farming. These things contribute to a poor harvest.

The same holds true for any church ministry and any Christian. But there is a difference: we don’t need to let the weather determine our ministry. When we allow our ministry to be blown to and fro by the winds of societal change, we will see our purpose get knocked off course and our mission of reaching the lost lose traction.

How do we deal with weather factors?

Psalm 121 gives us some good insight to how we can deal with the climate conditions we deal with.

a. God controls the weather.

He is the maker of heaven and earth. He knows the climate we are in.

b. God watches over us.

He is not asleep but available to us when we have need.

c. God is our protector.

He is our shade in the heat of the day and covering in the coldness of the night

2. Geographical Location.

It seems to me like Oceana County is the jelly belly of agriculture. We grow peaches, pears, apples, cherries, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and mulberries. But where is my favorite fruit? Bananas? What about coffee beans? Why don’t we have coconut trees? I like a good orange on occasion. Why can’t we grow them here?

Location determines what you grow and harvest. In Jesus geographical location such things as wheat, barley, olives and grapes were in abundance.

I make the geographical point to say this: we have to know what we can or can’t do. Too often churches are guilty of trying to do outreach programs that were not designed for them. It would be pretty hard for us to operate an inner city mission ministry here in Shelby. You don’t design a ministry to reach Polish immigrants if you are not in Chicago. And so we need to look at those aspects of ministry- those entry points that are uniquely ours.

What we need to do is realize three very important geographical characteristics of outreach:

Who are we reaching? Who are the people that live here? Where do they come from? From this characteristic we can begin to see that our community breaks down into a two main groups: Anglos and Hispanics.

What do they need? Everybody needs something. We need to discover the felt needs of our community. Do they need food? Clothing? Shelter? Money? How about English? Budgetting classes? Job Training? On and on, but there are felt needs. One that easily gets overlooked is friendships. People need friendships.

What do we have to offer? This is important because it forces us to realize two important facets of helping people. First, do we have the set skills and gifts necessary to reach them. Second, do we have the willingness to adjust ourselves and learn new skills and receive the necessary spiritual gifts to do the ministry?

This is the place God has called us to and this is the time that he has placed us here. Now, what are we going to do about it?

3. The Marketplace Value System.

Another reason is marketplace values. For farmers to make a profit calls for them at times to dispose of the harvest in ways that seem wasteful. It bothers me but I also understand the economic side of farming. Some do allow locals to come in and glean from the “corners of the fields” in order to avoid the wastefulness that is sometime required.

And so it is not unusual for a farm to not harvest 20% of its crops or to mow down the asparagus field late in the harvest. There are certain marketing techniques that have to be applied.

In a similar sense, the church can become susceptible to the marketplace value system.

All we need are people just like you to go into the harvest fields.

How can we avoid the marketplace value system?

a. Money does not equal ministry.

We can very easily allow the finances become the focal point of outreach. The fact is that we do not need money to do ministry.

b. People are people, not profit.

Any church that begins to view new people as a means of income has lost sight of the vision and compassion of Christ and should close their doors. If any ministry sees people as profit they have lost the heart for true ministry.

4. The Dynamics of Disease.

Another reason that fields are not harvested can be due to disease. When blight hits trees the effects can be devastating. We learned as we crossed the Mackinac Bridge that firewood is not allowed over the bridge from either direction. This is to combat the ash borer bug. The hoof and mouth disease that strikes animals has its beginnings in 60 different viruses- that is why it is so hard to combat.

How does disease affect the spiritual harvest?

a. We tolerate sin in our own lives.

It’s pretty hard to talk to sinners about the changes they need in their own life when there is no change in ours. The best witness is

b. We tolerate the lack of outreach.

In a sense, though, if we do not share Christ, are we disobeying God and thereby sinning?

Pastor Carlos shared a story with us about a man who came to Christ. He was so excited about the change in his life that he was telling everybody about it. When he was among family members, where he shopped and then when he went to work. At his job, as he was telling others, a man stepped up and said to him, “That’s great! I’m a Christian too.”

This new believer just looked at him for a moment. Then he said, “I have been working here for twenty years! Why haven’t you ever said anything to me?”

Good question.

c. We tolerate the lack of resources.
Sometimes we need the resources to combat disease. And so, rather than depending on God, we find ourselves depending- well- on ourselves. This furthers the spread of problems and doesn’t allow us to please our Father.

We can talk about weather factors, marketplace values and the dynamics of disease but Jesus hits the heart of the problem: workers.

5. The Necessity of Workers.
In all the things that Jesus could have pointed out, he zeroes in on one important aspect for the lack of harvest: workers.

But another reason is a very simple one: lack of workers. If you do not have the workers to harvest the crops then the crops will rot from the trees or you as the farmer are forced to mow the asparagus fields- as happened last spring.

There are some important points for us to consider:

a. Jesus had a heart of compassion.

Do we have a heart that breaks over the lostness of our community? Does our heart break when we hear of bad things happening to people.

b. Jesus saw the sheep without a shepherd.

By having this heart of compassion means that you will begin to have a vision for the lost. You will begin to see their specific needs. They are weary from working multiple jobs to make it in life; they are weary from the relationship problems they face; they are weary from a life of sin that offers no hope- just more of the same.

They are sheep without a shepherd. They are people who- other than not being in the church- are like you and me.

c. Jesus calls for harvesters.

This is the cry of Jesus heart. When the Samaritan woman brought others to Jesus he declared to the disciples then that the fields were white with harvest.

Oceana County boasts of one of the longest harvest seasons anywhere. We begin in April in some years with asparagus and some are still picking apples come late October. In the off season, trees are being trimmed and tractors are being upgraded. There is hardly any downtime from the business of harvesting.

And it should be that way with us as a church. I take full responsibility for my work and leadership as your pastor. Can I do more? Absolutely. But it doesn’t stop there. Everyone of us who names this church as theirs and names Jesus as Lord and Savior of their life needs to also take on the responsibility of evangelism.

This call for harvesters is a call to prayer. Are we praying not only for those God has raised up but praying that God raises up more harvesters?

They are sheep without shepherd. “Who will go for us? Who shall we send?” God is asking and the answer is the church.

We are the answer to reaching the sheep with a shepherd.

September 30, 2007 The Thirst Quencher

Psalm 42:1-2, John 5:5-15, Isaiah 55:1

Water covers a vast majority of the earth’s surface. We use water to drink, clean and grow. Without water, human existence would be impossible.

Without the living water of Jesus Christ it would be impossible to become a Christian.

I want to talk about the drought in the human heart. Perhaps you find your dry heart drowning in cursed circumstances.

But let me tell you about the promise of deliverance by God’s grace. There is a way back to the heart of worship. There is a restoration of the human heart. There is still a river that flows from the throne of God. There is hope and that hope is here right now.

No longer do you need to suffer from spiritual dehydration. No longer do you need to be dying of thirst like stranded survivors on a lifeboat in ocean water.

He is the Living Water that quenches the thirst for eternal life and refreshes the thirsty ground of your heart.

Psalm 42:1 sums it up best for all of us at one time or another: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. Where can I go and meet with God?”

Today is that day when you can come and meet with God. This is your day of opportunity. Quenching thirst has nothing to do with how smart you are, how faithful you are nor how rich you are; quenching thirst has everything to you accepting what the Holy Spirit has for your life this morning.

Water for good health.

Water for cleansing.

Water for drinking.

Drink of the living water of Jesus Christ and you will never thirst again.

1. The Waterless Pit.

Perhaps you are in what Billy Graham calls a “waterless pit.” Perhaps you have tried everything to satisfy, to bring peace and joy to your life, to have a sense of forgiveness and a sense of belonging.

And you haven’t found it. Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again. [“Thirsty for Water?” by Billy Graham]

He goes on to say, drink of drugs and you will thirst again. Drink of fame, fortune and you will thirst again. Drink of the things the world tries to sell you and you will thirst again.

Jesus was not simply speaking off the top of his head. He knew this woman would there. He knew she was lost in sins. He knew the kind of conversation that would take place.

And he spoke to her about the deepest need of her heart.

As she awoke that morning, I wonder if she thought in her heart, “Where can I go and meet God.”

Have you wondered that? Did you awake this morning with all your problems and troubles and stresses and wondered, “Can I go to church and meet God today?”

She came to the only source of water she knew that would never fail: Jacob’s well. It was a well full of historical and religious significance.

A lot of people go to places that have significance in their life. They go to sporting events or cemeteries or the beach. They are looking for someplace to meet a deep, deep need in their heart.

She came to the only place she knew and it was there she met with God. It was there she received eternal life.

But come to Jesus Christ and drink of the water he has for you and you will never thirst again.

Jeremiah 2:13-“My people have committed two sins: they have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”

a. Have you forgotten God?

How easy it is to get so busy with life and so consumed with raising our families, earning our income and striving to climb the ladder of life. And in the thick of all of these things, God gets eased out of our lives. Sure, you may get to church or you may read your Bible, but somehow you lost that vibrancy of your relationship with Jesus Christ.

b. Are you drinking from a broken cistern?

Everyone needs something to quench the thirst of the human heart. So often though, they strive to drink from what God calls broken cisterns. These containers may come in the form of selfish entertainments and endeavors that hurt more than they help. Even good Christian people can find themselves moving from the river back to the cesspool.

c. Searching for something real.

Today is your day of drinking at the streams of living water.

So what do we all need to know and understand this morning?

2. The Fulfilling Pool.

Zechariah 14:8- “On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half to the eastern sea and half to the western sea, in summer and in winter.”

There is no time that God’s love for you will end. And the living water of salvation flows continually throughout eternity.

Let me share with two very important points: the reassurance of God’s promises and receiving all of Grace.

a. The Reassurance of God’s Promises.

 The Promise of Eternal Life.

 The Promise of the Abundant Life.

Ezekiel 47:9- “Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live.”

b. Receiving All of Grace.

 Choosing to be clean. (cleansing)

Isaiah 1:16-18- “Wash and make yourselves clean… Come, now let us reason together, says the Lord. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”

 Enjoying the joy of salvation. (eternal life)

Isaiah 12:3- “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”

 Pass o the Blessing. (blessings)

Isaiah 44:3- “For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendents.”


Isaiah 55:1- “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.”

Perhaps you have come here today because this is the only thing you know. Perhaps you woke up today and wondered if you could meet with God. Maybe you had your doubts. Maybe you had your suspicions.

But now is the time. Today is the day of your salvation.

John 4:13-14- “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of living water welling up to eternal life.”

This is for you.

What do you say to that?

There is something unusual about God’s grace. It reaches down to the very place that you are at in the very condition that you are in. And here, Jesus speaks words that she cannot believe. She marvels and wonders, “Am I meeting with God?”

And it is there at Jacob’s well, the only place that she knew for the very thing she needs the most, that she meets with God.

Hear the words of Jesus as he spoke to those who doubted: “If anyone is thirsty, let hhim come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” (John 7:37-38)

54 State St.
(corner of State/Oceana Dr. and Ferry St.)
Shelby, MI 49455

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