Devotions

Author Archives: Kenny Hovis

1 John 2 • Devotion #5: What is the Truth?

I have been blessed with the opportunity to take teams into prisons to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with inmates and staff alike for the sole reason that it is the only thing that changes people’s lives. I have encountered many people that can be placed in one of three categories: belief, disbelief, or unbelief. I have seen God move miraculously in all three, but one in the “unbelief” category stands out in my mind.

We were in Warren Correctional, London, Ohio, for one of our trips. We went in early in the morning with motorcycles, a band, and a comedian who is also a magician as a means of getting inmates around us so we could have as many as possible with whom to share the Gospel. The team did a great job setting everything up and getting ready to be in front of the inmates. We normally set up a receiving line of sorts to welcome the guys as they enter. We start shaking hands, smiling, sharing a few words of encouragement, then we attempt to find a few guys to connect on a deeper level. I will never forget the first three guys through the gate on this day.

When they came through the gate, there was no one else around the three of them. Tattooed on all exposed skin, including their shaved heads, they declared their unbelief and denial of who Jesus and God are, and many of the symbols proclaimed something darker. They were giving off a “strong stay away from me” vibe with their demeanor and lack of eye contact. One or more of our team attempted to greet and make them welcome, only to be ignored. One of our team actually had his hand slapped away and was told, “Get out of here with that Jesus #*&$! We don’t need it here!”

As I stood by the chaplain, he explained to me that they were Aryan Brotherhood Satanists. That is quite a combination. It is hate upon hate. The Apostle John states in 1 John 2:22, “Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.” They have been deceived by lies and have been convinced that they have no need for Jesus. As self-proclaimed Satanists, they are declaring that they have bought into the sales pitch of the Father of Lies (John 8:44)! 

Many people walk around in that same state. They may not proclaim that they are Satanists, but they also do not profess Jesus as their Savior. They have been fed lies that if they are good enough, moral enough, kind enough, giving enough, or forgiving enough, that will be enough to get them to Heaven. By not acknowledging Jesus Christ as Lord, they, by default, deny who He is, and are at enmity with God! In 1 John 2:23, it states: “No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.” It is the confession of who Jesus is, redeemer, forgiver, and Savior that gives us the restored relationship with God the Father.

As I watched the three of them actually listen to the Gospel as it was presented, I was nudged by the Holy Spirit to go give them one of the books we hand out to all those who want one. I was very hesitant, seeing that not one other inmate would even talk to them, but I grabbed three books, told some team members to tell my wife I love her and headed towards them. I walked up to them and asked the apparent leader if he wanted a book. He paused for what seemed to be hours, but was actually only seconds, and then replied, “Sure.” After I picked my jaw up from the ground, I asked the other two as well, and they both took a book. Some small talk commenced with them; then, they asked what the tattoo was on my arm. I told them it was “Solus Christus,” which in Latin means “Christ Alone.” You could have heard a pin drop until the leader replied: “That’s cool.” Over the next few minutes, I was able to share the Gospel with them, and then the horn sounded for them to go to count. I quickly asked if I could pray with them, to which they replied, “No, thanks.” Not giving up yet, I asked if I could pray for them every time I told the story of how I met them because I would never forget it, and they said, “Sure.”

In 1 John 2:20-21, it says, “But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth.” As Christians, because of our restored relationship with God, through the redemptive work of Jesus on the cross, we have been anointed by the Holy One, and we have knowledge of the truth that the world needs to hear. We just need to have the boldness to proclaim the truth.

I would love to tell you that the three guys rejected the Father of Lies, and came to a relationship through our sharing of the truth, but I do not know that to be true. What I do know are these two things. One, they have now heard the truth, and it is up to them what they do with it, and that I continue to do what I promised to pray for them (even now as I write this devotion).  Secondly, on the way out, the guy whose hand they slapped away, they actually shook his hand and thanked him for coming in that day. I believe the truth, Jesus, was already at work. “Soli Deo Gloria” (Glory to God alone)!

Reach • Devotion #6: The Least of These

Five years ago, I had an opportunity to go on a prison trip to Ohio. I did not know what to expect. I had some anxiety, fear, and a little trepidation in anticipation of encountering the inmates. So many things run through your head. You could very easily talk yourself right out of going if you just let your mind run wild. Little did I know, but that trip would change my life forever in many ways.

While on this trip, I encountered men that were waiting only a few months before being released, to men that were going to be in prison for the rest of their lives. I did not have any idea how much I prejudged people and their worthiness of receiving the gift that I had so freely been given until then. 

In Matthew chapter 25, we find the parable of the sheep and the goats. Jesus is telling His audience what the Kingdom of Heaven will be like. In the parable, the king is talking to the righteous and lists off a number of charitable actions that they had performed. In verse 36, He says, “I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” The second half of that verse is on the back of the shirts we wear into prison. I had read the verse many times, but now the reality was right in front of me. Was I willing to look past what horrible sins these men may have committed to sharing with them the only thing that could give them hope?

I met a man, and he started telling me his story. He had been raised in a family that attended church regularly, but in his late teens and early twenties strayed away. He was arrested, sentenced, and sent to prison. He wanted to get plugged back into his religion. I told him my story on how religion let me down. Religion could not save me. God sent His Son to die for all of our sins so that when we accept His redemptive work on the cross, we could be restored to a right relationship with God. What God really wants is a relationship, not religion. I prayed with him and encouraged him to develop his relationship with God, not to focus on his religion. I do not know what happened to him or the decisions he made or did not make.

As he walked away, I realized I had just shared the truth of the Gospel with someone that the Bible categorized as “the least of these.” I just stood and stared. The truth that I had just shared was the truth of which I needed to be reminded. We all are the least of these. Without the relationship I told this man about, all of us would be in prison, without clothes, hungry, sick, and thirsty, without hope of being rescued.

This is why in Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus gives us the Great Commission. He is commissioning us to reach the world by giving the hopeless hope; the homeless, a home; the sick, a cure; the hungry, the Bread of Life; the thirsty, living water; the prisoners, freedom. We are to reach them so we can teach them about that freedom from our sin, and create in them an insatiable hunger to grow in their newfound hope and faith, so their desire is to repeat the process with others.

Like I said, the prison trip I went on changed me. My prayer is that God gives me the opportunity to share how I have a relationship with Him, and that when He does, that I am bold enough to speak the truth of the Gospel. It changed me and is the only thing that changes people to what God meant them to be.

John 3:17 says, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

Darkness

Ten Plagues | Devotion 6: Darkness
Kenny Hovis

Nyctophobia is the medical term for fear of the dark. When I was a kid, I was terribly afraid of the dark. I really do not know why. It was not like my parents locked me in the basement with the lights off, or in a closet for an extended period of time. I really believe that it was more a fear of the unknown. I had a feeling that there could be something lurking in the darkness brought fear to my mind and trembling to my body. I really believe that I could feel the darkness.

In Exodus 10:21-29, we read about the ninth plague that God brought upon Egypt in order to convince the Pharaoh to let the people of Israel leave. In verse 21, we read, “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness to be felt.’”  Pharaoh had eight other chances to obey God’s commands but had a hard heart that was full of pride and defiance. God brings a darkness that could be “felt.” I used to get scared if I had to go camping for one night, but God takes darkness to another level in this situation. Verses 22-23 tell us that this darkness that could be “felt” was to torment the Egyptian population for three days! It says, “So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was pitch darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days, but all the people of Israel had light where they lived.” This darkness was debilitating. They could not see anything or anyone, and they could not even move. The darkness brought a sort of paralysis.

Most of the world today lives in spiritual darkness, blinded by the lies of Satan, leading to spiritual paralysis. People walk around in denial, with their eyes closed to the evidence of God, even in His creation. They are so blind that it is easier for them to believe that we, and all of creation, are a product of an accident, as though they believe us to be the benefactors of the cosmic lottery!

Moses is a witness to God’s use of darkness to show people their need for “The Light.” In John 8:12, Jesus refers to Himself as “The light of the world.” It says, “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” When we accept Jesus and the redemptive work He did on the cross, we become the light to a world full of darkness. We are told this in Matthew 5:14-16. Jesus says, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

The father of lies attempts to convince the world that darkness is the norm, and that is where they should desire to stay. We need to be a people who choose to live in the truth, the light of Christ’s love, instead of dwelling in darkness. If we do not, that darkness will not only be for three days, but for eternity!

Sojourner

Murder | Devotion 3: Sojourner
Kenny Hovis

As we look at the life of Moses, we learn that he was very human, just like us. If he had a resume, it might read something like this:

  • Former member of the House of Pharaoh of Egypt – Prince
  • Conquering Hero
  • Accomplished Shepherd
  • Mountain Climber (Mt. Sinai)
  • Prophet
  • Published author (Pentateuch)
  • National Leader (Israel)

Conversely, Moses had a number of personal issues you would definitely leave off of a resume. They included anger issues, a convicted murderer, speech impediment, self-doubt, and self-control. I am sure he often felt like in his life, he started out a “hero” and ended up a “zero.” He did not always know what he was doing, or what God had in store for him. Often in my own life, I have found myself in that same condition. I felt like God had used me in some fashion, only to be tripped up by some of the same pitfalls that beset Moses.

In Exodus 2:11-16 we find Moses, a fugitive from Pharaoh (having murdered an Egyptian), holed up in Midian. Hanging out by what was probably one of the few water sources in the area, he saw some young ladies and their sheep being bullied by other shepherds. He came to their defense, ran off the bullies, then drew enough water for all of the young ladies’ sheep. Wondering why his daughters were home from work so early, their dad asked them what happened. He was so impressed with what Moses did that he invited him to dinner. The priest of Midian, Jethro, gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses as a wife. They have a son and Moses named him Gershom. The Bible tells us that Gershom’s name means “sojourner.”

The word sojourner is defined as a person who resides temporarily in a place. I believe this speaks to Moses’s mindset regarding his life to this point. He has no identity. The young ladies at the well identify him as an Egyptian, but he only looked the part. He really was not an Egyptian. He was a Hebrew. He was living in Midian, had a Midianite wife, but he was not a Midianite. He named his son using a word that described how he felt. He felt like a stranger. So who was he supposed to be?

Many times we as Christians find ourselves strangers, sojourners. We may look like the world, but our actions and speech should identify us as “Not of this world” (John 17:16). Peter writes in 1 Peter 2:11-12, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” Because of Who we follow, we are only residing here temporarily. People should be able to see that there is something different about us. They should see that we are “set apart” (2 Corinthians 6:17). Our good deeds should point people to what separates us, the Gospel, and the Gospel, or good news, should point them to Jesus.

Moses ended up finding his identity as a man of God and went on to lead the Israelites out of bondage from Egypt. His life was filled with ups and downs, successes and failures, just like ours are.

Is your identity that of a man or woman of God? Do you think of yourself as a “sojourner” in this world, with your eyes set on your glorifying God with your good deeds so that people will know your true identity? I pray that this is our goal!

“TETELESTAI”

Finished | Devotion #5: “TETELESTAI”
Kenny Hovis

A few years back, my wife got her first tattoo. It hurt so bad (on the top of her foot) that she said she would never get another. Well, now she has four and thinking of another. For a number of years, she has told me to get one. Although not against tattoos, I just could not think of something I wanted permanently put on my body that would not look ridiculous years from now. So I always told her I would think about it.

Late in the summer of 2014, I heard about the prison trips that our church was going on, and after praying about it, decided to go on one. It changed my life. I was taken out of my comfort zone socially and spiritually and launched into an environment that was raw and real. I had never witnessed broken people like that before. I had participated in jail ministry before, but this was completely different. There were men coming up to you asking if you would pray with them about their faith, family, health, safety, and their court case. I realized that the faith that had sustained me, and for the most part I had kept to myself, was exactly what these men were searching! So, I opened my mouth and trusted God. 

I quickly realized that I am an addict; I was addicted to seeing people coming to be self-aware of their need of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I saw my life and faith change, just like the men’s lives with whom I was praying. They would transform right in front of my eyes. I brought those experiences home with me and could not shut up about it! The next year, I went on almost every prison trip. They could not keep me away. I did whatever the team needed so it was difficult for them to say I could not go. 

Realizing that tattoos are a big deal in prison, I actually started thinking of something to have tattooed on my forearm so that an inmate would look at it and ask what it meant. Secondly, it would appease my wife. I came across a picture of the Greek word, “TETELESTAI.” Greek is the language in which the New Testament was written, and “TETELESTAI” is written as the account of Jesus’ last words before dying for every person’s sins. John 19:30 says, “When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” “It is finished” is the most common translation, but more specifically translated “TETELESTAI” is an accounting term. When you had a debt that had been completely paid for, in Greek you would say “TETELESTAI,” or “paid in full.” I fell in love with the word.

Dying on the cross the way He did, Jesus paid the debt for me that I could not pay on my own. He did not make a down payment, partial payment, or an installment. It was completed, done, finished, and “paid in full!” Someone has to pay for your sin and mine. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Without Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross, we would have to pay the debt our sin creates with God. Jesus’ proclamation just before He died, paid the debt for everyone that accepts that payment in their place. It is not a loan; it is a gift! His death makes our debt, paid in full.

I made sure of the spelling, picked out a font and style, went to the tattoo artist my wife went to and had three crosses with the word “TETELESTAI” next to them tattooed on my forearm. Now, when an inmate or anyone on the street sees it and asks what it means, I am able to say, “It is a daily reminder that there was an extravagant price paid for me to be able to have a relationship with God and a place in His family. Can I tell you about it?”

I hope I never tire of telling people why I have a funny looking word tattooed on my arm. That funny looking word means everything to me!



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