Friday, November 13, 2009

The Importance of Context When Reading the Bible





Question:  Which of these center circles is larger: the one on the left, or the one on the right?

What do you think?

While the center circle on the left looks larger than the one on the right, the circles are actually the very same size.  What is the difference between the two circles that makes them appear different?  Context.

Context is the information around the center circles that helps you interpret them. Because the context around the circles is different, you actually interpret them differently.  In this case, the size and position of the outer circles tricks your eye into interpreting them to be of different sizes.

How does this apply to the Bible?

When you read a single verse of scripture (which happens far too often) you may not have enough information (context) to correctly interpret the scripture. You may have heard it said: "Never read a Bible verse! Instead, always read a paragraph at least."  This is why.  You must interpret the verse in the context of the passage.  Gregory Koukl from Stand to Reason has a great article on this, so I won't repeat it...just share it:

Just the way our eyes are tricked by the circle exercise above, our minds can be tricked by seeing or hearing Bible verses in the WRONG context. This can happen when someone quotes scripture and doesn't apply the Biblical context, but rather puts it in the context of the point the author is attempting to convey. This can happen unintentionally, or perhaps even intentionally with a desire to deceive or pervert our understanding of scripture.

The solution is to go to the Bible --the source.  Attempt to understand the context in its original setting, THEN decide if the context provided outside of the Bible is accurate or mis-leading.  This is also why it is important to READ THE BIBLE!  Many folks try and cheat by reading books ABOUT the Bible.  There is a feeling that if a book quotes a lot of scripture, it is just the same as reading the Bible.  Not True!  Books that reference the Bible are great.  I read them all the time.  They often help me apply scripture to my life.  They offer insight and understanding.  BUT...don't take them for face value.  Go back to the source.  Make sure the author is properly applying context so that their center circle doesn't appear to be of a different size than the center circle in the Bible's context.


Friday, October 23, 2009

Office 2004 for Mac Easter Egg

Okay, so I take no credit for finding or reporting this.  I learned how from here:

I thought it was cool enough to share here it is.

Somehow at work I started thinking about easter eggs in programs.  It's been a while since I have heard of one, and so I was wondering if there were any new one's out there. For those of you that aren't aware, an easter egg is fun feature sometimes hidden in software.  Often, these are in the form of little games, but sometimes appear in other forms.  Here is a great page on different easter eggs in Microsoft Products:

I don't really have any of these old versions around anymore...but I did happen to have Office 2004 for Mac.  I thought I would take a moment to check out that easter egg.  It's pretty fun.

SO...if you have Office 2004 for Mac, and you want to play a quick game of Asteroids that is hidden within's how:

  • Open the "Microsoft Office Notifications" application. I found it in /Applications/Microsoft Office 2004/Office.  Once opened you will get a dialog box like this:

Picture 3

  • At the top of your screen, you should now see the Office Notifications toolbar that looks like this:

Picture 4

  • Select Office Notifications, and then  WHILE HOLDING DOWN CONTROL-OPTION-COMMAND, click on "About Office Notifications"

Picture 5

  • You should see the following dialog box:

Picture 6

  • Notice the little black box above the "OK" button? That is the the way to get to Asteroids.  If you didn't hold down CONTROL-OPTION-COMMAND, you will get the normal dialog box like this:

Picture 7

  • See, no Asteroids icon.  So go back and try it again.  You want to see that icon.  Once you get that, you can click it to get into a game of Asteroids right there inside the dialog box!

Picture 8

Picture 9

Picture 10

So there you have it! Asteroids...hidden inside the Office Notifications App. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Study Bible Comparison

Here is just a quick comparison of my four main study bibles.  This not exhaustive by any means, but there are a few notable points about each that I will share in case it is helpful for those looking for a new study bible.

Here's the line-up, in order. The first study Bible I bought is on top, then the newest on bottom. I'm not sure, but it seems like the deeper I grow as a Christian, the bigger the Bible gets! Maybe one day I'll have a huge one like Ray Comfort! (and a back problem to go with it).

Picture 20

These are just my study Bibles _ which I tend to use for daily reading and church.  I've got others that mostly sit on a shelf (including a great comparative Bible with four translations side by side).  With the resources available on the Internet, I do most of my deep study online, although the Strong's Concordance gets some light every once in a while!  It was pretty cool having a look at my book shelf...I still have my first Bible, given to me by my mom and dad in 1979, when I went into first grade. It's KJV and blue! Classic.  Having a Bible most of my life, however, didn't make me a Christian any more than having athletic shoes made me an athlete.  That's another blog post for another day.

As you can see in the next picture, my first bible got tabs.  I needed some help getting around!  The second one was a house just became a home reference. The third got worked over hard. I really got to know that one (as you can tell), and the fourth...has been out of the house one time. It's brand new (and the reason for this blog).

Picture 21

All four bibles are from different publishers, and all in different translations, and with different features.

BiblePublisherTranslationRed LetterCapital PronounsPage Format
Life Application Study BibleTyndaleNIVYNParagraph, single column
NASB Study BibleZondervanNASBYYNew line for each verse, 2 columns
Thompson Chain ReferenceKirkbrideNKJVYYNew line for each verse, 2 columns
ESV Study BibleCrosswayESVNNParagraph, single column

Now I am not going to try and weigh out the pros and cons of the various translations, but I will state that the ESV is becoming my favorite.  NIV has some questionable translation for me and I don't rely on it for doctrinal issues.  There...enough about that.

My new Bible (ESV Study Bible) is taking some getting used to.  It is the first one I have owned without red letter or capital pronouns. I get why, on both accounts, but still not something I am used to.  The other challenge for me is going back to a paragraph style bible.  It seems a bit slower for me to find an exact passage. Here is an example...

Yesterday, during service, our Pastor went into 1 Thessalonians 4:4.  I turned there, and for the first time realized how jumping straight to a scripture isn't as easy as it was with my Kirkbride Bible.

Here is a look at the Kirkbride page.  Can you find 4:4 quickly?

Picture 23

See how the fact that each verse has it's own line?  It's easy to just run down the left edge of the text and find "4".  Now have a look at the ESV Study Bible:

Picture 22

Not quite so easy, eh? (Even though verse four does actually start at the left edge...just a coincidence here.)  I decided to use this as an example because when I was turning to this verse in church, I realized how many numbers there are in that little section of chapter 4!  I see two 2s, two 3s, two 4s, and a 5 and 6. With this particular Bible, the notational numbers and the verse numbers are fairly well mingled together. The verse identifiers are bold...but it still takes some time.

So far, the rest of the Bible is outstanding.  The important issues, translation accuracy, doctrinal issues, and even the debatable issues are all very well presented. Those things are my primary concern.  I can live with the slower paragraph format.  Time will tell how I actually enjoy this Bible.  It's only been a few days since I bought it, so it is just getting broken in.

Right now, my perfect Bible would be this:

1. ESV Translation

2. ESV Study Bible Commentary, notes, and articles

3. Split verse format (1 or 2 column)

4. Red Letter

5. Capitol Pronouns for our Lord

6. Smyth Sewn

7. Highest quality paper

9. Gold guilding

10. Soft genuine leather cover

If I could find that combination, I would be a happy camper.  I haven't found it yet.  If you know of one, please let me know!  Thanks!

Stratocaster Makeover :: PART TWO


Part One is here:

Part Two of the Stratocaster makeover consists of a complete re-gut and electronics upgrade.  I changed all three pickups to Dimarzio's Area 58s (neck and middle) and 61 (bridge). Here's some info about the pickups:  The biggest benefit of these pups is the noiseless operation.  Single coil pickups are notorious for noise (or hum).  In fact, humbucking pickups were designed specifically to cancel out the noise (or "buck" the hum).

Playing guitar in a setting where the sound tech isn't familiar with the normalcy of strat hum could induce a situation where you're needlessly turned down at the board to cut the noise if caught humming during a low-intensity moment in a song.  Alternatively, perhaps a noise gate is used to limit the perhaps unfamiliar buzz. Managing this as a player requires constant control of the volume - turning down the guitar when not being played.  Another method of coping is to just avoid using the pickups in single mode (any three of the pickups selected alone - positions 1,3,5) and only use the guitar in dual-pickup mode (a la humbucking) by selecting positions 2 or 4. Sadly, this ended up becoming my coping mechanism...and my guitar tone suffered as I was limited to only those two positions.

Enter in the Area 58/61 pickups...noiseless.  I have seen way too many people demo or sing praises of these pickups to not make this change. Once installed, I should be able to use any of the five pickup positions on the guitar without introducing additional noise. I bought the pickups at a Sam Ash in Atlanta.  They didn't have them in stock, but ordered them and shipped them to my house.  I decided that since I was changing pickups, I was going to get rid of the rest of the bright white parts on my guitar.  I ordered the pickups in the "Aged White" color.  This is basically a yellowed/beige off white color that is meant to replicate a vintage white that has seen some age.  I think it tones down the brightness of the straight white.  Of course, I had to get new knobs and switch covers to match.

As I mentioned at the end of PART ONE, I had some concerns about the quality of my shielding job on the body of the guitar. I decided that before I did anything, I would take a look at that.  The shielding is supposed to help reduce noise from interference, but I honestly didn't notice any difference.  I used a multimeter to test the continuity of all the shielding I applied, and was surprised to find a section that wasn't effectively shielded. Here is a quick video of this process to save me some typing:

So, moving on...

I ordered a wiring kit from RS Guitarworks (  I used their kit in my Les Paul, and it worked out great, so they got my business again when it came time to tinker with the Strat.  I bought the Complete Premium Vintage Strat Style Electronics Upgrade Kit. It comes with the following components:

  • (1) 280K RS Split-Shaft SuperPots™- We designed these pots in conjunction with CTS. Used for the volume controls in the kit, these pots have a custom taper that gives you a noticeable difference between each number on your volume control. You can finally roll your volume down to 2 or 1 and not loose any clarity, even in the neck position!! Mil-spec construction and a smoother resistor path make this the best pot to ever be used in the guitar.

  • (2) 250K CTS Split-Shaft Audio taper pots- Audio taper pots work great for tone controls. With that in mind, we had CTS improve their stock audio taper pot by using brass shaft construction (brass is much more resilient than the typical aluminum,) and much tighter tolerances.

  • (1) RS Paper and Oil GuitarCap® by Jensen .047. Some of our customers have asked us for a good vintage cap option for some time, so we went to Jensen and asked them to make a paper and oil capacitor as small as possible for that "woody" tone and they nailed it!

  • (1) Length vintage-white wire- Used for the grounding and wiring the switch in the circuit.

  • (1) Length vintage black wire- Also used for the grounding and wiring the switch in the circuit.

  • (1) Swithcraft input jack- Made in the USA

  • (1) Switchcraft 5-Way toggle- Made in the USA

  • Also in the kit (not advertised) was an "optional" .047 treble bleed capacitor.  This is supposedly not required for those looking for the treble bleed function (allows the retention of some highs when turning down the volume).  I was, in fact, looking for treble bleed circuitry, so I decided to install it while I was putting the rest of the kit together.

    Here's a peek at the factory wiring before I stripped it all out:

    Picture 6

    The first thing I did to get started was to attach the new tone and volume pots to a piece of cardboard in the same configuration they would be in the guitar. This allows me to solder most of the attachment points before attaching them to the plastic pick guard (and without them moving around).  Soldering grounds to the back of the pots requires heating them up a bit for the solder to take (not too much!)  and I didn't want to risk any heat transfer to the pick guard for fear it might warp.

    Picture 7

    I got most of the connections made (and added some ground blobs on the volume pot) before moving it to the pick guard.  Still left at this point is the pickup, input jack, and bridge/body ground wiring. Check out the size of that Jenson capacitor (gold) compared to the tiny ceramic tab of the factory setup (red in above picture)!

    Picture 8

    You may notice I wired the bottom tone pot to the bridge pickup and the middle tone pot to the neck pickup. I left the middle pickup wide open with no tone control.  This seems to be a popular configuration.

    Next, I wired in the pickups. I tried my best to make the wiring clean with shrink wrap when possible to keep the wired bundled down the center.

    Picture 9

    Here is the complete wiring job, with ground and jack connections in place.  Also, note the added treble bleed capacitor (white) connected to the volume pot lugs (just below the gold Jensen capacitor in the picture:

    Picture 10

    Here is the guitar all back together.  It's sorta hard to tell from these low quality pics, but the "aged white" look is a little mellower and looks much better in my opinion.

    Picture 11

    The next thing I did was to work on the guitar setup.  I put fresh strings on, adjusted neck relief (as flat as I could get it), and all the bridge adjustments, string height, and intonation.  When I bought the guitar, the bridge adjustment was a bit out of wack...and this was my first time to really go through every component piece by piece.  I made my own radius gauge from cardboard and then used that to have the strings (adjusted at the bridge) match the same radius as the neck.  Oh, while I was at it...I added a fourth spring to the tremolo claw and the bridge to tighten up the trem a bit.  This pulled the bridge back flush to the body rather than floating.  I used aftermarket springs that were stronger than the factory springs, so I went with a "two and two" approach:

    Picture 19

    So after all the setup was was time for some testing.  Thankfully, all of the electronics worked as expected!  It looks like all of my work paid off.  There was no noise from the single pickup positions at all...sah-weet!  That's what I was looking for.  I tested all the controls and made sure everything worked.  It all did, however, I wasn't happy with the volume control.

    The theory behind the volume control (particularly with regard to the treble bleed) is that you can turn down the volume on the guitar a bit and actually control the output to the amp and thus reduce some of the gain.  With the treble bleed, you can retain most of the highs as you roll back the the sound of the guitar doesn't really change -it just cleans up a bit.  So volume 10 = distortion; volume 7 = less distortion (but same overall sound and perceivable volume level).  This is the expected behavior...but the reality of my configuration was that there was little change in gain level from 10 to about 4!  The distortion didn't clean up til that point, and then the volume began to drop (perceivable) after that point.  I didn't like that.

    Knowing that the super pots from RS Guitarworks was designed to retain some of the highs (rendering the additional treble bleed cap unnecessary) I decided to pull it back apart and remove the second cap. I loosened the strings up, and slipped the pick guard out and removed it.  Here is a look with the cap installed:

    Picture 14

    And after removal:

    Picture 17

    Soldering is so much fun!  Anway...the end result was much more like I anticipated.  There  was a gain roll off around 7 and volume decline after that point.  Perfect.  So...that's it.  I'll play it like this for a while and see what I think.  I love to tinker, so I can't guarantee how long it will be before I pull it apart again.

    Oh, by the way...if you are interested in a trick to work on Strat electronics without removing the strings, you can place a capo at the first fret and then loosen the strings enough to ease the pick guard out. The capo holds the strings in place so they don't get all out of whack when they are loose:

    Picture 16

    Picture 15

    Stratocaster Makeover :: INTRO and PART ONE


    This post is really for the guitar techie if you have no interest in guitars, and modifications to them, then I'll spare you and recommend you move on.  This is an article about my black Fender Stratocaster makeover, including full electronics rebuild.  Part One is a recap of original work I did right after the purchase (new pick guard and body shielding), and Part Two is the most recent recap of the electronics rebuild (repair shielding, new pickups, new wiring kit).  Most of the information I used to make buying decisions and guitar electronics came from reading posts just like this on the Internet.  I share my story in hopes that it may be helpful for someone else. It's my way of "giving back". :-)

    Let's get to it!


    Here is my guitar as it looked on day one after I bought it:

    2008 Fender American Standard Stratocaster

    It's a 2008 Fender American Standard Stratocaster.  I own two electric guitars, and this has become my favorite (the other being an Elitist Les Paul).  Anyway, the very first thing I wanted to do was something cosmetic. I am not a huge fan of the tuxedo look (black/white).  It's just to clean...too formal.  Since this guitar has a maple fretboard, I decided to go for the all black look (a la David Gilmour).

    I hunted down a 1-ply gloss black pick guard (a harder task than I thought).  In the end, I ordered a custom made one from Warmoth Custom Guitar Parts ( The challenge with a 1-ply pick guard is finding one thick enough that it won't warp after installation (since all the electronics and pickups are hanging off of it). This particular pick guard is and 11-hole .09" black solid gloss:



    Here is a pic of it compared with the factory 3-ply pickguard that was on the guitar:


    First, I needed to remove the factory pick guard...and I have to remove knobs to make that happen. My favorite method for removing knobs is the plastic grocery bag technique. There are lots of methods, and even tools you can buy to remove knobs...but this trick works great.  Best of all - it's free.  Just flatten out the handle of a plastic grocery bag, slip it under the knob and get it wrapped around the pot post, then slowly pull up:


    Here is my first look at the stock guitar guts after pulling the pick guard off. There is noticably more shielding on the factory pick guard, and obviously no body cavity shielding. Thankfully I was also able to do the entire project without removing the strings...just loosening. That's good, because I just put brand new Elixirs on...and hated to waste them.


    In order to get the pickups re-aligned quickly in the new pick guard, I used a pencil mark to denote the position of the pickups in the factory pick guard. I then just screwed them in on the new pick guard to the same leveling. Seemed to be a quick way to get back into adjustment.


    Looking at this bare body made me want to add shielding. Didn't really plan on it or think about it before, but since I had some aluminum duct tape laying around...figured I would do that while I was in there.


    But first...had to do a test fit, to make sure all the holes aligned. It fit like a charm!


    Next I added the shielding to the back of the pickguard. I was careful on all the shielding to make sure that there was good metal-to-metal contact from piece to piece. This was accomplished by always folding over a corner or section of the tape to have it sit non-sticky side against non-sticky side. Hard to see any of the folds here:


    I would make little folds like this:


    ...or this. This is a piece I would lay across two other pieces that would tie them together.


    Here is the finished body. I made sure to have tabs that would touch against the pickguard shielding, and at least one place where the shielding was over a pickguard screw hole. Not sure how much difference this makes, but it made me feel good.


    Of course, I cut out the shielding for the pickup and control holes, then reinstalled the stock electronics.


    And then it gets put back together, and here is the "after picture":



    That brings us to the end of Part One. I like the new look.  The shielding, which is supposed to help reduce noise from the single coil strat pickups, really didn't seem to matter much.  I began wondering if I missed something...but would wait until the next time I cracked it open to have a look.

    Part two takes us into the electronics side of things, and gets into changing the tone rather than the looks. Part Two...coming up.

    Part Two is here:

    Wednesday, September 16, 2009

    Jesus' Last Words on this Earth

    If you were to ask people what Jesus' last words on this Earth were, many will begin to recite the phrases He uttered from the Cross during his crucifixion.  While I agree those would be his last words on the Cross, or his last words before death..we must never forget His resurrection!  He rose again in three days and continued to walk on this earth in the form of man.

    Now remembering that, do you recall Jesus' last words as a man to mankind before being carried away in the clouds?

    I'll be honest.  I hadn't really thought much about it until this last weekend at the Deeper Conference in Atlanta.  Some of you may have known there was a Twitter club set up to share tidbits from this very conference ( and an associated hash tag (#deeper09).  This was a great way to share the words of wisdom from the conference with those that were unable to personally attend...but it has also proven to be a great reference for me to revisit some of the information.  It's my virtual notepad...and I not only get to see my notes..but I can read the notes of others!  That's totally cool!

    One way this has played out for me is this:  I had to leave the conference early to catch a flight.  The only thing I missed was the closing hour, but I hated to miss anything.  Thankfully, some of my fellow conference attendees continued to tweet tidbits, and I could follow what I missed.  There was one particular statement made by Kirk Cameron that I missed...but thanks to twitter, I was able to catch:
    "If Jesus' last words were, 'Go unto all the world and preach the Gospel,' how important must that be? Do something." Kirk Cameron #deeper09 -- Tweeted by KimberleyLopez

    I didn't get to hear that statement personally...yet it continued to weigh heavy on my heart.  Really?  Were those the last words of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, as a man on this earth?  Wow.

    I was thinking about this a lot since I read it. This morning, if I knew that I was never going to see my wife again when she departed to work, what would I say to her?  Surely it would be more profound than the usual, "Love you!" as she walks out the door. Of course it would!  If I knew I was talking to my wife for the very last time, I would tell her how much I love her, how much she means to me, and how I am a better man because of her. I would also give her instructions for only the most important things...and I would expect (and plead) for her to carry them out.

    When Jesus departed from this earth for the last time as a human being, don't you think he did the same?  Don't you think his instructions were of utmost importance?  Final instructions are typically not casual, but hugely important!  I think we really need to look hard at the departing instructions from our Savior, and carry through with the desires He thought so important to convey at a moment where He had little time left for anything else.

    There are several accounts of Jesus' ascent into the Heavens, and the Gospels of Matthew and Mark capture what  is known as the Great Commission:

    Matthew 28:16-20 (English Standard Version)

    16Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them,  "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

    Mark 16:15-16 (English Standard Version)

    15And he said to them,  "Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

    Did Jesus say, "Go and try and avoid offending people with your beliefs" ? Nope.

    Did He say, "Lay low and try and go to least for Christmas and Easter"? Nope.

    What about, "Be a good person, be nice to people, and try and stay out of trouble"? Nope.

    He DID SAY..."Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation."

    Jesus' most important parting instructions regarded His concern for the lost and His desire to see them come to Him and be saved.  I don't know about you, but I feel very convicted that I have not done enough to fulfill His request.

    As Kirk Cameron would say, "Do Something."