God loves you and has a difficult plan for your life.

That message isn't mentioned in pass-along tracts or in bestselling books. It isn't proclaimed in praise choruses or PowerPoint sermons. We've heard plenty about the god-of-the-wonderful-plan and the god-of-possibility-thinking. Recently we've been told to follow Our Bliss, which is another god disguised as the True God. And in every age, lots of people follow the god-who-will-do-well-by-me-if-I-do-well-by-him.

But the God who plans to make our lives difficult? And if he really loves us, he makes our lives really difficult?

Yet according to the Gospels, especially Mark, this seems to be "the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ" (Mark 1:1, NRSV).

The Hazards of being loved

Good news seems to be written all over this beginning. According to Mark's account, the first remarkable event in Jesus' life is awash with affirmation. "You are my Son, the Beloved," says the heavenly voice. "With you I am well pleased" (1:11).

This voice literally "ripped open" the heavens to say this, as if he could hardly wait to visit a blessing on his Son. And then something heavenly settled on that tender frame. It looked like a dove—maybe like the dove that let Noah know that the drowned planet was getting a fresh start. Whatever it looked like, it was like the Spirit who hovered over the original creation, like something new, fresh, and vibrant was about to begin.

On top of that, Mark says that the words spoken to Jesus were very personal, very intimate. The Father speaks directly, perhaps affectionately to his Son: "You are my beloved."

Beloved!

"With you I am well pleased."

Well pleased.

Again we hear echoes of the voice that looked over the splendor of the new creation and, on the bright ...

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December 2004

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