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Receive: The Way of Jesus for Men: Jeff Kemp

with Jeff Kemp | November 7, 2023
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Ever feel the burn of trying to prove yourself as a guy? Former NFL Seahawks quarterback Jeff Kemp shows what it means to receive your identity as God's son and drink in Jesus' perfect example of being a man.

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  • Ever feel the burn of trying to prove yourself as a guy? Former NFL Seahawks quarterback Jeff Kemp shows what it means to receive your identity as God's son and drink in Jesus' perfect example of being a man.

Former NFL Seahawks quarterback Jeff Kemp shows what it means to receive your identity as God’s son and drink in Jesus’ perfect example of being a man.

Receive: The Way of Jesus for Men: Jeff Kemp

With Jeff Kemp
November 07, 2023
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Jeff: To be known, and still liked, feels way better than to be not known—to fake it and to be impressive—but no one really knows you.

Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife 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

Ann: This is FamilyLife—


Dave: Today.

Dave: Are you excited about today?

Ann: Yes, because we’re going to talk about the crisis going on in our country.

Dave: Yes, we’ve got an expert in the studio—Jeff Kemp is back—and we’re going to talk about the manhood crisis. It’s been a crisis for a long time; but we’re feeling it in a way, in this generation, I don’t know if we’ve ever felt it before.

Ann: And we’re going to be talking about his book, Receive. The subtitle is The Way of Jesus for Men. Jeff, you tell us: “What is the crisis?” Because you’ve been talking about this, thinking about it, dreaming about it, and wanting to help men.

Jeff: Well, a crisis of men not doing well, either having no confidence or having confidence in the wrong things—it damages, not just them: we have higher suicide rates and depression rates; obviously, loneliness and isolation—but it damages the women they don’t marry, that they should; the women they’re married to/their wives, and the kids who aren’t getting a healthy dad, who knows how to connect, and love, and persevere through challenges, and invest in them.

Beneath the crisis of manhood is the crisis of identity—that touches women, teenage girls, teenage boys, little boys, little girls, old men, young men, and women as well—but men in particular really struggle; because they’re told: “You’ve got to prove yourself; you’ve got to earn your identity. You’ve got to be something!” Andre Agassi said, “Image is everything.” We’ve been practicing that since that famous athlete—who had a blonde wig and, actually, was going bald—he took a shower before a tennis match one time; and his wig got kind of wigged out, to use a phrase. [Laughter] It was starting to come off, and he was afraid during a match, Dave. This is one of the best tennis players in the world!

Ann: I read this in your book! I had never known this.

Jeff: Yes! He was worried about his hairpiece coming off, and his image not looking good; and he lost the tournament.

Dave: I get this, Jeff; I understand that. Oh, dear! [Laughter]

Jeff: It’s got nothing to do with you, Dave. [Laughter]

If we’re basing our lives on our image, our performance, our achievement—you know, who’s following us, our last position, etc., what the crowd thinks of us—we’re on very shaky ground. You can’t relate well to people when you’re worried about what they think about you.

Dave: Well, it’s interesting: we’re sitting here talking to you—and of all the people in the world, who have had an image that most men would just die to have: you played in the NFL; you know, you’re one of sixty-four quarterbacks; I mean, starters and backups—you’re in that club!

Ann: You went to an Ivy League school.

Dave: I mean, you’ve got everything. A lot of men would say, “If I had what Jeff Kemp had, I would be okay. [My] image would be alright; my identity…”

Jeff: The truth is, if you had what Jeff Kemp had, it wouldn’t have been enough for you, like it wasn’t for me: I didn’t want to be a backup; I wanted to be a starter. I didn’t want to start; I wanted to win the Super Bowl. Secondly, you might be confident on the outside; but you’d still be insecure, as I was.

Ann: Yesterday, we talked about the first part of your book—receiving—to receive as a son. That’s your identity—as a son—not as an individual, who’s striving to earn the respect or the fame.

Jeff: Exactly. It’s much easier to be a real (authentic, natural, not faking it) and good (benevolent, positive, making a difference/benefit people)—it’s much easier to be a real and good man if you can receive it from the only One, who’s real and good perfectly—Jesus—than trying to perform for it or achieve it; because you’re going to fall short, and then you’re going to feel some shame and failure. Then you’re going to start pretending or hiding it; you’re always going to fall short. There’s always going to be somebody you can compare to who’s better, like in football.

Dave: Yes.

Jeff: But Jesus is the blueprint of manhood. Look for the core of masculinity and manhood in Jesus; that will work across all cultures. The problem is, even to try to be like Him is a losing proposition, I’m never going to measure up to Him.

Dave: Right.

Jeff: But if you look at the way He lived as a man, that gives everyone hope. He basically did it by depending on His Father and receiving from His Father—not moving until His Father said, “Move”; not talking until His Father said, “Say this,”—and then giving the credit to the Father, which kept Him humble. No one’s been more humble than the perfect Man. Dave and I—we’re not quite perfect—and we have a little problem with pride still, right? [Laughter] It’s silly, you know?—the imperfect people are proud—but Jesus, the perfect One, was humble.

The way of Jesus/of receiving—I looked through the Bible, starting in 2020, when Covid hit—I went home, and had no speeches, nothing to do but to work on this book and ask God to re-Father me. I found 221 ways in the Gospels that Jesus acted as a man. They net out to this—He connected with His Father to receive His Father’s guidance—[from] Luke, Mark, Matthew, I have all these passages:

“I had to be in My Father’s house.” That was when He was 12 years old.

“Early in the morning, when it was dark, Jesus got up, got out of the house, went to a solitary place, and prayed to His Father.”

“At daybreak, Jesus went out to an isolated place.”

“He often withdrew to pray.”

“Immediately after this…”—this is the feeding of the 5,000—He told His disciples to get into the boat and go out into the storm; and He went up in the mountain to be with His Father, and He spent the night in prayer with His Father.

He took Peter, James, and John—that sounds like a [few] deep Level 5-close friends; they had a higher level than even the 12—and He took them to the mountain, where He was transfigured. He let them share that special experience of connecting with the Father.

Jesus always connected to the Father. Then, here’s the wildest thing; it says this in John—multiple chapters—“Jesus said, ‘My Father’s always at work, and so am I. I only do, and I only say what My Father tells me to say and do,’” “The words I share, I have gotten them from My Father.” Then He says this, “The Son can do nothing apart from the Father.”

Ann: Woo!

Jeff: Basically, the perfect most powerful Man in history, who also was present at the creation of the world and had a hand in that, and rises from the dead, and He’s so stinking strong that He chooses to bear the load of all sin for all time—the strongest, most perfect man ever—says, “I can do nothing apart from My Father.” What that really means is He chose to humble Himself and be dependent upon His Father. And that made Him the greatest man ever.

Dave: Even as I hear you say that, I think, “Do we believe what Jesus knew was reality?— ‘I can do nothing apart from my Father’?” Jesus said in John 15, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Apart from me, you can do nothing.”

Jeff: —nothing.

Dave: I think—as a pastor, I preached that—“Do I believe it?” There’s part of me [saying], “Well, I can do some things; I can’t do big things.” No! What Jesus is saying is, “You can do nothing apart from Me.” He lived that way; I think there’s part of the pride in a man to say, “Yes, I agree with that 95 percent”; but 5 percent of me says, “I’m not that bad!”

Jeff: Right.

Ann: That’s so funny!

Dave: You know?

Jeff: Well, it goes back to the two things we talked about in the last show: the two most important things shaping you are:

  1. Your view of God: “Is it accurate or not?” and
  2. Your view of yourself: “Is it accurate or not?”

Dave: Right.

Jeff: If your view of God is inaccurate, you’re not so sure that depending totally on God in every situation is really going to turn out that well. I thought, leading up to when I graduated from college, “It’s not going to be that fun if I give myself totally to God.

Dave: Right.

Ann: That was Dave, too!

Dave: Literally.

Jeff: “So I’m going to hold on—I’ll take the salvation piece—but I’m kind of in charge of everything else.”

I would urge any man: God is a trillion times better than you think. Go straight to the source—ask Him what He’s really like—read the Bible. The Prodigal Son story?—read about his dad; that’s what Jesus said the Father’s like. So if you really trust Him—that He’s that benevolent and good—then you’re a little bit more okay with this.

Your other point was: “We like control:—

Dave: Yes.

Jeff: —“’Ah, I want to take charge. I want to say: “I cleaned up my life; I straightened out that alcohol thing,” “I fixed that debt problem we had; I’m proud of that.”’”

Dave: I mean, it’s in us! I remember, at our church, we had multiple campuses. We would have live teaching; but one of us would write the message, right? I write this message. I bump into some guy or lady the next day on Monday. She was at a different campus—and here’s what she said, “Man,”; it wasn’t Jeff, but I’ll use your name—“Jeff preached yesterday the most amazing message. I’m so impressed by him!” Now, Jeff, what am I thinking?—"I wrote it.”

Jeff: Yes.

Dave: She’s thinking he wrote it. Who cares who wrote it?—it’s the Word of God; all I did was preach it. But it’s in there [pride].

That also points to identity: “Who am I?” I’m not acting like a son; I’m acting like the older brother. You know, I’m mad at somebody else, who’s getting credit for what I did.

Jeff: You want to keep score.

Dave: Yes.

Jeff: There’s a paradox. I think we know the Christian life/the Jesus Way is upside-down to the world.

Ann: Right.

Jeff: We don’t really live it that well, but it is. There’s a pride/humility paradox. Pride says, “I want to be in control; I want to earn it; I want to perform it, and I’d like the credit for it.”

Humility says, “I didn’t invent myself. I’m going to submit to the God who made me; I’m going to depend on Him. And I’m going to make the interest of others ahead of myself.” It’s not making less of yourself; it’s thinking of yourself less, because you’re thinking of others.

Ann: Yes.

Jeff: Jesus is the definition of humility; Philippians 2 clarifies it real clearly.

Here’s how pride destroys and humility wins: two football stories.

In my last season of football, we’re playing on Sunday Night Football against the Raiders; I’m on the Seahawks. We were leading, going into the fourth quarter; and I thought, “Good.” I had a pretty good game; we needed to win. “This is really going to help; whew!” You know, “Way to go!” Meanwhile, the coaches were thinking similarly: “Let’s go to some conservative offensive calling,” and “Let’s go to some prevent defense.”

Jay Schroeder picked us apart that night. We went into overtime and, trying to protect things, I threw a pass that a friend of mine caught in overtime; his name was Ronnie Lott, and he was on the wrong team. [Laughter] That interception cost us the game, because they kicked a field goal in the next play. I was cut from the NFL, as a starting quarterback, the next day; humbled completely!

Ann: Oh!

Jeff: Because I had been operating out of: “I’m pretty good,” “I need to get this win; protect the win/our pride”; and we lost.

Monday night, about five weeks later, I’m in Philadelphia, playing for the Eagles. I don’t know the system; I haven’t practiced much. I had a concussion my first week when I played with them—went to the hospital—and this was like two weeks later, and we’re going to Houston to play Monday Night Football.

Ann: Oh.

Jeff: I’m flying down there, Dave, in the plane and on the bus—and on the sidelines in pre-game—I’m thinking, “This is the first time in my life I’ve never wanted to get in the game,” because [I have] no confidence. But there was a cool thing: I’m 11 years into my walk with Christ. I’ve been cut now; I’ve been traded twice; I’ve been booed once or twice; [Laughter] cheered plenty of times. I’ve had a lot of different lessons of discipleship that my identity is not as a quarterback; it’s in Christ. I had no fear: “If I play great, that would be great,” “If I play medium, okay,” “If I play terrible, God still loves me; He’s taken me through a bunch anyway.” I have no clue how it’s going to go; I have no confidence, but I don’t have fear, because I’m in God’s hands.

Jim McMahon gets hurt. I come in—I didn’t play heroically, but I played pretty well—and I hardly even knew what I was doing, like, “You should! You’ve been there all season.” And then, I got blitzed in the worst play of the game when the guy hit me in the jaw, and I was falling back. Keith Jackson catches the only touchdown of the game; we come from behind; we win. And the coach gives me the game ball in the locker room.

Ann: Wow!

Jeff: Most of the guys didn’t even know my name! [Laughter] I just showed up!—“Who’s Jeff?” And I had the best feeling—because I was complimented, praised, and given glory—but I knew it didn’t belong to me. I hadn’t done this: “Thank You, Lord!”—I hope I would have had a pretty similar attitude if I had played terribly, and lost the game, and they cut me—but that was a really cool thing.

Humility wins; it unites. Pride divides; it destroys; it will destroy a man. If you isolate from other men—don’t build friendships; don’t open up and get honest about your life; walk as a lone ranger—dude, that’s pride. That’s not the way Jesus lived!

Ann: Let’s talk about that; because men, I feel like, are lonely. I talk to so many men—when I ask, “Who are your friends?”—they say: “My wife,” or “I don’t have any.” Is that an epidemic?—is that a crisis?

Jeff: The guys of older generations—you know, World War II and Vietnam era; the soldier guys—are kind of: “Buck up and be tough!” “I have my old fraternity friends,” “I have my old football team friends,” “…my military friends,”—but they don’t really open up about the deep things of life.

The younger guys—they had some of that, maybe, in college and high school, where they might have talked about life—but then they get married. There are a lot of responsible husbands, who say, “Man, I’m changing diapers. I’m 50/50 with her; I’m doing all this stuff. I don’t have time for friendship.”

I want to give guys, especially Christian dudes, the encouragement: “You deserve and you need friends, and they need you.” But we’ve got to define friendship, Ann. I have a friend, who said, “Man, I have probably 100 friends.” His wife said, “You don’t have any friends.” He said, “Yes, I do! [Laughter] I know a ton of guys!” She said, “Do any of those guys know what’s going on in your life? And do you know what’s going on in their life?” He said, “Not really.” She said, “The definition of a friend is someone you’re in touch with regularly, and knows what’s going on in your life. You can help him, and he can help you.”

This guy took his wife’s mirror, shining in his face, and he went and intentionally developed some friendships. He’s fabulous; he taught me a lot of the stuff I’m learning and practicing in friendship. A friend is someone who’s consistently connected to help bring out the best in you and to process your life—both backwards, like: “This week was rough, and I really blew it. I’m going to tell you about it; be honest and live in the light,”—and [forward]: “I’m thinking about doing this next week in business…”, or “…with my wife,” or “…with my son,” processing life ahead.

That’s teamwork; I call it Level 5 friendship—not just willingness to get honest and open, and not have any secrets; be confidential, and loyal, and trustworthy—but you’re in touch, at least, every week. You don’t have to be live in the same room; you can do it by phone, or Zoom, or something. Level 5 friendship is transparent, transformative, honest, open—it’s confidential—and you might want to agree on it. Dave, I think if men say, “Do you want to be confidential with me?—because I do with you. Let’s be loyal.” Once a man handshakes with another guy, or nods his head, then you can go deep. Men will go super deep, but you’ve got to give them permission.

Dave: Right.

Jeff: You can’t do it on Twitter; and you can’t do it at the church service; or you know, the corporate board meeting; but you can do it with one, two, or three other Level 5 friends. That’s what I love to coach guys in, and give them a resource to help them, too.

Dave: Yes, and you’ve got to model it, too. If you want to go deep, you’ve got to be vulnerable yourself.

Jeff: You’ve got to go first!

Dave: I say, “Lead.” You’ve got to—

Jeff: —go first.

Dave: Jeff, I just pulled this up; when was this?—May/back in May, you were texting me. We were going back and forth about different shows you’ve listened to, here on FamilyLife Today. By the way, thanks to you and Stacy for being loyal listeners.

Jeff: Big time! We love this ministry, and we like to give to it.

Dave: You went right to: “How are you doing as a man?”—blah, blah. I said, “Our schedule’s pretty crazy,”—blah, blah. I don’t know if you remember what you said.

Jeff: You did tell me.

Dave: You said, “I’ll pray for that. You probably have this, but I’ll throw it out there: ‘In my weekly Zoom huddle with Pete and Greg, we process what’s about to happen in our lives in front of each other and pray about it.’” Here you go: “Who is the one guy or two, who know you and know what you and Ann are going through, [who] you could process your schedule with and new opportunities in front [of you]?’” You jumped right there.

Jeff: I jumped to Level 4 in an honest way. You appreciate it; you like that about me; it doesn’t make me a jerk.

But Level 5 would be if you and I said, “Hey, what if we connect every week, Dave?”

Dave: Well, that was your next text; because I said, “Oh, I’ve got this guy,”—and blah, blah, blah. You said, “Yes, that’s Level 4, Dave. [Laughter] I’m talking Level 5: if you want soul coaching, just let me know; and we can set it up,”—with you.

I mean, you were challenging me, right there, to say, “This is what…” And every time I think of Jeff Kemp, I think, “Huddle”; I think, “Men”; [Laughter] I think, “Level 5,”—which, for a lot of guys, that’s scary—we’re afraid of Level 5, you know; because it’s vulnerable, and I have to share my struggle with whatever. Yet, that’s what transforms a man, when you have another man or two that you can go there with—and not just your wife! You should go there with your wife—but there’s got to be another guy as well, right?

Jeff: Totally. You know what? This is scary, because Satan is tricking us and scaring us out of what God wants. To be known, and still liked, feels way better than to be not known—to fake it and to be impressive—but no one really knows you. Honestly, when you share your junk to the other guys, they’ll say, “Oh, dude! Man, thank you; because I’ve got some junk, too!”

C.S. Lewis said, “True friendship is born the moment, where one guy says to another, ‘What?! I thought I was the only one.’”

Dave and Ann: Yes.

Jeff: Now, practically speaking, Dave, you and I will remind guys: “If you want to have a Level 5 friendship or a Level 4 friendship, it’s not just willy-nilly anyone. First, ask God the Father, ‘Who?’ Think about who might have a good influence on you; or maybe who needs it; but also, who you want to hang with. And then, ask them, ‘Hey, would you like to have the type of relationship, where we know each other’s secrets, and we protect each other?—we’re confidential; we’ve got each other’s back. We’re not going to judge each other or fix each other.’”

Once you say that to a guy, your friendship will go deep, depending on which one of you initiates and tells his story most honestly, like, “Here’s the childhood that I had…” As soon as you share your stuff, Dave, about your dad and some of your wild exploits—and you’re not pleased about it, because it didn’t lead to good things—the other dude’s going to feel so comfortable, and confident, and safe to be honest about his porn problem, or his anger, or his drinking, or whatever it is.

Dave: Right.

Jeff: This is available, guys. One of my concerns was men don’t really know how to define these levels of friendship, Level 4 and 5. I don’t mean to brand them; Jesus invented this stuff. You know, He said:

“Thomas, you’ve got some doubts; no problem. Put your hand right here in the hole in My side and My hand.”

“Peter, three times, you said I don’t exist after all we’ve been through? That probably doesn’t feel good; does it, Peter? You’re still My dude: ‘Do you love Me?’ ‘Do you love Me?’ ‘Do you love Me?’ You sure do; you’re going to go feed My sheep; you’re going to tend My lambs. I’m going to build My church on you. You are a stud! Peter, you rock!” [Laughter] Do you think Peter deserved that?—earned that? No, Jesus gave it to him.

Dave: But he received it.

Jeff: That friendship was Jesus’s style.

Dave: Yes.

Jeff: I’d like guys to grab the little playbook for Level 5 friendship that’s a free ten-page—it’s kind of a game plan [Laughter]— is where I give away that free playbook. You can share it with a friend, and say, “Hey, what if we take our friendship deeper?”

Dave: Every leader, who has fallen morally—whether it’s a Christian pastor, or a business leader, a pro athlete, a president; you name it!—every Christian man, who has fallen—and I have not talked to all of them; I know some of them—I guarantee you they did not have a Level 5 man in their life: a friendship, where their secrets were being confessed to and received on a weekly basis. I guarantee it.

All I’m saying is, if you’re a man, and you don’t have a man or two in your life, you’re headed for a fall.

Jeff: You’re at risk.

Dave: I’m not predicting it, but you are risking—you’ve got a secret; you’ve got a struggle; so do I; so does Jeff—if you don’t have anybody in your life, besides your wife who knows that, you’re on a cliff; and you’re about to go over. I’m just saying, “The way to save your life”—part of it is, obviously, receive from Jesus; that’s the foundation—"but you need a man. It may be the first time you’ve ever told them, but you need to tell somebody and start this journey with other men.” It will save your life; it will save your legacy!

Jeff: Totally! And you know, there’s another side to it. You just kind of painted the gravity of not having it: “You’re at risk,” “You’re going to crash.” The other side of it is: it’s flat-out fun to have a real friend; it’s fun! Men are made for this! We are team guys; we’re brothers. I don’t care—if you’re an artist, a musician, a technology guy—

Ann: —a gamer,—

Jeff: —a laborer,  whatever—you like friendship!

Ann: —and you need it.

Jeff: And God wires it into us, and Jesus modeled it. Guess what?—no budget, no marketing plan—and Jesus changed the world with 12 friends, whom He turned into His friends. He said, “I call you ‘friends.’ Now, be friends and go out, two by two.” It changed the world!

I mean, we talk about discipleship, mentorship, small groups, Bible studies, accountability groups—you can join a group and unjoin a group—you can’t unjoin a friend. And you can’t have ten of them at Level 5.

Dave: Yes; right; just a few.

Jeff: But you can help other guys know, “Hey, I’m already connected with a guy, but we love doing this. Do you have a friend you can do that with?” I think men should spread this to everyone else; don’t keep it to yourself.

Ann: Yes.

Shelby: Isolation in the Christian life is always a recipe for failure, sadness, and destruction. Now, if you’re in a position right now where you don’t really have any good friends—this was me a couple of years ago—but I just looked around and thought, “I don’t really have any good, close friends who I would call people I could walk with in life, who would help me walk with Jesus, and I would encourage them to walk with Jesus.” I just prayed, and I told my wife to pray for me as well. God provided two very good friends in my life, whom I am able to walk alongside, encourage them to walk with Jesus, and they encourage me as well. If you’re in that position like I was a couple of years ago, pray right now, and your prayers can shape your destiny. Ask God to provide some good friends for you.

I’m Shelby Abbott. You’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Jeff Kemp on FamilyLife 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—which sounds great—it’s going to be a team effort. This book can help you in that process of trying to find more good friends, who will help you walk with God. It's going to be our gift to you when you partner with us financially here at FamilyLife Today. You can go online to, or 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 if you would like, too; our address is FamilyLife, 100 Lake Hart Drive, Orlando, FL 32832.

Make sure to check out Jeff’s “Level Five Friendship Playbook” in the show notes today. It will help you learn how to build a brotherhood of men you can be honest with, reveal your struggles to, and bond in the way of Jesus. Again, you can find that in our show notes today. And tomorrow, Jeff Kemp[ is going to be back, again, with Dave and Ann Wilson to talk about exploring the essence of manhood, receiving power from Jesus, and watching our lives change. That’s tomorrow; we hope you’ll join us.

On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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Episodes in this Series

4 Strategies for Authentic Manhood: Jeff Kemp
with Jeff Kemp November 8, 2023
Former NFL Seahawks quarterback Jeff Kemp offers four solid strategies toward a powerful, humble, and fearless biblical manhood that goes the distance.
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What Makes a Man? Jeff Kemp
with Jeff Kemp November 6, 2023
Former NFL Seahawks quarterback Jeff Kemp tells his story of moving out of earning manhood and into confidence in what really makes a man.
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