Author Archives: Kenny Hovis

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?

Live a Legacy

Reach | Devotion #1: Live a Legacy
Kenny Hovis | Prison Ministry Director

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Romans 1:16

I was raised in a Christian family where we attended a pretty fundamental Baptist church. My grandfather was an evangelist, church planter, published poet, avid and accomplished outdoorsman (even guided with Fred Bear), and was highly regarded in our family as a prayer warrior. All that being said, I remember him as someone who shared his faith without shame or fear. He even felt that the Lord wanted him to write a letter to every postmaster in the country to encourage them to accept Christ as their Savior. Until he passed away, most of his social security checks were spent on postage to send out those letters.

My grandfather lived in a mobile home that my parents put on their property right next to their house so they could take care of him while still giving him a measure of independence. My mom would come home between bus runs (she drove for the Goodrich schools for 35 years) and take him to the places he needed to go. He would want to go to the barber shop, drug store, post office, or just to a fast food restaurant to get out of the trailer. No matter where he was taken, he always took time to share the Gospel with someone. Many times while busy sharing his faith, he often made my mom late getting back to work. I remember her telling him one time before letting him get out of the car at the pharmacy, “Dad, I am running late. You do not have time to share the Gospel with anyone. OK?” Of course, as expected, he proceeded to share anyway.

When I read Romans 1:16, I am reminded of my grandfather’s passion for “Reach!” I have not always been as bold as him and have fallen short when given the opportunity many times. As I take an introspective look at myself, ashamed could be an accurate adjective used to describe my efforts.

Reach, gather, and grow is our mission, passion, and call at Church. Reach may not be the most important, but I believe it is first for a reason. Reach feeds gather, which should populate grow, which should inspire the church back to reach. When we boldly share our faith in love, people should see something different about us. Many times it will open a dialogue where we will have the opportunity to be unashamed to share the Gospel.

I try to start every day now, using my grandfather as an inspiration, to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the only thing that will change people’s lives! When I get to Heaven, I want to hear “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Only then will I know that I did a good job with reach!

Dedicated to G.W. Hovis, soul winner, prayer warrior, pastor, evangelist, and one of my heroes.

How Mighty is Your God?

Mighty God | Devotion #5: How Mighty is Your God?
Kenny Hovis | Prison Ministry Director

How many times have you had an instance to question whether God can help you overcome a circumstance in your life? We have so many opportunities to wonder if He is paying attention. Does He see us suffering? Does He care about a family member or our illness? Does He understand our loss of a job? Does He feel the passing of a loved one? Does He see how little money is in our bank account? Does He sense our loneliness? Does He know our feeling that no one cares for us? I have been in the desert of self-pity that accentuates so many of these feelings. You get to a place where you feel abandoned, a true sense of hopelessness.  No matter your best efforts, you feel God does not care.

A few years back I was self-employed. We always seemed to be struggling to make ends meet. We could not afford health insurance and started praying for God to show us what we needed to do. How can we grow the business? Should I work harder, more hours? Should we sell our house? A couple of years went by, and I was offered a position with Oxford Township Parks and Recreation. It was a modest salary but had phenomenal insurance and benefits. I thought I would retire from there. God answered our prayers.

All the while working there, I had plenty of vacation time, and it allowed me the opportunity to go on many prison trips with the HIM Prison Ministry. I found that most of the men I talked to in prison felt these same feelings of despair, abandonment, loneliness, and doubt. I have concluded when faced with life’s challenges, many of us have these feelings. 

I was reading in Psalms and came upon this passage: “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God” (Psalm 62:5-7).

As I read this passage, it just jumped out at me. Duh! We are not meant to try and solve our problems on our own. We are to put our cares and despairs in His hands. We cannot fix our lives and problems ourselves. We are supposed to surround ourselves in the safe confines of the fortress that God is. Only there will we not be shaken. He is the originator of our hope.

I have come to a place in my faith where I believe it is all about focus. We focus on all that we may not have instead of turning 180 degrees and focusing on the fact God provides for us. He loves us. He protects us.

My God is mighty enough to take care of any situation, care, or concern. How mighty is your God?

God is in the Seasons

Reach | Devotion #3: God is in the Seasons
Kenny Hovis | Prison Ministry Director

I love living in Michigan. I have been to many other beautiful cities, states, and even countries.  Many of them are known for their beautiful waters or mountains. So, why is it that I am so enamored with this magnificent state? For me, it is the four seasons and what each of them has to offer. First, there is the freshness of the air on a winter morning!  Spring brings the fragrance of newly blooming flowers. Hours spent on any one of a thousand lakes or Great Lakes, swimming, boating, or just enjoying a picturesque sunset is nearby during the summer. Finally, there is the grand majesty of fall with its wildly diverse color, each one separate, but together forming a masterpiece by the original art Master. Yes, God is in the seasons.

Through the years of my life, there have been different seasons. I have served in many capacities in the church.  I sang in the choir, traveled in a singing group, taught Sunday school, was a youth director, served in jail ministry, and led worship. I even felt God was leading me to go to school to become a youth pastor.  All the while I told myself that I was doing it for God, but as I look back now, I realize that I was more interested in the approval and praise of men. I was trying to earn my way to Heaven. I yearned to have people like me think I had it all together.

While I was spending so much time trying to earn my way into God’s graces, I was neglecting my family. My wife grew resentful of my time away, and we grew apart. I convinced myself I was the one being wronged, and I stood defiant to all that the Holy Spirit was convicting me. As a result, my marriage of 20 years ended.

Jeremiah 50:31-32 says, “Behold, I am against you, O proud one, declares the Lord God of Hosts, for your day has come, the time when I will punish you. The proud one shall stumble and fall, with none to raise him up, and I will kindle fire in his cities, and it will devour all that is around him.”

I went into a dark season in my life and spent some time trying to convince myself, family, and friends that I had been wronged. The great deceiver had convinced me that my actions were just, and that all would be fine. My faith waned, and I blamed God. Through this season, I reached my lowest point and realized I could not fix it. I had disqualified myself from being a pastor, but if nothing else, I wanted my faith in God to be more real to me than ever. I still pray that prayer today.

Ephesians 2:8-10 is so clear and powerful, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

The season of my life since then has been a constant struggle for me to not feel like damaged goods. I have a nagging voice that chirps in my ear saying, “You are useless to God.” God’s desire through eternity, even to the point of sacrificing His Son, is to have a restored relationship with His creation. I believe God is in the restoration business. He restores us to Himself when we are repentant children, which enables Him to bless us again.

I have been married to a wonderful woman for 13 years now. I see her living out her faith, God revealing Himself to her, and her faith becoming more real to her every day.  Now we still struggle to find the courage to deny ourselves, and live by faith daily, but it is our goal.  We pray that we are an example to our children of how to live by faith.

Now, I tell that voice that I have a purpose. I have been restored by the work of Christ on the cross to a faith, stronger now more than ever. God still has a plan for me.

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