20-Somethings : Two Simple Ways To Discover Your Career Path

Article originally appeared on the Verge Network in May 2015. Collaboration with Kelly Porter.

Be honest with me. Are you a twenty-something reading this article at a 9-to-5 job you don’t really like? Or maybe you’re sitting in the Student Union Building scared to death of what’s coming after graduation in two months?

If so, you’re in an elite class of almost every twenty-something everywhere since the dawn of time. Congrats!

I’ve been there before. It’s been 14 years, but I still remember what it was like. I remember alternating between being mortified of the “real world” or supremely over-confident that I was going to dominate it.

One thing I don’t remember was an onslaught of people telling me what to do. Perhaps it’s because my advisors thought I had no potential or that my aura of over-confidence had them convinced I didn’t need the help.

Also, in 2001 the Internet wasn’t the same immutable noisefest it is now so there were significantly fewer voices telling me what to do with my life. When I was 22 and jobless or 25 and disenchanted with my career, I went to my closest friends and family for wisdom.

I feel bad for you guys today. You’re at a crossroads in your life and you need wisdom and resources for your next step in life. Unfortunately, only one of those is readily accessible online.

You know how many results come up when you Google “how to decide what to do with your life?”

172 million. That’s no shortage of resources. This article is one of them. Are you going to read the other 171,999,99?

Don’t do it. A lot of them are well-intentioned, but they’re incomplete and thus, not as helpful as they could be.

Just the other day, I read an article entitled “20 Things People Over 20 Should Stop Doing.” It was clever and accurate, and got over 34,000 shares on Facebook.

For the record, I agree with 19 of the 20 things suggested. I simply refuse to stop saying “YOLO.” I also think there is something missing.

Same with this article, “7 Signs Your Twenties Aren’t Going As Planned.” It does a tremendous job highlighting how to identify that things are going well and helps walk back exactly how you got there. But it’s missing something.


Even though those are just two examples, I wonder if the rest of the 172,000,000 articles take a similar tone of reminding you of what’s wrong with your life and all the things you should stop doing and never deliver what you’re looking for.

Which is wisdom in what to do next.

You guys desperately need people that love you and care about you to provide wisdom so you can take a step forward – ANY step forward.

I’ve always believed that wisdom is knowledge + experience. My generation has both, but we’re not helping you guys a single bit if all we have for you is a tiny bit of empathy, a healthy dose of condescension and absolutely none of the wisdom we’ve collected.

Let me at least try to help. Here are two suggestions that you can do right this second to help you decide what to do next:

Pursue biblical wisdom

 I hope this doesn’t make you mad because it’s probably not new information. Yet the importance cannot possibly be overstated.

The wisdom you’re looking for is there and it’s available every day.

For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path (Proverbs 2:6-9 ESV)

God wants you to love him with everything you have and share him with others. The ongoing pursuit of loving Him leads to wisdom and confidence that he’s in control of your plan and your steps. You can make a decision and take a step knowing that even if it doesn’t yield your perfect result, you’ve sought to follow the Lord the absolute best you know how.

Pursue the Lord every day. Read your Bible every day, pray often and specifically and seek wisdom from believers who are close to you and love you.

That’s how you gain wisdom. From there, think about what you want to do, make sure it isn’t sinful, then do it. Just do it. Even if it doesn’t fit conventional wisdom. 

Loosen your grip on conventional wisdom

When you graduate, are you expecting to start the job you’ll eventually retire from? Are you worried that you’re stuck in your current job for life?

Why? Who says that has to be the way it is?

Conventional wisdom says that you graduate and then you go to work. If you went to the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, then you graduate, get married, go to work – all in a three-week span. Either way, it’s simply not universally true anymore.

The reality is that some of us are not prepared to pursue a career. The good news is that there is still plenty of room for development and assistance in finding that one thing that God has designed you for.

Consider programs like LAUNCH or the Austin Stone Institute.

LAUNCH is an experience designed to provide aspiring business, non-profit and urban ministry leaders with the tools and training they need for impact wherever they go. It’s like a residency program, but more. LAUNCH develops, trains and provides hands-on training in the city with real leaders who are making a difference.

The Austin Stone Institute is a church-based training system built to develop those called to lead in the home, church, city and world.

These aren’t programs that delay the move into adulthood – it’s not working a snack stand in Cabo for two years. These are programs that provide professional experience as well as a great deal of grace as you learn what your gifts are and how to use them for the redemption and restoration of your community and city.

The mass of information available to you these days isn’t all wrong. It’s telling you the truth but if it’s not providing wisdom then it’s not enough.

Don’t hold tightly to conventional wisdom. Take advantage of programs like LAUNCH, ASI and others where leaders exist to provide wisdom gained over decades of life experiences.

And pursue Biblical wisdom at this point in your life and at every point that follows. Regardless of what you do for a living, you experience the joy of knowing Jesus, wisdom and rest in his unfailing plan.

SWITCH 2015 Equipping Videos

These were six videos we created intended to encourage student pastors to send their students to SWITCH, a week-long experience intended to change student’s perspective on mission and equip them theologically and practically to be on mission in their city.

The content was written by Justin Lopez and Doug Phillips and I created and voiced these presentations using Keynote.






4 Ways to Serve This Christmas

Article originally appeared on the Verge Network in December 2014

Whether out of genuine desire to provide a happy holiday for the marginalized or out of sheer guilt, Christmas is the time we ramp up our acts of service. Perhaps it’s just a necessary response to the onslaught of opportunities we’re exposed to this time of year.

No matter the reason, we’re significantly more likely to give of our time and our resources during the Christmas season and a great many organizations and people around reap the benefits. Donations increase, meals are served to the homeless, coats are gathered for kids, and gifts are purchased for the less fortunate. It’s the time of year that people show their capacity to truly love and serve the marginalized in our city.

But even our most noble holiday efforts and intentions aren’t enough. Renewal and restoration don’t happen in one month. It happens when the people of God offer a year-round, full-life response to the grace that’s been freely given to us. We’ve seen this since the earliest days of the church.

…and with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold…(Acts 4:33-34 ESV)

Here’s four ways your Christmas service can have an impact now, and all year long:

Providing a Christmas for foster care children and families

There are thousands of children in foster care as well as thousands of foster families in the United States. Imagine a day when there is not a line of children in our city waiting for someone to adopt them, but rather a line of families, responding to God’s call to care for the orphan, waiting for another child who needs a permanent home.

This season is an ideal time to provide Christmas gifts for foster children, bless the families who are caring for foster children, and even begin your own journey to fostering and adoption.

Most foster care placement agencies provide broad range of ways to get involved like providing Christmas gifts for foster children, volunteering at a Christmas party for foster families, providing professional services and even beginning the certification process to be a CASA or a foster parent yourself.

Serve internationals this Christmas

Though many international and refugee families aren’t celebrating the Christmas season, it’s still a perfect season to engage and serve families who are transitioning to life in the United States.

Programs that work with internationals provide regular chances to serve families making the that transition. Family “co-sponsors” engage in and improves the quality of a refugee’s resettlement by providing extra assistance, time, advice, and material goods vital to fulfilling the needs of newly arrived refugees. They are integral in helping them to become self-sufficient.

Another option is simply befriending and loving international families in your neighborhood or apartment complex. Start a new relationship by inviting them to eat a Christmas dinner with you family.

Invite your neighbors into your home

Don’t just limit the invitations to international families!

Consider your neighborhood or apartment complex. There may be young families who are far from home this Christmas, single professionals forced to work through holidays, or a widow or widower facing Christmas alone.

Invite these people into your family this Christmas. Buy them a gift or have them over for dinner. When there are people in our lives who don’t have family close at Christmas, my wife is the queen of inviting them to our family gatherings.

Serving your city this Christmas doesn’t require finding the right organization, getting trained, and logging volunteer hours. You can make a powerful impact by caring for those who are literally in your own backyard.

Support existing restoration efforts by giving

There are a multitude of organizations that are looking for clothing donations, food donations and financial gifts.

Most organizations use the last months of the year to ramp up fundraising efforts so if time is limited this Christmas season, consider how you can support restoration efforts with a financial gift. Consider cleaning out your closet this Christmas and giving some of your best things to those in need or make a year-end gift to a program intent on developing relationships and making disciples among the poor and marginalized.

It’s the grace of God given to us that allows us to joyfully and selflessly provide our time and our resources. If we use the Christmas season to satisfy only our own desires to serve we’re missing the mark for what it means to love and serve our city biblically. We can’t use the Christmas season to satisfy our own desires. We must use this Christmas season to get into the fight for restoration in our cities.

It Was Mercy

Story originally appeared on http://www.austinstone.org/stories on May 25, 2012.

Rich Wilson’s story paints a vivid picture of recovery and redemption through the mercy and grace of God.

rich wilson 1
“It’s a story of his grace, and that grace is visible at every step of the way. In fact, it is even possible to see his grace in my darkest hours, because without those I might not know how desperately I need a Savior, and I might never have turned to him.”

To this day, Rich can’t quite explain how he became an addict. “Don’t ask me why, but my junior year in high school I picked up my first cigarette. The following year I picked up my first beer. The year after that, my first joint. And the year after that, when I was only 19-years-old, I was a regular user of marijuana, cocaine, acid, ecstasy and really anything else that easily fell into my hands.”

rich wilson 2
He spent eight years using all day, every day … failing college, working just to get by and pay the rent, feeling directionless, lifeless and hopeless.

While he was trapped in his addiction, God showed grace to Rich. He met Sara, with whom he became good friends and began dating. Sara’s impact was immediate and positive. Through regular conversations with her, Rich became aware Christ was the way, and God started to remove many of his “hard” addictions, but those of nicotine, alcohol and marijuana still had tight grips on him.

A few years later, Rich moved to Austin and Sara encouraged him to attend The Austin Stone. “The worship and the teaching were phenomenal, not just in terms of how emotionally appealing they were, but because they were true,” he said. “The pastor’s honesty blew me away. When a pastor will get up and say he’s struggled with porn, that’s amazing!”

Christ had begun a work in Rich, but he was still struggling with addiction and admits to “being his own god.” When he and Sara were married, he told her he had quit using drugs and alcohol.

“I lied to her for three years. I had started going back to school by this time, attempting to change my path and be someone that my new wife could be proud of, but my addictions were holding me back. I was working until 2, 3 or 4 in the morning, sometimes not coming home until 7 or 8 because I was out using.”

The conflict culminated in November of 2010. After multiple confrontations, hundreds of lies, and months of deceit, Sara caught Rich in the midst of his dishonesty. He confessed.

rich wilson 3
“That’s when I began to go to Recovery. There I confessed everything and began to take steps to ensure that I was allowing God to work in my heart to change these things,” Rich said. “It wasn’t until I stopped living under my own strength and began to admit that I was hopeless and lost that I was able to be whole again.”

While in Recovery at The Austin Stone, Rich and Sara continued the difficult task of repairing their marriage. Rich had lost two jobs but, despite the professional uncertainty, he was three months sober, living at home with his wife, and attending counseling.
Now, sober for one year, Rich has a job that allows him to spend six to seven days each week with his wife and keeps him on the “straight and narrow.”

The Wilson’s marriage is alive and well. “We recently passed our fourth anniversary, and it was by far the happiest and most joyful one yet,” Rich shared. “God has healed so much in my life, even when I wasn’t asking him to. He has constantly had his hand on me and been working all things together for my good.”

rich wilson 4
While on the road to Recovery, Rich has realized that God’s mercy has been evident but not always pleasant. From losing jobs, to confessing sin, to almost losing his wife, he recounts the severity of the sanctification process.

rich wilson 5
“The discovery of my secrets was severe, moving out of my apartment was quite severe, confessing all of my sins to not only my wife, but also her parents, her grandmother, my parents, my siblings, and everyone who had been affected was intensely severe. But all along it was mercy. God was mercifully – though I had not asked Him to – prying my bloody hands off of my own life and taking control of it.”

As he continues to recover and walk with Jesus, his actions are being changed and his heart is doing the same. “Sometimes I am very embarrassed about this story and sometimes very sad, but when I remember that it is his story, and not mine, then I am filled with joy.”

For more information about Recovery at The Austin Stone, please visit http://ministries.austinstone.org/recovery

Change of Heart

Story originally appeared on austinstone.org/stories on Feb. 26, 2012

The first time Lupita Duong was ever invited to church, she politely declined the offer. She wanted to wait for her husband Hai to go with her. However, after a few minutes of talking with a friend, she sent Hai a quick text letting him know she was going to go.

“Change of heart,” the text read.

Less than a year later, Lupita and Hai were both baptized at a First Tuesday service, and that text message sums up the journey of their radical transformation into Christ-followers.

Hai and Lupita met in a karate class in Austin 12 years ago and neither had any relationship with Jesus when they were first married. Lupita had been raised Catholic. Hai, a Vietnamese refugee, had no faith at all. In 2008, they had their first child, a boy named Mateo.

hai and maria

After working in finance and marketing, Lupita began a career as a personal trainer. In the fall of 2010, she began training a new client named Pat, who first shared the goodness and freedom of knowing Jesus.

“There was something about her. I found myself really comforted by her,” Lupita said. “She would share with me about her breast cancer and family struggles, but she always did it with a smile and talked about God.”

Pat gave Lupita a devotional book and she started to read it, despite not even owning a Bible. Eventually, Pat invited Lupita to a Bible study at her church. Lupita agreed to go, but still felt unsure.

After a few weeks of attending Bible study, Pat invited her to try out a church service. At first, Lupita turned it down. However, Pat persisted and Lupita changed her mind. She sent a text about her change of heart to Hai, and joined Pat and her husband at church.

“I remember the first time hearing the Word of God spoken. I was so convicted. I was so interested in these words that I had always known were there,” Lupita said.

Pat’s husband was a pastor and later invited Lupita to a baptism service. It was there that Lupita accepted Christ and experienced the washing away of the old that had defined her – pessimism, worry, ungratefulness and selfishness.

“It was the first time I ever worshipped. I remember singing. I was overwhelmed and began to cry,” she said.

Prior to this new work happening in her heart, Lupita said, after six years of marriage, she and Hai had grown apart. The combination of work and taking care of Mateo left little time for the couple to spend together. After becoming a Christian, she says Hai was supportive of helping her “turn over a new leaf.”

Soon, the Holy Spirit began to work in Hai. For two years, they had lived next door to a pastor and never met him. They invited him over one night and he talked with Hai about what Christians believe. That night, through trembling and shaking, Hai confessed and gave His life to Jesus.

The change in Hai was as radical as it had been in Lupita.

“Now we’re praying together and have fallen more in love with each other,” Lupita said. “We’re able to understand how glorious God is and how indescribable He is.”

Hai assumed the role of spiritual leader in their family and decided that The Austin Stone would be their church home. They are now partners at Stone, are involved in a missional community and recently served at Hopefest at Reagan High School.

The Duongs are yet another example of how God creates a change of heart.