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What Makes a Man? Jeff Kemp

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
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November 6, 2023 5:15 am

What Makes a Man? Jeff Kemp

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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November 6, 2023 5:15 am

From six-pack abs to sexual conquest to a big bank account or even spiritual performance, you might get the idea real manhood is earned. But former NFL Seahawks quarterback NFL Jeff Kemp knows that can leave a guy burned out, isolated, and confused. He tells his own story of moving out of insecurity and into confidence in what really makes a man—without competing or pretending.

Build a brotherhood and grab a copy of Jeff Kemp's Level Five Friendship Playbook: MenHuddle.com

..And listen in on Jeff's Podcast, Every Man Ministries

And grab his book, Receive: The Way of Jesus for Men —or receive it free with your donation.

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Okay, so it's not every day we have a quarterback in the studio. I don't even know what to think. Are we going to be talking football the whole day?

I mean, there's literally a football on our table. What is this? Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at familylifetoday.com. This is Family Life Today. Jeff Kemp is sitting across in Orlando, Florida on Family Life Today. Jeff, welcome to Family Life.

Who is Jeff Kemp? I thought Dave Wilson was the quarterback that was in this studio every single day. That's what my wife thinks, you know, because I might talk about football a little bit.

I don't know. You're so funny because you know what we're going to talk about is identity and who we really are. And this quarterback stuff and NFL and you're the big hotshot host of this podcast. But at the end of the day, yeah, I'm Jack and Joanne's son and Stacey's husband, the father of four married sons, grandpa to nine. And I'll net it out this simply way.

I'm the beloved son adopted by a perfect dad. And that is my anchor. That is my identity. That's what I got to live out of.

And that fixes a lot of junk. Football was a big part of who you thought you were as a young man, right? Quick background. My dad was an NFL quarterback. He played for the Buffalo Bills, was in the AFL for years, won two championships, was the most valuable player of the league. So I grew up with a dad that was an NFL quarterback.

And people say, Hey, what are you gonna do when you grow up? I said, play quarterback. I didn't know it was a tough job to get, but he was really, really good. And he was also super encouraging. My dad was so cool.

Unconditional love, kisses and hugs after every game. One time I was on the bench, not being the guy that was on the field playing. And he said, I saw you today.

You look great. I said, Dad, I didn't get in the game. And I'm all mad. He said, Oh, I know, but I saw you warming up.

You're throwing great. So he was that kind of optimistic, encouraging, visionary dad. Your day's going to come.

You know, he was like the voice of the angel, always telling me about my future. The challenge was the way I interpreted that was I'm going to be really good someday, but I'm not right now. I'm eighth grade and I quit football because I couldn't be the quarterback. I'm 10th grade and I'm third string. I'm 11th grade and I'm third string.

I'm freshman and sophomore in college. I'm third string. I'm a free agent in the NFL. Oh, I made the team, but I'm third string.

Some people say that's pretty cool. Making the NFL is nice. Being a quarterback. For me, it was enough because my dad had lived at a higher level. Plus, at 34 years old, he ran for Congress and won. At 50, he ran for president. So my vision of being a significant success and leader was way too high.

Wow. Even though he was unconditional and affirming and loving to my sisters and my brother and me. And I had a faith in Jesus, like this, go to heaven, let my sins be forgiven.

He's a great help in my life. But my identity was I got to be a success. Did you feel like a failure? I didn't feel like a failure. I felt like I hadn't arrived yet.

Yeah. And so I wasn't confident. And I remember trying to please every one of the audiences in high school, especially in college.

I was a chameleon, depending on who I was with. I'd have to get drunk to go to a party if we lost the game because I was insecure that I didn't play well. So people wouldn't look at me in a positive way.

I'd go to Bible study during football season to get maybe God's benefit. But I'd hide my Bible under my parka walking out of my fraternity because I didn't want to be seen as Mr. Holy Christian, partly because of the hypocrisy. And partly I just didn't think they'd think that was cool. So I was insecure. I was worried what people thought. I'd act cocky and confident. I bet a lot of guys know exactly what I'm talking about.

You are describing my college life. Yeah, I didn't know it then. You probably didn't know it then.

We both know it now. It was all identity. I didn't know who I was. So I projected an image to pretend I knew who I was. And I was it was all just a facade. And I think a lot of men do that, right?

They do. And between you and me, we cover the gamut. I had the incredible present, encouraging, complimentary. I love you.

You're going to be great. You know, kiss you, hug you, support your dad. And I still I still had a vacuum because it hadn't been filled by the perfect father. You had a dad leave and set a bad example and introduce you to negative things. And so you didn't know who you were. And you needed and actually you did have a perfect father, but it just took you a while to discover him. Same here. It took me a while to discover him. And the last three years, even though I've been walking with Jesus since my football career started way back in 81, I've been letting God father me in a new way that has really made a difference and set me free from wanting to be more significant, wanting to be better at speaking, wanting to be more popular in ministry, wanting to succeed. Not anymore on the NFL standpoint or the business standpoint, but oh, yeah, I do some ministry and I do some speaking.

I'd like to have 2000 people in my speech, not 200. Yeah, that stuff has gone through my my head and heart all through my life. All until three years ago. But God is setting me free from that. Like what happened?

I'll give credit to God. But when Covid happened, it was a blitz because every speech I had got canceled within two days. So I had like three months of travel and speaking to men's conferences and men's retreats and other events cancel.

So there can be no travel, no speaking, no doing what I love to do, connecting with men and no income. And I said, Stacy, this isn't looking too good. She goes, you know what? This is fine. God's in charge. You've been speaking way too much. You've been on the road way too much. I'm lonely. You need to come home. We need to connect. Let's play tennis again.

I said, high school. And I realized I now have time to really connect with God more so than I had been. Like instead of a quick 10 minute quiet time and then rushing off somewhere, I said, OK, God, I have time with you. And a friend of mine, Big Ed McGlasan, former NFL player and then a pastor and evangelist. I was jealous of him because he was such a great evangelist and speaker back in my compare days. He told me that with a Navy dad that drove him to succeed, he made it in the NFL. But then when he blew his knee out, he said, OK, God, I'll be in ministry. And he drove and succeeded with doing the Bible. But he was losing the heart of his wife and his daughter because Christianity isn't a performance thing. Manhood isn't a performance thing. You don't earn your identity.

You receive it. Well, Ed at 40 years old was wise enough to say, Abba, Father, I need to be re-fathered. And he stopped reading the Bible as a Christian and started reading it as a son listening to his heavenly father to see what he's going to say to him. And it told him who he was identity wise. And it set him free from having to perform, perform, perform. And he actually developed empathy and it blossomed in his marriage and with his fathering to daughters and such. So I said, God, re-follow me. I'm going to follow Big Ed's example.

Let me just say, Ann, I can't go into it all now. But I felt so much closer and secure and intimate in my relationship with God as I started thinking of him as my father and I'm his son. And the Bible is his message to me. And I'm excited to open it up and see what he's going to say today. And it's not like I got to check the box or I feel guilty.

That's what's been happening. I was writing this book, Receive the Way of Jesus for Men, before COVID, before this blitz and before this re-fathering. But the title changed, the message changed and all the stuff I thought I'd learned and would give to men that's really good stuff kind of went to the shelf. And I said, how did Jesus live as a man? Well, he lived as a son and the father gave him his manhood and he gave him his mission and he gave him his power and he gave him his guidance. And that then shaped this message. This is the way of Jesus. You know, a lot of guys, Dave, talk about what is to be a man?

We need the vision. But then guys try it and they kind of fall short and then they feel guilty and then they mess up again and then they have shame and they start faking it and then they pull away. It doesn't work if you don't know the way to do it. The way to do it is not in your own strength.

Yeah, you got to walk us through that because, you know, as athletes, we know this, but any man and I guess in women, the same thing, the way to live as a follower of Christ, man or woman, especially I can talk as a man is achieve, not receive. Receive sounds passive. It sounds like I don't do anything. I just somebody else does it. A man makes things happen.

A man achieves. You've already described we both live that way. This is how we function as men and the better we achieve, the better man we are and the more respected we are. So help us understand, receive does not sound like the way to go, but if that's the way of Jesus, then what's that look like? This is ironic for two quarterbacks telling men to be receivers.

You know, quarterback, lead, initiate, take charge, perform, achieve. The way Jesus did it was to, even though he was perfect and all powerful, he humbled himself and he stayed totally connected to his father. Whereas you and I kind of graduate and get out from our dad's wings. And he said, the father's always at work and I'm always at work. I only do what the father tells me. I only say what the father tells me to say.

The son can do nothing apart from the father. So Jesus humbled himself, connected to the father, depended on the father, listened to the father and waited till the father gave him the game plan as well as the power. Now, Jesus was already humble.

That's why he did this. You and I aren't humble, naturally. I see your smile. Well, you went to Dartmouth, so you're that intellectual. So you're even way above me. But we're not naturally humble.

But if we receive our identity and we receive our mission and we receive our manhood and the ability to love our wife well or fix this thing that we messed up with our daughter or son or maybe to be a very good servant leader at work and we receive it and we can sense, well, God gave that to me. I didn't invent that. Guess who gets the credit? Him.

And that protects us from what I call the kryptonite of American Christianity for leaders. Pride. Glory. Glory is only for God. When you get a bunch of glory, guess what comes with it? Pride. And pride's the beginning of sin, the beginning of a fall. So if you receive your manhood, receive your identity, receive your strength, receive your guidance, and it goes well, you kind of sit back and say, wow, thanks, God.

Great job. And it protects you, you know? And a woman's probably going to have an easier time respecting and following and really being excited at the leadership of a husband who's humble because he's getting his guidance from Father God. When you say receive, that's like an ethereal. I'm thinking of guys and sons that are listening to that, like, I want that.

I want to receive. But like, how does that happen? How do you do it? Maybe a good answer will come to me after I tell a little bit about how I try to do it.

Like we can synthesize it into a couple of phrases. But I started waking up in the morning and the very first thing I do is I don't look at my phone or other stuff. I just kind of stop for a minute or two or three, either in my chair in the family room or out in the back deck.

Sometimes just fall to my knees on the side of the bed. And I say, God, thank you that I get to be your son. Help me just sit with you as my father and remember that you're a perfect father and you got me and I'm your son. If you're in charge of me and you're better at it than me, how do you want this day to go? And that's not what you did in the past.

No, I didn't used to do that. I had quiet times and stuff some of the time. But it was kind of like, what am I going to study or what am I going to read or what devotion am I going to do today? So basically, I'm starting with gratitude and presence with Abba Father. You're inviting him in right away. I'm inviting him to remind me I'm his son and my identity is his son and he's my dad. Now, what do you want the day to look like?

And from there, there's some other things. I use my journal and in my journal, it's actually over my little book. I wrote my own little Shema, the Jewish Shema, the Lord our God is one. You shall love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind. I wrote something that says, Father God, Lord Jesus, Holy Spirit, Father me, lead me, fill me. You're my father. I belong to you.

I want you to run my life. I have a couple of different versions of it, but I'll try to say something like that early on in the day. Sometimes I'll even rewrite it, but I have it in my journal in the front so I see it each day. And then, hey, what do you want me to read today? It might be a devotion on my phone. I get one from Big Ed McLassen.

I get one from Kenny Luck. It may just be open up the Psalms or Proverbs. There's a sermon was great at church and I'm going to jump into it again. So God's going to guide my devotion time, my Bible reading. And I use my journal a lot. It's not like a diary, girly thing, all my perfect emotions and stuff. I bullet point things.

Thank you for this, this and this. I usually start with some gratitudes and then I'll write up a couple of questions. God, what do you want me to know about this? And then it's interesting how since I started reading the Bible as a son, I write a lot about what God's saying to me in the Bible. And it's very personalized.

So stickiness. Start the day by just sit with God and try to say, I'm your son, you're my father. How do you want to guide me? Secondly, start reading the Bible or listening to a devotion or going to a sermon as a son waiting to hear from your dad. And then third, realize that you didn't invent your brain and your thoughts and your desires and your reactions and stuff.

God gave it to you. So instead of just running off with your brain and thinking what you think, wanting what you want, planning out your day the way you want, just stop for a second and say, I'd like to steward what you gave me. What do you want me to think? What do you want me to game plan today? How do you want me to set up my time? Now, I do not do this 100%, 90%, 80%.

I'm probably like 35% doing this. But when I don't, I didn't start off today as a son. I got a funny story about that one. Stacy and I date by playing tennis. We're very different in many ways, but we love tennis and we're actually competitive.

We play at seven in the morning when it's not too humid and hot in Little Rock. I get up at the last second and so I didn't have my sit down in the chair with Abba Father and just showed up, wiping the sleep out of my eyes, started warming up and I wasn't hitting the tennis ball well. And what's a competitive guy do when he's having that happen? He starts hitting it harder and harder. Then he gets frustrated.

I just made it. Well, it's no fun for Stacy because the ball's going in the net and passed her. And I stopped and I said, what is wrong with me? I'm not playing tennis as a son. And I didn't beat myself up.

Say, Jeff, you're the biggest jerk in the world. I just kind of said, this isn't working because I'm not operating as a son. And I said, Lord, help me.

I want to play tennis as a son. And as soon as I said that, I kind of relaxed. My muscles kind of relaxed.

I started stroking the tennis ball much better, which you know, relaxing in sports is better than tension. I realized, well, this is supposed to be fun for her, too, not just me. And we had a great time. We had a conversation. I played well.

She played well. We were smiling. And it was all because I made the shift from being Jeff to being a son. That is received. That is not achieved. I didn't figure this out and accomplish that. I didn't achieve it, Dave.

And I did not achieve my identity. I received it because Jesus died on the cross. And it says in 2 Corinthians 5, verse 21, that God made him who never ever sinned to be sin's punishment for us who do sin so that we could be made right with God and made into the righteousness of God, which is a wild concept that you could explain as a pastor and Bible student better than I, but I see it this way. If he's making us into the righteousness of Christ, and I'm not behaving perfectly like that today, it must be outside of time and space God sees me that way because Jesus accomplished it for me. And I'll be that in the future. So God's given me credit for it right now.

So why don't I live from that identity and truth instead of trying to earn it by following all the church rules, avoiding all the bad sins, being Mr. Nice Guy That Proves Stuff and Gives His Money Away and, you know, acts like a great Christian, but really is doing some of it out of pride. He achieved it. We receive it. And that's true not only for men, but for women. Of course. Just like just that, just to receive, it's like every day it's being reminded of who we are in him.

And that's a great place to start. And there's a part of me, Jeff, that when I think of you doing that, here's what I envision, right or wrong, you have a vision of a loving father. So when you say receive from your father being a son, I'm like, well, that's an easy concept for you. It took me years to understand the word of God revealed a loving father. It was a new vision for me. I had never seen that.

So it took a while. You could say, hey, live as a son. I'm like, I don't even know what that means. I sort of ran away to find my life because it wasn't in a connection with my earthly father. But, man, when you start digging in, like you said, to scripture, I don't know if I've ever read it like you just said. I'm inspired right now to think I'm going to I'm going to start reading the word as a son. I do know a heavenly father now. That whole vision has been re-resurrected.

It's a better word for me years ago. And I understand that now. And I wanted to be that to my own sons. But that's inspiring to think, OK, what would that look like?

So that's my first thought. My dad wasn't perfect. His flaws were really, really big, but his heart and love for his family was real, real big. And he didn't carry it out perfectly. I mean, my mom probably got the worst deal. We kids probably got a great deal. And I'm trying to be as honorable and appropriate as I can be.

But we're all fallible. And talk about glory, you know, my dad got a lot of glory, which wasn't good for him. Late in life, he had a challenge with an addiction that he faced in music when the family asked him to get healing on it. And he did.

That was a blessing. It humbled him. He had a challenge with cancer, which he fought for four and a half months. And it took his life. That humbled him. He ended his life very close, intimate and free with God. It wasn't, he said, when I die, don't make it about football, don't make it about politics, don't make it about business.

I just want it to be about the Lord and his blessing and our family. So he ended there. But I empathize right now with every guy out there, because the majority of guides didn't have a dad who was connected, present, encouraging, honorable, integrous, positive, affectionate. But 100 percent of us did not have a perfect dad to begin with. All of us.

Right. And what I would say is there's a truth I've heard that the two most important things that shape your life and the person you're going to be are your view of God and your view of yourself. What's my view of God and what's my view of myself? And then start asking God to show you who he really is versus what American Christianity has said he is, what the church that hurt you says he is, what your dad who hurt you or left or divorced and left the family at age six, like Steve Largent's dad, my teammate and really close friend who traveled this journey and has healed from it. Go to the scriptures.

Ask God to show you who he is. And maybe you go to Luke 15, where Jesus tells the story of what a really cool dad is like, a great dad, a dad that had a wild party and, you know, give me the money and I'm going to run prodigal son. And then he had a I'm going to stay at home, follow all the rules.

But I'm prideful, arrogant. I deserve and I'm really mad. I was going to say a worse word than that at the little brother who you just were nice to dad. That dad jumped off the porch, ran to his son, didn't say one word about his couple years of wasting his life with prostitutes and partying. New sandals, ring, a robe, a party, a barbecue. And then the older brother complains and he says, son, everything I've always had has been yours.

Please come in and celebrate. Your brother was lost. He was dead. But now he's alive.

He's found. That's what Father God, Abba Father, that Jesus called him Abba, Daddy. That's really what he's like. Satan is the enemy of God. And he wants to make everything good seem bad, everything bad seem good.

And he's messed up our view of God as Father. So he can fix that for you, Dave. You're a great guy to talk to because you started from the tough situation. And secondly, he wants to fix your view of yourself. Guys, I'm listening and I'm thinking of women that are listening to this thinking, I long for this for my husband. He is achieving. He's a good guy. He's trying to make it happen. How would you encourage wives to help their husbands? Is there anything we can do besides pray? Well, you can try what Stacey did early on when I didn't have much of a clue as a selfish, me-centered husband who thought he was a great guy, who married a beautiful girl and bought Gary Smalley books and would earmark him and put yellow tags in and put them on my nightstand.

That didn't work. I heard him speak at a conference one time. He's funny. He had this, you know, self-deprecating, fun and kind of off-the-cuff humor approach. I said, this guy's awesome. I love what he's saying. I want to get his book. She goes, those are the ones I've been giving you.

I thought he was a wimp and, you know, got pushed around. We're all going to learn different ways. But as far as your answer, you said pray. Everything is pray. That's what receiving is. We think it's not that powerful, but it's everything.

It is. But you can't pray, God, I'm going to script the timeline and the manner in which you do these things. You basically got to say, you know what? God, you're smarter than me. God, you're more loving than me. God, you're more beneficial and positive than me. And you like better things in my life than I know for myself.

So I'm going to trust you. Whatever you think is best, whatever brings you joy and pleasure, God, I want that for my husband. Give him the best of you. And I think it might have to do with his identity getting healed. Would you please help him know what a beloved son he is and heal him from that dad junk or that image problem he's got? And I would add, too, to pray as you're praying that, Lord, help me to say the things that you've been trying to say to him. So let me say the things that you're already saying.

The Gideon story in Judges chapter 6 has a guy who's 19 years old. He's not a general or a leader or a stud yet. He's afraid. All of Israel is afraid of the Midianites. He's hiding in a wine press, beating out some wheat.

Good job. He says, I'm the least in my family and my family is the least in Israel. His self-identity is not super strong. His image is low. We live on image too much in America. So Gideon's stuck.

He's pretty normal. It's at that moment, the angel of the Lord, which some say is Jesus, you know, pre-appearing, comes and says, Gideon, a great and mighty man of valor, mighty warrior, the Lord is with you. God sees you outside of time and space and he defines who you will become when you receive Jesus Christ and your true identity and who you'll be in eternity when all is perfect is who you are now to God.

So we are supposed to live from that. Now, my dad was a Gideon type dad. He spoke words into me, but they're a little bit more about leadership and performance than identity and relationship with God or even character per se. But a wife, if she will tap into a man's deepest need for respect and to know that I love the desire you have to be a good man. I love your desire to work hard. I know you want to be so much better in so many areas. You don't have to be perfect. I'm proud of you. You're going to be there. I see you that way right now, whatever it is in your style with him to speak those Gideon affirming type words into his heart. Emerson Eggrich says, speak as if you're giving a credit for the thing that he wants to be before he is that. And he will be far more motivated than saying, hey, you didn't mow the lawn. You forgot to take out the trash and our finances are rotten. Can you please get this stuff straightened out?

I've asked you 10 times. Man, all of a sudden, if I hear those things, which I forget to do those things a lot. I'm ADD and Stacy's a perfectionist. She's not saying you're a failure, but I hear you're failing. And men fear failure more than anything else.

And we fear it in our marriage from our wife more than with anyone else. You can boo me at a stadium. You can say rotten stuff about me in the media. I don't care.

I'm going to complain next week and prove that you're wrong. That's a little bit of the old competitive, Jeff. But if my wife lets me know that I've hurt her or I fell short, that feeling of failure will make me defensive real quick. The antidote to that stuff is knowing what God really thinks about you.

Because then you don't have to panic and say, I stink. Or defend yourself and say, no, I'm really good. I'm a better husband than 99 out of 100 guys. I'm better than my dad, which was my old line. I'm better than my dad. She's saying, you know, you got to set the bar.

Realistically, Jesus is the bar. So that's the answer, I think. That's good.

Prayer and then affirming his true identity for who he wants to be and who God knows he is and is going to make him. And not just dwelling on, hey, you're not quite there. And all I know is that's what you've done for me. Oh, that's nice.

You have done that. And another big piece of it, and we'll talk about this tomorrow, is that man, and we are that man, needs men. Knowing our identity in Christ will shape everything we do. Everything we think, everything we say, believe, and even have an attitude about who I am in Christ is something I have to remind myself of every stinking day. Because when I wake up in the morning, I forget.

I don't know about you, but I forget. So remind yourself right now about who you are in Jesus and move out into your day secure in him. I love this conversation. I'm Shelby Abbott, and you've been listening to Dave and Anne Wilson with Jeff Kemp on Family Life Today. Jeff has written a book called Receive the Way of Jesus for Men.

Now, if you want to grow and develop and reach your potential as a man, this is the perfect book to help you do that. And it's going to be our gift to you when you partner with us financially. So how do you do that? You can go online to familylifetoday.com, or you can give us a call with your donation at 800-358-6329. Again, that number is 800, F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. And feel free to drop us something in the mail, too, if you like.

Our address is Family Life 100 Lakehart Drive, Orlando, Florida, 32832. Now, I want to make sure that you know about checking out Jeff's Level 5 Friendship Playbook. It's going to be in the show notes today. It's where Jeff will show you how to build a brotherhood, a small huddle of trusted friends who you share your life with, confess your sin, and live in the freedom that comes with being in a community of men. Again, you can check that out in today's show notes. But tomorrow, Dave and Ann Wilson are going to be joined again by Jeff Kemp as he explores the crisis of manhood and the way of Jesus for men. That's tomorrow. We hope you'll join us. On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a donor-supported production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you...
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-06 07:13:08 / 2023-11-06 07:26:36 / 13

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