Forgiveness is hard, but necessary. Here’s a preview of this Sunday’s sermon.

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First Things First

This week’s First Things First article is by Ben Gladd. Ben earned his M.A. and Ph.D. at Wheaton College. He is Associate Professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary. He frequently teaches in The Refuge and Covenant classes at Highlands. His most recent book is The Story Retold: A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament. See here

The pandemic that has handcuffed the world has also given believers the opportunity reflect and ponder their faith. Is our faith fleeting, only based upon church attendance and community involvement? Or, has this pandemic deepened our faith in Christ? The parable of the wedding banquet (Matt 22:1-14) terrifically instructs us to persevere in the faith, commune with God, and remain loyal to our neighbors.

The parable teases out the themes already set forth in the two previous parables (21:28-44). The basic flow of the parable is straightforward: a king throws a banquet for his son’s wedding and invites a host of guests to attend. The initial guests, though, refuse the offer as they are more concerned about their own agendas than the king’s. Some of the guests even murder the king’s messengers. Angered, the king arms his troops and wages war against them. Not to be deterred, the king then sends out his servants to the “streets” where they “gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good” (22:10). The table is set, the royal family is present, and the “wedding hall” is finally “filled with guests” (22:10).  But, there is more to the story. As the king moves throughout the crowd, he is taken back by a man not wearing the proper attire. So, the king commands his servants that he be bound and tossed outside, “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (22:13). The final verse of the section divulges the overall point: “for many are invited, but few are chosen” (22:14).

Probably in line with the two previous parables, the “king” is God, and his “son” is Jesus (22:2). The parable of the banquet may recall Isa 25:6-12 where God holds a meal with “all peoples” in the new creation. According to Isa 25, the source of provision is not primarily physical sustenance but God’s glorious presence. His all-encompassing glory nourishes Israel and the nations. The first set of guests appear to be the Jewish people, who, on account of their devotion to their own livelihood and their opposition to King Jesus, are either passed over or destroyed (22:4-7).

The second set of guests are likely Gentiles who embrace Jesus (22:8-10). They constitute “all peoples” of Isa 25:6. The final movement of this parable, the description of the man not wearing wedding attire, though odd at first, fits quite well with Matthew’s narrative. Allegiance to Jesus of Nazareth is not simply a one-time decision but a life-long commitment. Like the seed falling upon rocky soil and eventually withering (13:20-21), this individual responded initially to the invitation of the banquet but failed to come prepared. Jesus offers the message to the kingdom to all, but only a few will enter it and fewer still will persevere.

As we press on in our devotion to Christ in the coming days, weeks, and years, we don’t know what will transpire. When will this end? While we have no clue, we serve God who does, knowing that he purposed it for our good. Our responsibility is to trust him, enjoy his glorious presence, and live in light of that trust every waking moment of our day.

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Preparation for this Sunday’s worship; important announcement

This Sunday, May 17, Pastor Joseph Wheat will take us through Isaiah 43:18-21 with “The Love of God Is Providing”. Please click the photo below for a video preview that includes an important announcement. More information is provided in the paragraph below the photo.

Dear Highlands and friends of Highlands,

It’s exciting to think about being able to actually, physically worship God with one another again. By the decision of our elders, and in accordance with the Governor’s recommendations, we are pleased to announce that Highlands will resume worship in the sanctuary on June 7, 2020.
We will offer two services, 8:30 a.m. and 10:50 a.m. Initially, we will NOT have Adult Sunday school, Youth Ministry, Children’s Ministry or Nursery. Those ministries will resume at a date to be determined. We have ongoing interaction and consultation with local healthcare professionals, government officials, and other churches to ensure that we offer you a safe, welcoming facility for worship. Look for more detailed information coming soon through our website, social media, and email. 

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First Things First, an article each Tuesday

Senior Assistant Pastor Brad Mercer curates these articles written by our pastors, elders and Sunday school teachers. He explains the concept and purpose here:

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First Things First

April 22, 2020

Jeff Brannon writes this week’s article. Jeff is Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies and Chair of the Biblical Studies and Ministries Department at Belhaven University. He holds an M.Div. from Reformed Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. from the University of Edinburgh. Jeff regularly teaches in The Refuge class at Highlands. 

God’s Promise to Us

In a time of trial and uncertainty, it is wise and important to remember the promises that God has made to us.  One of the promises that Jesus gives is a bit astounding, and it is one that we all too often forget.  In John 16:33, Jesus promises, “In this world you will have trouble.”  Interestingly, this is not a “one-off” in Scripture; statements and promises such as this one are replete in Scripture.  Consider the following. “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). 

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This Sunday at Highlands ~ April 19, 2020

This Sunday is the last in Pastor Joseph Wheat’s sermon series “Tasting Fruits of the Spirit.” Paul finishes his list in this letter to the Galatians with self-control. What would life be like with fewer self-inflicted wounds?

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First Things First – April 14, 2020

This week’s article is by Andrew Hoffecker.  Andy earned his PhD at Brown University in Religious Studies. He taught at Grove City College in Pennsylvania for 25 years before coming to Reformed Theological Seminary in 1997. He retired from RTS in 2010 and began teaching the Crossroads Class at Highlands shortly thereafter.

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First Things First: April 7, 2020

I mentioned “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” in the sermon last Sunday. In this edition of First Things First I want to tell you a little more about the fascinating background of this hymn. 

Wittenberg, Germany during Luther’s time there. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1

Martin Luther was, as the saying goes, a man in full. His passion for life was explosive and infectious. He mastered ancient languages, thrived on fellowship with colleagues and friends, deeply loved his wife and children, and (unique among Protestant Reformers) displayed a wonderful sense of humor. He was a gifted musician, and his reading ranged from Aristotle to the Bible to fairy tales.

Luther was also all too human, frequently experiencing physical pain and sickness, sleepless “dark nights of the soul,” and saying and doing some quite shameful things. He could be short-tempered and merciless toward both friends and enemies. Like all Christians, Luther was a grace-bought sinner. And he knew it. His hope was not in himself but in salvation by grace through faith in Christ—alone!

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First Things First ~ March 31, 2020

by Andrew Hoffecker
March 31, 2020

In every age, God’s people aspire to wisdom.  Because we live in a fallen world everyone is susceptible distorted thinking, erroneous choices and evil actions.

In the Bible our God reveals the source of wisdom and describes its many attributes. A primary source of wisdom is Proverbs, written by King Solomon. When God asked Solomon what he most wanted and needed to rule Israel, Solomon asked not for wealth, military power, prestige or great possessions. Rather he requested wisdom – the centerpiece of Proverbs.
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