When the Olympic Games closed two weeks ago in Athens, Greece, several Americans had made themselves household names: swimmer Michael Phelps, who won six gold and two bronze medals; Mia Hamm, the best women's soccer player in the world, who led her team to a gold medal performance against Brazil; and Carly Patterson, who won the women's all-around gold medal in gymnastics.

Perhaps you also heard about Matt Emmons. Emmons won a gold medal in the 50-meter prone rifle event but he lost his chance to win a second gold medal in the three-position event on his last shot. With one bullet left, he took careful aim and he fired -- bull's eye! There was only one problem: Emmons shot the wrong target. He crossfired, a rare mistake that gave him a zero and left him in eighth place.

Emmons explained that he usually looks at the number at the top of the target through his viewfinder as a reference point and then lowers his gun to hone in on the target.

"On that shot," he said, "I was just worrying about calming myself down and just breaking a good shot, and so I didn't even look at the number. I probably should have. I will from now on."

Even for the most disciplined, well-trained athletes, losing the gold can be as simple as losing a point of reference. Life is much the same. When we lose our point of reference, it's easy to crossfire.

For years, even decades, a man may be faithful to his wife. But one day he fires a glancing look toward another woman. He finds his glance returned. Soon, he finds his thoughts taking aim in another direction. The target of his affection becomes fixed on her instead of his wife. He becomes lost in lust and lustful activity.

An employee can be faithful to an employer for years. Finances get tight at home. The money he handles every day seems so easy to take. A few dollars here and there shouldn't be missed. His eyes become fixed on the wrong target.

Golf becomes a consuming hobby for a couple of golfing buddies. They play two or three times a week, if possible. They ignore family and opportunities to worship because golf has become their consuming passion. Their eyes are fixed on a lower handicap. They are hitting their target but it's the wrong one.

It's the end of the week and a couple finds that their paycheck is already spent. There are the usual bills: food, house payment, car payment, medicine, and insurance. There ARE clothes for the kids to buy and a veterinarian's bill to pay. Then there is the credit card bill, filled with items that were not passed up but should have been. There's always a money crunch. There's certainly nothing left over to give as an offering to the church or to charity. With their eyes fixed on material things, they are hitting their targets but unfortunately good stewardship is not one of them.

There's a little bit of free time available through the week to read a book, phone a friend, visit someone in the nursing home, fix a meal for an elderly couple, study the scriptures, pray- but it's just too easy to sit in front of the television, hour after hour after hour, sometimes 15-20 hours a week. Add them up. The target is hit often and it's often the wrong one.

The author of Hebrews wrote: "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Heb 12:1-2 (NIV)

We are all guaranteed to crossfire if we do not have a proper reference point. For the Christian, Jesus is the reference point.

Jesus must be the reference point time after time after time. Even if we have made Jesus our reference point for thousands and thousands of decisions, it takes only one time of taking our eyes off Jesus to crossfire. All of us do it.

That's why Jesus made the cross his reference point. Jesus never took his eyes off the cross. Its shame and reproach were not something he longed for. Its pain and its scorn were not something he prayed for.

Nevertheless, the cross was Jesus' reference point because our redemption was his target. Since the wages of sin is death, (Romans 6:23) Jesus had a debt to pay because no matter how many times we hit the target, missing the target only once creates a sin debt we cannot pay.

Take inventory. Look around at the various targets of your money, your affection, your time, and your life's desires. Do you see Jesus among them? Is He there anywhere? If not, aren't you in danger of missing the (prize for which God has called) you (heavenward) in Christ Jesus"? Phil 3:14 (NIV)

Wouldn't it be tragic to know that you went through life and hit the bull's eye time after time only to discover you were aiming at the wrong target? Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Make Jesus your point of reference.

The Rev. Michael Helms is pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Moultrie.

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