Author Archives: Kenny Hovis

Abraham Intercedes for Sodom 

Abraham, Sarah, & Isaac • Devotion #6: Abraham Intercedes for Sodom
Kenny Hovis | Prison Ministry Director

In the past four years, I have been on all but one prison trip that we have scheduled with the prison ministry. Most of the trips I went as a volunteer, the rest while I have been on staff. I have a passion for going on these trips to share the Gospel with the people who are behind bars and are desperately in need of someone to show them Christ-like love. This whole process has made me more effective sharing my faith at home as well. It has given me the opportunity to pray with and for many people, which I consider an honor.

One of the interesting dynamics of going into the prisons is when we have an opportunity to pray with the inmates. They may want you to pray for family, a case they have coming up, their own safety and health, and in some cases, you get the distinct privilege of showing them how to throw their lives to God. I often ask the person if it is something they have been praying for themselves and almost every time they say “yes!” This is the perfect opportunity for me to segue to the Gospel. In the second part of James 5:16 it says, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” I always ask them if they think God hears their prayers.

We see an example of this in Genesis 18:22-33. Abraham is praying for the righteous people that may be left in Sodom as God is going to destroy the city because of its wickedness. He is asking God to spare the city if He can find 45 righteous people, then continuing to ask five more times all the way down to if He can find ten righteous people. Abraham finds favor with God as he petitions on behalf of the supposed righteous, each time lowering the standard for when He will bring judgment on the people of Sodom. He hears the righteous man, and He puts value to Abraham’s cries for mercy. 

We give God reason to listen to our prayers when we are following in His will. He is thrilled when our lives are surrendered to His leading and guiding. I go back to the example of speaking with the inmates. After I ask them if they think God hears their prayers, then generally say yes. I then ask them how their relationship is with their Heavenly Father. If they are not living a life that is pleasing to God, in His will, they do not give God opportunity to hear their prayer. It is like when we were children, and we did not do what our Dad wanted us to do. When we were disobedient, our father surely did not say, “Thanks for not doing what you were supposed to do. Here is your allowance and some money for ice cream!” That logic does not carry forward into our relationship with our Heavenly Father. We want Him to bless us, hear us, and do as we ask even though we do not perform the act He wants most from us, obedience.

Let us pursue a holy, righteous life, full of obedience. Much like the example of Abraham, when God finds us righteous, He is pleased with us, and it gives Him reason to listen to our petitions. He hears even the utterances and concerns that we cannot put into words!


Tower of Babel • Devotion #2: “GO TEAM!”
Kenny Hovis | Prison Ministry Director

One of my favorite movies is from 1986; it is the movie Hoosiers. In the movie, Gene Hackman (one of the greatest actors of all time, in my humble opinion), plays the infamous basketball coach, Norman Dale. He is a tough, regimented disciplinarian that zealously preaches that there is only one way to play basketball. His mantra, “Team!” It is very much a David vs. Goliath plot, but the general theme is one of a small group of high school kids from very different situations in life coming together, learning to play and work together as a team to overcome impossible odds. In the Bible, we see examples of teamwork and how it can be used both negatively and the way it is supposed to be.

In Genesis chapter 11, we see the account of the descendants of Noah and how they were commanded by God to populate the earth. Instead of obeying the will of God, a large group came together in a place called Shinar and concluded that it would be a good idea to build a tower to reach up to the heavens, in an attempt, in my opinion, to elevate themselves to be on par with God. God in His infinite wisdom sees and knows the heart of man and says in Genesis 11:5-8, “And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the Lord said, ‘Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.’ So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.” Humanity was using teamwork to try and achieve a monument to their greatness. This is always a recipe for disaster.

The Apostle Paul writes to the church in Corinth and describes how we as Christians should view teamwork when it comes to our faith, and ministry. In 1 Corinthians 12:12-13, Paul says, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” Paul uses the analogy of us, believers of all ethnicities and positions, to be “one body.” He goes on in verse 27 of chapter 12 to be more specific and says, “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” A body is useless without a head, and Paul states that we, as the body, should have Christ at the head. All of the individual members working together in symphony and harmony, to achieve what we have each been gifted and called to do, to fulfill the leading of the Head of the body, Christ. All of our efforts and energies for His honor and glory alone!

Gene Hackman utters one of his famous quotes from the movie that is so true for us as the body of Christ as well. “Five players on the floor, functioning as one single unit. Team, Team, Team! No one more important than the other!” Let us remember as the body of Christ we are to work together, no one part more important than the other, no matter the gift set! We are to have the same goal and mindset. All we do, as well as all of the results, are done for His honor and His glory, not ours!


“Sin is Crouching at the Door” 

Cain & Abel • Devotion #3: “Sin is Crouching at the Door”
Kenny Hovis | Prison Ministry Director

Sacrifice is such an interesting word to me. It is a word that has many meanings and applications to so many different people. We, as parents, can sacrifice our time and finances for our children. A person in the military may offer up his or her life as a sacrifice in service to our country. A religious extremist may offer his or her life up as a sacrifice, as well as taking innocent lives in the process. Couples should sacrifice the tendency to focus on other people instead of the person they married. Philanthropists are said to sacrifice for others less fortunate out of their abundance. At our jobs, we sacrifice one of our most valuable commodities, our time, as a means of supporting ourselves and our families. Others may sacrifice their family and spouse by having an affair with another person. Someone may sacrifice their financial or physical health with some type of addiction. When it comes to defining the word sacrifice, the determining factor is motive.

In Genesis chapter 4, we have a detailed account of the sacrifice of two people, Cain and Abel. As the Bible shares the account of their sacrifice, we see a stark contrast between the two sacrifices. Cain, a farmer, or keeper of the land, gives a sacrifice out of the abundance of his crops. Abel, and tender of sheep gave of the firstborn and fat portions from his flock. God accepted Abel’s sacrifice, but not Cain’s. Why? I believe it was their motives.

Cain was unhappy and jealous of Abel as a result of God’s approval of Abel’s offering. God, being all-knowing says to Cain in Genesis 4:6, “The Lord said to Cain,Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen?’” God is telling Cain not to pout about Him not accepting his offering. It was Cain’s fault. God even asked him a rhetorical question in the first part of verse 7 saying, “If you do well, will you not be accepted?” The answer is, of course, it will be accepted. But, He also gives Cain a warning in the second part of verse 7 saying, “And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it!” He warns Cain that sacrifices given or submitted with sinful motives give an opportunity for sin to enter into our lives. We must resist the desire to keep the “best” for ourselves and give the leftovers to God.

Jesus taught the same concept. Luke 21:1-4 recounts how we should sacrifice to God. “Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, ‘Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.’” Jesus is telling the disciples that the offering the rich people put in the box was an unacceptable sacrifice because they were giving out of their abundance. But, the widow giving much less, truly “sacrificed” and gave everything she had.

As Christians, we claim to have sacrificed our lives, everything that we have, and everything we are. We would do well to heed the warning God gave to Cain, and Jesus’ teaching to His disciples on our sacrifices. We tend to be selfish and think we can give God small portions of all we value. Our desire must be to give all of our time, finances, possessions, family, or anything else we can lay at the feet of God as a sacrifice. We need to resist the tendency to keep the best or abundance for ourselves. It is not ours to keep anyway.  

When we sacrifice with a pure motive and give of our best and all that we are and have, it gives God opportunity to receive that which we offer, or sacrifice, as something that pleases Him, and something He can use! Do not forget that sin is crouching at the door, waiting for the slightest opening to steal away our sacrifice, and make it unacceptable to God!

Real Forgiveness?

Confession • Devotion #6: Real Forgiveness?
Kenny Hovis | Prison Ministry Director

We need to face it. We all do stupid things, which in hindsight, we would do everything in our power to go back in time to change history. It is instances like this that we truly test the limits and willingness of others to forgive us for our terrible decisions in life.

I grew up on a farm, the only boy in our family for most of my childhood. Unless I wanted to play games with my sisters, I had to be creative when it came to occupying my idle time. I started my first business, selling night crawlers to local fisherman. I built a two-story tree house. I made a pile of cinder blocks into a make-believe tank. It was fun boy stuff.

On one of my make-believe military excursions, I was armed with my Daisy BB gun. I was rolling around shooting trees, ant hills, or anything that was supposedly attacking me. I looked at our barn and saw my enemy’s stronghold. I started laying down suppressive fire. One of my shots found a window, and the new glass that my dad had just put in throughout the barn, just shattered.  It was so cool! So much so that I proceeded to shoot out every window in the entire barn. My dad would not even talk to me for three days. I had done something that drove a wedge between my father and me, and he was struggling to forgive me.

Much like the strain that my actions put on mine and my father’s relationship, sin drives a wedge between our Heavenly Father and us. When we are truly repentant and turn from our sin, He forgives us. Being forgiven is a phenomenal feeling, but how quick are we to follow the example when a person sins against us? We tend to hold a grudge and always bring up the past. That is not the model Jesus shared.

Peter brings up the topic to Jesus in Matthew 18:21, “Then Peter came up and said to him, ‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’” Peter thought he was giving the “churchy” answer saying we should be willing to forgive someone up to seven times. Jesus, being the All-Knowing God put Peter in his place in verse 22, “Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.’” Put simply, without ceasing. It is just as many times as God will forgive us, thankfully!

In Matthew 6:12, right in the middle of the Lord’s Prayer He says, And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” We are supposed to forgive just as God forgives us: without ceasing, without holding a grudge, and without bringing up the past. We have experienced the freedom that comes from forgiveness, and we are supposed to take that model and apply it to our lives. So much so, Jesus gives a warning in Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

How many times are you willing to forgive someone? Before you answer that, maybe you should remember all the things you have been forgiven.

God’s Will or Mine?

God’s Will • Devotion #4: God’s Will or Mine?
Kenny Hovis | Prison Ministry Director

For over 20 years, I have worked in youth ministry. There have been many different students in that time that I have watched mature both physically and mentally. I have watched as some of them have made some very bad choices that resulted in strained relationships with their parents and other family members. Sometimes it has resulted in children and parents being estranged for most of their adult lives. As a parent myself, I cannot imagine not having a relationship with my kids because of something they did or did not do.

I have been close with a number of the students I worked with, but there have been a few that have broken my heart. Kevin was one of these. He was a super personable kid and fun to be around. Anytime with Kevin was always spent laughing. Sometimes I laughed so much my ribs would hurt! But Kevin could not do anything other than what he wanted to do. He thought he could do whatever he wanted as long as it did not hurt anyone else. Tragically, I watched him burn his world to the ground many times making choices that separated him from friends and family. Him imposing his will ended up costing him a relationship with his parents, grandparents, and eventually his child. Kevin was abusing a gift from God: free will.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus takes time to address some areas that were a concern to Him. One of those areas was prayer. He even gives a prayer template in Matthew 6:9-13. It is most commonly called “The Lord’s Prayer.” One of the specific things in that template for prayer that He addresses is in verse 10.  It is at the beginning of the prayer so it must be pretty important. Matthew 6:9-10 says, “Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth is it is in Heaven.” Jesus is telling the listeners that praying for God’s will in our lives should be priority number one. When we use our wisdom and discernment to make decisions, the results are not usually positive.

God did not create us to be robots. He created us to desire a relationship with Him, our Heavenly Father. We do have a free will that allows us to not listen to our Heavenly Father’s directions. In Jesus’ prayer template, He tells us to ask for God’s will to be done in our lives. This is the process of us dying to our natural tendency to grab the reins of our lives and submit to the supernatural steering of the Holy Spirit. When we fail to do this, it is to quite literally telling the All-Knowing Creator that we know better than He does how we should live our lives.

Our “free will” was not really free. It was paid for with the sacrifice God’s Son, Jesus, made on our behalf. That is why we now can have a restored relationship with our Heavenly Father. The freedom is in the choosing Who or what will influence us. It is the realization that left to our own choices, without the direction of the Holy Spirit, like my young friend, we will destroy and separate ourselves from a right Parent/child relationship with God.

Too many times I have done this in my life. Now, every day my prayer is, “Lord, Your will, not mine in all that I do!” Whose will are you acting on today?

Office: 8393 E. Holly Rd. Holly, MI 48442 | 248.328.0490 |

Copyright © 2016 The River Church. All Rights Reserved.