On November 13th and 14th, Sandhya I attended the Retreat portion of the Cleansing Streams Seminar. Since there isn’t a lot of information about this online, I thought I should document our experience. Plus, God did some significant things in my life that I want to memorialize…
Cleansing Streams Ministries
Cleansing Streams is a course for “discipling believers into deliverance.” It is run by Pastor Chris Hayward as an independent ministry, but appears to be sponsored by Jack Hayford‘s “Church on the Way.” (confusion about the similar last names led many of us to think that Chris was Jack’s son! :-)
What Is Deliverance?
In charismatic circles, “deliverance” typically means being freed either from addictions (a la 12 step programs) or from demonic bondage (a la exorcism, though that term is usually associated with formal “possession”, not mere “affliction”). As used by Cleansing Streams, the term appears to encompass both of those, with an emphasis on the latter. However, their overall focus is explicitly not on the demonic per se, but on the larger goal of “walking in the Spirit” in terms of hearing and obeying God’s voice through the submission of our “souls” (defined as intellect + emotion + will) to Christ.
The full Cleansing Streams Seminar is a twelve week video course plus the retreat — not unlike the Alpha Course, or even Rick Warren’s 40 Days of Purpose. However, the video presentation and small group discussion each occur on alternate weeks, so there’s only six distinct topics. This leads to shorter sessions, but also allows time for homework before discussion: workbook, supplemental reading/listening, and “discipleship skills” (bible reading, prayer, fellowship, etc.).
Also unlike the Alpha Course, the Retreat is a completely different format and experience than the regular classes. The four lessons prior to the retreat are sometimes known as “retreat preparation”, since they are designed to make us consider the basic issues of:
- Walking in the Spirit
- Committing Everything to God
- Speaking Words of Life
- Entering the Cleansing Stream
Though we are encouraged to bring issues to God as they arise, my experience was that the “prep” increasingly identified areas of weakness in my relationship with God that needed to be dealt with, but which I was only able to deal with superficially.
Thus, I entered the retreat humbled and looking for God to work…
The Bay Area retreat was held at Harbor Light Church in Fremont, California. It was hosted by Chris Hayward himself, who was the main speaker — though I presume he doesn’t do all the conferences, since they’re in all 50 states and dozen of countries. The church appears to have a strong prior relationship with Cleansing Streams, as the senior pastor presented one of the sessions.
We went through the Seminar with a couple dozen members of our church’s leadership team, most of whom were also able to attend the Retreat. Several of them remarked on the peaceful spiritual atmosphere of the place, which was explained when they announced that intercessors had been praying over the place all day!
Perhaps the best way to understand the retreat is to think of it as the interplay between four teams:
The ordering above is unconventional, but important. The Retreat was broken up into a handful of sessions, each of which began with a relatively short presentation by a speaker, after which everyone went up for prayer with the “annointers”. The worship team from the local church worked incredibly hard, as they played briefly at the beginning of each session then throughout the deliverance time.
The intercessors were rarely in focus (except at the beginning and end, when we thanked them) but were ubiquitous, working to support everything else going on. One of the oft-repeated themes is that the Retreat is a “safe place” to encounter Christ, and a big part of that was the spiritual atmosphere. Also — in contrast to many other prayer events I’ve attended — the tone was extremely mellow. There was no hype or emotionalism, nobody was “slain in the spirit” (though some of us wanted to be!); just the Spirit of God working through ordinary people quietly and efficiently. Attendees simply lined up to receive prayer, thanked their annointer, then went back to their seats.
I won’t attempt to cover the content of each individual teaching time, since it apparently varies from Retreat to Retreat. Rather, I will focus on three key images I received during my deliverance time (apologies for the crude artwork, which I finger-painted on my iPhone :-)
The Orphan Heart
The first and probably most profound teaching — though a relatively new addition, I believe — was on The Orphan Heart. They pointed out how a great many of our problems (insecurity, legalism, additions, criticism) are ultimately due to not feeling loved by God (see previous post :-). The solution is being able to truly experience God as a loving Father, not a harsh Master. We may believe it in our heads, but how do we embrace it in our souls?
As usual at Cleansing Streams, the answer is “Receive, Repent, Rebuke”.
- Affirm that we believe that God’s word is true, even if our feelings say otherwise.
- Confess our sin of unbelief and holding onto rebellion
- Break the power of the enemy to use this against us
When I went up for prayer, the picture I saw in my mind’s eye was of Jesus being in my heart. In a sense, it was the opposite of those “Jesus knocking on the door” paintings from Revelations 3:20; the message to me was that Jesus had always been with me in my heart, I just had to open the door to see Him.
It wasn’t a big-dramatic-breakdown kind of insight, but it was accompanied by an overwhelming sense of peace. It persisted throughout the weekend; whenever I wanted I could look down at my heart and see Jesus shining out from there. Even now, though the light has been muffled by the cares that have accumulated over my heart, I can still sense Him shining, like a flashlight under the blankets.
- I am loved
- I am protected and cherished
- He felt my pain and wept
The second session that had a big impact on me was where we dealt with our need to parents and other authority figures who abused, abandoned, or otherwise failed us. As each of us received prayer, we were offered the opportunity to receive a “parental hug” from the Annointer. For my part, I saw a picture of me receiving a “Daddy hug” from God, just like Rohan does from me.
The first pictures was mostly something I saw in my head unprompted. The second vision was (if memory serves) in response to a comment by the Annointer. The final vision, however, was something spoken to me directly during prayer by the Anointer. I don’t remember the exact context, but I suspect it was while being commission to bring God’s love and healing into the world.
The picture she had was of me walking the land like a giant, carrying a sword of truth, destroying the works of the devil [I added the house to give provide some sense of scale]. A very powerful vision, and one I’m nervous about living up to. And yet, at another level it feels “right”. I’m excited (if hesitant) to see what God will do…
This only captures the highlights of what God did in,through and for me during the Retreat. He did similarly powerful (though perhaps less graphic :-) work in the rest of our church contingent, and I’m sure in the hundreds of other people there. If you live near San Jose, come check it out yourself as our church is hosting the Cleansing Streams Seminar starting on Feb 8th, 2010. You won’t regret it!