Monthly Archives: June 2012

…Bestland? – Part 5 (Conclusion? I hope not!)

At first, no one had ever heard of this new, young, charismatic leader, Osaka Barahm.  He seemed to rise to prominence from almost nowhere.  He espoused change and vowed to move Bestland further away from its roots, which somehow were construed to be the real source of all of Bestland’s failures and problems.  The media and power brokers got behind this new leader and practically raised him to cult-leader status.  The change-hungry mobs, the “gimme more” crowd, quickly got behind him, too.  The “used to be content” masses no longer were content, but never dreamed such a newbie to world leadership could ever win.  After all, who was he?

Osaka Barahm was a Bestlander, but only by birth.  He was legally a native Bestlander, but ethnically, educationally, and ideologically vastly different than any of Bestland’s previous leaders or even the hopefuls who had run for office and lost!  He made it quite clear that Bestland needed even more changes and that if elected to the nation’s highest office, he would see that it happened.

The masses said, “No more!  We need to return to our roots!”  The new wave cried for “Change!”  Barahm fed them a steady diet of Change Rhetoric – little substance, no real answers to real problems – just promises of change for the better.  Like kids gorging themselves on sweets, the new wavers ate it up and demanded more.  And Osaka Barahm promised them all they wanted!  His rallies raised the question – Can we change?  And the crowds yelled “Yes!”  Can we do better?  Yes!  Can we become wiser?  Yes!  Are you entitled to more?  Yes! Yesss!  Yesssss!!

With every rally and speech the crowds were whipped into a frenzy shouting “Yessssss!”  so much and so often that as the nation neared election time, it became clear that more change was coming to Bestland.  But no one seemed to have a clue how bad that would be.  The Yessss cries of the mob sounded to those who knew down deep, much like the hissing of vipers!

The Book had told the account long ago of how the serpent had deceived the world’s first parents and ushered sin and judgment into the human race.  But then, the Book had been quietly dismissed from the public arena and its influence had diminished.  Only a few now recognized the hissing of the serpent when they heard it.

The election ushered in a new era of more change.  Osaka Barahm took the reins of Bestland and began his reign as a world leader and rained madness upon the people.  Eager to please and hungry for more, politicians and judges, backed by the cheerleading media, sided with the new leader to ignore history, redefine age-old laws and principles for society and try to change Bestland forever.

It was a new nation – no longer Bestland, but now called ‘Chainjidahl’.  With a chameleon-like leader, the new government would change its color or shed its skin to appease anyone who might agree or help promote its own agenda and attack any who opposed.

As the masses finally began to wake up to what was really happening, they began to cry out, only to be squelched in the name of tolerance!  Freedom of speech seemed to be granted only to those who agreed to be PC – others were branded as bigots or ignorant or, at best, outdated.  Schools and other government affiliated agencies were threatened with lawsuits if they dared defy the new regime – all masked as toleration for anyone different or new.  Churches were threatened to tone down their stands against abortion and homosexuality and for the traditional family.  In fact, the family was redefined, abortions were promoted and once again tax funded, homosexuality was not only tolerated but promoted, and any other opinions belittled or even outlawed.

The military was weakened.  Banks and many other big businesses went bankrupt.  Taxpayers had to shoulder the burden of bailing out companies who had made unwise, greed motivated and sometimes even illegal decisions.  As companies went under, jobs disappeared and more and more people needed help.  Help can only come from more taxes or from depleting other sources, causing them to need help as well.  The public school system fell into disarray.  Healthcare went into a crisis mode.  National morale hit an all-time low.  Yet, politicians and entertainers seemed to be thriving!  Even so the criminals.  Oh, wait – that’s reduntant!  Many of the politicians and entertainers are criminals!  Well, at least some say.

Chainjidahl needs to repent.  The citizens need to rise up again and make at least one more change. – back to Bestland.  It’s an election year again.  Is change still needed?  Yes!  More than ever.  But a change back.  No, not to the “good ol’ days”, because they never really existed.  But to the roots.  The truth is, like it or not, Chainjidahl’s roots go back through its history as Bestland, to the Book.  Bestland was founded and flourished on the principles of the Book.

About half the people of Chainjidahl won’t like that, but the other, the masses that remember and long for Bestland, would say, “There are lots of other islands in the sea.  If you don’t want Bestland, move to one of them or change!  Join us!  Help Bestlanders rebuild Bestland!

What’s that I hear?  Do I detect a warm breeze?


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I was just thinking…again.  The past couple of days I have had trouble with my Nook Tablet and finally today had to reset the thing back to the factory settings.  Meanwhile, the SD card I had in it went bad and it suggested I reformat it.  Well, I ended up getting a new card and so far the Nook is responding well to treatment, but it got me thinking about a spiritual reformatting that needs to happen in the individual.  In Romans chapter 12, the Apostle Paul said we should be transformed by the renewing of our minds; in Corinthians he said if any one is in Christ he is a new creation and the old is passed away.  Spiritual formation is like being reformatted.  Once we were strangers to God, but throught faith in Christ, He brought us back to Himself.  However, that doesn’t automatically make us like Jesus (which by the way is the goal!).  We need reformatted to operate in the new environment of His kingdom.  Wipe out the old and make room for the new!  With a blank memory card, so to speak, we have room for God to add all the things necessary for our spiritual growth and well-being.  Too bad all the old bad memories somehow stay on the card, though!  Just thinking…

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You Can’t Cover Up

I was just thinking….the church I pastor is not very big (numerically, that is – we do have a big heart!), so my salary isn’t quite enough to go around these days.  I do whatever I can on the side for a little extra income and often that is painting.  This past week I painted inside for one of the young couples of our church.  Most of the walls took two coats of new paint, while a few got by with only one and a few others actually took three to look really good!  I was just thinking about how we often try to cover up our mistakes and sins instead of going to God for forgiveness and cleansing.  Some of our sins require several coats of lies, excuses, or other works in attempts to cover them up.  Now, while I do a pretty good job of painting, even if I do say so myself, I’m not too good at covering up the errors of my ways.  And honestly, neither are you.  I can say that because I know that no one is.  Adam and Eve tried it first and failed and we’ve been failing at it ever since.  There is only one thing that can truly cover our sins and that’s the blood of Jesus Christ, shed on Calvary for the very purpose of paying for our sins.  Our own attempts may look alright for awhile – maybe they won’t even do that.  But regardless, they are only temporary at best and we need a permanent solution.  I am so glad that Jesus took care of that for us.  Anyway, I was just thinking and thought you might need to hear that.

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Trade-Offs – Part 4 (Conclusion)

Chapter 4


The Practical Applications


            I’ve tried to show the practical applications and implications for each of the three lists along the way, but a few more points are worth mentioning.  I am more concerned about people making good trades in their spiritual and church matters than in other areas, but the plan works in all areas.

Don’t assume that checking with God is only for the religious and church decisions.  Our whole life is God’s.  Our time, our talents, our money, our jobs, our relationships – they all really belong to Him and are to be used for His glory.  We need His help to set our goals and priorities in every area of life, so bible study and prayer are just as vital when choosing a car, a job or a mate as when choosing a church or a pastor.

The most important part of life here on earth involves preparing for the real life to be experienced in heaven.  You cannot afford to miss heaven, so salvation is a must.  You cannot trade that for anything!  So trust Jesus Christ and Him alone to get you to heaven.

Meanwhile, pleasing God by becoming more and more like Jesus is to be your number one purpose in life.  Don’t trade that purpose for any other!  Work on a relationship with Jesus that will cooperate with Him as He works in you to become like Him.

As you become more like Jesus, His way of thinking will become yours.  His attitudes will shape your attitudes, so His actions will become what you do.  In the ideal, you would always then make right decisions and do right actions.  In practice, we carry a sinful nature too and will always have some struggles in getting ourselves out of the way.  Our mindset and our personal desires and agendas cloud our decision-making process and we sometimes end up doing the wrong things.

Having a decision-making plan of action can help.  Determine and develop your three lists for making trades.  Pray and think seriously about List One especially, because once you’ve made it you must determine never to trade off whatever you have put there!

Begin your lists with beliefs and values rather than particulars.  The particulars of each decision will be added as the need arises, but beliefs and moral values, ethics, and character must always be present in every situation.  Never trade character for convenience.  Never trade morals for money or momentary pleasures.  Never trade biblical principles for base practices.  Never trade the timeless for the temporary.  Never trade God’s best for the world’s best, for the world’s best is always a trade downward from God’s best.

Whether deciding on where to eat lunch, what car or furniture to buy, what person to date or marry, what school to attend or career to pursue, set spiritual priorities and make your three lists.  Then always – always – trade even or up, never down.  And never trade ham for a hot dog!


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…Bestland – Part 4

Every few years, new leaders arose in Bestland with promises of turning the country around.  Some things got better, some got worse.  The masses continued to cry out for personal freedoms and benefits with little real regard for what might be best for all.  One by one the changes came as politicians catered to special interests in order to get elected.  However, once elected to office they could govern to their own advantage as well.

The government swelled, entitlements flowed freely and freedoms once enjoyed by all were gradually forfeited in order to grant new freedoms to whichever group cried or threatened the loudest.  A new trend arose called Political Correctness (PC).

Once upon a time, the standard was right or wrong set by a higher authority.  The general understanding for the people of Bestland about values, morals, ethics and therefore, its laws, came from the founding principles derived from the Book.  This new PC wave set a new standard for decision making.

Some argue that the entertainment industry set the standards through its movies and television shows, forever lowering the bar.  Others blame a combination of the judicial and legislative branches of government.  Laws were changed or created anew to suit the new ways of thinking, trying to force everyone into the PC mode.  Others say it’s like the age old “chicken or egg” question which came first.  Did the masses cry for out for changes and the entertainers and politicians merely give them what they wanted?  Or did the media and politicians control the changes and the masses followed suit?

Regardless of who started it or manipulated the system, the people of Bestland continued to cry out for change, but it seems that the nation was basically divided in two.  Those who had cried out, begged, schemed, demanded, coerced and bribed for the changes they wanted were not content with their new freedoms.  They demanded more for themselves and less for those who opposed them.  Those who longed for the return of Bestland to its former glory finally began to cry out as well, but not until after many rights had been lost, freedoms had been trampled underfoot and their core beliefs were dismissed from affecting any public arena.  Still, their voices finally began to be heard.

This could very well explain how the changes in Bestland could have occurred.  While it is true that money brokered power with national media support to affect the changes, there is another factor to consider.  If half of the people, and many argue it is actually still a large majority, didn’t want the changes and continued to oppose them, how could it happen?  Well, someone once said that all that is necessary for evil to win is for the good to do nothing!

The winds that blew in the changes were not met with opposition.  Contented bystanders ignored the signs and warnings.  If the winds didn’t blow down their own houses, the contented folks went on enjoying their little piece of the world as if nothing bad could ever happen to them.

Universities that began as seminaries training ministers of the gospel became liberal bastions of anti-religion, turning out leaders – politicians, lawyers and educators – who no longer believed much of that for which Bestland had always stood.   And the contented masses paid no heed.

These new leaders with new-fangled notions gradually took their places of leadership in the education institutions, governing bodies, courtrooms and media where they could gradually change things to suit themselves, not the masses.  And the contented masses paid no heed.

Laws were changed, textbooks were re-written, ideologies and even religious beliefs were reshaped to be more PC.  Remember, the truth had been suppressed for a long time.  New “truth” could be written.  And the not-so-contented-as-before, but still somewhat contented, masses paid heed a little, but did nothing to stop the changes.

Then it got worse!

You see, once a man has moved away from the light, he is forced to make his next decisions in the dark!  Inevitably, he will make bad decisions since he is in the dark.  Those bad decisions only move him further into the dark where he will naturally make even worse decisions.  People in Bestland began to cry out more for their own brand of changes, and as people in the dark, made bad choices as to whom should lead.  Leaders, operating primarily in the dark, continued to make wrong choices for the people.

What was once truly the ‘best land” in the sea, might still have been, but only because it had once soared so high and the other nations had already sunk so low.  But Bestlanders have always fought!  They would never give up!  They worked hard for years to “fix” the problems.  Of course, everyone still had their own ideas of what the problems were!

And the winds of change continued to blow.  First, this way, then that way.  Sometimes hot, often cold.  Sometimes slightly, other times at gale force, but always blowing.  Until recently – a wind began to blow with the audacity to identify itself as a wind for change.  No one is quite sure yet where the wind came from, but there is no doubt that it clearly wanted more change – and definitely not a change back to Bestland’s former ways.  The winds blew in a new “hopeful” for leadership.

(Yep!  More to come…)

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…Bestland? – Part 3

Not a hurricane, not even a tornado or even a storm at first, but just winds.  Winds that sometimes blew gently, yet forcefully.  Winds that felt warm at first, but quickly would turn cold.  Winds that blew from ‘no one knew where’ toward ‘no one dared speculate.’  Winds that seemed not too bad as they gave way to new winds.  The changes that were made came gradually.  It always seemed like progress or at worst, just a difference.  It seemed that so few, if any at all, knew the winds were blowing bad changes across Bestland and today, Bestland is barely recognizable.  What happened?

Just as there are many theories about what happened to change the appearance of the great sea long ago, there are also many theories about how and why Bestland changed.  Naturally, there are those who think the change has been for the better, but there are more who do not think so.  I suppose time will tell who is right, but questions still come – “what happened to Bestland?”, and “what brought about the changes?”

Some say that it began back in the 1800’s when the theory of evolution began to be espoused, especially by educators, though that took some time to unfold.  Over the next 100 years or so, the idea that man evolved over time from lower forms of animals all but replaced the teaching of the Book which said that man was created as fully developed humans in the image of God.  This was one of those ill winds that blew quietly and continually until the changes were made.

Many argue that teaching evolution as science in the public schools could not be to blame for what happened to Bestland, but others point out the ramifications of such thinking: no creator means no God, no God means no enduring standards, no standards leaves everything up for grabs.  Morals, ethics, laws, even guidelines for everyday living are arbitrarily set when there are no lasting standards.  Each generation of lawmakers and lawbreakers and everyone else for that matter can decide what is right and wrong.  No one knows what is true and right.  Those in power for the day get to decide and tomorrow someone more powerful will change it.  What used to be sacred isn’t anymore; what used to be wrong is now accepted.  In an “anything goes” society, eventually, everything goes.

Others blame the changes in Bestland on the industrial revolution and the urbanization of the people.  More and more people made their homes in the cities and exchanged the friendliness and togetherness of the rural communities for the hustle and bustle of the cities.  Too much of the old ways were lost in the new environs of city life where crime, corruption, and poverty soon abounded.  The hard work ethic of the farms and small towns gave way to technology and government give-away programs.  Someone said that once a democracy has been around long enough, as it has in Bestland, sooner or later too many people realize they can vote themselves programs and money from the government for doing nothing.  Is it coincidence that Bestland’s politicians cater to the massive number of voters in the cities in order to get elected?

Some say Bestland began to crumble when certain so-called ‘freedom revolutions’ flourished.  Bestland became divided over sexual issues, women’s rights, and racial inequality.  Everyone seemed to get caught up in what was wrong with Bestland rather than working to protect and prolong what was right.  Still others blame it on a war that took place about that same time.  Bestland was called upon to help another island in its fight for freedom.  The war took far too long, far too much money, too many lives and in the end, the war was never really won or lost.  Bestland finally just quit fighting and came home, never to be the same – some say.

But others remind us that Bestland had survived many wars and worse times – its own fight for independence in its humble beginnings, world-wide wars, and even a civil war with Bestlanders fighting Bestlanders!  How could one war out of so many be the thing that sent Bestland on a downward spiral?

Some point to what they call “kicking God out.”  During this same era, that is the time of the war and the freedom revolutions, prayers and even reading the Book were no longer allowed in public schools or other government places.  Of course one could make a pretty good argument right here against government being in charge of the schools anyway!  Nonetheless, laws were changed away from the foundations laid by the early framers who went by the Book.  New books took over – new law books, new textbooks, new psychology books – it was a new age.

Others want to blame the influences of all those who came to Bestland from the other islands.  They came because life in Bestland seemed so much better than where they came from, but instead of embracing the ways of their new home, many expected Bestland to change for them.  And it did!  One wonders if what they had back home was so good, why did they leave it behind for Bestland?  Why try to turn their new home into the very thing they left behind?  Much of that did happen in Bestland.  To many, it seems that much of what made Bestland great has been blown away with the winds to make room for many of the things that have kept the other lands from being the best lands in the great sea.  Think about it – this was Bestland, not the others!

So what happened to Bestland?  The winds continued to blow across the nation bringing common problems.  That is, common sense seemed to blow away and common courtesy too.  Morals and ethics became distorted.  Human life lost its value.  Generations arose and even rose to power who did not believe in God, much less know Him or His ways.  Decisions were no longer made based on any standard of truth.  Bestland began to sink to the level of the other island nations it had once surpassed.

Bestland dropped in its educational, economic, social and even military superiority.  It struggled to maintain its high standing among the nations.  But was it over for Bestland?  Was there no hope for a return to its former glory?  Could the very winds that blew one way turn and blow changes for the good?  After all, the winds of change have continued to blow!

(Check back later, there’s more to come)

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Trade-Offs – Part 3

Chapter 2

The Plan of Action


            So, how can we make sure we don’t walk away from the deal with less than the best?  How do we make sure we don’t settle for less than we ought to get?  It’s all about setting the right priorities.  Maybe it ought to go without saying, but I can’t take the chance that you may not know that your purpose in life is to please God.  God made us and made us for His purpose and pleasure.  Therefore it is essential that He be the One to determine our priorities.  We must consult Him through prayer and the Bible and then set life’s priorities and actions accordingly.  Building an ongoing relationship with our heavenly Father is paramount.  In that relationship, which is entered into through faith in His Son Jesus Christ, God will instruct, inspire, and invite us to follow Him throughout life.  The choices we make then, ideally, will be His choices for us.  He will set our priorities and guide us through how both to set and achieve our goals.

Having said that, I want to suggest for you a plan of action for determining what you should and should not trade off.  As I said, the first step, an ongoing step, is to work on your relationship with the Lord.  Study the Bible and pray regularly, attend and get involved at a local church for worship, discipleship, fellowship and ministry.  Keep all this up and as God works in and around you He will help you with the rest of the plan.  If you have yet to begin this part of the process, the rest of the plan of action will even help you to decide which church and what activities, etc.

Remember, it’s about priorities. You will make trade-offs.  Determining and holding to the priorities will ensure that you make good trades.  So, here’s the plan: Make three lists of priorities for any given decision with which you are faced.  Sometimes, especially at first when this process is new to you, it will be best to actually write out the lists.  In lesser decisions and as this process becomes more and more your normal M.O., you’ll find you can do it mentally very easily and quickly.  You’ll also find that certain priorities will affect many decisions of all kinds and you will have already established them.

List One: determine what things you absolutely should not and therefore will not trade off and stick to this list!  Certain convictions will be on this list no matter the subject, but naturally, other things will vary from goal to goal.  For example, if you refuse to lie, then honesty is never up for trade whether you’re selling a used car or evaluating a friend for a particular job or even an office at church.  On the other hand, a top priority for that new car may for you be a V-6 engine rather than a 4-cylinder and obviously that criterion wouldn’t matter much when deciding where to spend the family vacation next summer.  Different activities require their own set of non-negotiables. For instance, for one person, outdoor activities may be non-negotiable for their vacation, but they wouldn’t even be on the list when deciding what kind of outreach program your church ought to start.  So some things, like matters of character, morals, ethics and faith, will always be on your “not to trade” list and other things will vary with the circumstance.

In each goal or decision you are to make, establish first of all the things you will not under any circumstances trade off.  Let’s concentrate on church and pastor choices again.  What would you absolutely not give up when deciding what church to attend?  As for me, for example, I refuse to trade off my beliefs about the God of the Bible being the one and only true God, the inerrancy of the Scripture, the reality of heaven and hell, and salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and no other.  There are more, but these few will do for the example as they are non-negotiable.  If a church does not teach these, it doesn’t have me!

Never trade off anything in this first list of yours!  I’ve had people tell me they would attend my church if it was a little closer and then begin to attend a church with some faulty doctrine that was closer to their home.  Especially when children and grandchildren get involved, they could be forfeiting someone’s salvation for driving distance once or twice a week!  Never trade doctrine for distance!  That is a very bad trade.  I’ve seen people decide on a church because a friend goes there.  That may be nice, but is it worth trading off sound biblical teaching?  I think not!

I once had a former church member tell me when discussing moral problems of their current pastor that it would be the last time they voted for a prospective pastor because he and his wife were good looking!  They thought a good looking young couple would be an asset in reaching the community.  Later, they learned the hard way that morals, integrity, and practicing biblical principles were more important.  They made a bad trade!

Determine what things you absolutely should not and will not trade off.  If the choice you’re considering doesn’t include your “must haves”, then the choice is already made for you.  One might ask, “But what if it’s close?”  I say getting close to heaven isn’t good enough.  Having a spouse that’s close to being faithful isn’t good enough.  Having a car with three wheels is close, but not good enough.  Some things are deal breakers and you need to decide what they are for you in any given situation and never trade those things off!

            List Two:  Determine and list those things that you would really rather not trade off, but can if you must.  These are preferences, though strong ones, not convictions.  These you would rather not do without, but could.  They are important to you, but not essential.

While I won’t bend on the inerrancy of God’s Word being taught at a church, I personally don’t put too much priority on the worship style.  I prefer contemporary Christian music, but I would never trade off doctrine from my first list for music styles on my second list.  I’d rather sing the newer style songs or a good blend of styles, but I could trade that for the traditional hymns if I needed to in order to get the essentials (doctrine, good preaching, etc.)

Churches looking for a pastor need to make a list of what they believe they must have in a pastor and then a list of preferences.  They can afford to trade off preferences, but the convictions must stand.  If really good preaching is a must for your church and youthfulness is a desire, even a strong one, you need to remember what you can and cannot afford to trade off when considering a particular candidate.  If one is young but not very good at preaching and another is much older but a good preacher, remember your list and make the trades.  Naturally, there are many more things to consider, but each must be treated the same way.  What list are the assets and drawbacks on?  That will determine just how important they are.  If you make the wrong trades, it will come back to haunt you later.

Pastors looking for a church to serve need to do the same.  Remember, there is no perfect church, so you will have to make some trade-offs.  Decide what gets priority – location, current size, worship styles, ministry goals, whatever you decide.  Put the criteria in your proper order and stick with it.  Never trade ham for a hotdog!

The same plan works for any goal or choice before you.  List One must never be traded off.  List Two can be if necessary, but wait!  Don’t start trading yet, because there is a third list.  That is where you need to start making your trades.

List Three: This is all the things you would like to get from this decision, but could easily give up to get something you need or even really want.  These items are definitely non-essentials.  These are the extras that would be nice, but really won’t make or break the deal.

For me, a sunroof on a car would be nice, but I sure wouldn’t trade air conditioning for it, or even a good sound system.  In a choice between two otherwise identical cars, I wouldn’t pay anything extra for a sunroof or a beige interior rather than a gray one.  I would not trade more money or give up lower mileage on the car or better gas mileage for color.  But that’s me.  You make your lists according to your convictions, preferences and likes.

As for a school lunch, I don’t even like vegetables.  Do you think I’d hesitate to trade a carrot for a candy bar or another hamburger?  Some things are nice and maybe even good for you, but not necessarily what you need or want.  It’s your life – don’t trade it away for something less.  More importantly, if you’ve allowed God to set your priorities, never trade them off for mere “extras” or what someone else wants or even for fleeting desires of your own.

In choosing a church you might want chairs in a worship center rather than pews in a sanctuary, but you know you could worship, grow spiritually and serve either way, so be willing to trade those for good solid bible teaching and preaching.  I’d rather truly worship with people singing hymns than just sing with a contemporary crowd.  True worship would be on my Number One List and styles could go on Number Two, maybe even on Number three.  The shape and color of the church building would be on List Three at best, though the condition of the property, which might speak to the character and attitude of the people, would more likely be on List Two.  What really goes on in that building would probably be on List One!

Sometimes priorities change, so always re-evaluate.  Keep your lists current and always let God help you set the priorities.  When you are a young adult with no children you might have some different ideas about what you value most than when you get older and are raising teenagers or even later when you’re a retired grandparent.  You let God set your priorities and trade accordingly.  Never trade off your first list.  Get as much of your second list as you can.  Trade off those as you must, but start with the last list and work up, always looking to the future.

(To be continued)

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