image from Unsplash
What does it actually mean to be like the Bereans?
(cf Acts 17:11)
The Bereans are often held up to us an examples of how we should receive the Word, of how we should thoughtfully respond to preaching and teaching.
This is a difficult challenge, especially nowadays when there is so much information available--we've become desensitized, complacent, jaded.
From a Christian angle--how many Bible devotional apps, lists of "must-read important Christian books," theology courses, and catechisms are out there making you feel guilty? How many books are sitting on your shelf waiting to be read some day, some forcefully lent to you by a zealous friend? (please don't force books on people, no matter how excited you are and how convinced you are that it will change your life. Rave about it but do not hand the book to them unless you're prepared to never get it back, and make them permanently awkward and uncomfortable around you. Nothing sets the irrational side of human nature more stubbornly than being forced to do something "good for you.")
By far the most natural reaction is that of jaded complacency, passive acceptance. We absorb, we don't consider and question. Just coming up with the energy to absorb is enough for us, since there's so (overwhelmingly) much more to absorb.
We read books, take note of one or two phrases, and move on.
We listen to sermons, dutifully make notes, and go back to everyday life.
We read an online article and nod assent, then click back to Facebook.
I don't know about you, but whenever I read "spiritual books" my guard actually tends to be down. I'm complacent in the fact that I'm actually reading a spiritual book, making the effort to do so, so that's pretty good already! I just need to absorb the wisdom laid out here for me, as trustingly as if it's from the Bible. We get uncomfortable when we're challenged to meditate on, to think over, to break down what we're passively absorbing (not actually processing;) we feel that it's vaguely unfair to expect us to do more than make the effort to read/listen.
We need to realize that pastors, book writers, theologians, are human. Just because one book you read was helpful doesn't mean you might agree with everything that author says, with every other book he or she writes. We tend to think, "everything by this author should be ok"--or "everything on this website should be fine", not realizing that the Bereans questioned what Paul the apostle himself preached, using only the Bible as their benchmark.
Not Calvin, or John Piper, or the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, or your favourite Christian writer, or that devotional app or that Christian classic that everyone seems to agree is blessing incarnate.
Are we hiding behind labels, complacent readers with lazy minds who want to passively absorb truth, who assume that we can get it in pure unadulterated form with the minimum effort on our own part?
We become more and more afraid of using our mind, of asking questions, of considering implications--we lapse into the comfortable, easy conformity of accepting whatever we're told to accept, whatever we're told is right, a pack mentality that is deadening EVEN IF (note!) what we are being fed is the truth. In that case, we are relying solely on our church leaders or pastors to make choices for us--a dangerously man-centric move.
We are regressing, like Paul's exhortation to the Corinthians, to settle for bottle-fed milk instead of moving on to spiritual solid food.
What does it actually mean to be like the Bereans?
To recognize and apply the belief that all men are fallible, even those with great gifts, even those who have been used greatly to bless already. To realize that all books, and sermons, may be influenced by the contexts and personal experiences of the men or women who write them. To realize that having written one great Christian classic doesn't necessarily mean all the other books by the same author automatically are "good". To realize that we don't have to accept 100% of what is presented to us but can still be helped and blessed--to pick out, with discernment, since books, like people, don't fall easily into the binary of "all good" or "all bad." To realize that rather than taking a judgmental "Paul vs Apollo" stance, where we blindly follow certain names and figures that have been stamped for approval by some authority figure for us, and boycott or avoid others, we are called to use our minds. To think over and question, if necessary. To qualify. To decide whether a syntax, context, or content issue is at stake.
And ultimately, as I've realized, to better appreciate the Bible, as the one infallible word, our benchmark amid all this confusion and chaos.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and love and of a sound mind.
2 Timothy 1:7
image by Ryoji Iwata from Unsplash
I can't handle everything.
To be honest--I'm overwhelmed.
When I look around, other people in the same situation as me seem to be thriving, to be managing everything.
I'm struggling so hard but the results that I get hardly pay off--do I just have to work even harder?
Am I a wimp for feeling like I'm overwhelmed, when I already have it so much better than some people?
Am I dumber than other people? Why do I feel like I'm working so hard, am so stretched already, yet I can't seem to get everything done?
How do they do it?
Why can't I do it?
I don't have answers for these questions either. I often hear them whispered in my head, see them written in the eyes of others when they share about how their week has gone, in the sighs, in the sleep-deprived eyes and the helpless shrug, "well, what to do about it?"
Since I reached the end of my course and started looking towards the future, an attractive vision hovered in my mind's eye. In it, I'm able to manage the different jobs I'm currently working at, learning and honing new skills while I affirm my strengths and what I enjoy. I'm disciplined--I get up early every morning, spend time with God, exercise, and get in a good block of writing before I go out to teach. I diligently work at a running list of writing projects, pursuing my dream to be a published writer while serving actively in church, caring for my family, earning my keep, and developing my own business. I manage to balance all these commitments through the magical formula of hard work, efficiency, and discipline--I am happy, productive, useful, enjoying my work and excelling at it. And of course, eventually, after an impressive amount of hard work and perseverance, that long-awaited acceptance letter comes and everything makes sense...
I close my eyes and see this image get yet more faded, yet more unreal, as it seems further and further away from reality.
Feeling confident, in control, and on top of everything is seldom the means God uses to bring about growth.
The problem is that we tend to equate "excellence" with "glorifying God."
Glorifying God in all we do means it extends to much more than simply "excellence"--a problematic term already once you consider how we understand it. Excellence as defined by ourselves? As defined by our society? As defined by our boss, our co-workers, our peers, our parents, our role models? What exactly is the excellence we're striving at, building our lives around, and why did we decide to settle for this particular definition?
And once we accept it, we end up being sucked into a constant, vicious cycle of comparison, trying frantically to match up to the definitions of success and happiness held up for us, trying to squeeze ourselves into this mould and wondering why it hurts when it--doesn't fit.
Worse--feeling like God isn't helping you by giving you the supernatural time and strength you asked for. Feeling like you're failing Him, for not managing to do it all gracefully and happily, for not managing to be the role model others can point to. Wondering why it's so hard; feeling guilt and resentment and helplessness all mixed together.
Glorifying God often has much more to do with acknowledging our need of Him, our brokenness, our longing for something greater than the hum and buzz and shiny lights of our life here--than with achieving our society's definition of a balanced life, of a successful career, of a functional family. Even though that may seem the most straightforward and logical way of glorifying God to us, with all the best intentions in the world, we serve a God Who has "chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and...the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.." (1 Corinthians 1:27)
When we let His strength be made perfect--not in our strength--but in our weakness.
We glorify Him most in the way we react and respond to what each day brings us. Especially the failures. The struggles. The routine. The tears in the dark, the weariness, the dreariness. Those parts you are the most ashamed of, the parts that the world would least envy and admire, are the most precious to Him. The most significant.
Those are the times when He is the closest, when we are closer to understanding fully just what it means to have Him, because we are closer to realizing how much we need Him.
The next time you feel hopelessly out of control, overwhelmed--consider that feeling confident and in control (desirable as that is) is the direct opposite of learning to put our faith in God, and trusting Him to work out our lives, to provide for us.
How else can we learn, if we do not first realize how inadequate we are?
My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.
2 Corinthians 12:9
image by Fabian Bazanegue from Unsplash
"Divine Interruptions"--Elisabeth Elliott's term for learning to understand (and respond to) events, people, needs, etc which are not part of what we might have planned--and in fact might actually get in the way of the nice, neat plan we made for ourselves.
It's tempting to see them otherwise. As hindrances. As interruptions. To get frustrated when they prevent us from getting things done in the quick, straightforward way we had planned to. Trust me, I know all about that.
I had planned for a productive afternoon at my desk, ploughing my way through a to-do list, hammering at the keyboard and hitting wordcounts. I find myself playing Monopoly with a child in need of babysitting, scribbling essay drafts and doing speed reading in between turns.
I planned to sleep early, wake up early, go for a morning jog, have my devotions, all before I had to leave the house to teach. I found myself staying up past midnight listening to someone's struggles, and waking up barely in time to scramble out of the house.
I was looking forward to a leisurely lazy weekend after a hectic week, catching up on what the Singapore Army calls "personal admin time;" doing laundry, clearing my cupboard, and other small tasks that make a "down day" so productive. By lunchtime I found myself in the busiest part of town (on a weekend at that!) for some social event that I didn't see coming but didn't have much choice over ("your introvert is showing" moment)
Divine Interruptions, I reminded myself, drawing a deep breath. Don't get impatient. Don't feel frustrated. Thwarted. Resentfully fixated on just how productive your original plan would have been if people and life would just leave you alone (ha what naivety.)
This is not just a strategy, a coping mechanism. Accepting that God uses everyday people, experiences, etc to aid us in our spiritual growth is central to how we see the whole concept of "spiritual growth" and in fact the whole understanding of living as a Christian.
Perhaps this was just something I went through as a new believer, but I think that many of us tend to understand spiritual growth in the same way we typically understand, say, university education. (having just went through a graduation ceremony!) Concrete, specific, demarcated classes; a certain number of hours put in, of quantifiable efforts--enough of that and you get a degree.
Spiritual growth doesn't work the same way. You may start a year-long theology course, become an expert on church history and denominational doctrinal differences, embark on a study of the whole Bible. Those are good things. I should like to grow in those aspects, myself. But those are also concrete, specific, purposeful decisions and actions which by their very nature tend to cultivate a sense of false complacency. The same way that we can comfortably tell people "I've graduated," and both we--and them--immediately assume that we've reached a certain level of progress based on that self-sufficient statement.
But did you learn more about yourself?
Did you learn more about people, at their best and their worst?
Were you challenged to think more about your assumptions and perspective on life?
Were you moved to think more deeply on what makes life and work meaningful?
Did you form friendships or meet people who left their mark on you--for better or worse?
Ask anyone about their university experience and what most often comes out is the things like the friends they made. The lecturers, good or bad. Or certain concepts that changed the way they looked at things or thought about life. Self-realizations. Those are the things that actually change you, that actually matter in the long run.
The degree itself is possibly the least important part of that. It doesn't reflect the extent of what those few years meant to you.
Likewise, spiritual growth, and God's goal for His sovereignty over our lives, goes so much beyond the quantifiable hours we put in doing "spiritual" things, and those things in themselves. Just as our relationship with God and our understanding of Him goes so much beyond simply being there every Sunday in church, ready to say Amen at the right time with everyone else, to go through the little ritual of sit--stand--sing--close-your-eyes-when-praying...
The rest of the week is the real thing. Every day. Every boring, lonely, difficult, lazy, self-centred, complacent, painful, productive, hectic day.
Whether trials, unpleasant people, realizations about ourselves, unpleasant things other people said/did etc... they are also "divine interruptions," things we might not like to see as spiritual growth, but exactly the means that God uses to bring about spiritual growth. Often not in the neat, quantifiable, tidy way we'd like it to be, like in a college transcript.
Those seemingly small things which bother you, which seem like interruptions in the grand course of your life--the needy people, the unpleasant poky corners of relationships, the unexpected--and your response to them, matter. See each of them as part of the process of growing spiritually.
Spiritual growth doesn't just wait for great, life-changing events or tragedies to happen--it is continually before us, in the little things which make up each day and together form the substance of our lives and who we are. It reflects how, as a Christian, our understanding of God's sovereignty and Person has a direct impact on our whole perspective on life--with its unexpected, unanswerable nature, with all its terrifying capacity for overwhelming pain, for overwhelming beauty; for overwhelming proof that we were made for more than this.
image by tim marshall from Unsplash
"He will be their peace."
Peace has been on the top of my mind recently, simply because of the lack of it.
When a friend initiated an app-based Bible study, I didn't hesitate suggesting a study topic. Anxiety. Worry. Fighting for peace. Yes, please.
As the study discussed, those emotions of anxiety and worry--if you break them down--stem from fear and lack of trust. Sure enough, if you consider, the fear we face is basically the fear of what is beyond our control: limitations, external situations, etc.
We're afraid that we can't manage everything.
We're afraid that despite our best attempts, we won't win the love and respect of others.
We're afraid of rejection, of failure, of unfulfilled dreams.
Of pain, without any hope of painkillers.
Of grief that doesn't go away.
Of losing something we can't imagine living without.
And this reflects the self-reliant, self-centered mentality that is so ingrained in us as our instinctive coping mechanism for our life here--full of tragedy just around the corner, of devastated hopes one hair's breadth away, of happiness so fragile that we can only hope hopelessly for it to last. We're terrified of losing control, of being helpless, being uncertain. We rely on our efforts to control our lives but don't dare to acknowledge that it won't, can't, be enough.
Which clearly shows us the link, as Christians, between a lack of faith (in the One who is in control, though we aren't) and a lack of peace.
It's easy to say that we need to "trust God Who is in control"--too easy to spout another vague abstract statement about His sovereignty which only gives us a greater sense of how far off we are from achieving that peace we want so desperately.
And that very naturally leads us to the age-old question: how to increase our faith? Though we pray to God about our problems they still harass and burden us with worry. We echo the heartbroken father in Mark 9:23-25; "I believe; help my unbelief!"
As someone who is struggling with this issue now--present tense!--who is very much treading water at sea, not as someone waving nochalently from the shore, high and dry--I believe we need to realize two things.
Firstly, a deeper understanding of and love for God. Before we can actually apply our abstract knowledge about His attributes, power, sovereignty, etc. We may know and believe that He is powerful, that He's in control, that He holds all things in His hands, (and there, I've almost composed a Christian hit song.) But let's be honest, those are cold comfort when you're lying awake at 2 am trying to sleep while your heart is throbbing uncomfortably, your head is swimming with worry and apprehension for tomorrow, and you wonder drearily if a good cry would help disperse the cloud of anxiety, exhaustion, and fear--but no, you got to sleep, you need your sleep, the last thing you need is to be sleep-deprived...and you lie awake miserably for another two wretched hours before falling into a restless sleep filled with bad dreams of your teeth falling out or being endlessly chased by serial killers. All right, maybe we don't all have the same experiences of being stressed.
The strongest, most absolute trust does not necessarily depend on the ability of the one trusted but rather on the relationship you have with them. I would feel more comfortable trusting my sis than a prime minister--powerful as he might be, however much I believe he's sincere about helping me. Does that make sense? Perhaps not logically, but then when were human emotions logical?
It's a good time to ask yourself what actually is your personal relationship like with this God who is in control.
How much do I actually love and know Him, aside from how much I know about Him?
Secondly, realize our anxiety and worry stem from the nature of our priorities.
It's hard to manage our anxiety and fears when we're convinced the sum total of our happiness and fulfilment depends on them.
We all know the difficult verses like 1 John 2:15; "Do not love the world or anything in the world." Turning from that verse to examine our lives is perhaps one of the most uncomfortable things any pastor could do to his congregation.
Which brings up another uncomfortable but related question: what does it mean to be spiritually minded?
We need to strive, as a long-term goal, to define our happiness less and less on how things work out on earth. Not just when dealing with worry and anxiety, but throughout our lives; the sunbathing, beach holiday times as well as the shipwreck survivor dog-paddling in the middle of the ocean. To have a long-sighted view of ultimate happiness that we're moving towards, that we can start to enjoy even now regardless of what happens to us during our time here. To let our understanding of Heaven transform the way we understand life here.
Still dog-paddling in the ocean, taking life ten seconds at a time, but knowing that behind the fog surrounding us lies the shore--however faint it may look now--a solid and dependable shore.
photo by Josh Post from Unsplash
Your spiritual growth is your personal responsibility.
We might accept this statement in every other area of our lives--replace "spiritual growth" with education, career, happiness, success--but we tend to leave the responsibility of growing spiritually to our pastors, to our parents, to our church.
It's an unpleasant truth but no matter how many churches we try, how "godly" the youth group is, how great of a pastor/preacher/Sunday School teacher we have, we can't expect ourselves or our children to grow spiritually without realizing that the real game changer is ourselves. With the Spirit's help.
It's tempting to think otherwise--that we just need the sermons to be more insightful, to stir us up; the Bible studies to be more inspiring; the Sunday School teachers, to engage our children more, and that everything will work out naturally.
Thinking that changing to a "better" church with "better teaching" or "better Christians" will be the answer is a mindset that is heavily influenced by the consumerism mentality of our culture--if it doesn't fit, change the brand, try another product, buy something else that seems to promise that outcome we want. We, the consumer, passively wait for it to solve our problems, and if it doesn't, we switch to the next available option out there. To paraphrase an old saying--cliched as it is--we're good at moving on, throwing away instead of trying to figure out why it didn't "work" the way we wanted it to.
Because if we did take some time to consider, we might realize that the whole point of spiritual growth is really not about finding that one perfect church or conducive youth group, however much either might help us--and I'm not denying that they can.
In heaven, where we're looking expectantly to, where all of this right now on Earth ultimately leads to, there are no longer any churches or youth groups or any of these means we're given during our time here to help us. What ultimately matters is our relationship with God. Our one-on-one relationship with Him. Our love. This is what endures, what actually matters. Talk about perspective.
The tools/means we were given to help us should not become our qualification for growing spiritually, or our excuse not to.
We end up fatalistically lamenting where God placed us, blaming our situations, becoming increasingly short-sighted and crippled by our discontent and yes, perhaps even entitled mentality.
God, I can't grow because You didn't give me the right conditions or means or people. None of this is my fault, in fact if anything it's Yours.
We need to think why God--with Whom all things are possible--chose to let us struggle in our corners. Why He chose to withhold what seems so clearly to us as good, even necessary.
Sometimes, my violin students complain that their instrument is lousy, the quality isn't good enough, their parents ought to have bought them a better instrument. I tell them that they just need to practice more. Maybe they have a point, but their progress isn't dependent on their instrument's quality. Ownership. This is a fact they vitally need to grasp if they are to have any drive or motivation to practice and improve at all: knowing that the sole factor of whether they improve or not is themselves. I remember the switch from a good quality violin given by a friend which I'd outgrown, to a larger, but cheaper instrument with a less mellow, scratchier tone. It was depressing at first--mainly because I realized my playing wasn't actually that good after all. It forced me to really buckle down and practice harder in order to improve my sound quality. Later on, when I moved on to the next size up, I switched to a better instrument once more.This time, that change was sweet.
Come on, guys. Imagine the early Christians in Rome having to listen to our excuses. You know, I was literally set on fire for what I believed. If we go by conditions, I had plenty of reasons for backsliding, or blaming my lack of growth on my environment. Being eaten by wild beasts wasn't exactly conducive after all.
I used to struggle with this thought when I was younger, and unhappy that there was virtually no one of my age group in my church. I would envy friends I saw who had big, close-knit youth groups of what apparently seemed like peers all "on fire for Jesus"; I would tell myself, there was so much I could do, so much I could grow, "if only."
I spent several years during that period of my life mucking around in discontent, envy, and self-pity, feeling sorry for myself and not having the maturity to recognize all the means and opportunities God had already given me to grow in, all the areas I could have made a difference in, instead of waiting for someone to step in and do it for me. I am not proud of it but I stagnated like this without any real growth until thankfully by God's grace, I woke up one day with the idea of seeing things differently.
So I unfortunately speak from first-hand experience. I won't bore you any more with my entitled immaturity (what's new?)
For a more balanced perspective on spiritual growth, however, it's more than just accepting responsibility. Being someone who tends to extremes, unfortunately, I came out of this rut only to fall into another one, this time the inverse.
I realized that:
I am primarily responsible for my own spiritual growth.
However, I need to be open to and consciously embrace how God will use external means (people, experiences, books, etc) to help me in my spiritual growth.
Likewise, I also need to be aware that my spiritual growth--even though it may be a primarily personal matter between God and I--inevitably has an impact on those around me.
(continued in part 2)
Photo by Jake Thacker on Unsplash
The little old lady perpetually wrapped up in a shawl, who smiles at you when you walk by. The old man with the wheezing voice, you can't really understand his mumbling but you're too embarrassed to admit it so you slink away with a strained, awkward smile. The silent one sitting in the corner that is a bit deaf and smells of herbal candies; you tell yourself she's probably dozing off anyway.
If you feel like you "don't know how" to relate or talk to the elderly in your church, then you need to remember that it isn't much different from "knowing how" to relate to anyone else. As long as you have a sincere love and desire to reach out to them, and patience (patience! patience!), you'll start learning how to see things from their perspective, understand their needs, challenges, and what makes them "click"--nothing at all different from getting to know anyone else.
For starters, though, here are some things that might help you start, since we all know that first steps often take the most courage:
1. acknowledge their presence. Greet them when you see them. Okay, this should apply to anyone actually, regardless of age--but especially the elderly. A very traditional Asian practice, maybe--my parents always told me that when visiting, I should find and greet the oldest person in the house to show respect--if dying out nowadays. But respect ought to transcend cultures, whether racial or social.
Often, because they're quiet, or not at the center of things, they get left out. People don't even acknowledge their presence. Maybe they don't hear that well, so make sure your greeting is loud and cheerful--or at least accompany it with a physical gesture to make it more obvious. A wave, a smile, a handshake, a pat on the back, a hug. There was an elderly man who could be seen feeding the cats under my block every day. He always looked fearfully grumpy, yet there was a kind of pathetic loneliness in how he would spend hours, with his favourite cat on his lap, simply sitting there silently. I used to smile at him in passing, but he never responded, and I felt--rather hurt--that he was as grumpy as he looked. It was only later on that my mom, taking the time to actually stop and talk to him, found out that his eyesight was poor. Sure enough, the next time I saw him I tried waving to him. His whole face lit up and he waved back, eagerly, smiling so widely my heart ached and I felt a pang of self-reproach.
2. talk to them. This sounds simple, and it is. Several of the older people in my church revealed how much it means to them when a young person comes up to them and spends time talking with them--regardless of age, different interests, even language barriers. It may take a while, it may feel awkward at first, but as with any other friendship, perseverance, patience, and sincerity work wonders.
3. be interested to hear their stories and be open to learn from them. Ask them to teach you how to cook that curry chicken you love. Ask them about themselves when they were your age. Ask them how they learnt to knit so well, or how they came to believe in Christ.
4. affirm their role in the church, what they do for the church. whether it's praying, cooking, or simply faithfully attending despite the rain or the backaches or the sleepless night, elderly people often play a greater role in our churches than we--or they themselves--realize. They may struggle with feeling irrelevant, useless, or unnecessary, as the way some of them talk about themselves--jokingly or otherwise--indicates. It's important to affirm and encourage them, to remind them that age and physical limitations do not define the impact we can have on others.
5. encourage them in their spiritual walk. As we get older, we face the same challenge that we had when we were young, for different reasons. We may be tempted to sink into selfishness, to live lives bogged down by self-centeredness--
--for young people, because we have our whole life before us, and all the world to explore and conquer, every reason to enjoy life. So many distractions! So many desires! So many dreams!
--but also, as we get older, because our body becomes more and more of a concern everyday. Because everyone else is rushing on in their lives at the same time we slow down more and more. Maybe we can't hear--taste--see--walk so well, we can't enjoy the same things others do, and we feel increasingly isolated from them. So many small little things which affect the quality of our daily lives, which are so simple and mundane to others that they can't fathom, but which are frustratingly significant to us--bad teeth, hearing loss, failing eyesight, sleeplessness, multiple doctor's appointments...which all have a direct impact on our quality of life and interactions with others.
6. help them to be involved and interacting with the lives of others in the church. Introduce young people to them, bring children over to say hi, ask them to pray for you/someone else/someone you're praying for. Tell them about that young mom who's been struggling with a new baby and ask them what advice they would give. Help them be aware about the needs of other people in church; the missionaries you're praying for, ministries you're involved in.
True healthy friendships aren't limited to the two people in the friendship alone but continue to have a 'splash effect' in the way they bless others outside of it, build other positive friendships--thereby bringing even more blessings to the two main people in it.
7. be thoughtful and considerate of their needs. Maybe you need to walk slower, talk louder, or just be a more patient listener. Maybe they need a hand when it's dark and it's hard to see the road clearly. Someone to send them back, or help them carry their bags. Preempt their needs and challenges, whether the challenge of stairs, or finding them a seat. Or the temperature. If they have trouble with their teeth when eating. Once when my grandma had been unwell, a sweet young sister in church prepared a box of grapes, washed clean and painstakingly peeled, for her. My grandma was very touched that she had spent enough time and attention talking to her, sitting with her, in church to know that, and to remember it. Small gestures like that demonstrate that you are sensitive to their needs and challenges, that you are looking out for them, that you care for them, in concrete and tangible ways.
Perhaps it starts with something as small as smile, as making them laugh...
a small voice
Ci thinks some of God's greatest blessings to mankind are
Click to set custom HTML
ALL IMAGES FROM PINTEREST UNLESS OTHERWISE SPECIFIED. THANKS, PINTEREST!