I would like to share with you the five things for which I’m most grateful on this Thanksgiving.

1. I’m thankful for my health. As most readers know, earlier this year I experienced two significant health setbacks that brought about two extended stays in the hospital. These encounters with my mortality have made me genuinely appreciate the good health I am now enjoying. This life is a precious gift from God and I pray He grants me many more years of service to Him.

2. I’m thankful for my family. It was during my illnesses earlier this year that I truly came to fully appreciate my family. My son Jonathan, who now runs the day-to-day operations of Thomas Road Baptist Church as our co-pastor, skillfully took on the entire burden of the church during my illnesses. My son Jerry Jr., who is the vice chancellor at Liberty University, stepped into my role at the university, exhibiting great wisdom. My daughter Jeannie, who continues her role as a surgeon in Richmond, was a great source of encouragement to me. My eight grandchildren were also sources of wonderful inspiration during my healing process. And my dear wife Macel, who has been at my side for 47 years, continues to be my best friend, counselor and partner. I appreciate them all very much.

3. I’m thankful for President Bush. At a time when his popularity is purportedly declining, I continue to appreciate this good man. President Bush has been a dependable champion for the pro-life cause, he has defended traditional marriage and he has sought to wage a war against terrorism while many leftist critics have relentlessly disparaged him. I pray for President Bush every day and I would encourage all people of faith to hold him in their prayers as he leads this nation at this fateful time.

4. I’m thankful for America’s Founders. George Washington proclaimed the first National Day of Thanksgiving in 1789, while Abraham Lincoln restored that tradition during the Civil War. Our Founders understood that America needed to depend on the Almighty in order to thrive. I often try to envision Benjamin Franklin rising to give his beautiful call to prayer in 1787 as representatives had become flustered after weeks of trying to write the Constitution of the United States. The 81-year-old Franklin offered one of the most beautiful discourses ever recorded. He said, in part:

I have lived, Sirs, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth: ‘that God governs in the affairs of man.’ And if a sparrow cannot fail to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured, Sirs, in the Sacred Writings that except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. I firmly believe this.

I also believe that, without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel; we shall be divided by our little partial local interests, our projects will be confounded; and we ourselves shall become a reproach and a byword down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter, from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing government by human wisdom and leave it to chance, war, or conquest …

5. I am most thankful to know the God of the universe. The greatest gift this world has ever known is that God sent his Son to Earth to die and live again so that we may live with Him for eternity. As a young college student, I gave my heart to Christ and I have since attempted to live my life so that it is pleasing to Him.

This Thanksgiving, I would encourage my friends to take some time to list their blessings and express their thankfulness to those they love. This is a beautiful season when our hearts are drawn to our families, our nation’s heritage and our faith. May our hearts be full as we join in thanking God for his many blessings in our lives and on our nation.

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