What set off that alarm?

When I was attending graduate school in Memphis I had a job writing resumes. One morning I got an early start on a heavy load of work. At 4:00 a.m. I arrived at the office, one room my company rented in an office complex. After working for an hour, the stuffy air prompted me to open a window. Just then I heard an alarm go off.

Must be a car alarm, I thought, looking out in the parking lot. No one was there . . . Or a burglar alarm; someone is trying to break into our building. The alarm blared on and on. I didn't call 9-1-1. I thought either the thief would be scared off by the alarm, or the alarm would electronically alert the police. Eventually I figured out that I myself had set off the alarm by opening the window.

As a benefit to humankind, God has chained causes to their effects. The prophet Amos alludes to this principle: "Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so? Does a lion roar in the thicket when he has no prey? Does he growl in his den when he has caught nothing? Does a bird fall into a trap on the ground where no snare has been set? Does a trap spring up from the earth when there is nothing to catch? When a trumpet sounds in a city, do not the people tremble? When disaster comes to a city, has not the Lord caused it?" (Amos 3:3-6).

Amos is justifying his role as a blaring alarm. The people can't understand why he has come to town. Does he have a personal vendetta? Did someone hire him? Amos replies that the Lord Himself called him to prophesy doom and gloom. His prophesying is the effect of which their many sins are the cause.

The next time a moral alarm goes off - whether it is a lesson in Bible class, a sermon, or your own conscience - ask yourself, does this apply to me? Am I the one who set off the alarm? God has glued effects to every cause for our good. Sin has its consequences.

But, praise God, greater than sin's results are the effects of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. When the alarm goes off there is a remedy, powerful and effective.

—Steve Singleton