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We all have the God-given ability to make choices. Unfortunately, we don't always make good choices, but then again, nor did some of the more successful characters throughout the Bible (think of Peter and David, to name but two). Crucially, our bad choices (failures) need not become our identity, because that is in Jesus. As Andy Sparkes here reminds us in this last talk in the Pick n' Mix series, we are held by God's hand. He chose us.

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Church Family: Singleness

If we want to grow as a church family, we need to understand each other and in particular, the status in life to which God may have called us. Whether we're single or married, or maybe struggling with issues around relationships or sexuality, each of us has the ability to encourage, support and empathise with our Christian brothers and sisters. Graham Palmer starts off this mini series on the Church Family with 'Singleness', taking as his core text 1 Corinthians 7.

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Forgiveness and Offense

When we take offense it is our choice; a trap that is put out by someone else, but is ours to spring or not. 

Similarly, forgiveness is our choice; we can choose to forgive others whether they ask for it or not!

Today, Pete lays out some important principles on forgiveness that will help us to experience a new degree of freedom in life, and experience all that God has for us in forgiveness.

Be encouraged.

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Peace and Joy

Sometimes we just don't feel peaceful or joy-filled. In fact, nothing affects our view on life, our mood or our relationships more than how we relate to that peace and joy available to us through the Holy Spirit. But we can choose to be joy-filled, to capture our negative thoughts and align them instead with God's heart. How we view ourselves and those around us is inextricably linked to our position in the Kingdom of God. Steve Gibbons bases his talk on Romans 14 v17, 'For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit', and offers some thoughts on how we can be filled with peace and joy. 

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God's Good Gifts

If ever we need reassuring that God is both for us and wants the best for us, then all we need do is turn to James 1 v15: 'Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.' (NKJV). Whatever our circumstances, there's always something for which we can thank and praise God. Angela Siderfin gives us a timely reminder of this, providing some ways in which we can better appreciate God's good gifts and give Him the glory for them. 

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In the World, but not of the World

We live in the world. We live, work and meet with all sorts of different people, many of whom live a Godless life. How on earth are we to remain in right standing with our Lord, to not be corrupted by the world's standards? Well, that's why Jesus came to physically live amongst us, to provide us with an example of how to live in the world but not actually be of it! Martin Powell here speaks from the New Testament and uses both his own life experiences and a model for Christian living to illustrate how we can be in the world, but not of it.

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Restoring the Land

Ted uses the story of Gideon to encourage us in our journey with God. God can (and does) use anybody and we should be prepared to allow Him to confirm His word to us - Gideon used a fleece, and God didn't seem to mind! 

Having said all that, if God wants to surprise us by whittling down the army we put together, then that's His call too! Gideon's assembled 30,000 strong force became 10,000 and then 300 under God's direction. 

Settling the Land

Before the Israelites took possession of the Promised Land, God instructed them to drive out the peoples already living there, in order that they wouldn't become contaminated by the local practices, particularly idol worship. At first, they did as they were told, but then failed to remove every one of them, leading to the Israelites intermarrying with the locals and joining them in their worship of idols (utterly forbidden). Whilst we are not called on to 'drive out' our neighbours, we are instructed throughout the Bible to refrain from putting anything before God in contravention of the greatest commandment. Pete Bond uses the example of Israel in the time of Judges to illustrate the idols we face and how we can, with our eyes fixed upon God, overcome them.

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Subduing the Land

Having led the Israelites across the River Jordan, Joshua was now tasked with subdividing the land promised to them by God, to apportion to each tribe distinct areas they could make their own. But one problem remained - most of the locals weren't exactly friendly, nor did they wish to give up their homeland without a fight! We often find that to achieve something important to us (our 'land') we too face obstacles which we have to struggle to overcome. Thankfully God reassures us - as he did Joshua - that he will not abandon us, so long as we are strong and courageous. In today's talk, Andy Sparkes describes the difficulties Joshua faced (not least with his own people) and invites us to consider how we can, with God's unfailing love and guidance, take our land.

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Questions God Asks: Where Are You?

God asks many questions in the Bible - not because he doesn't know the answer, but because He desires us to enter into a conversation with Him. One of the earliest questions put to mankind by God was "Where are you?" It's  a question He often has to repeat when we face tough times and ask, "Where are you God?" He replies "Where are you {insert name here}". Our good friend from Goshen, Indiana, US, Steve Chupp, reminds us in this talk that whatever is hidden cannot be healed - and exhorts us to engage with God so that He can really start working on us - and with us.

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Joshua Deceived

Who hasn't ever been deceived in some way? It happens to all of us (sadly) and even to those who we might think are so wise they could never be 'scammed'! We're told in the Bible that even Joshua was deceived as he went about conquering the land promised to him by the Lord. But there's a telling reason provided as to why the deception happened - he did not consult the Lord before embarking on a course of action he thought was sensible. Continuing our look at the life of Joshua, Martin Powell teaches us from both testaments how we can avoid the pitfalls of situations that challenge us.

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Gateway to the Promised Land

When Joshua reached the shores of the Jordan river, with the land promised to the Israelites tantalisingly close over on the other side, he didn't just blunder in on his own. He consulted God first, who gave instructions for various things to be done beforehand, not least of which was how to cross the river - in full flood - safely. God also wanted His people to be 'set apart' and to remember how He had helped them. So listen to Roger Snowdon tell us how we can prepare to cross into our own Promised Land (whatever that may be to each one of us) based not just on Joshua's experiences but more importantly upon what Jesus did for us on the Cross.

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Reconnoitering the Land

This is the first talk in a short series based in the book of Joshua entitled 'Entering the Land', Joshua was told to be strong and courageous; we too can be empowered by God and answer His call to action. But what is our land? And what considerations do we need to first take into account? How can we prevent the enemy doing his best to stop us achieving God's plan for us? Listen to Steve Gibbons' interpretation of how Joshua's experiences still ring true for us today, and how we might evade the inevitable setbacks along the way.

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A Community of Holiness

We at Gillingham Community Church seek to be an inclusive and wecoming community of believers. But how can we achieve this if we don't all get along, or even try to get along? Both Paul and Peter have lots to say about community in the church, the former instructing us to 'strive for restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind and live in peace' and the latter advising us to 'love one another, be compassionate and be humble'. Excellent advice - Steve Gibbons explores how we might put it into action!

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....or more precisely, 'Keeping Yourself Unspotted from the World' (NKJV). It is rather easy to become unspotted (or polluted, as in the NIV) from the physical, cultural and secular world around us. As Christians, our actions and reactions should be based upon the greatest commandment: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart mind and strength'. In this talk, Pete Bond uses James 1 vs 26-27. to provide us with tips for living an unspotted life. You know you're in for a challenging and practical sort of preach when the source text is James!

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Holy (Right) Thinking

How we relate to those around us depends very much on our relationship with God. We need to ensure our heart is right before Him, because, as Jesus points out in Matthew 12, '...out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks'. We continually, constantly, at all times need to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Continuing our series on Practical Holiness, Ted Winter suggests four key areas of which we need to be aware so as to reflect the holiness of God within us. Do you want to be an energy giver (an encourager) or an energy sapper? Listen on....

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Growing in Holiness...or Holy Thinking

One of the Israelites' earliest edicts from the Lord was to 'be Holy as I am Holy'. Peter thought this so important that he referred to it within his epistle (1 Peter 1:16). We cannot grow in holiness unless we also abide by this instruction, in other words, we must see the world as God sees it. When Christians do so, they can make a huge difference - consider John Wesley, William Wilberforce, Mother Theresa, to name but three. We too can make a difference, in the way we live our lives, by the choices we make. Andy Sparkes gives us a few tips on where to start, together with a biblical perspective.

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Holy Motivation

As we've already seen, an important element of holiness is 'being set apart' 'being different'. We also know that God called and chose us, not the other way around. How we behave as Christians is closely linked to how we perceive God - is he to us a strict judge, or a benign, loving heavenly father? We are Holy because God says we are. We work to live out (or perfect) that holiness; God requires us to be serious about our walk with Him. Roger Snowdon explains how, starting with repentance and avoiding complacency, we might then achieve holiness in our lives.

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The Holiness of God

We are very different to God, our creator. For starters, the Bible tells us that He doesn't need us - or anything in creation - He is absolutely independent and self-sufficient. And then there's His holiness, the extent and awesomeness of which our human minds just cannot comprehend. We can, however, acknowledge God's holiness and glory by aspiring to be holy, by demonstrating something of the glory of our Heavenly Father. Steve Gibbons - here speaking with a deep, basal voice, yes it is him! - explains how we should live our lives to reflect some of God's holiness to those around us.

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