Many Christians, new and seasoned alike, tend to bank on promises that God never made, says one pastor.
So when God doesn't come through on those "promises," some are likely to become angry at God.
And "that to me as a pastor over all my years is always one of the saddest things," says Larry Osborne, teaching pastor at North Coast Church in Vista, Calif.
Osborne, whose church draws over 7,000 people, is hoping to spare a lot of Jesus followers from that anger. He’s also hoping Christians will peruse Scripture more and align themselves with what God really says rather than the “word on the street.”
So he spelled out some of the "dumb things smart Christians believe" – ten, to be specific – in a new book.
He calls those "dumb things" spiritual urban legends – a belief, story, assumption, or truism that gets passed around as fact even in Sunday-school class or a Bible study.
"What happens ... is somebody passes out a truism that sounds good and we've just heard it so many times [that] we don't bother to check it out," Osborne explained to The Christian Post. "And that's the source of most of these urban legends. They're true partially, but they're not true completely."
One of the partial truths many Christians fall victim to is the belief that living God's way will bring good fortune.
"The Bible makes no such promise," Osborne writes in 10 Dumb Things Smart Christians Believe.
The 57-year-old pastor recalls one moment when a church attendee named Tim waited in line to talk to him after a weekend worship service.
"[A]s soon as I said, 'Hey, what's up?' he let loose," Osborne writes. "'Bleep your bleeping God!' he exclaimed. 'I'm done. Your Jesus hasn't done me a bit of good. I've tried to clean up my act. I even tried your damn tithing thing. It doesn't work. I just lost my job. My wife needs surgery, and now I don't have any insurance. Where's your bleeping God when we need him?'"
"After a few more expletives, he finally turned and stormed out. I never saw him again."
Osborne notes that it wasn't a series of "tough breaks" or "unfortunate events" that caused Tim's tirade. Rather, it was "a set of unfounded and unrealistic expectations about what it means to follow God and what should happen when we venture to do so" that set him off.
Tim's case isn't unique. Many Christians expect things to work out when living God's way, Osborne says.
"They all figure that a little bit of God might bring a little bit of luck. So why not rub the bottle and see if a genie pops out?" he writes.
Holding such a belief, however, could prove to be spiritually dangerous. Moreover, it results in a lot of "pretenders or dabblers" who try to play by the rules of Christianity but not really believe in what they're abiding.
"When we assume, imply, or promise that God is supposed to bring us good luck and lots of success, we're set up for deep disappointment and spiritual cynicism," he writes. "Even worse, we risk turning the King of kings into little more than a good-luck charm."
Osborne also warns that those who introduce Christ to others and testify of only the "abundant Christian life" while downplaying the "harder teachings of Jesus" set the stage for disillusionment when things go awry.
Following Christ can be tough and having faith isn't always going to fix everything.
It's another spiritual urban legend – that faith can fix anything – and another one that can lead to an angry outburst or a spiritual meltdown.
As a pastor, this is one of the most common urban legends Osborne has encountered.
Many Christians believe ridding themselves of doubts and having clear positive thinking – which is how many define "faith" – will lead to their desired outcome such as physical healing. But having faith doesn't always lead to victory, at least not in the earthly sense.
While the Bible famously "tells of kingdoms won, lions muzzled, flames quenched, weaknesses turned to strength, enemies routed, [and] the dead raised," it also speaks of people of faith who were "tortured, jeered, flogged, imprisoned, stoned, sawed in two, and put to death by the sword."
They all lived by faith "yet their faith didn't fix anything," Osborne points out.
What faith does promise, however, is forgiveness and the gift of eternal life.
"Faith is ... not an impenetrable shield that protects us from life's hardships and trials. It's not a magic potion that removes every mess," Osborne writes in his book. "It's designed to guide us on a path called righteousness."
Faith, Osborne says, is trusting enough to obey.
The other eight spiritual urban legends he lists are: forgiving means forgetting, a godly home guarantees godly kids, God has a blueprint for my life, Christians shouldn't judge, everything happens for a reason, let your conscience be your guide, a valley means a wrong turn, and dead people go to a better place.
The common thread through all of them, Osborne said, is the "disillusionment that comes when we bank of promises that God actually never made."
They're "partial truths that we shouldn’t be building the whole house on," said Osborne, who has been teaching a four-week series on urban legends – which include more than ten – over the past summers.
While Christians are not likely to buy into all of them, most may have one or two that they fall victim to, the North Coast pastor believes.
"Sometimes we treat the Bible as if it's a series of sound bites and little sayings that we can put on t-shirts, coffee cups and posters," Osborne pointed out. "But it's a big book."
"We need to look at what the Bible says about any subject in all of its passages. And when we do that we'll avoid these urban legends."