I hate surprises. It’s a weakness. My family knows better than to throw a party or try to shower me with gifts. I like predictable. I enjoy looking forward to an event, anticipating the joy leading up to the celebration. But I gotta admit— my family pulled-off a doozy when my debut novel released. We had planned to go to my favorite restaurant for dessert, The Melting Pot. An array of fruit, cakes and cookies to dip in warm, melted varieties of chocolate fondue. I hate surprises. It’s a weakness. My family knows better than to throw a party or try to shower me with gifts. I like predictable. I enjoy looking forward to an event, anticipating the joy leading up to the celebration. But I gotta admit— my family pulled-off a doozy when my debut novel released. We had planned to go to my favorite restaurant for dessert, The Melting Pot. An array of fruit, cakes and cookies to dip in warm, melted varieties of chocolate fondue. I invited my critique partners and their hubbies to join us, eleven celebrants in all, for a quiet evening of appreciation to honor those who had patiently encouraged me through the long publishing process. But the honor was mine when my sweet husband presented me with a beautifully framed book cover of my debut novel. He had secured an original book plate from my publisher’s marketing director, shopped for the perfect frame design with our daughter and then hidden the wrapped gift at my friend’s home until the night of our celebration. I was speechless—and tearful—overwhelmed that the person who knows me best would realize this surprise would warm my heart. A little mystery—in proper measure—sweetens a relationship. I think the Lord uses this concept when dealing with us, His precious ones. He maintains some mystery and sweetens that moment when we will meet Him…
Acts 1:1 – “I wrote the first narrative, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach…” (emphasis added)
Luke is the author of Acts, and the “first narrative” he speaks of is the Gospel of Luke, the third book in the New Testament. The current book, or Acts of the Apostles as its full title describes it, seeks to explain the events of those early days after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, when His disciples were left with the daunting task of spreading the Good News of God’s salvation. Luke’s task is a bit daunting as well—trying to describe the apostles’ stories—so he concentrates on two men in this book. Peter (ch’s 1-12), was a disciple of Jesus’ earthly ministry; and Paul (ch’s 13-28), was an apostle called by special circumstances. Granted, Luke was guided by the divine insight of the Holy Spirit to write these word, but do you think he might have struggled with what to include and what to leave out of the record?
Acts 1:2-3 – “…until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.” (emphasis added)
Luke was a physician, and as a man of science, he dealt with facts. Real people saw a real Jesus speaking real truth for forty days after He had been really dead. And what did Jesus talk about in that window of forty days? The kingdom. Must have been pretty important, eh? I have to believe that the God who created heaven and earth didn’t just pop in at random or chat about whatever came to mind at the time. Purposeful. Thoughtful. Deliberate. He had a plan then, and He has a plan now.
Acts 1:4-5 – “On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’” (emphasis added)
Sometimes the Lord reveals things in stages, a step here, a tid-bit there—and then He unveils its full meaning at a point when we’re better able to comprehend it. Jesus had indeed spoken to the disciples about the coming of the Holy Spirit (John 14). And John the Baptist had prophesied about the Spirit in the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry—that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit. But none of the disciples could have grasped what that meant until the Holy Spirit descended in Acts 2. Sometimes we’re called to wait, not because God can’t or doesn’t want to reveal more, but because we simply aren’t yet ready to comprehend it.
Acts 1:6-8 – “So when they met together, they asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’” (emphasis added)
Our God has determined the very best plan to reach those who will choose Him. He has chosen to keep some things hidden. And why not, when we have neither the capacity nor the necessity to know it? However, He has given us His perfect power to complete the tasks assigned to us. No more than we need. No less. He never makes mistakes. Never underestimates or overtaxes. Always provides.
Acts 1:9-11 – “After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’”
So, where did He go? How did He do that? When’s He comin’ back? And I’m just getting started! Can you imagine how many questions you’d have for those angels? And all you get is a celestial “BRB” (that’s Be Right Back for those of you non-texters). But there is a mystery to our God that heightens our adoration, an anticipation that beckons to our hearts in a way that flesh and blood can’t. His mystery allows Him to be all things to me, the Great I Am in every circumstance. One day, when Jesus returns—the same way the disciples saw him go into heaven—I’ll say, “Wow! So that’s what You meant!”
- Lord, there are times when I wish I could rush into Your physically present arms, but I’m also realizing that Your infinite mysteries are a part of my delight in You. Help me to trust that what You reveal is enough for me. Remind me that You have called me to a perfect purpose and plan, not a random slip-shod game of chance. And teach me to revel in Your mystery, loving You more with each new discovery.