Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Reasons Why a Christian Might Object to Vaccines on Religious Grounds

Lately there has been an increased scrutiny on families who choose to forego vaccines.  In most states, parents can opt out of mandatory vaccines for religious, philosophical/personal, or medical reasons and their children must be allowed to attend public schools or publicly-funded programs.  As families who use these exemptions come under attack, many have asked why would a Christian even TRY to claim a religious exemption?  Of course there are as many reasons as there are Christians and Christian familiesbut the reasons tend to occur along similar lines.  I have not seen an attempt to answer that question, thence this paper. I hope it engenders more graciousness and open-mindedness among Believers who may disagree. I also hope it encourages more Christian schools and daycares to accept children with religious exemptions to vaccines with open arms instead of barring them and their families-- or, even better, just leaving the question of vaccine-status unasked and left up to the consciences of the parents.   

As a Christian, the reasons for which some object to vaccines can be divided into three groups:  objections to specific ingredients in vaccines (i.e. how the vaccine(s) are produced), objections to the philosophy behind vaccination (i.e. why vaccines are given), and objections stemming from the effect observed from vaccinations (i.e. what vaccines do).  While a person from any faith could have objections which would fit into those categories, I specifically am writing as a Christian, seeking to show how a faithful reading of Scripture (our religious text) could lead to these objections.  Please note that I am not trying to say all Christians must or do interpret Scripture to lead to identical objections, nor am I even spelling out a full defense of my own position—I am simply seeking to explain how Christians might come to object to the current CDC vaccine schedule due to their religious faith.  

·       Objections to the “how” of vaccines:  problems with ingredients in vaccines themselves.  Most parents begin investigating vaccines by looking into how they are made and what they are made of.  Just as it is good practice to turn a prepared food item over and read its ingredient list before we eat it or serve it to others, it is wise to know what we are consenting to have injected into our child beforehand.  (The FDA publishes all vaccine inserts at fda.gov/vaccines-blood-biologics/vaccines/vaccines-licensed-use-united-states) A cursory look at vaccine ingredients is rather shocking:  formaldehyde, antifreeze, antibiotics, metals such as aluminum and mercury, and of course disease particles—all of which must be grown on some medium or other, i.e. it must have been allowed to infect something so it would grow (“be cultured”) and then it was weakened or killed.  That “culture medium” could be a chicken egg, tissue from an animal (unborn cow, a live monkey, cow blood), or an unborn human (or tissue from an unborn human). Viruses must be grown in human or animal tissue—thus any vaccine against a virus (such as measles, mumps, rubella, influenza, polio, or chickenpox) will always contain animal or human tissue.  As Christians we believe the body is an integral part of who we are as God’s Image—we reflect Him not just in our minds/thoughts and heart/emotions but also in our physical bodies (Gen 1:27; 2:7-23).  The body is fallen (Gen 3:19) but will be Raised and perfected (1 Cor 15:52-53; Phil 3:21).  Christians believe the body affects the mind and spirit and vice-versa.  We are called to honor God with everything our body does—eating, drinking, sexual activity, etc (Rom 6:12-13; 1 Cor 6:15-20; 9:27; 2 Cor 4:10; 7:1; 1 Thess 4:4).  The body is the home of our own soul, and in a Christian, is part of the very temple of God.  This is why Christians have always respected the body—we have historically buried our dead, cared for the sick, punished those who injured the bodies of others, and even made damaging corpses a legally punishable crime.  Christians are called to be mindful of what they put into their bodies, so it is a very “Christian” thing to ask: “what is in this shot?”  Many Christian parents, after asking that question, find specific ingredients particularly worrisome from a Christian perspective:
  1.     aborted fetal cells—Several vaccines on our schedule contain “human diploid cells.”  Those cells come from cell lines (cells in petri dishes that are allowed to consistently grow and reproduce) that originated with the body parts of unborn babies.  Each cell line came from a different child and each successful cell line is the product of dozens of attempts—that means dozens of abortions were used as “stem cell harvest opportunities.” (See Hayflick's paper on developing WI-38, the cell line used in adenoviruses, rubella, measles, mumps, varicella zoster, poliovirus, hepatitis A and rabies vaccines)  In fact, abortionists and researchers have and continue to collaborate on opportunities to get “perfect tissue specimens”—this may mean pressuring a mother known to have a baby at risk for a specific infection to abort her child rather than carry to term (ex. rubella); this may mean targeting specific women whose babies are the right age to “harvest” a certain tissue; this may mean changing the way the abortion is done so that a “pristine specimen” is harvested—never with any pause to consider that these are human beings whose murders are being planned and discussed (though their very humanity is what makes their tissues so desired)—images of God. The most recently approved cell line comes from a “water bag” abortion done in 2015, in which a 4 month gestation baby girl was delivered in her bag of waters, and she was butchered for her lung tissue while still alive without so much as a shot of anesthesia.[1]   Yes, such an abortion is illegal in the US, but that will not stop US children from receiving shots in which that cell line is used.  Also, cell lines only last about the length of a human life; thus new cell lines are constantly being developed… as long as the market demands human cell lines, abortions will be done and used to provide them, leaving men to profit financially from a child’s planned death.[2]  Is this in line with God’s assertion that the taking of a human life is a crime deserving of death?  Christians who believe every human is created in God’s Image purposefully by Him (Gen 25:21; 30:22; Ps 127:3-5) Is 6:9), known by Him since the moment of conception (Is 44:24; Jer 1:5; Ps 139:13-16), may object to any medication that contains products obtained through any killing of a human, no matter the age… especially when such a medication will be injected directly into our own child’s body.
  2. bovine tissue – in the beginning, mankind’s job was to care for the plants and animals of the Earth—this continues even after the Fall (Gen 2:15-20).  We see Noah gathering and saving plants and animals (Gen 6-7), we read Jewish law prohibiting animal cruelty (Deut 5:14; 14:21; 25:4).  Even as Jesus asserts that compassion for humans is even more important than compassion for animals, He assumes that His hearers’ care for their beasts of burden is normal and good (Luke 14:5)… we even call ethical treatment of animals humane, because it is such an integral part of being human- unlike a beast.  Christians then may object to any product that depends on or causes undue animal suffering.  “Fetal Bovine Serum” is obtained by puncturing an unborn calf’s heart after its mother is slaughtered—again with no anesthetic (that would contaminate the tissue).  The calf’s heart needs to be still beating in order to harvest the maximum amount of blood. [3]
  3.  injections of known poisons (such as formaldehyde, MSG, antifreeze, antibiotics, aluminum)-  As explained above, Christians view the body as something for which they must care and steward well.   Living in this fallen world will certainly mean interacting with potentially harmful materials, and Christians remember that God promises to use all those for our own good and the good of our children (Rom 8:28; James 1:2-4).  However, there is a difference between accepting the reality that sickness, harm and suffering will come to our children (and their bodies) and intentionally injecting known poisons into our children ourselves, in doses known to be harmful in humans.  If we saw a friend giving their child the contents of a vaccine mixed into applesauce, we would be alarmed and call poison control (rightly so)—yet an injection bypasses all normal defense mechanisms (skin, mucus membranes, stomach acid, digestive enzymes and beneficial bacteria, expulsive pathways such as coughing or vomiting) and puts the poison directly into the child, unlike anything in the natural world with the exception of a snake’s venom.  Christians may object to the intentional introduction of known poisons directly into their child’s body as an assault on an aspect of God’s Image.

·       Objections to the “why” of vaccines:  problems with the philosophy of vaccination itself.  Christians have a lens through which they see the whole world.  They believe that there is a good, sovereign Creator who created this world with order and beauty, intentionally to bear witness to His own Order and Beauty (Gen 1-2; 1 Cor 14:40; Psalm 148). Everything points back to a marvelous Creator—the stars sing of His majesty (Psalm 8:1), the flowers of His provision (Luke 12:27), the storms of His might (Psalm 148:8)—so that no one has an excuse of not knowing He exists (Psalm 19:1; Rom 1:20).  Mankind was created to reflect God’s glory and to care for and tend God’s creation in the same way He cares for us—we are His ambassadors, we bear His Image.  Christians believe that even though the sin of man introduced evil into the world, meaning nothing works perfectly anymore and now all tends towards chaos (entropy) and disorder, that the fundamental created Order did not change.  Our job did not change (Psalm 8).  And one Day, all will be remade new and perfectly beautiful again.  But until then, humans are still called to “exercise dominion” over the earth and fill it with “the Glory of the Lord as the water fills the sea.”  We are still able to marvel at the Creator who so masterfully created the millions of intricate systems that we observe at every level of creation.  Many Christians find that the very system of childhood preventative vaccinations goes against this created order and so, may object to them.
  1. exercising dominion- In the beginning, humans were tasked with “exercising dominion” over all of Creation (animal, plant, and presumably also even microbes), by properly husbanding” or tending it, NOT by seeking the annihilation of any one species.  As we have learned to our own detriment multiple times, every area has an ecosystem with each living being needed within it.  The extinction of any one type of living thing has far-reaching effects.  And invariably, when one species is killed, others fill their places in food webs (though often not as perfectly as the original species did).  Why would we think that the annihilation of microbes would be beneficial?  Vaccine campaigns seek to “eradicate” a specific disease by rendering all its hosts immune; presumably without a food source (hosts) the microbes will just die out.  However, as with any ecosystem, the elimination of one species will merely create a vacuum, which other types of similar beings –in this case other bacteria or viruses—will fill.  It would seem that vaccine campaigns are not only pointless and untenable in the long run, but even against the spirit of exercising dominion in a Biblical sense, which would mean seeking to find and maintain order within Creation—perhaps by seeking to find ways to strengthen the host so disease is no longer as problematic, or by encouraging beneficial bacteria.  Christians may object to vaccines because they view them as antithetical to the mandate of exercising dominion and tending living beings.
  2. the created order of the childhood immune system belief in a good, wise and orderly Creator leads us to appreciate the intricate systems He designed.  One such system is the immune system.  The human immune system contains at least two reactive branches; the humoral or Th2 (mediated by antibodies made by B lymphocytes) and cell-mediated or Th1 (mediated by T lymphocytes).  Inflammatory responses such as fevers, swelling, soreness and redness are all part of a cell-mediated immune response. In infancy, the cell-mediated immune response is actively suppressed, because inflammation is harmful to a rapidly developing brain—this is why it is very concerning when a young baby gets a fever.  As doctors know, young babies should not get fevers.  The baby human body is designed to by default not react to disease.  Instead, the baby’s immune system purposefully relies mainly on the humoral immune system; that of antibodies—not their own, but their mother’s, passed to them through her milk, or remaining from the placenta during pregnancy.  Vaccines aim to force an inflammatory response.  Trials of vaccines in young babies did not show good responses—babies’ immune systems (as designed) just didn’t react, they didn’t make antibodies… this is why extra-strong ingredients guaranteed to provoke inflammation had to be added: adjuvants, usually heavy metals (aluminum or mercury).  Christians may object to a childhood vaccination program that turns the created order on its head, trying to strong arm an immune system to act in ways it never was Designed to do. (thorough examination of this topic here)
  3. misplaced trustin both the Old and New Testaments, God tells His people they must trust in Him alone.  This is why witchcraft was expressly forbidden—the effort to gain power and control events was exactly against what trust in Him entails (Lev 19:31; 20:6,27; Deut 18:10-14; Gal 5:19-21; Rev 18:23; 21:8).  Does the making of a serum—including diseased animal particles, multiple poisons, and metal, and then injecting in into a child with the faith that it will protect them against disease—not sound at least somewhat like the making of magical amulets?  Especially when this practice is defended with a religious fervor?  (Incidentally, the Greek word used for witchcraft” in the New Testament is pharmakaia, the same word from which we get our word “pharmaceutical.”)  Over and over in Scripture Christians are told not to be afraid, but instead to put their trust in God—and make decisions out of faith, NOT fear.[4]  Christians may object to being required to put their trust in any one medical regimen, as opposed to freely making choices in faith in God (not out of fear).

·       Objections to the “what” of vaccines:  problems regarding the observed effect of vaccines and vaccine schedule today.  Vaccines are no longer just an idea, now they have multiple years and even two generations of data—Christians evaluating them for use in their own families now also have to consider whether the potential and actual effects of vaccines are in line with their beliefs.

  1.     neighbor-love – the entire Law which Christians are called to obey is summed up as:  Love God ultimately and completely, and love your neighbor as your self.  (Matthew 22:35–40, Mark 12:28–34, Luke 10:27)  Christians always have to evaluate whether their actions are honoring to God and loving to their neighbor, the nearest of which is their own child (1 Tim 5:8) Vaccines all have risk; according to the Supreme Court they are “unavoidably unsafe”[5].  There is a fund set up (from taxes paid on vaccines) to pay damages to parents of children injured by vaccines—it is called the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.  (This is intended to protect the manufacturers of said vaccines from all responsibility and accountability for vaccine injuries, not to protect vaccine recipients.)  Each vaccine insert outlines those for whom the vaccine is contraindicated, as well as listing potential reactions.  If any parent reading those feels that it would not be loving to their child to put them at risk for those reactions  --especially taking into account their own family’s history, genetics, and the child’s own past vaccine reactions, health, and genetics—then the Christian parent may believe that it would not be loving to their child to administer that vaccine.  Christians are never asked to love their far-away neighbors by putting their nearer-neighbors at risk.  They are told to be ready to lay down their own lives, but not anyone else’s.  It is not Biblically valid to appeal to the command to “love your neighbor” to entice them to vaccinate their child for the sake of “herd immunity.”  Christians are never called to love someone else or other group by doing something unloving (endangering) to any one person.  Christian parents may believe that giving their child a particular vaccine would violate God’s command to love their neighbor (their child).[6]
  2. right to parental autonomy- Scripture is very clear that parents are primarily responsible for their children (Prov 10:1, 15:20, 17:25, 22:6, 15), that the family is a crucial foundation of society and that children are required to obey their parents first and foremost (Ex 20:12, 21:15; Deut 5:16, 21:18-21; Prov 15:5, 20:20; Mark 7:10-13; Eph 6:1-3; Col 3:20; 1 Tim 5:4).  Parents are responsible for their children, not the State (Prov 19:18; 23:13-14; 29:15-17; Col 3:21; Heb 12:7-9).  (Indeed our first responsibility is to care for all our blood relatives, and secondly to care for the needy within our spiritual family, the Church—1 Tim 5:8)  It is a Christian principle to believe in parental responsibility and autonomy, which go hand in hand. Vaccine programs apply a one-size-fits-all approach to all children without considering the individual child. Christians may object to anything that interferes with their God-given responsibility to protect their own child.
  3.  lack of wisdom -There is evidence that vaccines, especially cumulatively over time, alter the vaccinated person’s DNA. One mechanism by which this can happen is that human DNA fragments present in the stem cells (taken from aborted babies as mentioned above) can integrate into their host’s DNA. [7] It should be noted that vaccines are not tested for mutagenic potential. This is just one of many unforeseen effects which vaccines—especially when more than one are given at once, and given quickly in a short span of time—can have. Most vaccines themselves have never actually been tested against an inert placebo; their safety studies have no control groups.  One group of children will be given one vaccine, the other group another version of the same vaccine, or at least the same vaccine (including all the adjuvants and other toxic ingredients) just without the disease particles, but no group will receive a saline shot—there is no standard by which to judge the vaccinated group’s outcome… for any of our childhood vaccines. Christians are instructed to be wise all throughout Scripture (Prov 4:5; 19:8; Matt 10:16) Christians may object to (a) vaccine(s) because they believe to use them/it would violate the Biblical admonition to be wise.
I have attempted in this paper to summarize the main types of reasons why Christian parents may object to the current CDC-recommended vaccine schedule on religious grounds—as Christians.  I should also note that healthy unvaccinated children do not pose any additional risk to others around them.  They are not contagious for any disease.  Of course if any child becomes sick, or is around someone who was sick and so is possibly incubating an illness, they could pass on that illness—vaccinated or not, vaccine-preventable illness or not.  But a healthy child is just that:  a healthy child.  In fact, for certain attenuated viruses, such as that which causes whooping cough, those who are vaccinated are actually more likely to be contagious without knowing it (they are asymptomatic) and for longer than those who have never been vaccinated. [8] (See “An Open Letter to Legislators Currently Considering Vaccine Legislation,” by Tetyana Obukhanych, PhD in Immunology, for a fuller explanation of this.)   

So the question remains… why would any organization that claims to be built on Christian religious principles object to parents living out those same Christian religious principles, as they best understand them to apply to their own child(ren)?  Wouldn’t it make more sense for such an organization to welcome them and provide them safe haven?  Especially since their children pose NO additional threat to anyone else?  Shouldn't Christian leaders be defending the rights of parents to follow their consciences and encouraging all Christian parents to be evaluating every decision they make from a Biblical worldview, instead of simply following our culture's assumptions and expectations?

No matter what, Christians should be able to discuss such issues with one another knowledgeably and graciously, even if they disagree.  It is not Biblically valid to say that someone is "unloving" and "unChristlike" merely because they disagree with you or a popularly held position.  However, it is Biblically valid to say that someone is "unloving" if they are belittling, demeaning, or name-calling someone with whom they disagree.  I hope and pray that this paper contributes to this conversation in an informed, gracious, rigorous and Christ-exalting way.



Endnotes:


[1] See “Characteristics and viral propagation properties of a new human diploid cell line, Walvax-2, and its suitability as a candidate cell substrate for vaccineproduction” by Bo Ma et al, Hum Vaccin Immunotherapy 2015 April.  Note the reason given for abortion (mother had had a previous c-section) as well as the rigorous research into the parents’ health and employment histories, going back 5 generations.  This was clearly planned and very intentionally done.  Ethical barriers present in the US which are lacking in China are also mentioned.  This abortion was done in China and would have been illegal in the US. Nine abortions were involved in the making of this new cell line (Walvax-2).
[2] This use of fetal tissue obtained in truly disgusting ways – intentional dismemberment, timed poisoning, drowning, live organ harvesting, pressure on pregnant women in order to benefit from their child’s death- is by no means unique to the vaccine industry.  See “Efficient human fetal liver cell isolation protocol based on vascular perfusion for livercell-based therapy and case report on cell transplantation.” Gridelli B, et al. 2012, for just one example. Note how unborn babies are delivered "intact"- read alive- at 5 months gestation, thrown into icy saline, and cut open within the hour to harvest their livers.  No drugs are ever given, no sedatives, no anesthesia.  These children are delivered live and callously either allowed to drown, freeze or die by having their livers sliced open.  This happens at our very own Allegheny Women’s Clinic so that fetal liver stem cells can be obtained for University of Pennsylvania (tax-payer supported!). So much medical and pharmaceutical research rests on the harvesting (let’s be honest- the torture and butchering) of the unborn that it has predicted its own disaster and collapse if such atrocities are stopped.  (See article by NBC "What is fetal tissue research and why is it important to medicine?") Many Christians have serious reservations about supporting such an industry at all, much less trusting them to have their living children’s best interests at heart. 
[3] For a discussion on the ethics behind fetal bovine serum harvesting, see “The use of fetal bovine serum: ethical or scientific problem?” by Carlo E. A. Jochems et al.
[4] Just to be clear, there is nothing inherently unbiblical about choosing to use modern medications or procedures, but whatever resources a Christian uses should be used with prayer and faith in God, not in the medicine/procedure itself.  In fact, the “how, why and what” questions presented here to evaluate vaccines from a Christian perspective would form a good rubric for evaluating all medications or procedures:   investigating how any medication was researched and made, asking whether it is working against the created order, weighing potential risk and side effects carefully, etc.
[5] SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES - BRUESEWITZ ET AL. v. WYETH LLC, FKA WYETH, INC., ET AL. October 2010—Majority opinion: (https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/10pdf/09-152.pdf) Minority dissent here.  This is regarding a court case against a vaccine manufacturer by parents of a child who was harmed by a vaccine.
[6] A quick note just to address the objection “but it’s more unloving to leave your child at risk of disease”—as will be discussed below, there are no studies comparing unvaccinated children and vaccinated so we have no data by which to evaluate whether vaccinated children really do experience lower rates of disease (both chronic and infectious).  Doctors who treat both types of children say that the unvaccinated do not tend to be sicker (and thus the unvaccinated kids are less likely to be contagious).  There is one study that compared kids unvaccinated and vaccinated for flu, and it found that kids who’d gotten the flu shot actually were ill MORE than those who had a placebo—the conclusion was that the vaccine may increase susceptibility to non-flu respiratory illnesses. (see “Increased Risk of Noninfluenza Respiratory Virus Infections Associated With Receipt of Inactivated Influenza Vaccine” by Benjamin Cowling et al. Clinical Infectious Diseases 2012 June)  Another study found that children were more at risk of getting a serious illness within 2 weeks of getting a flu shot (see Assessment of temporally-related acute respiratory illness following influenza vaccination” by Rikin S al. Vaccine. 2018)  Also, there are many ways of supporting the body’s own immune system to fight all disease, not just the 15 currently vaccinated against in childhood—many of these have been studied (a few:  Vitamin D, hand washing, elderberry syrup (also this study), Vitamin C, Vitamin A, lowering of stress, ownership of pets, adequate sleep, a whole foods diet, adequate plumbing) for efficacy and found to be very protective against disease.  Vaccination is but one among many efforts parents can make to protect their child from being seriously harmed by disease in this fallen world.
[8] See “Acellular pertussis vaccines protect against disease but fail to preventinfection and transmission in a nonhuman primate model” by Jason M. Warfel etal., 2013.  Also, this study found vaccination caused a decrease in the adult body's response to pertussis.  An excellent discussion of this phenomenon (the vaccinated spreading disease more than the unvaccinated), due to “original antigenic sin,” can be found here.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Lent for Littles: Making Room to Listen & Grow

My friend Jenny came up to me at church and pitched the idea to me:  "I really want to make Easter more special to my kids-- at least as special as Christmas, because, you know... to a Christian it's supposedly the most important day in the year.  So, I was thinking-- could you maybe teach a lesson and some songs for the church playgroups I'm hosting during Lent?  I can do a craft if you do!!"  Always up for a teaching challenge-- especially one including music!-- I said "sure!"  But as my mouth was forming the "sure" my brain was whirring, How in the world am I going to teach "Lent" to a bunch of toddlers??  I started praying and brainstorming and finally took my pink journal out during naptime and started brain-dumping everything I had learned or knew or wondered or had heard about Lent, fasting, and Easter.  I re-read parts of John Piper's A Hunger for God, and the children's book Make Room, and prayed more.  I read about Jesus' time in the wilderness, read about the children of Israel in the wilderness.  The Lord brought Hebrews 12:1-2 to mind as great theme verses for the concepts swirling in my head and a skeleton of a lesson emerged.  I think it worked rather well so I'm posting it here in the hopes that it might encourage others!


-------------------------------------------------------
Making Room to Listen & Grow
Hebrews 12:1, Matthew 4:1-11; Deuteronomy 8:1-10

I recruited my 8 year old daughter to help me with a little skit (which she relished!).

She came quite literally running in, dressed in shorts and sneakers, with a headband and jersey on.  She also carried in her hand boxes of toys, several purses and an armload of books, with a backpack on her back.  She quite theatrically stumbled and everything went flying!

this picture of E dressed as a runner
(from Jan 2016) always makes me laugh
Woah, woah!  Where are you going?
Oh, I'm going on a run!!
Well, why are you carrying all these things?  You can't possibly run very well with all that!
Oh, but I LOVE these things!! This is my favorite doll!  And these are really REALLY good books!! And I might want to play a game... and in my backpack I have all kinds of snacks, and a sweater if I get cold...
Kids, do you think it's a good idea to take all this with her on a run? (NOOOO) Honey, I think you're going to get hurt!  
But these are all GOOD things, Mom!!
They totally might be, but sometimes we have to put some things down in order to do other things well!  You'll be able to run much faster, and you can see where you're going... Actually, we're about to talk about this-- do you want to take a little rest and listen?  
Ok, I guess I can do that!  

So, like Eowyn and I were just learning, sometimes we have to say "no" or "not now" to GOOD things in order to do other things, or do things better.  Did you know there is a Bible verse about this?  We're going to need to stand up to sing this one!  (This is the tune from VBS Reachout Adventures' Olympion) This song is about throwing off things that "hinder" us-- do you know that word?  It means "gets in our way and slows us down."


"Hebrews 12:1, Hebrews 12:1, Let us run run run (run in place) the race marked out for us (motion to self) There...fore.... since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses (spin around)
let us throw off (throwing off motion) everything that hinders,
and the sin that so easily entangles (pretend to pull a rope from around feet)
and let us run with perseverance (running motion)
the race (clap clap)
marked out (clap clap)
for us.
Let us run run run (running in slow mo)
Run with perseverance
Let us run run run
The race marked out for us
Let us throw off everything that hinders (throwing off motion)
And let us run run run (running) the race marked out for us."


The Bible uses a "race" to help us understand what we are doing-- we are all trying to follow Jesus and live like He did, in a way that obeys and shows love to God.  That's what is called the "race of faith."  So when we say we are going to "run run run" in that song we are talking about how we live.

Did you know that a long long time ago, God wanted to teach His people about putting some things away for a little while so that they could learn to listen to His Word better?  This is a picture of the Israelites in the desert.   Do you see any flowers or trees? What about nice gardens and farms?  No... there isn't anything like that.  God called His people away from those for a little while.  But look at what amazing things He gave them instead!  This is a picture of Him feeding them with manna-- the bread of angels!! It fell from Heaven!  That is so special, something they never would have enjoyed if they were still eating their own food from their own gardens!  And look at this!  Water from a rock!  And best of all, God's own Law coming down from Heaven at Mount Sinai!!  God called His people into the desert to teach them His Word.  They spent 40 years learning obedience and trust in His Word in the desert.

Did you know Jesus also spent time in the desert?  Not 40 years, but 40 days.  Right after His baptism-- which many of you learned about in Sunday School just last week!-- God the Father called Him into the desert to learn obedience and trust in His Word, too.  Jesus didn't just leave behind gardens and flowers-- He went without ALL food!  How do you think He felt?  Hungry!!  But He had all kinds of time to listen to His Father and think about His word.  He was ready when His Enemy, the devil, that old serpent came to try and trick Him.  Oh... I am not sure if you are ready to see this picture.  It's kind of scary.  Are you ready?  Ok.

Jesssssssus, I know you are hungry... why not just make yourself some bread?  You don't need to wait for God the Father to give you food. And Jesus said "No, Satan!  don't you remember what the Israelites learned in the desert?  Obeying God's Word is more important than worrying about food!" Jesssusssss, I know you want to become king of the world... instead of going to the Cross, why don't you worship me instead?  Then I'll make you king!" "NO!  God's Word says-- worship God only!" Jessussssss, why don't you show everyone and Yourself just how amazing you are-- jump off this high place and let the angels catch you!  God's Word says they can do that!  NO, God's Word also says "do not put God to the test!"

After Satan had tried all these temptations and Jesus had said NO to them all, Satan gave up and left (for then)-- and do you know who came then?  Angels actually did come, and the Bible says they took care of Him-- maybe they brought Him manna just like the Israelites had.  

So in both of those stories, for a time, God called His people to put aside very good things-- like trees, gardens, even food!-- to make room for Him to teach them His Word and to listen better to Him.  Like that verse said, sometimes there are things that are "hindering" us and we need to throw them off so we can run.  Sometimes there also is sin tangling our legs up, and we need to ask God to help us repent and stop that too!

With all these great things there are no room for flowers!
I know this is kind of tricky to understand so I have one more picture for you.  Let's imagine that you are this little boy (hold up a Playmobil boy) and this cardboard box is your garden.  Let's pretend you really want to have lots of flowers in your garden!  But first... you put in a bench like this.  See?  It fits so nicely!  And now you can sit and enjoy your flowers!  Then you get an idea of some rocks to climb on, so you put those in too!  See?  I made a little rock path.  But then you remember that merry-go-rounds are really fun, and
you decide to put one of those in!   And last of all you decide you really really REALLY want this slide and monkey bar set!  Ok... now for the flowers.  OH NO!! Where will they fit??

They won't!! 

Are the bench, monkey bars, slide, and rocks BAD things?  No... but we might need to take some things out of this little garden to make room for flowers.  Wow!  Look how beautiful the flowers are!  That's what Lent is all about:  making room in our lives to listen better to God.  Your moms and dads probably will be talking about what they are putting aside -- a good thing they are going to stop doing or enjoying for the next 40 days, because they think it might be hindering them a little bit.  It might be going to Target... it might be watching a show... it might be a special food...  These are things that are good, but sometimes we need to put them aside to make room for better things.  This is called a "fast."  Often God uses fasts to teach His people things about His Word and Himself.  We make room to listen so we can "grow."  We let go so we can "run" better.
Now there is lots of room for flowers!

Now we are all about to make some crafts with flowers and seeds-- these will help you remember what we have talked about!

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Now I know there are lots of other aspects of Lent and fasting and repentance and seasons that I didn't tap into ... but they were little bitty kids and even with my craziest voices and best visuals I can only keep them paying attention for maybe 15 minutes, hah!

Stay tuned for part 2 on Hebrews 12:2-- Fixing our eyes on JESUS-- and the Easter story!