About Michael Tolosa

I'm a Washington, DC area native, who recently relocated to Charlotte, North Carolina, where I work as a digital marketer, raise a family, and serve as a Christian evangelist to my local community.

Ambassadors’ Academy 2018

Billy Graham's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Evangelist Billy Graham’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Early in our relationship, my wife and I engaged in street evangelism, handing out tracts and witnessing everywhere we could — from the streets of Washington, DC  to the mountains of West Virginia. This was, in fact, what most attracted me to Megan — her willingness and enthusiasm for evangelism. We’ve experienced few things in our marriage that gave us as much joy as being used by God to deliver the good news of Jesus Christ to others.

While I continued to serve God in different ways prior to moving to Charlotte last year, it had been quite a while since I engaged in street evangelism — and by “a while,” I mean seven years.

The Calling

When we moved to Charlotte, Megan and I tried to get involved in a number of social justice ministries. While Megan found a pro-life ministry she loves, I kept running into closed doors (prison ministry, anti human trafficking, etc.). I told God I was ready and willing to go wherever He asked.

So He led me back to street evangelism.

I’ve always believed that God called me to be an evangelist, but I would often serve only in areas where I was comfortable — where my talents lied and where there was little risk of looking foolish. I equated feeling comfortable with being in God’s will and never thought God would ever call me to do something I wasn’t good at or didn’t personally want to do. It took a while for me to learn that God almost always calls people to step out of their comfort zones into areas where they are weak. He wants us to be willing to look foolish and rely on Him for our strength and success — so that He alone gets the glory.

In order to jump-start my evangelism ministry in Charlotte, I wanted to attend the Ambassador’s Academy in Los Angeles. The three-day training is put on once or twice a year by Living Waters and features inspirational teaching and on-the-street training by evangelist Ray Comfort and the rest of the Living Waters team, using a system called The Way of the Master (based on Jesus’ examples of evangelism in the Gospels).

Not only would the Ambassadors’ Academy provide me with support, encouragement and confidence to engage in street evangelism again, but it would also provide training and experience conducting open-air preaching on the streets of Huntington Beach and Santa Monica. My main goal for attending the Academy was to learn to do open-air preaching and step up on the box for the first time in my life.

The Lord Provides

The only problem was that we didn’t have the funds to send me to Los Angeles. My wife suggested I do a fundraiser to raise the money, to which I reluctantly agreed. I hate asking for money (or asking for favors in general), but we believed that, if it was God’s will for me to go, He would supply the funds — and He did just that through generous donations from our friends and family!

In the week leading up to the trip, I went through a gauntlet of physical attacks. I was in bed with a fever one day, followed by a severely sore throat the following two days — I could barely swallow. Then two days before my flight, I suffered a gout attack in my ankle. It didn’t go away, and the night before my flight, I mentally prepared to cancel my trip. I could barely walk.

So I asked for prayer.

The next morning, the pain in my ankle was nearly gone, and I could walk with a cane. I wasn’t pain-free, but at least I could travel. I was headed to L.A.!

Day 1

On the first night of the Academy, we heard from two speakers — Emeal “E.Z.” Zwayne and Mark Spence. Afterward, attendees divided up into assigned teams and met with our team leader for introductions and prayer.

Day 2

The following morning, we heard from two more speakers — Allen Atzbi and Ray Comfort — followed by a short Q&A with all the speakers. After that, we piled into two charter buses and headed out for the first time.

First, we visited the Living Waters headquarters for lunch and a tour. After that, we went to Huntington Beach.

After watching Ray, E.Z. and Mark Spence preach from the soapbox and draw a crowd, it was the students’ turn. While I waited patiently for my turn to preach, I stood around the speaker circle and helped draw and keep the crowd. Because we were a bunch of beginners, we usually ended up with a very paltry crowd. The hardest part, it turns out, was finding a willing volunteer to stand on the second box to receive the Gospel message.

When my turn arrived, I quickly encouraged a young man to take the box and went through the good person quiz with him (which concludes with the Gospel message). I wasn’t nervous, and for the most part, I spoke clearly, loudly (this is important), and confidently. Ultimately, it’s not my eloquence that has the power to save, but rather the Gospel itself.

Pray that God will make the seed I planted in Mario’s heart (and in the hearts of those listening) grow.

Day 3

The final day of the Academy was exhausting! We spent 6 1/2 hours open-air preaching in Santa Monica — first in the Promenade, then on the Pier.

While on the Promenade, we encountered a heckler with a bullhorn, which caused all sorts of mixed emotions on my part. On one hand, a heckler helps draw a crowd, on the other hand, one with a bullhorn makes everyone annoyed. Instead of getting frustrated, though, I saddled up next to a young man watching the train wreck named Evan and asked him what he thought of it all. He said he wasn’t sure what they were talking about, so I told him they were talking about God, then easily transitioned to the Good Person Quiz (a series of questions based on Jesus’ method of evangelism). Following our conversation, I left him with a gospel tract.

Please pray for Evan, that he would understand the Gospel, repent and put his faith in Jesus.

I did this several times when the other guys were preaching. One time, I went to a nearby Starbucks for a drink and muffin, then sat outside and watched from a distance. After I was done with my muffin, I turned to the guy next to me and asked him what he thought of the street preachers. He said he was a Catholic, who believed anyone can believe what they want. I started to go through The Way of the Master, but was cut short when my team started packing up to leave. Instead, I left the man with a gospel tract.

Floating in the background allowed me to see who stopped by to listen to the preachers, and when they walked away, I engaged them. I asked two girls if they were offended by what one guy was preaching. They said no and were very appreciative when I gave them tracts to take home and read.

Pray for these girls and the man at Starbucks, that they would read the tracts, repent and follow Jesus.

When I finally got up to preach, I decided to wing it and add more to the typical WotM presentation. I told the people listening that I would answer the biggest objection to Christianity for them:  If a loving, all-powerful God exists, then why is there evil in this world? (If you want the answer, let me know.)

The words came fluidly out of my mouth, and I articulated the answer more coherently than I could have if I prepared what to say ahead of time. It was definitely the Holy Spirit speaking through me.

After lunch, our group moved to the Pier, where I was able to preach two more times — both times walking someone through the good person test. One man, Patterson, expressed his gratitude, and we took a selfie.

Pray for Owen and Patterson, that they would forsake their sins and turn to God for forgiveness and salvation.

After the outreach, we headed to CrossPoint Church in Huntington Beach for dinner and the closing ceremony. Then it was back to the hotel for goodbyes and a final team debrief.

Thus ended the Ambassadors’ Academy in Los Angeles.

Now it’s time to use what I’ve learned on the streets of Charlotte, North Carolina!

Why does God allow evil in the world?

I don’t know about you, but every time I turn on the news, I’m disgusted with what I see. Whether it’s a politician saying something hateful about another person, or another mass school shooting, or a natural disaster that’s devastated a small country and killed thousands of people… I ask myself, “If God is good, then why does He allow these evil things to happen?”

Maybe you’ve asked yourself the same question.

Well, I’m going to answer this for you today. First, with the short answer… Love. God allows evil in the world, because He loves us.

Now, you’re probably thinking, “That’s a ridiculous answer. Are you trying to tell me that, because God loves me, He allows bad things to happen to me?”

What I’m telling you is that, because God loves us, He allows evil to exist in this world.

Now, let me explain…

The Fall of Man & Nature

In the beginning, God created man and woman in the Garden of Eden, and they were sinless. They lived in perfect harmony with God and nature. There was no violence in the world. Lions laid next to lambs, and there were no natural disasters. It was a paradise. Adam and Eve had unfettered access to God and walked with Him daily in the garden.

At that time, God established one law – one rule that Adam and Eve had to follow. He told them not to eat fruit from one particular tree in the garden – and, if they do, they will surely die.

God established a law, and the penalty for breaking His law was death.

So, what did Adam and Eve do? Well, with the help of Satan, Eve decided to take and eat the fruit from the forbidden tree. Then she gave it to Adam, and he ate.

God had one law, and because of their pride and rebellion against God’s authority, they broke His law.

Because of their sin – that’s what sin is, the breaking of God’s law – God cursed man and nature. From that day forward, mankind was born in sin. You, me – we’re all born with a sinful nature. Our default disposition is to reject God’s authority over our lives, because we want to be our own bosses. The Bible says we are at enmity with God. We are His enemies.

To illustrate what it means to have a sin nature, think of a car that has its alignment off. If you leave your hands off the steering wheel, it veers to one side or the other. By nature, we are constantly veering away from God, because our alignment is off. We’re born with this sinful nature, because of what Adam and Eve did in the garden.

However, not only was man cursed, but nature was as well. God said that man would now have difficulty tilling the ground – and that nature itself is groaning because of man’s sin. We have natural disasters and fear wild animals, because we live in a fallen world. Man is fallen, and the world is fallen – and together, along with Satan, we produce the evil that’s in the world.

But God is patient, not willing for any to perish. Which is why he allows evil to continue in this world today. If He were to get rid of all evil in the world, He would have to wipe out all of mankind. He almost did that with a flood six thousand years ago, but because of His great love for us, he kept a small remnant safe from His judgement.

So, love is why God allows evil.

God’s Law

Remember how I defined sin? It’s the breaking of God’s law. Well, after Adam and Eve fell and were banished from the Garden, God gave us more laws through Moses. The most famous of these are the Ten Commandments. If you want to know what sin is, just look at the Ten Commandments.

Do you think you’ve kept them? Let’s go through a few and see…

The ninth commandment is You shall not lie. How many lies do you think you’ve told in your lifetime? I’m talking about lying to get out of trouble with your parents, or lying about your charitable giving on your tax return, or lying to your spouse about what you did last night with your friends. Do you think you’ve told one or two lies in your lifetime? Hundreds, maybe thousands? What do you call someone who tells hundreds of lies?

A liar.

Let’s look at the eighth commandment – You shall not steal. Have you ever stolen something in your life? I’m talking about shoplifting, or taking home office supplies from work, or showing up late and leaving early at your job yet reporting a full day’s work, or checking that box on your tax return saying you paid sales tax on all your online purchases this year (yeah, right). This is called stealing. What do you call someone who takes things that don’t belong to them?

A thief.

The seventh commandment is You shall not commit adultery. Now, some of you may have actually committed adultery by cheating on your spouse with another person. But if you haven’t done that, listen to what Jesus said about this commandment… He said that even if you’ve looked at another person with LUST, you’ve committed adultery with them in your heart. Have you ever looked at another person with lust? Either through pornography, or gawking at people at the beach, or through the bombardment of sexual advertising we see everyday?

In the same way, Jesus said if you hate your neighbor, you’re guilty of breaking the sixth commandment – You shall not murder. Have you ever hated another person? I have.

So…

I’m not judging you, but by your own admission (if you’re honest), you’re a liar, a thief, an adulterer and murderer at heart. And those are only four of the Ten Commandments!

The Bad News

If God were to judge you based on the Ten Commandments, would you be innocent or guilty of breaking His law? If God required perfect obedience to His law in order to be with Him in Heaven, and you were to die today, would you go to Heaven or Hell?

You would go to Hell.

Does that concern you? It should! We’re talking about your eternal destiny here. I don’t even know you, but I don’t want you to go to Hell!

Did you know that 150,000 people die each day? One hundred and fifty thousand people die every single day. You could drive down the road today, be hit by a drunk driver and find yourself facing God’s judgement. Today. And based on your performance, it’s not going to be pretty.

The bad news is that you – and I – have broken God’s law countless times and deserve to die physically and spiritually. God says the wages of sin is death. That liars and murderers and adulterers will be cast into the Lake of Fire for all eternity.

How many times did Adam and Eve have to sin to be judged by God as guilty and condemned to death? Just once.

That’s the bad news. And, indeed, it is bad news.

But do you know what God did so that you wouldn’t have to go to Hell? He provided us a way to escape His judgement.

The Good News

God sent His one and only Son to Earth to live as a man, perfectly obey His law (something we are incapable of doing), and die in our place on the cross. Jesus gave up His glory, majesty and privilege in Heaven to come down here and pay the penalty of our sin.

Have you ever been to court? I have. I went for reckless driving. I fell asleep at the wheel one night, ran off the road and hit a tree. Now, imagine if that turned out differently – that instead of running off the road, I swerved into the oncoming lane and hit another car head on, killing the other driver. And imagine if there was a traffic camera that captured it all on video.

I would go to court and plead guilty. I’m guilty. It’s obvious and everyone knows it. I’m guilty of breaking the traffic laws and I’m guilty of murder. The penalty for what I’ve done is death – I’m going to the electric chair. But just before the judge pronounces me guilty and sentences me to death, a man I don’t even know rushes into the courtroom and says, “Stop! I will pay the penalty for this man.” This man volunteers to get strapped into the electric chair and die in my place. Now, the judge can let me go free. The penalty has been paid by someone who wasn’t guilty of the same crime. Justice has been served.

This is what Jesus has done for you and me. We broke God’s law, and Jesus paid our fine. It’s a legal transaction. God is a good judge. He cannot let sin go unpunished. But because He loves us so much, He punishes His Son in our place. Instead of requiring us to die and go to Hell, God kills His Son and sends Him to Hell.

But Jesus rises three days later, conquering death and giving us hope in a resurrection.

Summary

So, the bad news is that we’re all guilty of breaking God’s law and deserve death, but the good news is that Jesus will pay your fine, if you repent from your sins (that means turn away from them) and place your trust in what Jesus has done for you to save you from God’s coming judgement. Give up control over your own life and submit to God’s authority over you. Make Jesus your Lord.

Don’t trust in your own goodness to save you on Judgement Day. None of us are good enough to get to Heaven. We’ve all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Only Jesus Christ was good enough, and it’s only through His righteousness applied to our account that we can enter Heaven. So trust in Jesus to save you.

Read the Bible and do what it says, and God will never let you down.

Following Jesus isn’t easy. It’s hard, and it gets harder in this country everyday. But salvation from God’s eternal judgement is worth it. Momentary sacrifice in this short life is worth eternity in Heaven.

Think about these things. Get right with God today, because you never know if you’ll be gone from this world tomorrow.

Flea Market Outreach

IMG_3159On Saturday, June 16, we rented a booth at the local flea market for the first time, in order to set up a table and share the Gospel with folks passing by. Due to the registration rules and timing, we were only able to get a table outside the main market buildings, which posed some challenges — including being out in the sweltering Carolina heat and the prospect of considerably less foot traffic coming by our booth. Additionally, we were warned there was a booth of Jehovah’s Witnesses near our location.

God had a plan.

To deal with the heat, we procured a 10×10 canopy tent from the local hardware store. As for location, we gladly chose the closest available booth to the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I brushed up on their teachings (by reading Ray Comfort’s “World Religions in a Nutshell” and John Gerstner’s “The Teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses“) in case we had any interactions with them.

Unlike our previous Gospel booth attempt, we were not allowed to give away free bottled water, so we had to rely on free Bibles as a draw. Because we were out of practice, I created a survey “cheat sheet” for myself, combining the exploratory questions of Evangelism Explosion with the “good person quiz” of The Way of the Master to create, what I called, a simple, non-confrontational “church survey.”

I didn’t have much luck asking passersby to take my church survey, so my wife started engaging people with the Million Dollar Bill and Optical Illusion tracts, which worked best to capture their interest. After joking around with them, she asked if they would take our church survey, which they normally did — and I was able to go through the questions and share the Gospel with them.

My wife drew them in with the funny tracts, then passed them off to me for the Gospel message. People walked away from our booth with a free Bible and an appreciation for our short time together.

Thankful for doing my homework beforehand, I did run into several Jehovah’s Witnesses. This was the first time I’ve engaged with Jehovah’s Witnesses, but I was prepared. I knew what they were going to say, and I had an answer. Surprisingly, one made a similar argument as that of Muslims — that what we call the Bible today has been corrupted since Jesus’ time. It’s much easier to prove this wrong with Muslims, because their “prophet” Muhammad actually promoted the Old and New Testaments (Torah, Zabur/Psalms, and Injil/Gospel) in the Qur’an. You can easily show that the Bible he promoted at the time of his life (571-632 A.D.) is the same Bible we have today based on the dating of the manuscripts in existence. This Jehovah’s Witness admitted that the Dead Sea Scrolls were “problematic” to his argument.

Another woman I interacted with believed that she was sinless. I went through the normal 3 or 4 commandments, but when she denied breaking those, I went through all 10. When she denied breaking those, I explained how Jesus said even thoughts of hate or lust make us guilty of breaking God’s law (see Matthew 5:21-30). But still she denied her guilt. To which, I told her that she didn’t need Jesus. He came to save sinners, not the righteous.

One woman laughed at the commandments and explained that I was talking to an adult entertainment promoter. By God’s grace and providence, I happened to bring a Jesus Loves Porn Stars Bible with me and gave it to her.

The biggest surprise to me was just how many Spanish-speaking folks came by the table. I’d say about half the people we interacted with spoke Spanish. And about half of those had a child that could help us translate. Thankfully, we did have a bunch of Spanish tracts and Bibles, which we liberally gave to them. (We’re definitely going to need more Spanish Bibles!)

After three hours of this, we decided to pack up our booth and head home. Most of the foot traffic died down around noon, and many other booths also packed up.

When I got home, I immediately signed up for Rosetta Stone, so I could quickly learn Spanish. My goal is to share the Gospel in Spanish before the end of the year.

Will you consider joining us for our next outreach event?

How Abortion Ranks Among the Top Causes of Death in America

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the top causes of death in America in 2015 were heart disease, cancer, and respiratory diseases. Curiously, abortion isn’t even on the list. That’s because the CDC doesn’t consider pre-born children as alive to begin with. However, if you factor in the amount of abortions performed in 2014, you’ll see that abortion is truly the #1 cause of death in America.

Top Causes of Death in the United States

That is why Megan and I are on the front line, rescuing unborn children at Charlotte’s largest abortion clinic each week with ministries like Cities4Life and Love Life Charlotte.

If you could reduce the amount of deaths related to heart disease or cancer by standing in front of a building or speaking out, would you do it?

Open Air Preaching Laws in Charlotte

charlotte-skylineHere are relevant ordinances in the city of Charlotte, North Carolina (as of March 14, 2018) impacting an evangelist’s ability to hand out tracts and conduct open air preaching on public streets.

CODE OF ORDINANCES CITY OF CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA

Chapter 15 – Offenses and Miscellaneous Provisions

Sec. 15-1. – Distribution of handbills, advertisements, letters, pamphlets or other materials.

(a) It shall be unlawful for any person to throw, deposit, place or distribute any handbills, advertisements, cards, circulars, leaflets, folders, banners, letters, magazines or pamphlets in or upon private property, except by: (i) handing the material to the occupant; (ii) placing or depositing such material behind the outer door; (iii) securely attaching the material to the doorknob or door handle; or (iv) placing the material on the porch or stoop, provided that it shall be wrapped, bound or lock-folded in such a manner so as to prevent the material from being blown or scattered. This subsection shall not apply to the distribution of the United States mail or to newspapers.

(b) It shall be unlawful for any person to deposit in, paste on, or attach to any motor vehicle any handbills, advertisements, cards, circulars, leaflets, folders, banners, letters or pamphlets or to cause such materials to be deposited in, pasted on or attached to any motor vehicle, without the consent of the owner. Nothing contained in this subsection shall prohibit the attachment to a motor vehicle of a citation or public safety information issued or published by or on behalf of the city.

Sec. 15-64. – Amplified sound.

(a) It shall be unlawful to:

(3) Operate or allow the operation of any sound amplification equipment in the public right-of-way, including streets or sidewalks, or in the public city controlled parks: (i) without having actual on-site possession of a permit issued by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department; (ii) so as to produce sounds registering more than 75 db(A) ten feet or more from any electromechanical speaker between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday or between 8:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m. on Friday or Saturday; or (iii) at times other than those specified in (ii). Sound amplification equipment operated pursuant to this subsection may not be located more than ten feet off the ground. In addition to the person operating or allowing the operation of sound amplification equipment in violation of this subsection, the person to whom the permit was issued must be present at the location and during the times permitted and shall be liable for any and all violations.

An application for a permit pursuant to this subsection shall: (i) be submitted to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department at least one full business day but no more than seven calendar days before the permit time requested; and (ii) specify the proposed location of the sound amplification equipment and the date and time that the sound amplification will begin and end. Permits shall be issued on a first come, first served basis. A permit shall not be issued for a location that is within 100 feet of another location for which a permit has been issued for the same time or in or within 100 feet of the area permitted for a public assembly pursuant to article XI of this chapter unless issued to the holder of the public assembly permit.

The use of mobile sound amplification equipment (e.g., a car radio, unless the vehicle is parked) shall be exempt from the permitting requirement of this subsection and the prohibition of (iii) in the first paragraph of this subpart, however sounds produced during the times otherwise prohibited in (iii) in the first paragraph of this subpart may not register more than 60 db(A) ten feet or more from the equipment. Sound amplification produced in conjunction with public assembly permit shall be exempt from this entire subsection.

For more information on the free speech rights of street evangelists, please visit the School of Biblical Evangelism.

A Look Back at FAIR

fair-logoSeveral years ago, I worked for a small non-profit in DC called FAIR (Federation for American Immigration Reform). I thought it was a typical conservative group wanting secure borders, enforcement of immigration laws, etc. – and, for the most part, that’s what it was. I was brought in to manage the Web team (my first management job). I thought I did a good job of leading the team, launching the Immigration Reform blog, and reducing costs of my department by 30% (by moving over to free, open-source platforms, eliminating waste, etc.).

The actual work was fine. I enjoyed it, and I enjoyed the people in the office. However, there were two things that I hated: the 2-hour commute each way and the business attire. If you’ve ever worked with me, you’ll know that those are now the two biggest factors in any job offer I accept (short commutes and casual dress).

After several months, the long commutes were killing me. I was also finding that I didn’t necessarily share the same ideology as the FAIR organization. I was all for immigration law enforcement – heck, why do we have laws if we don’t enforce them? Rule of law was important to me. But, as a Christian, so was grace. And I didn’t see any grace coming from FAIR. To me, the son of an immigrant father, I would like to see laws obeyed, but also grace (a simple path to citizenship) for immigrants who are persecuted and are looking to achieve and earn a better life in America. FAIR’s hard line against illegal immigrants didn’t always sit well in my gut.

After about six months working there (and the toll of the 4-hour daily commute), I was offered another job close to my house at AOL. It was a no-brainer. I accepted.

I haven’t thought much about FAIR since leaving, though I knew they would be pleased with the election of President Trump and all that he’s done since taking office. When I heard that former FAIR executive director Julie Kirchner was joining Trump’s administration, I was very pleased for her. Julie is a nice, mild-mannered person, who I enjoyed interacting with. Of all the people I regretted leaving, Julie was at the top of the list. I wish her all the best.

This morning, I read an incredibly in-depth feature article on FAIR (prompted by Julie’s recent appointment). While the article is obviously slanted against FAIR (and cites the similarly slanted Southern Poverty Law Center and its bogus “hate group” label), the article reveals the origins of FAIR and its founder John Tanton.

Article exerpt:

“Tanton was a radical environmentalist, though he worked with mainstream environmental groups like the Sierra Club. His environmentalism coincided with a keen interest in population control; he founded local chapters of Planned Parenthood and served as the president of Zero Population Growth, a group that pushes to make contraceptives and abortion services more accessible.”

Had I known the background of FAIR’s founder, I would not have worked at FAIR. I am completely against abortion (except when the mother’s life is physically in danger) and all forms of eugenics. I think population issues from unwanted pregnancies are a symptom of a society that normalizes extra-marital sex and doesn’t promote abstinence. You fix society’s view on sex, and you don’t have an abortion problem.

So, the eugenics background of FAIR’s founder (surprisingly driven by environmentalism) would have been a deal-breaker for me, while FAIR’s views on immigration, for the most part, were not. Let’s hope, as the group gains more exposure and influence in this country, they’ve left much of its founder’s ideology in the past.