Dr. Michael Miranda of Booneville believed he had a good grip on the Bible, the Word of God, so he asked God to make him better understand the roots of Christianity.
The personal journey that ensued has covered years and includes an ability to read Hebrew. The journey has also been literal, as in a trip to Israel.
Miranda attempted to compress that trip into the space of a guest speaking spot at a Kiwanis Club of Booneville meeting last week.
"The seed was planted by God several years ago and it just kept digging deeper roots until I got to go," said Miranda.
He tried to schedule extra ER shifts to help pay for the trip, but that became unnecessary.
"Just know if God places something in your heart, that’s exactly what he is going to do," said Miranda.
The Philippine native who has called Booneville home for 15 years visited Israel May 20-30 and while there was baptized in the River Jordan.
Miranda said he had been baptized years before but when presented the opportunity to be baptized in the Jordan by a Messianic Jew who had converted to Christianity, he wasn’t about to miss the experience.
The baptism also serves as the focal point of his revelations about the trip.
In addition to the Jordan, Miranda said, there are several immersion pools throughout Israel that serve as baptismals because, he said, although baptism has roots in Christianity the cleansing aspect pre-dates the birth of Christ.
"In the Old Testament, the way people got to be with Israel’s God is they were given the covenant, and the way Gentiles and the pagans get into those covenants is to become a Jew, they have to assimilate," said Miranda. "One act of graduation of that is to be dipped into this immersion pool."
In the cleansing ceremonies the one being baptized is greeted with shouts of "born again," when coming up from the water, Miranda said.
"The immersion or the baptism is the symbolism of dying to one’s self and rising up new," said Miranda. "Born again."
Israel had a resurrection of its own in becoming a state again in 1948 and has survived by divine ordinance, Miranda said.
"As late as late 1800s it was occupied by different people (and) the Jews were scattered everywhere," said Miranda. "It was a swamp area. When there was a call, the people started feeling to come back, everybody started building it. To see Tel Aviv, what welcomed us, imagine that all swamp."
"Israel is a tiny country. You can fit it in New Jersey," said Miranda. "And it is surrounded by huge countries that want to wipe it off of the face of the earth. It’s the one God singled out to be a blessing to many nations."
While in Israel Miranda also visited a 2,000-year old coliseum where "people died for entertainment"; historical sites like the place where Elijah challenged prophets of Baal to serve the God that answers by fire, and worship centers in Capharnaum built with the remains of Christ preserved below; and sermon sites such as the delivery of the beattitudes message.
"Even in death we see a resurrection here," Miranda said of the coliseum. "That this should not be repeated."
Mounds provided glimpses into the past, sometimes with over 20 levels of civilization, Miranda said.
"There were conquerors who said ‘this is mine, I wipe you out, I build,’" he said. "Another conqueror come and say ‘this is mine, I wipe you out, I build.’"
It is that repeated conquest, Miranda said, that has led to the animosity between Jews and Christians because when Catholics, as the Christian leaders of the time, decided to wipe out Muslims, Jews were killed as well.
"So that’s part of the struggle. The majority of the Jews reject the Lord Jesus because of the atrocities committed in his name," said Miranda. "They feel like he is the founder of a religion that persecuted them.
"But there is a remnant."
Furthering today’s conflict, Miranda said, it is also the attitude that any land ever under Islam rule, still belong to Islam, and such is the point of the Dome on the Rock, for which a menorah has already been selected for the temple Jews wish to build on the same site.
Still, there is a forthcoming resurrection for Israel, Miranda believes, in which Gentiles who will, with the Jewish remnant, introduce Jesus to the Jews.
Miranda can also see himself taking part in such with a possible mission trip in the future, but, he insists, he will go with the knowledge that the Jews are apprehensive about Christianity.
"I believe the Gentiles were used for jealousy and the Gentiles will be used to take the Word back (to Israel), but you have to understand they believe they were persecuted," said Miranda.
Miranda concluded his presentation by blowing a shofar he acquired on the trip. Blown for the seven feasts, all of which point to Jesus, he said.