His name was Fred David. He just passed away in February 2013. We talked on the phone shortly before he died. He said to me, "Sometimes I've wondered if the sole purpose of my coming into this world was to bring you that Bible in your hospital room."
"Fred," I said, "You did a lot more than that."
He had an influence on many in my age bracket in Delhi (he was the director of Delhi Youth for Christ at that time).
After that, reading people like Malcolm Muggeridge, G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, the revivalist Leonard Ravenhill; great writers have influenced me immensely and touched my life greatly.
DN: After you received that Bible in the hospital at age 17, your life changed when your mother read John 14:19, which reads, "Because I live, ye shall live also." How have those words continued to bless you and your life's work?
RZ: When you are dying, words like "living" take on a particular nuance. Nobody was explaining it to me, but what came to my mind was this must mean more than just physical life. As a youngster, I couldn't process it all, but I thought, you know, this is talking about a life that goes beyond physical walking and moving. This has to be rooted in your purpose for life and the essence of life, the very two issues in our time we never deal with. We talk so many subjects ad nauseam. We almost never sit around a table and ask what is life's ultimate purpose, who am I in my essence; we make decisions ad hoc.
To me, that spoke volumes. What it means now is the purpose for which I am here in life, and I don't mean just the particularity of my life, but the generality of what it means to be human. To me, what it has meant is the definition of purpose and the enjoyment of the wonder of knowing God and living for him.
DN: It’s been 10 years since you spoke in the Tabernacle and met with LDS Church leaders in “an evening of friendship” to build interfaith bridges of friendship. What has unfolded since then, and how would you describe these relationships today?
RZ: Because of the nature of my work, I cover the globe. I cover numerous countries and venues. I come as a guest speaker and deal with subjects. I'm an author and radio speaker. I do those things. Those who invited me are the ones who really have continued the dialogue. I don't intrude into that process. If I'm written and asked a question by my hosts, we correspond. My continuation is really through my friendship, Standing Together with Greg Johnson, along with Robert Millet, who hosted the venue in 2004, our friendships continue. It's always been on a warm and cordial basis, which is wonderful knowing that our fundamental beliefs are so different. We are still able to converse without rancor but with clear understanding of the terms and definitions.
DN: What does it mean to you to be invited to speak at the historic Salt Lake Tabernacle?
RZ: I am very, very honored by it. They never dictate the content of what I say. They invite me out of their trust and respect.
Here is the issue that I think is critical. No matter what our nation is dealing with, if we don't provide a rich, moral soil, all disciplines will end up with their feet firmly planted in midair. You must provide a rich moral soil. One thing we do have in common here is an agreement on the provision of rich moral soil. On that basis, we come here. I come here to present the message of Jesus Christ because I like to take it one step further.
In the Christian message, the problem is not really being morally better. In the Christian message, the content is that Jesus Christ didn't come into this world to make bad people good, he came into this world to make dead people live. We are dead to God, he makes us alive to God. That is the gospel message.
So we start off with the common ground of moral well-being, which is indispensable to any dialogue. As a Christian, when they invite me, I'm sure they expect me to present what the gospel is all about. That's why I'm here.
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