Posted by: StrongStakes | April 23, 2013

“Redeemed Obedient Personality”


As I mentioned to you at Monday night’s Bible study, a “redeemed obedient personality” is the phrase that one of my former mentors, Dr. Newton Wilson, would use to describe what it takes to be an effective witness for Jesus Christ.  He coined this phrase back in the 1970’s while teaching a course on evangelism & discipleship at Belhaven College (now Belhaven University), in Jackson, Mississippi.  In June of 1986, Newt became president of this historic institution of Christian higher education, which was also his alma mater, and where he had met his lovely bride, Becky.  According to the school’s website … “His nine-year term saw the greatest growth in College history, from just over 600 students to more than 1,100.”

Newt Wilson                                                                                                                                                                                                                Isaac Newton Wilson … September 22, 1942 ~ April 23, 2013

Newt hired me as a faculty member in the joint departments of Bible and Christian Ministries in the summer of 1981, affording me the wonderful opportunity to teach at the college level.  Those five years teaching at Belhaven remain as a significant and enjoyable block of time in my 40+ years in vocational ministry.

More importantly, though, Newt became a mentor to me.  He epitomized all the good of what it means to be a “southern gentlemen,” plus he possessed an easy-going manner, a disarming sense of humor, a thoughtful and engaging intellect, a generous and warm heart … all capped off by a deep-seated passion to follow Jesus.

On a lighter note (but just as significant), Newt taught me how to fish! … Mi’ssi’pi style!  You see, large-mouth bass holed up in the shallow ponds and lakes that dot the Mississippi landscape are not attracted one bit to all the multi-colored lures and plastic worms you can throw at them … unless … you first light up an extra-long Churchill cigar!

This was all new to a young, conservative Baptist from southern California … but Newt’s calm and matter-of-fact Presbyterian demeanor convinced me to try.  Very early, one balmy, Spring morning, the two of us were floating in a flat-bottomed skiff in the middle of a private, multi-acre pond out in the country.  There was barely enough light to make out the shoreline.

I was eager to wet my line, so was quickly tying on a three-inch Rapala “top-water bait” that had three grappling hooks attached to the underside.  Newt calmly cautioned me to “slow down a bit” as he reached into his tackle box and produced two cigars … each more than half-a-foot long!  Frankly, I had no clue what to do with it! … so he coached me through how to remove and dispose of the wrapper … how to “cut, lick & light” it … and most importantly to me … how to avoid inhaling the smoke!  This young Baptist’s lips had never even touched a cigarette!

What happened next still AMAZES me to this day!  With a warm mist rising off the still, smooth pond, and just before sunrise, Newt explained (with his gentle Southern twang):  “Tiiim … the bass won’t biiite until the smoke hiits the pond.  Watch it!  Let it curl off the end of your ciiigar.  As soon as it kisses the pond, make your first cast.”

Now, I’m thinking … “Really?!” … but I did as I was told!  We were about 25 yards from the nearest shore, with a lot of underbrush and tree branches hanging out over the water.  As soon as the curl of smoke from my cigar made contact with the water, I straightened up my spine, pulled my forearm back, then flicked the top-water bait over my head toward the shore.  I was extremely proud of myself as I watched the lazy arc of that first cast put the bait on target to splash down within a foot of the shore … but that never happened.

Just before my lure hit the water, a huge, large-mouth bass exploded out of the pond and swallowed half of it before crashing back down into the water.  Fortunately for me, one of the grappling hooks was securely stuck into the lower lip of the bass, otherwise I would have lost this 2 lb. (3 lb?) trophy.  I was so stunned by what had just happened, I momentarily forgot to start reeling in the fish, until Newt coached me what to do next.

What a memory! … What a man! … What a mentor!

Our Heavenly Father called Newt home today … to his gain and our loss … but the legacy of this “redeemed obedient personality” lives on in the lives of countless men and women influenced by his life.

Please join me in praying for Becky as she weathers these uncharted waters in her life.


~ tr


  1. Tim

    What an awesome word for your mentor and friend Newt

    And a great memory and story


  2. Thanks for sharing a special friend.

  3. That’s a great story. I had Dr. Wilson teach his Heart Psychology principles to us from his manuscript; I still have it bound in blue. I use some of those principles today in my pastoral work. I’m grateful for his guidance of Belhaven and of my young skull full of mush.

  4. you captured him so well, yes, “redeemed obedient personality” was my goal in raising our 8 children, Newt’s impact spanned genereations.

  5. You were both great mentors and teachers. Missed here but welcomed in heaven!

  6. Amen Melanie!

  7. Tim,

    Thank you for sharing this very descriptive glimpse of an amazing man.

    I regret not having the opportunity to know him personally but through you and your description of how he impacted your life, I feel he has somehow impacted my life by example.

    My prayers will certainly be with Becky and the family.

    Bob Johnson


  8. You captured him so well. And I agree with Melanie. Truly the Lord mightily used both Dr. Wilson and you in my life and the lives of countless others. So thankful for the privilege.

  9. Tim, my first thought when I read your tribute was that I had to save it for my husband, Bruce, who loved Newt as a dear friend. Bruce actually went to be with the Lord quite a long time ago, but that first impulse to share something really good with him has never quite gone away. I knew he would laugh loud and long at the fish story! We were both at Belhaven with Newt and Becky, and in those years, Newt was very much the same wonderfully, consistent man as when he was president of Belhaven. We found great mentors in Norman Harper and Julius Scott, but hearing stories of his students (and those who taught there during his tenure) has made me wish to have had the privilege of studying under him as well. Thank you especially for your well-written tribute and the great story.

  10. Robert,
    Your comment, “young skull of mush,” brought a smile to my face! Where are you pastoring at the moment?
    ~ tr

  11. Eight children! … you and your husband are blessed, indeed! Psalm 78:3-7 and Psalm 145:4 come to mind.

  12. Melanie,
    Great to hear from you! … although not necessarily under the present circumstances. Thank you for your kind remark. I enjoyed seeing your beautiful family photo on Facebook, even though I’ve chosen not to be present on that platform. Shalom!
    ~ tr

  13. Thanks, Carin!
    ~ tr

  14. Dawn,
    Great to hear from you, too! Thank you for your very kind remarks. Those were special years for me, Debbi, and our young children. I was in Jackson last week on business, and visited the campus, plus our former home in the old neighborhood in West Jackson. God gave me the opportunity to drive down to NOLA and visit with Newt & Becky one last time, too. Shalom!
    ~ tr

  15. Marty,
    Thank you for your kind remarks! While in Jackson last week on business, God gave me the opportunity to drive down to NOLA to visit with Newt one last time. Although he could not talk much, we shared some precious moments reminiscing, reading Scripture, and praying. Becky and I enjoyed some extended times of conversation, too. My bride and I are praying daily for her. Belhaven was and still is a special place in God’s Kingdom! Shalom!
    ~ tr

  16. […] his life.  My “eyeballs keep sweating” as I re–write this tribute originally posted to the OC Bereans blog in April, […]

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