An ‘awe-inspiring’ trip to the Holy Land initiated René Firesheets’ call to be an ardent advocate for Israel.

“I said, ‘Wow, this is an amazing experience. I’m not going to go home the same way I came,’ ” the Baton Rouge counselor said of her 2011 trip.

Firesheets, 57, said she was able to worship in the Mount of Olives, view the Sea of Galilee, pray in the Garden of Gethsemane and cry at the site of Jesus’ crucifixion.

Three months after returning home, she heard her call for Israel.

“I felt God putting a desire in me to spread the word, because the United States was turning away (from Israel). The churches were turning away,” she said.

Firesheets, a member of Grace Life Church in Baton Rouge and a leader of Romans 11:11 ministry, has spoken as far as Thailand in support of Israel. She said she felt obligated to remind fellow Christians and others of God’s covenant with Israel and the importance of standing with it.

“There’s a huge movement in the churches that Christians have replaced the Jewish people and Israel as God’s chosen. Nothing could be further from the truth. We (Christians) are grafted in. We are saved,” Firesheets said.

Support of Israel is biblically mandated, she said.

“(God) is coming back to Israel when Jesus returns for the second time,” she said. “This is every Protestant, every Catholic, every Bible. He has not forsaken Israel. He has not forsaken the Jewish people. He has made a blood covenant. In the Book of Genesis and all the way through, He has maintained covenant with them to today.”

Firesheets points to Romans 11:11 — “I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.” — by the Apostle Paul as one of the basis that God will not forget the Jewish people.

Yet, so many ministers and leaders are reluctant to speak in support of Israel, especially from behind the pulpit, Firesheets said.

“I found out they weren’t too keen on Israel,” she said. “It’s not politically correct. It’s controversial.”

The United States was the first country to pledge support for Israel — under the leadership of President Harry Truman on May 14, 1948 — but times have changed, Firesheets said.

America’s support of Israel today is ambiguous, she said.

But Firesheets said the Bible speaks of endtime judgment of “all nations for atrocities perpetrated against Israel and her people, including scattering the Jews, dividing the land, murder and stealing God’s treasures.”

Nations will be cursed for their lack of support for Israel.

“God himself lost his blood to make this covenant, so it’s a forever covenant. He says, ‘I will bless her and curse those who curses her.’ If you look at our nation, we’re not the same as we were. You could argue that God has turned his back from America. We were a blessed nation.”

She added, “That doesn’t mean I have to be (cursed). That doesn’t mean we won’t have a revival and save as many people as we can … It’s going to be an individual support of Israel. There will not be a national support of Israel.”

Despite all the opposition, including from all the Arab nations that surrounds Israel, Firesheets believes Old Testament and New Testament prophecy means that the small nation of Israel will reign victorious.

“Ultimately, there will be peace in Israel,” she said. “In the last days, it will look like Israel is going to perish. It will look like it has no hope and Jesus Christ will come back.”

Firesheets, who has a master’s degree in counseling from LSU, has hosted a Bible study for more than eight years. She visited Israel as part of The Joshua Fund, an organization founded by John Rosenberg, an internationally best-selling author and outspoken proponent of Israel.

Firesheets and her husband are friends with Rosenberg’s parents, Len and Mary Jo Rosenberg, the founders of Ministry Architecture Inc.

Email Firesheets at rfiresheets@cox.net.

Dishing it out

The high school basketball season hasn’t officially started, but the St. Michael High School girls basketball team has already dished out some assists.

The Lady Warriors have taken up the school’s mission to serve, recently spending a day at St. Vincent de Paul, serving food to the homeless, assembling brown bag suppers, visiting children in the women’s shelter and other forms of outreach.

“Our basketball teams have a rich history of giving back to the community through volunteerism that always makes us much stronger as a unit,” said St. Michael’s coach Tami Reynolds-McClure. “Working together in a soup kitchen or building with nails and hammers seems to translate to more trust and teamwork on the court, not to mention that the sheer joy of giving back to others benefits us all as people.”

The team embodied selfless service, said Gail Gaiennie, coordinator of volunteers for St. Vincent de Paul.

“It is always so nice to have volunteers who are genuinely interested in the impact made by their efforts, and even doubly nice to have volunteers with big smiles and positive attitudes,” Gaiennie said.

Senior Tylor Row said she was grateful for the opportunity to help others.

“It feels good to give back and it made me smile to see the smiles of those we were helping …we are so fortunate to have a coach that creates these opportunities of selflessness for us,” Row said.

The Lady Warriors also purchased pillows and pillow cases to deliver to the shelter.

“We learned that new pillows and pillow cases were very much needed at the St. Vincent de Paul shelter prior to our arrival,” said Alex Wicker, a junior. “Bringing and donating those items will provide a lasting imprint from us in addition to the smiles and memories we created the day we were there.”

Life-changing verses

Author Carlton Lee Arnold has compiled a list of Bible verses that he says encourages believers to “become more Christlike.”

“Life Changes Verses” Volumes 1 and 2 (West Bow Press) is birthed from Arnold’s more 35 years of Bible teaching and from a wide perspective of different churches and denominations.

Many of the verses are quite familiar to Bible readers, others are not as familiar but all come with commentary from Arnold to “make real and practical application to a believer’s life.”

The retired Arnold said he plans to complete four volumes.

A verse from “Life Changes Verses Volume 1” comes from Hebrew 4:12: “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

From the chapter titled “God His Word,” Arnold opines on the passage: “Some people believe there is no God; therefore, there are no words to hear or read about God. Unfortunately, many well-meaning Christians either are unaware or forget that God’s word is ‘living’ and ‘active’ in their lives.

Arnold goes on to say that because God’s word is “sharper than any two-edged sword,” it can stop believers from thinking about “self.”

“God’s word clearly says that we are to put to death those things that keep us from living the life that God intended,” he writes. “Jesus said if anyone wanted to follow Him, they must pick up their cross daily.”

Faith Matters runs every other Saturday in The Advocate. Reach Terry Robinson at (225) 388-0238 or email trobinson@theadvocate.com