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Who are you and what have you written?
I am Paul Ellis. I come from a family of pastors and I pastored a church in Hong Kong for about ten years. I have written a number of books on the gospel such as The Gospel in Ten Words,The Hyper-Grace Gospel, and Letters from Jesus. I write regularly about the grace of God at escapetoreality.org. My latest project is the Grace Commentary.
Why did you go to Hong Kong?
I first went to Hong Kong in the late 1980s to smuggle Bibles into China. I returned in the mid-1990s because I had been offered a job at a business school. It was never my intention to lead a church, but God had other ideas.
Can you share a little about The Grace Bible?
The Grace Bible answers the question, “How do I read this scripture through a new covenant lens?” It’s a study Bible or commentary. A commentary is a kind of explainer that tells you what the scriptures mean. Or it tells you what the commentator thinks they mean.
Because I read the Bible through a grace lens, readers have long asked me to write a Bible commentary. This led me to begin working on the the Grace Commentary.
The Grace Commentary is an online tool, but some people prefer a physical book they can mark and highlight and giveaway. Hence, The Grace Bible.
Why do you write? Do you have a theme, message, or goal for your books?
I write so that people will know there’s no bad news in the good news. Your heavenly Father loves you as you are and he wants nothing more than for you to enjoy his love.
Which of your books is your favorite?
It’s a cliché, but my favorite book is always the next one.
How long does it take you to write a book?
It varies. I wrote the meat of The Hyper-Grace Gospel in about two weeks, but I also have a a number of unfinished books that have been simmering for years. On average, a book takes about eighteen months of intermittent activity. I’ll knock out a complete draft in four to five weeks, put it aside for a couple of months, then rewrite it four or five times until it’s done.
Hypergrace – isn’t that heresy?
There are two versions of hypergrace: There is the Biblical kind that Jesus preached and Paul wrote about, and there’s the counterfeit version that is mocked in certain circles. When the New Testament writers described the grace of God, they used extreme language. They literally called it hyper. I love that. God’s grace is far greater than we know. It’s not something to mock or belittle.
What’s your writing schedule like?
I tend to be most creative in the latter part of the day, and most ruthless with rewriting in the early part of the day.
Do you have a writing quirk?
My handwriting is so bad it’s illegible even to me. I’ll scribble down notes in the middle of the night, then in the morning I’ll have no idea what I wrote.
What has been your greatest joy in your writing career?
When my daughter was eight years old, her school had a Book Parade where every student came dressed as their favorite fictional character. My daughter went as one of the children from my children’s book The Big House. Of course, nobody had a clue who she was, but I was pretty chuffed.
Who is your favorite author?
That is a tough question. No one has shaped my understanding of God like the Apostle Paul, and few people have fired my imagination like C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.
What advice can you give aspiring writers?
The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt. Give yourself permission to write a stinky first draft. Learning to silence the inner critic is an essential skill for every creative.
What is your vision and hope for churches around the world?
Jesus said his yoke was light and easy, yet many Christians are worn out from running on the hamster wheel of DIY churchianity. They are working so hard to earn what God has freely given them. They’ve got enough grace to get in the door, but not enough to drop their offerings. As a result, much of the church has become captive to performance-based anxiety and condemnation.
I want to see what Barnabas saw when he went to Antioch. The Bible says, “He witnessed what grace had done.” He saw evidence of grace. I am looking forward to when the church becomes known as a place where God’s grace is seen like it was in the New Testament. Such a church would change the world.
What do you do to relax?
I would love to say something impressive like “I put on magic shows for orphans”, but the truth is more prosaic. Few things give me more pleasure than walking in the hills or kayaking in the harbor where we live. That and playing laser tag with my kids.
Where can readers learn more about the Grace Bible?
Check out the book website: www.thegracebible.com