Friday, June 30, 2023

If the Son has Set you Free, You Are Truly Free Indeed

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him,
“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, [32] and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” [33] They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”
[34] Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. [35] The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. [36] So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.  (John 8:31–36 ESV)

Christian freedom and American Independence Day are interconnected ideas. Both celebrate liberty and independence. As Christians, we find spiritual freedom through faith in Christ, while Independence Day marks the birth of a nation founded on the principles of liberty and self-governance. 

Christian freedom is not merely the absence of physical constraints but a profound liberation from sin and its consequences. The Bible teaches that through Christ's sacrifice, believers are set free from the bondage of sin (Romans 6:18) and have the privilege of becoming children of God (Galatians 3:26). This freedom grants us access to God's grace, love, and eternal life.

The celebration of American freedom is our annual July 4th festivities that commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, which marked the birth of our country, though the longings of liberty burn in every man,  Our founders envisioned a nation built on the ideals of individual liberty, equality, and self-determination. American freedom grants its citizens the right to pursue life, liberty, and happiness, fostering a society where opportunity exists for all of its citizens.

 Despite the spiritual freedom we receive in Christ, various challenges can hinder our joy and fulfillment. Temptations, doubts, and fear of failure may attempt to erode our confidence in God's grace. Societal pressures, financial hardships, and even persecution may discourage us from standing firm in our faith. To maintain the joy of Christian freedom, we must remain rooted in God's Word and rely on His strength.

The blessings of American freedom also comes with its own set of challenges. Divisive politics, social unrest, and economic disparities can strain the unity envisioned by the nation's founders. Additionally, the misuse of freedom can lead to moral decay, as individuals prioritize personal interests over the common good. To preserve the joy of American freedom, we must actively engage in constructive dialogue, promote understanding, and pursue justice for all. As an American Christian, I need to understand that true liberty can only flourish among people who acknowledge and honor  the Lord. Gospel proclamation must continue from His people!

I want this July 4th to be a time of great gratitude for the blessings of our liberty as Americans and as people who understand the freedoms we have in Christ- this is essential in our journey of faith.

 Recognizing the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross and understanding the magnitude of God's love instills a deep sense of thankfulness. This gratitude should manifest in a life that seeks to honor God and serve others. When we appreciate the freedom from sin and eternal life we have received, we can share this hope with others, extending the blessings of Christian freedom to those around us.

As Americans, expressing gratitude for our freedom involves appreciating the sacrifices made by those who fought for independence and defended it throughout history. Gratitude also means embracing others, working to see the good in our country, and defending the rights secured in our constitution. If we are truly free then we also have the right to speak freely, worship freely, and that means we have to suffer dissenting views as well without shout downs or violence.

In the last few years, the joy of our freedoms feels like they have eroded under the constant negative sirens of cable news, and our constant focus on the problems. And yes, those problems exist.

What we can't do is subject ourselves to a yoke of bondage as a solution to societal ills. There is no law or political solution to the major source of our issues- my prayer for America has not changed since I wrote my 1st blog post in 2004.

Dear God Our Father,
In this time of great division and danger, we ask that you help us. Not that we deserve it, but we want to continue to be a beacon of hope and a model of success. This life is a mixed bag and a temporary host. May you allow us to continue being a preservative of the natural entropy of order.
Lord, the churches are dark in the old land and selfishness reigns. Intellectual imperialism tickles the ears but salve no wounds. Our churches are flickering. Please revive us- give us soft hearts of love and united hearts of courage. We wimper in our prosperity and hoard our greed.
Be gracious to our leaders and heal our land.
In the name and example of Christ,

Friday, June 16, 2023

The Greatest Leader I Have Ever Known

See updated info at the end of this post:

Whoa! That is a big title and full of hyperbole...or is it?

As I have been blessed to continue in my  capacity at Briarwood Christian School for coming up on my 25th year, I wanted to pause, reflect, and honor the man who has been so instrumental to me.

And it is always a joy for me to see him. He came to MANY home games this year.

In the summer of 1983, I had been hired as an intern at Briarwood Presbyterian Church by another great leader (and now my neighbor) Tom Caradine to serve college and high school summer programs. The Church was still on Hwy 280 and the school was in its current location on Hwy 119 South, though in those days you could take a nap on the road and nor get hit by a car for at least 30 minutes!

Tom sent me to Briarwood to get PE balls and equipment for a kids camp and that is where I first heard the name, shook the hand, and experienced the kind practical jokes of Dr. Byrle Kynerd.

He called his son, Kevin to open the combination lock at the downstairs PE closet. Then he said, "Mr. Mathews, I would give you the combination to that lock but we just can't trust that you might come back and steal it all later. So Kevin will open it up and son, don't you dare tell Mr. Mathews that combination."

And then he whispered something privately to Kevin.

It took me back a little how he said all of that and then we walked downstairs to that closet (which is STILL there!)

Kevin looked at me and said, "I can't TELL you this combination but you can watch me open it and you will need to remember it when you return the equipment". That was his first small practical joke by Dr. K that over the decades grew by the hundreds.

I could write thousand of stories and it has been so interesting to me to hear how many former Briarwood coaches and players tell a Dr. Kynerd story on the podcast we have been doing since the fall of 2022. As of this writing, 16 out of 27 podcasts (A.D. Update and BCS Football Classics) have told a Dr. K story.

What prompted me to write about him today?

Since Covid hit in 2020, I have found professional ministry to just feel tougher. There are always challenges and seasons of turmoil... but the landscape of our culture seems to be colder and darker. People show up as more negative and less forgiving or understanding. There isn't a ton of encouragement anywhere in our society. The culture seems less and less concerned about the things of God.

In David Lyons book on postmodernity, "Jesus in Disneyland", he outlined over two decades ago what would be the results of the rapid, consumer based lifestyle that was quickly taking over culture. He anticipated the war between Church Authority and Cyberspace Authority. He predicted that anarchy would threaten Continuity and Instant Fluidity would hurt the foundations of Community.  

Do you see it? 
Do you feel it?

I do- Individuality over Wholeness .... Fragmentation over  Purpose . The destabilization of the post modern movement has put an incredible strain on our society and is paying horrible dividends to our youth. Can anyone but me hear the creaking of broken foundations and fear the weight of sin? If we do not move back to the FAITH side of this equation, what hope is there for long term success?

What foul dust is going to be left in the wake of the collapse without a massive movement of God's Spirit?

The visible church of God is hurting and our young people especially are suffering the consequences of
a moral darkness, sort of an eclipse of God. He IS still shining, just like the sun continues to shine during a solar eclipse, He is hidden, or maybe a better term; 'blocked'. Our society seem to just be gazing at the earth.

And it makes me pause.... what keeps me going?

And though Dr Kynerd has long ago retired as the superintendent of Briarwood Christian School, and former head of Board Directed Ministries... he is still championing me to keep moving forward in gospel hope and spiritual power.

Here are some of the emails he has sent me since 2020:

WELL DONE. Thank you for your leadership

and service  Respectfully, Byrle Kynerd 

Coach, thank you for your Christ honoring and consistent leadership and service at BCS. You are a blessing to many. One special Scripture to encourage you and those you serve with is Psalm 127:1. May you see God’s encouragement day by day.  Gratefully, Byrle Kynerd 

Coach Mathews, thank you for honoring Christ, communicating with grace and corrective clarity, providing appropriate information, and the time you and others devote to informing our parents. May God give you peace and joy as you serve and gratefulness that you are a Witness

and Ambassador for Christ by the way you serve. Trust Him, forgive quickly, do the next right thing when making decisions, and be filled with the Fruit of the Spirit as you serve And arrive at

home each day.  Thank you for your example. You and BCS are in my prayers. 

Respectfully, Byrle Kynerd 

Our society today tends to honor big names, "aura', resumes, and status. We lift the youth up too soon as faddish and dismiss the veterans too early.

And in the long run... what are we missing?

I am fortunate to have been hired, mentored, and directed by a man like Dr. K- and he still is at work in keeping me going!

I don't know if many folks will ever read this... but I just felt like telling him thanks in a more public way.

And I am not discouraged or dismayed... his example and his leadership has prepared me to keep walking in the grace and admonition of Christ.


So you never know how these posts will travel and this one happened to be read by my former coach, David Cutcliffe who wanted to meet Dr. Kynerd after this post and the wonderful things he has heard from SEC admin assistant Melinda Calderini who served as Dr. K's admin assistant for many, many years.

I picked up Dr. K and we drove over to the SEC offices in Birmingham where Coach Cutcliffe serves as the liaison to SEC football coaches and the visit was special.

To hear these two great men I admire swap stories and principles of leadership was amazing! Thanks Coach Cut for honoring Dr. K- it made my day!

This last picture is the infamous video replay room at SEC HQ where crucial decisions are made on Saturdays in the fall!

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Timing, Spacing, and Movement in the Passing Game

I have gotten a few requests to write another football post. 

As most schools in the state are beginning 7 on 7 summer work, I think it is helpful for us to remember that timing, spacing, and movement is the fine tuning that will have to be worked on continuously all year.

And you can't drill down on all of it yet because full pads will make you have to keep adjusting these points. However, you can begin the fundamentals right now.


An often overlooked part of TIMING, SPACING, MOVEMENT (TSM) in the passing game is the actual gun snap. And it even shows up more in the run game. Have you noticed the pace of your center's snap? Is it fast or loopy?

Also, it is super important to press your QB's on the type of drop your play call demands. Since we are primarily in the gun we have to declare now throws (turn 2 or turn toe), quick game, 1 step and gather, quick three, rhythm three, fast 5, roll out, and play action drops. Under center, it is still important to teach a skilled 3 step and 5 step drop.

A short drop can make a QB go nuts as he is waiting on the receiver AND a late throw is never good. 

Also short routes by receivers are huge time mistakes.

On some of our deeper cuts I often say "get all of it".

"A receiver is never as open as when he is INITIALLY open".

Many years ago, I did a clinic in North Alabama on time clock in the passing game. I received requests for that info for weeks after that clinic. I was able to show on film that all levels of football subconsciously throw on a 3 count time clock and the only difference is the depth of the routes. For example, the standard curl in HS is 12-10 yards, college 14-12 yards, and pro 16-14 yards... all on the same clock!

"Thousand 1, thousand 2, BALL!"- any longer is usually a sack or a scramble.

One final point in TIMING- I like to use "BURTS" by receivers as the "indicator" for the release- fast hands, fast feet, and a head bob.... it also helps sell double moves as well.


On film, if you ever see two of our receivers within 5 yards of each other on the throw, then we have had a MAJOR MISHAP in our concept. At the same time, if you see the space 2 counts before the throw, then we are probably wrong as well.

Using route stems and intended rubs can hurt many match zones because in reality, almost all coverage schemes turn in to Cover 1 by the time the QB is throwing. We just want to create doubts in the 'cutter picker uppers' and I get giddy if two defenders cover 1 of my dudes.... that means a DC is screaming because we have a guy wide open nearby.


One issue in particular I have been working on are DB's that aren't afraid of our speed and sit in the medium zones and just catch the routes or teams that sit 4 defenders at a conversion line or goal line and play that high percentage area very well.

We have to use speed changes to take shots over those guys and well as what I call ricochet techniques to run into those defenders and bounce open off of them. I saw a college team do that in a bowl game this past season vs a Tampa 2 low hole player. They geared down and punched by that defender with the #2  receiver and bounced off of him with the #3. The QB pumped the bounce and threw a laser to the #2 who sped into the hole just below the 2 wide safeties for 22 yards before he was tackled!

Both receivers were next to each other at the thousand 2 count and 7 yards apart at the throw after the pump. I put that in my playbook the next day and just call it "Tampa".

It reminds me that QB's can hunch and pump zones to create space as well! It just takes 1 half count more of protection so save it for the 2nd half when sone fatigue can help.


I so wish in my early years as an offensive coordinator I understood how stack, bunches, and short motions impact the leverage of defensive backs. I coached for 10 years with a static 3x1 and 2x2 passing game that was awesome back when defenses defended grass, but can now get shut down and out by well schemed match zones and variables of trips coverages used by teams- add pressure and simulated pressures and my old 1990's passing game would be totally ineffective.

HOWEVER... now all we do is dress up the old concepts with stacks, compressed formations, post snap switches, fast motions, moved to empty, collapse from empty and all of those coverages start to bust even simple 4 vertical concepts.

It takes the entire summer for receivers to understand the nuances of these enhancements... but the payoff is gold. And it is NOT COMPLICATED.


About mid-June, I start talking to our QB's about 'problem solving pressure' and we can't wait until full pads to understand hots and pass pro checks to help us get the ball off.

Instead of teaching hard fast rules to pressure answers, we talk about a myriad of ideas including fake claps, pointing and calling out issues, moving, using, and finding backs as well as run checks that can convert even 3rd and long.

Bottom Line:

In high school, I still think a good defense beats a good offense... but the new throw away allowance, the 40 second play clock, the personnel substitution rules in high school can frustrate even a good defense.

I have no doubt every DC worth his salt has answers to these issues.... but can their players do it?

3 mistakes on offense can lead to a punt.

3 mistakes on defense could be 21 points.

It is still a very fun game to coach- even after 30 plus years!

Send thoughts to I love to hear from coaches.

Monday, June 12, 2023

Arnold Defeats The Devil- Problems and Perspective

Normally I would not review a movie based on the rating and explicit content of this film, but I did see it and was motivated to comment. Viewer advisory caution and use your FF button- that is what I do.

I recently watched the Netflix three part documentary on Arnold Schwarzenegger and like almost any documentary I watched, I found it fascinating. I love hearing people's stories! All three episodes were intriguing and as soon as I finished the last one, a link popped up to an Arnold movie I had never seen before, and is ranked as one of his very unusual flops (it only made 212 million worldwide... hmm quite the standard of failure!)

"End of Days" is an action-packed thriller starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, revolving around the battle between good and evil in the final days of the millennium. After sleeping on it, I woke up and decided to to analyze various aspects of the movie, including theological themes, visual imagery, and character development. It also has two powerful apologetic applications that most movie watchers would miss.

While the movie incorporates theological elements, there is an acknowledgment that theological interpretations may not resonate with all viewers. However, it is worth noting that the visual and artistic qualities present in the film can be appreciated independently, much like the aesthetics of Renaissance paintings that transcended religious beliefs. Make no mistake, this movie has terrible theology, but the depiction of spiritual themes through imagery is compelling.

The film employs striking visual imagery that leaves a lasting impression on the audience. Although certain graphic images may be challenging to defend, they effectively convey the inherent evil within the story. The portrayal of evil remains consistent throughout the film, allowing viewers to recognize and understand the nature of the antagonist.

One of the movie's strengths lies in its exploration and depiction of temptations. The filmmakers delve into the allure and dangers of succumbing to temptation, providing a powerful representation of the human struggle against immoral desires. This adds depth to the narrative and enhances the complexity of the characters. The scene where the Satan character interacts with Arnold's character held me spellbound, and has applications to how the real Satan tempted Christ in the wilderness.

TWO APOLOGETICS APPLICATIONS: The film does carry questions of faith in light of suffering and the existence of God. Early on a ranking priest poses a logical question about knowing God includes the existence of His adversary but another thought-provoking aspect of "End of Days" is the reflection on the notion of fixed standards. The film highlights that the greatest apologetic lies within the limitations imposed by time, procedures, and dates. This raises questions about the origin and validity of the fixed standards by which actions and events are judged, stimulating contemplation on higher authorities or moral frameworks. In the movie, Satan was powerful but bound my rules of what he could do, how he could do it, and when he must do it. WHO SETS THESE STANDARDS? We miss the self evident answer all the time. It takes more faith to deny God than admit His existence in my opinion.

Arnold Schwarzenegger's character exhibits a significant turning point in the movie when he throws down his weapon and humbly asks for help. This moment resonates with audiences, showcasing vulnerability and a willingness to rely on others for support. It humanizes the character, allowing viewers to connect with his journey on a deeper level. The film's climax is ultimately that the Arnold character must, in humble reliance upon divine grace, admit the existence of God, ask for his help, trust in Him and not earthly weapons to defeat the spiritual enemy.

Finally, the concept of sacrifice to defeat Satan is another notable theme in the film. The depiction of the main character making a selfless sacrifice in the face of evil adds depth and emotional weight to the story. This portrayal underscores the idea that defeating malevolence often requires personal sacrifice, emphasizing the resilience and strength of the human spirit. The Christ imagery is strong throughout the film though the theology continues to miss the Bible's message.

The producers wrestled with an alternate ending. In the alternate one, God resurrects Arnold's character after the defeat of the devil. Though it was a test audience favorite, I am glad they left in the original format of Arnold being dead at the end. By choosing not to deify the character, the filmmakers maintain the protagonist's humanity, preserving the integrity of the narrative. This choice avoids elevating the character to a god-like status, emphasizing the importance of mortal limitations and the preservation of relatable human experiences.

Again, I can't 'recommend' the movie because of the graphic nature of the film and it isn't a great film by any stretch of the imagination. It does make me pray for Arnold- he needs Jesus and he is such a likable person and possibly the most driven celebrity I have ever had the privilege to learn about. I know he has gospel influence in his midst with son-in-law Chris Pratt and others, but he has sin and flaws like all of us as well.

Lord, open our eyes to the beauty of gospel truth and let us respond to the message of salvation in the name of Jesus!

Monday, June 05, 2023

What Hebrews 12 Says About What I am Lacking

In early May, I was drawn into a long process of reading and pondering Hebrews 12. And it has stayed with me now for over a month. I find it strange that Scripture can do that in unexpected ways and in unexpected times.

I have been thinking about writing a blogpost on the experience for a few weeks now, but I feel totally inadequate to capture the powerful presence it has had on me. I go to bed thinking about it, and wake up at 3:00 rehearsing it in my mind, and find it waiting on me again the next morning.

God is definitely trying to get my attention.

Hebrews chapter 12 is indeed a powerful and inspiring passage that can guide me towards living a more intentional and disciplined life while deepening my understanding of God as a loving father. This chapter emphasizes the importance of perseverance and highlights God's role in my growth and development.

The chapter begins by encouraging me to run the race of life with endurance, keeping my focus on Jesus, who is the ultimate example of faith and perseverance. It reminds me that I am surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, referring to the faithful men and women who have gone before me and left a legacy of faith. Their lives serve as a testament to the possibility of living a disciplined and intentional life, even in the face of challenges and hardships.

The passage then addresses the idea of God's loving discipline. It states that God treats me as His child and disciplines me out of love. Just as an earthly father disciplines his children for their benefit, God disciplines me to shape me into becoming a better man. This discipline is not meant to harm me but to train me, refine my character, and draw me closer to Him. It is a sign of His care and investment in my growth and ultimately my eternal life with Him.

Understanding God as my loving father who disciplines me is a transformative perspective. It helps me see that the challenges and difficulties I face in life are not meaningless or arbitrary but purposeful tools for my growth. It reminds me that God's desire is not to make my life miserable but to mold me into the person He created me to be.

This understanding also calls for a response on my part. It challenges me to embrace discipline in my own life, to cultivate intentionality, and to persevere through the various trials I encounter. Just as an athlete endures rigorous training to achieve success, I am called to endure and persist in my pursuit of a life rooted in faith and godly character.

Living a disciplined life involves intentional choices and actions. It requires setting goals, establishing healthy habits, and making daily decisions that align with my values and the principles outlined in Scripture. It means prioritizing my relationship with God, spending time in prayer and studying His Word, and seeking His guidance in all aspects of my day.

I have actually fallen away from this over the last few years.... the years since Covid have really taken a toll.... but God is so good. He loves me too much to let me stay there.

I feel a summer breeze is going to refresh me in a new and improved way!

“Each one will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm, like streams of water in the desert and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭32‬:‭2‬ ‭NIV‬‬