I always like to know a little something about an author before I sit down and open up his or her book. Today, I’m excited to interview Jenny Manley about her new book, The Good Portion: Christ. I first met Jenny in London at an international women’s gathering hosted by the Proclamation Trust in 2015 and loved getting to know her! Her book releases today, and this interview with Jenny made me all the more excited to read her book.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My family has lived in the Middle East for almost eight years, although we never set out to be cross-cultural church planters. I used to envision at this point in my life I would be a U.S. senator or governor—or at least attempting to be one. I was serving as the chief of staff to a senator when my husband, Josh, and I could no longer resist the urge to put all our energy into local church ministry.
After seminary, friends of ours told us about an Arab sheikh who gave a plot of land on the Arabian Peninsula for the Christians in his emirate to have an evangelical church building. It was an incredible opportunity for a gospel presence in the Middle East.
So we moved hemispheres and cultures, planted a church with people from dozens of nations, built a church building, and are now raising our five children in a multicultural context in the Arab world. We still love keeping up with the American political scene, but we do so safely from 7,000 miles away.
When did you first start writing? What do you enjoy about it?
Writing is worshipful to me. I enjoy the work that goes into taking a theological concept that, at first, may seem dry or inconsequential, and then making it sing. The art of writing to me is similar to what artists must feel when they begin to add color, shadows, and dimension to a rough sketch, or what musicians feel when they add chords and harmony to a melody. I cannot draw or sing, and I don’t know that I always succeed at getting the reader to worship with me, but I love the challenge.
At one point in my political career, I was a communications director in the Senate, where I regularly had to communicate succinctly what was often complex legislative initiatives. Writing for me now is similar, but so much more rewarding.
Is writing ever difficult for you? How so?
I have five children aged 1 to 12 whom I’m currently homeschooling. Finding the time just to take a shower every day can seem like an insurmountable challenge. Finding a quiet space to think and write only comes with significant amounts of planning and preparation. And coffee. That’s why it took me years to finish The Good Portion: Christ. That, and the fact that one of my daughters spilled orange juice on my computer when I was about halfway through writing. My computer died, and I lost a lot of my work.
My children are an obstacle to writing, and certainly to writing well. But I also find my children to be my greatest inspiration. I write with them in mind. I want them to one day worship as they read The Good Portion: Christ. I pray they will be able to teach the glorious truths of the person and work of Christ to their own children and grandchildren.
What led you to write The Good Portion: Christ?
I absolutely love The Good Portion series of books written by women with women in mind. When I agreed to write the book, I had no idea that its release date would coincide with an epidemic that would be threatening the physical and economic well-being of the entire planet.
I couldn’t have imagined the anxiety, loneliness, and stress that would lie as a heavy blanket on women all over the world. And yet, had I known this information in advance, I wouldn’t have written on a different topic. Studying Christology is one of the most practical things we can do at any time, but certainly in light of the sobering questions of illness, death, suffering, and disparity.
We should be looking long and hard at the Lord Jesus Christ. In our suffering the power and sufficiency of the grace of Christ is put on display (2 Cor. 12:9). In the incarnation we see God himself understands our needs and has come near to our brokenness. At the cross and resurrection we find tangible hope and confidence in the face of fear and anxiety.
Studying theology is one of the most practical things women at every age and stage of life can do, and yet so often we don’t. When trying to juggle families, jobs, the glass of orange juice that just spilled on our computer, or trying to find peace in the midst of a worldwide epidemic, we don’t often reach for a book on doctrine. But we should!
Our doctrine directly affects the way we approach each of these things. It provides a framework of truth that we can apply in every situation. It affects our worship and our joy. This series of books is accessible and written especially for women who don’t have seminary degrees but desire to grow in their knowledge and love for the Lord.
What’s the central message you hope readers will take away from your book?
Jesus asked Peter the most important question anyone will ever answer: “Who do you say that I am?” Our answer to that question has eternal implications, and I can’t think of a better use of our time than trying to respond to it in truth. The goal of the book is to provide a biblically accurate and compelling answer.
The first half of the book looks primarily at who Jesus is—his divinity and his humanity—and the fact that he is both at the same time. Enveloped into these chapters is immediate application of these doctrines for our lives as women.
The second half of the book looks at what Christ accomplished and how he did it, and it ends with a meditation on the too-often-neglected doctrine of our union with Christ. My desire is that as women read this book, they will know Jesus more fully, which should inevitably result in a more sincere worship and more earnest love for him.
I’m so encouraged by joy-filled, theologically sharp women who are teaching the next generation of women who Jesus is and what he has done. This book is not intended to replace the role of pastors, elders, and the local church. But I hope it is one resource to help equip women to grow in their knowledge and love of the Lord Jesus Christ.
How has writing this book affected your own life?
A fresh understanding of the divine Lord taking on human flesh, never to depart from it again, has deepened my prayer life. Understanding more deeply God’s plan from the beginning of time to punish my sin through a substitute has led me to trust his plans for my life, especially in the face of these uncertain and unexpected days.
Thinking about the believer’s privilege of being united to Christ has brought freedom and joy to me, emboldening me to share Christ with those who need hope. It has given me a greater confidence in God’s love for me. It’s hard to think of an area of my life that hasn’t been affected by a deeper knowledge of my Savior.
The time I spent studying Christ and writing this book was like training for a marathon. It was often hard work, but I feel so much better prepared to run the difficult race before me.
For a sneak peak, here is an excerpt from The Good Portion: Christ:
“Because the first man failed at his task to truly be human, the Bible speaks of the need for a ‘Last Adam’ or ‘Second Man’ (1 Cor. 15:45- 57). Jesus is that Second Man. He is the Last Adam. Their similarities are many: they both had miraculous beginnings, being specially created by God Himself. Both were created innocent, perfect, and without original sin, the only two humans ever born outside the bondage to sin. Both served as representatives of humanity. Both were rulers who were given dominion over creation. And, in both, a deep sleep produced a beautiful bride. (Through Adam’s sleep, God opened his side and created Eve; through Jesus’ death, blood and water poured out of His side, His beloved bride, the church, was born.) Both Adam and Jesus were tested, but one disobeyed while the other obeyed. Adam’s disobedience brought death and curse on all of humanity. Jesus’s obedience brought life and righteousness for all who believe. One obeyed the serpent; the other crushed his head.”
Here’s what others are saying:
“In this careful biblical and theological study of who Jesus is and what He has done for us, Jenny explains the glory of the incarnation and the power and wisdom of the cross that will serve the church well. If you want to grow in your knowledge, love, and trust of Jesus, then this book is a must read. My hope is that it will be used in many churches so that women and men will become better equipped to proclaim Christ and the unsearchable riches of the Gospel.”
— Stephen J. Wellum, professor of Christian theology, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky
“Jenny Manley has produced a gift. This is a treasure trove of rich reflection on the most important figure in history. From beginning to end, Jenny uncovers the beauty and relevance of Christ’s person and work. I know Jesus more truly, and love Him more deeply, because I read this book. Get two copies, read it with a friend, and marvel together at our King of glory.”
— Matt Smethurst, managing editor, The Gospel Coalition, author, Before You Open Your Bible: Nine Heart Postures for Approaching God’s Word
“I can’t think of a more eternally-significant question to ask oneself than the one Jesus asked Peter: ‘Who do you say that I am?’. Where can we find the answer to such a massive question? How will we know that what we think about Jesus is based on truth? Jenny knows that God’s Word alone is where we can find the answers. Her writing is faithful to Scripture, expertly organized, and worshipful. This book is an excellent resource for anyone seeking to know more about who Jesus is.”
—Gloria Furman, author, Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full
If you had an afternoon to do whatever you’d like, where would we find you?
I live in a place with an average yearly rainfall of about three inches and a place where the temperature exceeds 100 degrees every day for at least six months out of the year. I dream about cold, rainy days. What we are doing wouldn’t matter if it’s with the six people I love the most in the world—as long as it requires a sweater and an umbrella.
A former chief of staff in the U.S. Senate, Jenny now happily lives on the Arabian Peninsula, where she serves in an international church with her husband—Josh, a pastor—and their five children. Helping women from all over the world study Scripture in a Christ-exalting, God-glorifying way is one of her greatest joys. She contributes to The Good Portion blog along with other joy-filled, theologically sharp women.