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Nine Ways God Always Speaks: * Offer Only Available In Certain States

af Mark Herringshaw

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4911409,636 (2.19)1
Whether Christian or not, many people have unusual experiences, conditions, or encounters that have left them wondering, Is God trying to tell me something? The truth is, God does communicate with us all the time. We just need to learn how to hear his voice. Using stories and examples from people throughout history and today, Herringshaw and Schuchmann show readers how they can better tune in to God's voice-everywhere and every day.… (mere)

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book is an ambitious attempt at retelling stories of God speaking in such a way that people will be moved beyond the expectation or lost hope of hearing a voice in the sky, and so begin to listen for God in the variety of other ways that he may choose to communicate.

The word ‘always’ in the title is relatively spurious. It put me off when I first skimmed through the book and I was relieved to see that the book was not some kind of how-to guide for getting a slot machine God to drop out messages on demand. The general message that God wants to speak to us is useful, and for some lay-people this book may offer some neat or inspirational stories.

Better to get the Bible stories from the Bible, though. The story-telling is a bit flat – more like narrative information listed quickly to get you to the point – and so the Bible stories do suffer from a kind of compression and perhaps even a bit of misinterpretation. The result is that I was suspicious of other the included stories. Between the lines one discovers a book with stories gathered only to make a point, rather than a book reflecting on stories or anecdotes to see what point they stories might actually be making.

The power of the stories is further lost because of the volume that seem to come back again and again to the same point – “see that, they heard God too!” A large volume of stories is no substitute for the quality of one that forces larger questions. A focused book of 1/3 the size might have more power for people who really doubt whether God’s speaks. Lacking an investigative tone, and a deeper exegesis of the stories included, the redundancy makes the book a bag of candy rather than a substantive meal. Like candy, as I read the book, I kept wondering if 344 pages of the diet would prove spiritually healthy.

This concern was exacerbated whenever the movement of the argument came from speculative illustrations. On pg 174, for example, the book wonders whether people’s attachment to their pets actually reflects “a misplaced desire to talk to God”. It then wonders if this is really God’s purpose for pets: that our response to animals would teach us something about ourselves so that we would become aware of our desire to relate to God.

I’m sure these are neat ideas for speculative and inconsequential conversations over a beer, but they are no grounds for theological argument or apologetics. If a book refers to the fanciful or quirky ideas of the author once or twice it can be charming. More than that and the whole book feels indulgent, and perhaps even just opinionated.

For a skeptic concerned about whether God does speak, or a person desperate for an answer from on high, the ground for the argument must be solid, and the stories must be potent, direct, and verifiable. As soon as you read authours defending their own stories and their means of collecting and verifying them – right in the book itself – veracity flags go off. If the story is neat and inspirational, but needs extra defense because sincere doubters won’t buy it otherwise, then you can only hope to be heard by the converted. Only when stories are compelling to the point that they cry out for the reader’s engagement can you expect to interact well with open-minded skeptics or people who are wracked with doubt or even have lost their faith.

A couple of further comments.

- An occasional rhetorical question is fine, but two or three on a page gets tired quick, especially when there is page after page of them. Worse still, it’s just pretentious if the author is clearly acting open minded to the possibilities of the universe. If you think something might be so, just say it. Don’t feign wonder, it makes you untrustworthy.

- Lastly, I might note too, that the format of breaking up sentences or listing occasional short sentences as though they were poetry just made the book plain hard to read. This isn’t Jean Vanier writing, it’s not poetry, and neither the profundity nor power was near significant enough to ask me to meditate on sentence fragments. ( )
  PastorBob | May 25, 2010 |
NCLA Review - How does God speak to Christians? Does God speak all the time? Do you know what God is saying to you? Herringshaw and Schuchmann answer these questions and more in this book. According to them, God has spoken down through the ages in several ways: directly in a clear voice, through circumstantial evidence, in the words of prophets, in lessons of history, in dreams, in infection from others, through an individual’s conscience, and in the pages of scripture. Personal anecdotes, which comprise most of the book, are interwoven with historical examples and references from scripture. Individuals seeking to validate an experience or questioning whether God does speak to them would be the most likely to find this book useful. Rating: 2 —AMB ( )
  ncla | Dec 22, 2009 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
As a seminary student the title intrigued me. Yet when I started to read the book, I was not so sure that I could make time to finish it. In fact I did not finish reading the book.

As a seminary student you are living and breathing the church. In my personal setting I was working with individuals who are learning how to live out their faith.

My biggest struggle with the book was that the stories appeared to be more in the author's voice than the original voice of the participants. I understand that this is tough to accomplish. ( )
  amorerocks | Oct 2, 2009 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is not, generally speaking, my kind of book. I tend to shy away from light spiritual-self-help titles. But, I also like to keep an open mind about the value of any given book (since, after all, snobbery and criticism only get one so far towards good taste…). And so, when this book found its way into my hands, I gave it a chance. And overall, I was pleasantly surprised.

I will say that I was distracted and somewhat disappointed by the writing style. At times it felt eerily similar to a young adult Sunday school curriculum—the style mimicking that “cool, understandable” tone so often donned by those attempting to be relevant to a younger generation. I also was not impressed by the biblical retellings. The storytelling in such instances (especially the story of the annunciation to Mary) lacked poetry. I found the biblical stories to be much less meaningful than I had encountered them in the past, just because of the way in which they were told. I think this was a significant weak point for the book as a whole. However, despite the colloquial and simplistic tone of the book, the ideas the authors explored and questions they raised were often quite sophisticated. And, I admit, I did laugh out loud once or twice (but perhaps I am just a sucker for sarcasm…).

The authors attempt in this book, it seems to me, to open our eyes—and soften our hearts—to the reality that God speaks in myriad ways. What the authors do not try to do is offer a manual on how to discern whether the “words” we receive “from God” are actually from God. And as a somewhat skeptical reader, I can appreciate this – after all, it seems like any attempt to formulize a particular method for discernment would most likely have come off as trite, or unhelpful, or possibly even dangerous. The style and length of the book, as well as the straightforward nature of the authors’ message would not have lent the work easily to that task. But in some ways that very fact seemed to beg the question, “Well then, what is the point of this book?” And the answer that it seems like the authors give is simple enough: to give us enough exposure (both positive and negative) to the types and forms of God’s revelation through anecdotes, bible retellings, and first-hand stories that we might be more likely in the future to be listening – perhaps with some expectation – for wherever God might speak. In their own words, “by hearing the stories of God in another person’s life, we become more aware of God’s voice in our own”(p.22).

According to Nine Ways, the nine ways that the authors explore through which God speaks are: our circumstances, other people, history, nature, dreams and visions, emotions, our conscience, his Word, and our response (p. 314). This seems a plausible and fairly comprehensive list, though it is by no means an exhaustive catalog. And, lest one jump to point out that things like other people or our negative circumstances may be very misleading to attribute to God’s voice, the authors don’t say that God speaks through all of these avenues at all times. They simply invite us to experience that he can, and perhaps that he has. They also point out that, “…we have no plans to convince you that God is speaking to you or even speaking at all. You will be convinced only when you experience it” (p. 26) – which is a good reminder, because the largely anecdotal arguments the book employs are unlikely to convince a skeptic (and rightly so).

There are also those who are listening, but are very mistaken about what they hear. To this, the authors assure us that “…we don’t believe everyone who claims to hear God speak actually does” (p. 25). Which is a good reminder, I think, but still leaves me with concerns. The “Ears of faith” section (p. 298) made me squirm a little bit. So did the bit on “Teasing out the message” (p. 302). But again, even in the midst of sections that I don’t fully endorse, there are insightful comments, such as “Listening is an active awareness of what is happening around you and an intentional pursuit of God’s voice” (pg. 299) and “God speaks new things into our lives, and they always taste like things he has said in the past. …And though his words may be specific to you, they will always carry the same flavor and texture of things he said long ago” (p. 289).

Overall, this book was written for the general populous. It lacks the sophistication to convince a skeptic. It has probably little to offer to a mystic. A theologian might cringe at some sloppy sentences which could be misunderstood. But yet, I think it carries a somewhat general appeal. And, more importantly, for those who can enjoy it, this book could be helpful, or inspirational, or maybe… God might speak through it. You never know… ( )
  ariadni_rian | Jul 10, 2009 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
After reading page 24 I actually began to feel sorry for God, that He could not express Himself in some way that those seeking Him might hear! Never is there a hint that maybe God speaks in such a way that only those who are ready to hear, will hear.
The subject of this book is absolutely one which should have strong appeal among Christians. So it was with eager anticipation that I began reading. But alas, within a very few short pages it became apparent that this work is severely juvenile in two respects. First, it adopts language one would expect from teenagers. The following are but a few choice examples: On page 18 the authors speak of Mary visiting Elizabeth saying "she starts babbling about how good God is..." The passage they are referring to is Luke 1:46f where we read of Mary saying, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior." (NKJV) I searched a half dozen dictionaries for the word "babbling" but failed to find a single meaning that sounded close to the language Mary used.
Further, the statements about Jesus and "the twelve buddies he roamed the countryside with..." offends me. (p. 21) Master/Teacher/buddies--is that the way we see the Son of God? And, roaming the countryside as in "we have no particular place to go," is that the picture yu get from His travels? I think He was deliberate in every move He made.
Further damage is done to the work when the author's analysis of Scripture is reviewed. On page 15 he writes that Mary was "uncommonly good. At least that's what people thought until she started hearing voices." It seems to me that the language of Luke 1:26-38 is pretty straightforward. The angel Gabriel spoke and she replied, "Let it be to me according to your word." Voices? "...started" When and where? Someone has an over active imagination, I think! Or, is he saying that Mary only imagined that there was a real angel? --that she only heard voices but told her family and friends "there was this angel...?"
Being juvenile in language, however, is a small matter but juvenile thinking destroys this work. His subject matter is very important for 21st century Christians. But he strolls through the subject, dropping irreverent and unscriptural statements along the way and only occasionally leaving a thought provoking comment. If someone has written well on this subject, I would like to hear about it--but this book is not the one. Save your money. ( )
  Notnarb6779 | Jul 2, 2009 |
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Whether Christian or not, many people have unusual experiences, conditions, or encounters that have left them wondering, Is God trying to tell me something? The truth is, God does communicate with us all the time. We just need to learn how to hear his voice. Using stories and examples from people throughout history and today, Herringshaw and Schuchmann show readers how they can better tune in to God's voice-everywhere and every day.

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