Beyond Paper Towns
Refreshing, isn’t it? This summer’s “coming of age” movie, Paper Towns, isn’t a flat out, gross-out, crass journey through the party scene, nor is it a slushy, mushy drama on sappy steroids designed to rip your heart out.
Instead, it is a smartly written mystery-solving ride by The Fault in Our Stars author John Green. I usually would have no idea about anything John Green does, but it was my girlfriend's turn to pick a book for us to read! I won't truly admit this, but I might have enjoyed it more than her, but that'll be our secret! I won’t reveal anything, but it’s no surprise that the potentially tired formula of nerd boy (Quentin) and cool girl (Margo) takes on a fun twist when Margo vanishes after showing Quentin a fantastic time, and now he needs to follow the clues she left to find her.
There must be something in all of us that is drawn to following clues and solving mysteries—right? We all grew up with Scooby Doo, Encyclopedia Brown, and even Cyberchase, and when the cryptic secrets are put in a relational context, it becomes even more intriguing!
There is something in us that is drawn to following clues and solving mysteries.
Perhaps that’s why God set up the whole “end of days” scenario a bit like Paper Towns?
Well, the Bible tells us that God loved us so much that He sent Jesus to die on the Cross for our sin, so we could have a relationship with Him. After He lived a perfect life and showed us the true meaning of life, He was crucified, rose again and then “disappeared” after 40 days:
When they had gathered just outside Jerusalem at the Mount of Olives, they asked Jesus,
Disciples: Is now the time, Lord—the time when You will reestablish Your kingdom in our land of Israel?
Jesus: The Father, on His own authority, has determined the ages and epochs of history, but you have not been given this knowledge. Here’s the knowledge you need: you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you. And you will be My witnesses, first here in Jerusalem, then beyond to Judea and Samaria, and finally to the farthest places on earth.
As He finished this commission, He began to rise from the ground before their eyes into the clouds. As they strained to get one last glimpse of Him going into heaven, the Lord’s emissaries realized two men in white robes were standing among them (Acts 1:6-9).
I’m sure the disciples were bummed that their best friend had vanished right before their eyes, but…He left some awesome clues that we can all follow to know when we will find Him again and be reunited with our Savior:
Two Men: You Galileans, why are you standing here staring up into the sky? This Jesus who is leaving you and ascending to heaven will return in the same way you see Him departing (Acts 1:11).
Whoa! From the get-go, God wanted us to know that Jesus would return one day, and not as a baby in a manger, but as our King of Kings from the sky!
Then He left a number of other clues:
Jesus told them, “Don’t let anyone mislead you, for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately. Nations will go to war against nations and kingdoms against kingdoms. There will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world. But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come.
When we will be reunited with Him.
“Then you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers. And many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other. And many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people. Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:4-14, NLT).
Would you say that the world is rapidly moving towards more chaos, wars, and frequency of natural disasters? Are Christ followers regularly persecuted? Is “sin rampant everywhere”?
And yes, the love of many people has grown cold…
These are the clues that Jesus gave us so we would know when to look expectantly for His return. We can be nervous about this, or be excited down to the core of our being!
By the way, the title Paper Towns comes from a trick mapmakers used. They would place false towns on maps to catch those who were trying to steal their work. Let’s avoid the paper towns of those who would mislead us into thinking that we have lots of time before Jesus comes back. Don’t let them steal the joy that comes with an expectation of seeing Him face to face!
Isn’t it great that Jesus left us clues about His return? Because the time may be near, we need to seize each day for THE Cause and be bold about sharing the gospel, because we don’t know how much time we have left.
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