Editor’s Note: The following is an interview I did with Melissa Kruger about her new Bible study, In All Things: A Nine-Week Devotional Bible Study on Unshakeable Joy. At the end of the post, enter for the chance to win a copy of her book.
Christina: Tell us a bit about yourself, your work for Uptown Church, and your role at TGC.
Melissa: I’m married to Mike (President of RTS-Charlotte) and we have three children: Emma (17), John (14), and Kate (11). I have no idea how they all got that old—I feel like I was changing diapers yesterday! Almost ten years ago I began working for Uptown Church as their women’s ministry coordinator. My greatest hope is to help build up and encourage women in the ministry they’re doing. I believe women are vital in the life of the Church, so I love helping women use their gifts to serve others. Two years ago, I began an editing job for The Gospel Coalition. In this role, I’ve enjoyed helping women develop and use their writing gifts to serve the church. Both jobs allow me opportunities to disciple and encourage women—which is what I want to spend my life doing.
Christina: You have a new book out. Can you tell us about it? Who is it written for?
Melissa: My new book In All Things: A Nine Week Devotional Bible Study on Unshakeable Joy is a Bible study on the book of Philippians. I originally wrote it for my friend, Shanna Davis, who lives in Prague with her husband Phil (a PCA church planter of Faith Community Church). She was starting a Bible study with new women in her church and asked me to write a few questions. It turns out I can’t write a few questions, I ended up writing an entire study! J This book is the result of ten years of studying, teaching, and learning about the book of Philippians. I’m so glad she asked me for those questions, because this book has been such an encouragement to my heart!
Christina: What two things stuck out to you personally as you studied Philippians and prepared this study?
Melissa: Philippians is known to be a book about joy. However, Paul’s joy is so different from the joy we typically see in the world today. While suffering in prison, he rejoiced because it allowed the imperial guard to hear the gospel. Though he knew people in ministry were preaching the gospel with wrong motives, he rejoiced that the gospel was preached. When faced with imminent death, he rejoiced at the thought of being alive with Christ. Paul’s joy was rooted in his salvation and it overflowed no matter what the circumstance. By the power of the Holy Spirit this same joy is available to you and me—what a gift!
The second thing that struck me is that Paul’s famous line, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” refers to his battle for contentment. We often think of this verse in terms of doing amazing things for Christ and his Kingdom, but Paul uses it in reference to his ability to be content in both plenty and in want. It’s made me realize that perhaps the most difficult thing in all the world is not doing great and big things for God, but walking in daily trust and reliance on our Savior—in whatever circumstance we face. Our daily joy in the midst of a difficulties and trials is only possible by Christ’s work within us. It shines to the watching world in a way that makes them wonder about our God.
Christina: Do you have a favorite quote from the book?
Melissa: “Jesus is the source of our joy, and He’s the sustainer of it. Apart from Him, our lives are empty, meaningless attempts to find satisfaction. We wander, desperately thirsty until we drink from Him. He’s the beginning and end, the alpha and the omega. Every good gift is from His hand, and nothing good exists apart from Him. Our desire for joy is ultimately a desire for Jesus.”
Christina: Do you have a method or routine you follow when you develop a Bible study? Do you have certain go-to commentaries or study aids you use? Any key pieces of advice for those who develop studies for the women in their churches?
Melissa: I begin by reading the book over and over. I look for repeated words and phrases, for contrasting and comparing words, and for transitional words and phrases (e.g. therefore, so, since). I take note of what confuses me, or what doesn’t make sense to me. For a letter like Philippians, I cross-reference to see if it was mentioned in Acts or in another letter. And, then I read it again to look for the book’s structure and try and figure out how I could break it up into manageable parts to teach. Once I’ve got an outline, I start writing questions. (For more on my writing questions process see Four Types of Questions Not to Ask in Your Small Group Bible Sutdy and Asking Better Questions in Small Group Discussions.
For a study guide, I start with basic observation, then move to interpretation, and then conclude with application. I also like to draw in other Bible passages that might help understand the text more fully. Two resources I recommend to help study the entire Bible are: A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament: The Gospel Realized and A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the Old Testament: The Gospel Promised.
These provide more information than a study Bible, but less than an entire commentary (which sometimes can be more information than you need). They are meant to be used by lay leaders to help provide insight into the text and answer questions that may arise. (And, I trust the editor . . . he’s my go-to resource for studying the New Testament!)
Christina: What would you say to the moms with young children about Bible study during their particularly busy season of life?
Melissa: You can do it!! Think of Bible reading as water, food, and oxygen for your soul. You need time with Jesus more than a clean kitchen, a workout, or a perfectly cooked meal. John 15 reminds us, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” That includes motherhood! Don’t view reading the Bible and time in prayer as extras in your life, view them as your most important things to do each day. You will richly bless your family by being a mom who listens to God in his Word and speaks to him in prayer.
Christina: What do you like to do for fun?
Melissa: I love to read—I can spend hours curled up in a chair, lost in a book. But there’s nothing better to me than being home with my family sitting on the back porch talking about life.
Christina: What books are you currently reading?
Melissa: I just answered that here. Currently, I’m in the middle of reading:
Secondhand Time by Svetlana Alexievich—It’s a fascinating collection of everyday reflections from Russians on the effects of capitalism and democracy.
How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking by Jordan Ellenberg—I highly recommend this book just for the introduction, “When am I going to use this?” I wish it was mandatory reading for every high-school student and their parents.
The Beatitudes: An Exposition of Matthew 5:1–12 by Thomas Watson
Refresh by Shona and David Murray—I’m reading it again, because it is very needed in my life right now.
The one thing I’m missing on my nightstand is a good work of fiction—I’d welcome suggestions!
It’s a giveaway day! Leave a comment below and you’ll be entered to win a copy of Melissa’s new study In All Things: A Nine-Week Devotional Bible Study on Unshakeable Joy.
Update: This giveaway has ended and the winners have been contacted. Thank you for entering!
About the Author:
Christina received her undergraduate degree from Covenant College and her Master’s Degree in Counseling from Palm Beach Atlantic University. She writes for a number of Christian ministries and publications including Revive Our Hearts, Desiring God, Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, and Ligonier Ministries. She is the content editor for enCourage and the author of A Heart Set Free: A Journey to Hope Through the Psalms of Lament and Closer Than a Sister: How Union with Christ Helps Friendships to Flourish. Christina also serves on the advisory board at Covenant College. She prefers her coffee black and from a French press, enjoys antiquing, hiking, traveling, and reading. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and two boys. You can find her at www.christinafox.com, @christinarfox and on Facebook.